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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?

RobH86 7 June 29

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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 6 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.

@Livia I don't know what sort of rose colored lenses you're wearing that allows you to cherry pick the good passages and turn a blind eye to all the malicious ones. Are you that oblivious? Don't need your sugar-coated apologetics.

I am not a sugar-coated apologist- I am a archaeologist and theologian who is atheist.
There is no such thing as cherry picking good and bad passages- there is only understanding their historical, cultural and literary context, and type of interpretation itself. Look up “redaction criticism”. It might enhance your perspective. And yes, I am being deliberately patronizing, as I find your comment stupid and rude. Good day!

@Livia What was so objectionable was the statement "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)." Should know? Obviously many don't. And how would they when there are so many passages which contradict that. I don't need to be an insider to make that criticism. SHOULD KNOW??? Then why do so many seem not to know? And how would you suggest they learn? And when do you begin to acknowledge that many of the passages in their holy books are the problem?

@Rossy92 Seriously- look at your response- you said they don’t know their own books. You are 100% correct. The faithful and their leaders should make it their obligation to understand their own scriptures and their origins.
Ideally their religious education would know that each book in the Bible and each passage in the Koran was subject to historical editing and even councils that decided what was in, and what was left out. All these books are a hotchpotch of collected “wisdoms” and “laws” over hundreds of years. Even millennia - and they are very relative to the societies that generated them and edited them. So, there is no problem in the actual books, only ancient history - the evil is in the interpretation and use of the book to serve power.
How do I suggest people learn? Well, not attending church is a start. Reading books that take a critical approach is another. Also, secular federally controlled and funded education is a must. I am amazed that schools are so free to teach absolute shit in America, and quite disgusted at how they are funded. Faith schools should be shut down and comparative world religion taught instead.

@Livia Though your answer seems sincere and well-intended, I find fault with your logic. It seems a contradiction to say their books are a "hotchpotch" and "very relative to the societies that generated them...", while in the next breath saying "there is no problem in the actual books." The solutions you suggest it seems would be helpful. But I still take issue with your reluctance to criticize the books themselves, and failing to recognize that valid arguments can be made which support the intolerant and violent teachings in these books. And surely you must be aware of the type of person the founder of this religion was?

@Rossy92 Over to you. Do you know the historical Jesus? Do you know the historical Mohammad? The more we dig, the less we know. I am in no position to say who these figures are, because of the lack of evidence from their lives, and the distortion of oral tradition and cultural influence on any sources about their lives.

About logic and hotchpotch- the gospels use a number of sources and the authors are not attributed to the name of the book. In other words the Book of Matthew was not written by a disciple or man called Matthew. There may have been more that one author and many editors. It seems that 3 books share a source in common, but each book has a source relevant to the population that revered it.
That is why some books are were written in the language relevant to the readership. So Mark was a book that had many sources, and maybe more than one writer. It may have undergone substantial edits. It was written in early Greek for a gentile audience, as the book of Mark’s author/s take care to translate and explain Aramaic terms and Jewish law/practice that was unknown in the early Hellenic world. Hopes that explains hotchpotch and relevance. The same process of sources, authors and edits applies to the verses in the Koran.

@Livia All of which is why I question you saying they "should" know better. Given the muddle of the texts, how could you possibly expect or trust a unified and civil result.

@Rossy92 Perhaps I expect too much from humanity. If I believed something I would investigate and learn about it. Not to judge is pretty basic thing to grasp.
I do think that if someone claims to be practicing any Abrahamic religion they should know - whether they can put it into practice is a totally different matter. In any case I don’t think Islam an evil religion. I don’t really think any religion is evil. I wouldn’t condemn an entire people based on their beliefs. I am just not a believer. Atheism is not about being against religion, for me, it’s just the absence of belief. I have no god. If others do, I don’t care, as long as they don’t preach to me. Christianity is the worst for that. I have to say, you are good at argument. ?

@Livia At least we agree on the Atheism part and that there is a problem with the interpretations. But I see the texts as the main issue. The harm these texts have caused is not simply due to their teachings being twisted and distorted. And no matter how progressive and enlightened becomes the interpretation, those harmful, intolerant, and violent teachings still remain a part of these texts, creating the ever present danger of the next individual or group reading them and acting on them.

@Rossy92 Our discussion reminds me of the “guns don’t kill, people do” argument - guns or people, religion and people - it’s a toxic mix.


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.

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

@Geoffrey51 Take it for what it's worth.


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.

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.


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.


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.


No what?

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


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.


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

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.

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


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.


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 8 June 30, 2018

@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.


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 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.

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.


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

Simon1 Level 7 June 30, 2018

"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!"


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.


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.

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.


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.


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.


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

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.


The trap has been set! Bwhahahaha


@RobH86 Is debating religious ideas an acceptable thing to do? Of course it is, anyone who says no to that q. on here is gonna get clobbered. Maybe a poll would have been a better approach? Sorry, it looks like a trap.

@MrTallman Holy hoaxer, Batman! You may be on to something. And to think, I fell for it! 😉


No anti-theism opposes a belief system not people. Even though people can and do identify with their religions and take any criticism of their beliefs as attacks on their characters, its not. In fact it demonstrates how pathetic people are that they see themselves as a mindless follower of a cult rather than as an individual.

Anti-theists don't hate religious people; they want to free them from superstition and ignorance.

JimG Level 8 July 19, 2018

If you treated a person harshly just because they were a theist, then I'd say that it is similar to racism. If you didn't hire a highly qualified person for a job solely because they believed in God or attacked someone minding their own while holding a bible.. basically any act of hatred on an innocent just because they believed in God, then I'd say that's right up there with racism.

Luckily, most agnostics and atheists don't care enough about not believing in God to act out on their distaste in a harmful fashion. Challenging religious beliefs isn't racist. Any belief or knowledge we have is open to criticism, and should be challenged in the same fashion as it. If a theist is having a calm back and forth discussion, do the same. If a theist is trying to physically beat the belief of God into you, punch them in the fucking face. If someone gets offended by non-hateful criticism though, then they are probably insecure with their belief.


Antitheism can be akin to racism, if one views theists as an inferior class. People can be wrong about many things, like the Monty Hall problem, but that doesn't justify stigmatizing them in general. They just don't understand probability.

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