27 7

Is anti-theism on a par with racism?

I would like to make the argument that people who really hate it when religion is being criticized, are really only encouraging one thing. IGNORANCE

I consider many ideas found in religious text to be immoral, incorrect and harmful to society.

Not only that, but the way society moves forward (or improves) is by challenging ideas. This is how we end up with things like technology, medication, equality (etc), and when it comes to equality you won't have to look too far to see how religion can be a major barrier.

However, I hear many people that really hate the idea of criticizing religion. Even atheists are adopting this position. I hear atheists criticizing people like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins just for writing books and talking about the evidence (or lack thereof) for religious ideas. It seems like an aggressive liberal position to me which basically says:

You can be religious or non religious, but you are not allowed to criticize people that are different to you as it is a form of racism (or discrimination similar to racism)

For me I think these people's hearts are in the right place but I do think that they are wrong. People who are genuinely curious as to what type of universe we live in (one with or without a creator) will need to look at the evidence if they really do care about the truth (and not just what they want the truth to be). Personally, having come across the 'fine-tuning' argument (I heard it first by Frank Turek), it was argued very well and learned facts that I was completely unaware of. I would probably be an agnostic person leaning towards a belief in some kind of deistic god, if it wasn't for people who argued against the idea, supplying there own evidence/arguments in favor of a natural universe (this is the position I hold after listening to both sets of arguments). The point is, as stated above, is that these people only encourage ignorance, or at least opinions based on ignorance. What are your thoughts? Is debating religious ideas an acceptable thing to do?

By RobH86
Options Favorite Like



Racism is hatred of people, anti-theism is hatred of ideas.

Not the same, in my opinion.

maturin1919 Level 6 June 30, 2018

Very much the same. The misunderstanding ideas can lead to racism in the first instance

@Geoffrey51 If you say so. It's okay to hate ideas though.


I’m with Sam Harris on this one. Bad ideas need to be criticized. All other subpar ideas receive appropriate criticism, religion should get no free pass.

AaronScardina Level 4 June 29, 2018

Nonsense, anyone is allowed to criticize anyone for any reason. At least in most parts of the world. Race, if it even exists, is a natural human condition and does no harm to anyone. Religion however is a contrived idea and does immense harm all over the world.

jlynn37 Level 8 June 29, 2018

That would include Druidism and Quakers, and the harm that they do I guess?

@Geoffrey51 Take it for what it's worth.


Theism is just an idea. No one is born with it. No one has a right to uncriticized beliefs, especially when those ideas are forced onto people. Criticizing ideas is not on par with racism. You cannot choose your skin color, or your sexual preferences. Ideas are adopted. They evolve and change. Hell, Christianity today hardly represents the same Christianity that began 2,000 years ago.

I do not believe in attacking the person, just the bad ideas that fill their heads.

Ignostic_Skeptic Level 7 June 29, 2018

Not a fan of atheists using atheism to justify clear Islamaphobia. Seen that a lot. Atheism is a personal choice. I respect all religious belief, I just don’t want it in public spaces and taught in schools without objectivity. If people are religious they can go to temples. They don’t have to go around eroding all our rights and inserting themselves into government. Keep religion personal!

Livia Level 5 June 29, 2018

Hellz yeah. Religion is something that's ok for people to have and cultivate in their own personal sphere, but they also have to know the boundaries and respect the other spheres of others. It has to be known that by appealing to the government to make up special rules for them on the grounds of personal religion is unfair to others belonging to other religious groups and the irreligious. And having special religious status that gives them special priorities to do or not do certain things is an afront to the other members of the community, and I know this implies that the actual benefits that religious communities receive from government amounts to basically nothing, but the religious have to learn tolerance of other ways of life in the same way tolerance is given go them for their beliefs on the world. There was an xcample of an orthodox Jew who refused to sit next to a woman on the plane. If we regard that practice as something worth protecting as a religious privilege or freedom, we're effectively creating a safe space for that person to have that weird backwards practice that allows him to have control over the presence of women in a public or shared space. No religion can deny anyone else their basic rights and the religious most of the time don't respect those rights. If there's conflict, ordinary humanitarianism comes out on top.

