On the Motives of Atheists June 5, 2007Posted by Joe in agnosticism, atheism, fallacy, logic, psychology.
I recently read Evolution and the Bible and commented on a few things there. I often hear in religious discussion an attack on both sides of the motives of the other. Regardless of the fact that the appeal to motive is a type of ad hominem fallacy and should not be considered a valid refutation of most impersonal arguments, the motives ascribed to either side are usually inaccurate and in poor taste.
Theists are often characterized as being motivated by an inability to cope with harsh reality, an infantile need for authority, being brainwashed or otherwise unable to think for themselves, or possibly just being too stupid to dim witted to understand the complexity of the real world.
I hope the falseness of these mis characterizations is obvious. There are many intelligent theists that have well thought out and considered ideas and opinions on many subjects. I have had enlightening and interesting discussions with theists and have learned a lot from them.
Despite the feelings of many atheists, religion is not a haven for the stupid and ignorant. Are there stupid and ignorant theists? Of course, but there are also stupid and ignorant atheists, agnostics, etc…
A motive often ascribed to atheists is one I find particularly insidious. It stems from the common mis perception that religion is the source of all morality. It goes something like atheists choose to not believe in god because it would interfere with the immoral things that they want to do. Usually sexual immorality is implied or stated. This serves a twofold rhetorical purpose, it poisons the well for atheism by painting atheists as immoral sexual deviants and it attacks the motives of atheistic belief.
When any of these devices are resorted too, one can presume that the wielder is not interested in a positive discourse, but I think the benefit of the doubt can be given and you should try and cut through the rhetoric.
I believe the only way an intelligent respectful discussion can be had is for both sides to presume that the other’s motives is as they represent. Typically a pure desire to pursue the truth is what I presume, unless I am given signs otherwise by use of the usual rhetorical techniques.
(Edited to fix confusing sentence described by Richard Wade below)