If only all of the religions didn't command their followers to go out and proselytize but they do and they also command their followers to attack non-believers. I see no reason why any free thinking person should accept such abuse.

@Surfpirate Actually they don't. Proselytising is basically a Western traditional idea routed in the Abrahamic traditions, Judaism excluded. A devotee of Shiva doesn't care one iota if Vishnu gets more flower petals and butter. Sikhs don't want you to join. Ancestral worshippers don't want you muscling in on the benefits bestowed on their line by their forefathers, Jains are quite happy going about their ahimsa without Westerners nitpicking about what is a valued life and what isn't. That being said 2/3 of the population of the planet do adhere to proselety. What to do? Probably go about your business doing the best you can for whoever you can.

couldn't disagree with that at all. well said. Having said that, what do you define as Islamophobia (or phobia of any other religion for that matter). Do you think it is possible to criticise ideas with out discriminating in an unreasonable way?


@RobH86 Islamaphobia is most similar to anti-semitism, imo. Both have been seen as culturally bogeyman, and have been attacked and sidelined because of their religious identities. Of course you can criticize Islam and Judaism without being discriminatory, but as the outsider and ignorant party is starts with a question, or a simple “tell me about what the Koran says about .....because I don’t know”. Or “what does (jihad) actually mean?” You will be able to have a sensible conversation, perhaps disagree, but probably have a new friend.


@Livia that seems reasonable. Unfortunately you then have the problem of interpretation. Also, what about people who have read religious books (qua-ran, or the bible for example) and decided it was incorrect information about our universe based on the evidence. If this person also read quotes that seem sexist, homophobic or discriminatory in anyway, shouldn't that person have the freedom to criticize those ideas with being labelled as a racist/antisemetic/islamaphobic etc?

@RobH86 If someone tries to Bible/Torah/Koran bash me and argue that gays are an abomination, adulterous women should be stoned, or any other fucked up interpretation, they can eat my fist. All of them should know that it is their religious obligation to not judge (all of the Abrahamic religions basically say “only god judges” and to say nothing if they cannot speak well of others). I would certainly call out religio-fascism.

@Livia I think this where we do have the right to argue against such ideas, specifically against people who choose to interpret the scripture that way.


i have no problem with racists writing books about why they believe what they do, just as theists or atheists might. Preaching it is another issue. And I like this board for discussions with intelligent people about interesting topics, and I don't want my feed to be cluttered up with the various ism garbage

sarahjustme Level 8 June 29, 2018

depending on how you define "preaching racism" I'm ok with it, I want to know who is an idiot so we can avoid them. I also want the opportunity to publicly ridicule the dumbest ideas so we can marginalize the people and the ideas.

I also think it's ok to have general standards on social media where we don't tolerate some things and people who espouse genuine racism should be booted or at least blocked

@educatedredneck i actually thought about edits to the word preaching, but it was too much work. Basically, the type of "preaching" that involves a bunch of people getting together and listening to some sort of oratory/ crowd rousing, like a church or a rally, is not something I care about. But the need to dominate other peoples space/mind/peace and quiet with the various isms is where I draw the line.

@sarahjustme I don't tolerate atheists who need to dominate other's time. I'm not really a fan of "safe spaces" especially on universities where ideas should be discussed and young people should be exposed to lots of things to make them think. For instance, I had to read 1/4 of Mein Kampf in college.

I'm intolerant of anyone who wants to invade other's personal space and that intolerance grows as the idiocy of the invaders increase.


All ideas should be challenged. Any statement made with certitude, whether it is religious or non-religious, political or philosophical is open to debate. Many of the atheistic views from contributors at this site are delivered with the zeal of evangelism, i.e. no substance to support the claims, or misinformed positions, declaring an 'I know best' refrain. Debate and discussion opens the way for new ideas and any entrenched beliefs are destined to fail due to the advances made with science and philosophical discourse.

Geoffrey51 Level 7 July 6, 2018

Ideas stand or fall on their own merits and the evidence that supports them. Challenging those ideas and evidence is not discrimination, it is skepticism. Just because the idea has been around a long time does not make it right nor does it remove the evidentiary requirements. Nor does it exempt it from being challenged.

Challenging old ideas is the only way to validate if they are true or right. If we never challenged old ideas we would all still be living in mud huts and dying very young.

icolan Level 7 June 29, 2018

Hell no. Anti-theism isn’t a proposition to erase or become tyrannical against Theists. That’s just psychopathic, period. Anti-theism is the rejection of theism even in the hypothetical existence of the Theist god, as in “I would not worship a celestial dictator”. That’s it.

leofalas Level 4 July 7, 2018

NO idea is beyond criticism. Religions explicitly try to set themselves up as a category apart from all others, claiming that they aren't even ideas, but rather revelations from a divine source, and thus immune to criticism. Yet, if you notice, each religion criticizes all other religions. Religion cannot logically plead a special immunity.

There's no special exemption for any category of thought. Religion is as open to critique as any other. Atheism or antitheism is not bigotry, it's simply an opinion. A religion is not something inborn to a person, like skin color, it's acquired and can be shed just as easily.This is just another of the religions' ploys to give themselves a special exemption.

Paul4747 Level 6 July 5, 2018

My point of view is valid yours isn't therefore you are a racist .... Laziest argument ever !!!!!!!

Simon1 Level 7 June 30, 2018

Religions have a very unpleasant habit of trying, usually in their very definition, to set themselves up as beyond criticism, and demanding special status to put forward deeply unpleasant ideas which in any other context we would regard as unacceptable in ordinary discourse.

Whenever they gain any measure of secular power, that typically seems to get backed up with explicit censorship, intimidation, and outright violence to suppress critics who call out the intolerance and bigotry.

mercurymerlin Level 4 June 30, 2018

Which specific reilgions do you refer to here?


The ones I know best are in the Abrahamaic traditions, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Ba'hai.

The least damaging of these seems to be Ba'hai?

Yet they all have in common proselytisation and a viral form; there exist other religions that don't, and unsurprisingly don't propagate, and modern cults which do spread.


Comparing anti-theism to racism is a logical fallacy. It might be a form of bias, but the root cause is entirely different.

Gwendolyn2018 Level 7 July 11, 2018

sounds like we agree, although it doesn't necessarily criticism with bias, I would argue that it is perfectly reasonable to criticise certain religious ideas without any bias at all


@RobH86 Some people are biased against all religion based on their experience. Hence, "might be" a form of bias. My point is just that comparing racism with anti-theism is a logical fallacy.


I think there is a time and a place for these things. If someone else opens the conversation on the subject of religion, then I feel fine interjecting a few anti-religious arguments and questions. But it is a fine line between bothering people with unwanted debate, which is not cool, and letting bad attitudes pass uncriticised.

Denker Level 6 June 30, 2018

Criticizing religion and other bad ideas is great, although should be done with some diplomacy.

I just posted how an aggressive atheist friend was pretty antagonistic with a stranger who is religious and a Trump supporter at a wine tasting tonight. I like my buddy a lot and it was obvious the table as a whole thinks Trump is stupid so I didn't try to curb my buddy.

There's still an enormous difference between criticizing a thought or giving factual criticism of religion v attacking the religious person.

educatedredneck Level 7 June 30, 2018

You imply that 'religion is a 'bad idea' in your opening remarks. Which religion(s) do you refer to?


Yes, of course it's acceptable to debate religious ideas. For too long, social programming has built up this idea that religion automatically commands "respect" and that thou shalt not discuss anyone else's "beliefs". I think that line of thinking has harmed us as a society. My proof is last week the Keebler Elf and Smokey Eye cited Biblical Justification for jailing kids and Americans didn't bat an eyelash. That should never be acceptable in our modern world.

jujuofthesea Level 7 June 29, 2018

I don’t care, but if the chance is given to take out Christian saints such as popes, bishops and especially cardinals I won’t resist the chance and load a magazine of full metal jackets.
I hate them being in charge and making decisions they’re not entitled. I hate them preaching in the temples and collecting “donations”. I hate their sense of justice and want them to be bums, envy the dead and suffer till end of misery for all centuries of evil and pain.

Morganfreeman Level 7 June 29, 2018

Dude/to much hate and violence.

@DougReed Agreed. Since you are only wishing, why not wish that they would all just reject their superstitious nonsense and join the normal human community.

@jlynn37 because they are LONG established criminals and need shock treatment
Normal way is to get them to community service with pope Francis together
Misery or execution should be their reality.
Also because it’s just fair thing to do. Brutal, violent, but super-fair


@Morganfreeman I reject your violence just as I do religious violence and any other violence as a means to an end, especially for vengeance or retribution. Fortunately these are just opinions which we are all entitled too. You do you and I do me.


Crumbs! Sounds like the God of Abraham is alive and kicking! Best rant I've heard in a while! More please! 👍

@Geoffrey51 I’ve seen how Russians deal with pirates is by heil of 20mm rounds till “terminated”. It’s much cheaper than bringing to trial, because they know what they’re being banged for and bang is fair.
Enjoyed the movie “Only God Forgives” — brutal and fair justice as well as “Hateful 8”

@Geoffrey51 perhaps that’s finale
If justice is fair, whether it’s brutal or not, for fair people there’s no threat

@Morganfreeman we are having a spate of violent crimes in some suburbs of Melbourne of late. This includes murder, home invasion, sexual assault. It all seems to source from, to use a term, minority ethnic groups. The police are ineffectual and the populace are preparing to mete out their own retribution which won't be pretty. Bring it on I say. As the old adage goes "If you can't do the time, don't do the crime"


I think there are a few ideas here at play that truly distinguish religious criticism from racism - in fact on its face the comparison is absurd. First, many religions attempt to assert themselves as fact. Because of this, the adherents want to use their beliefs to create laws (and therefore systems of punishments and rewards) and rewrite social norms and agreed history to serve their beliefs.
This necessitates testing to justify that these changes are in the interest of the greater good.

When their beliefs are tested in the same way other facts are tested, they fail the truth test. Most (if not dang near all) forms of racial criticisms are in the same boat and their assertions fall apart in the light of examination.

The second major point is that because they are believers, they hold their ideas sacred. Which is to say in a separate category of fact that "transcends" stats, dates, and figures and is deeply rooted in emotion and feeling (starting to remind me of actual racism here which is rooted in overgeneralations and emotional responses to bad data).

Believers see their ideas as beyond reproach, and the inconsistencies are romantically interpreted as mystery and tests of faith. Their offense comes from non believers being unwilling to do the same. But rejecting unsubstantiated ideas (at best, and repeatedly debunked at worst) is not the same as attempting to diminish the dignity of an entire people, especially when the overwhelming body of anthropological research continually points to our similarities.

In fact it seems to me that attempting to institutionalize a religion has far more in common with racism than antitheism does. Projection, anyone?

Humanistheathen Level 5 June 30, 2018

i hear that


Antitheism is not akin to racism, no matter hiw theists try to paint that picture. Participation in a religion is entirely based on choice, and any person within a religion has every right to desist from practice at any point in time for any reason, but we know that religious groups are guilty of pressuring members of their sects and non-members into conversion and the abuse of coerced practice either usually through psychological means. Race on the other hand is not a matter of choice and hatred expressed towards a member of a marginalized racial community is an afront to that particular person and violates the principle of human rights that we uphold as a part of any well developed humanitarian society. Members of religious groups historically have been subject to discrimination, and also can fall victim to the same kind of human rights abuses that members of racial communities do, however there's a distinction to be made between hatred and the fair kind of criticism that results when calling into question the questiinal social and political practices that might emerge among sectarian political communities like the practices that religious communities put into place based on their own interpretation of religious law. These kind of criticisms are fair in the same way we might criticize the governing bodies that make up our political realms since the organization and body politic of religious communities are one in the same, and any religious community that seeks exemption to these criticisms ought to be treated with the same degree of suspicion that we would have for any political body that seeks exemption the same kind of exemption - e.g. the totalitarian regimes that haunted Europe in the 20th century. Racial communities don't form these kind of political bodies and don't ask for these kind of protections, only the kind of protection that guarantees them standing as individual political entities in desert of basic human rights. Now, a member of a religious community has that and should have that, and this protects this person from the same kind of discrimination that might be felt by a member of a racial community, but we don't invent special laws that give privileges to members of one racial community and not another, and if we did then that would also be something to call into question, but what religious communities are asking us, people that would like society to be fair and equal, to allow them to receive exemptions from ordinary laws followed by the rest of society on the grounds that they'😇re free to practice their religion. They are, after all, free to practice their religion, but that freedom doesn't allow them to reap more freedoms than they would ordinarily receive, especially at the expense of freedoms belonging to non-members of their community.

LoveLivingLife Level 4 June 29, 2018

And it's totally fair to call out for questioning those instances where a religious persons right to religious expression interferes with the freedoms of another member of a community.


The Dead Sea Scrolls prove that Pre-Christian Jews were debating their own religious beliefs. A pesher is a commentary on scriptural interpretation. The Habbakuk Pesher is the most famous one included in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Christianity would not exist without this type of debate. Jesus (who never actually claimed he was God) argued for this type of reinterpretation. Sufism which is a Mystic form of Islam would also not exist. So debating religious ideas is not only right, it's essential to spiritual growth, and human understanding.

Seminarian Level 6 July 5, 2018

Interesting. What do you mean by spiritual growth?

@RobH86 I included that term to mean that not only is debate important for the religious or spiritual but for the non-spiritual and non-religious as well. My seminary's definition of spiritual contains nothing that is supernatural, that isn't the most popular definition though.


"You can be religious or non religious, but you are not allowed to criticize people that are different to you as it is a form of racism (or discrimination similar to racism)"

I would say that not only is that wrong, it is inverted.
Dogmaticly speaking, religion by religion, non belief in said religious claims tend to make the outsider the minority and the one discriminated against.
If you don't believe, you burn in hell (for instance)

This is the Dogma of various faiths and denominations claiming "Only my religious Tribe is correct"( with a few exceptions), others not of my tribe are lesser, unsaved, sinful, infidels and so forth. That is the very process of de-humanization, the bedrock of Bigotry.

This religious discrimination is so ingrained it is evidenced in clothing and jewelry. Few believers, sporting a new gold cross, ever stop to think that is a Dogmatic Insult to all Jews. Their personal statement of "I believe in Christ" communicated by that simple cross also says "The jews have it wrong" or worse "The Jews killed Jesus". Not all Dogmas are compassionate.

Your opening statement shows the lack of clarity found in many believers. I can criticize your ideas or beliefs, and that it not a criticism of you personally. You are not your worldview.
You believe something I cannot believe, and I am just sharing the why of that with you.

Not responding or talking about religious beliefs let them speak with a bullhorn in a silent auditorium.
As a Minority in society, in order to survive, we must shout like Hortons Who's "We are here, We are here, We are here!"

Davesnothere Level 7 July 3, 2018

A very broad definition of "racism" is "discrimination of other people because they are members of another group".
In this sense anti-theism is a form of 'racism' because some people despise theists just because they are theists, not because they are doing something reprehensible.

(NB: Ignorance itself is not a sin or something bad. Truth as such is overrated.)

Matias Level 6 June 30, 2018

I have noticed people misusing the term racism. Bigotry, not racism, would fit the broad definition better. If you are discriminating based on something other than ethnicity or race, like a group of people with a certain set of beliefs, it is bigotry.

@Ignostic_Skeptic I do not like the broad definition too, but it is quite often applied in public discourse these days. To me, racism has to refer to "race", everything else is discrimination or bigotry or prejudice or ostracism...
But activists like the word "racism" because it packs a punch.

@Matias Agreed. 'Racism' is a weasel word which is used for rhetoric impact. Discrimination is much less antagonistic for a speaker to use when attempting to add fire to a debate.


Racism is blind and generally meaningless bigotry based on ignorance.

Anti-theists can be extremely annoying and even counter productive but being intolerant of bad ideas is bigotry with at least some rational thought, although IME some anti-theists are just over-reacting based on their pain from religion. I get that, I was that very angry, immature anti-theist for about a year.

educatedredneck Level 7 June 30, 2018


CalebMarion Level 5 June 29, 2018


TheDarkNolanite Level 5 June 29, 2018

No what?

@jujuofthesea Anti-theism isn't tantamount to racism.

Write Comment
Agnostic does not evaluate or guarantee the accuracy of any content read full disclaimer
  • Agnostic.com is a non-profit community for atheists, agnostics, humanists, freethinkers, skeptics and others happy without religion!