Hatred of God is Atheists’ True Motivation

Adam Sedgwick, 1867

Adam Sedgwick (1867)—not a God-hater. ... (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I just came across this quote from 19th-century creationist geologist Adam Sedgwick:

“From first to last it is a dish of rank materialism cleverly cooked up … . And why is this done? For no other reason, I am sure, except to make us independent of a Creator.”

Sedgwick wrote this around 1861 after he read Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, and that last line struck me, a fresh reminder of something I’ve long thought: the driving force for atheism and atheists is not the belief that there is no God, but the desire for there to be no God.

I can’t say with 100% certainty that I’ve ever had a personal encounter with an atheist who truly, honestly believed there’s no God. I find it intriguing that my interactions with atheists have always revealed not a genuine disbelief in God but a genuine dislike of God—in fact, a genuine disdain for the very idea of God.

This makes sense. For people who want to do what they want to do, God is a great inconvenience. For people who want no ultimate accountability, the eradication of God is the key to a happy existence—at least, what they think will be a happy existence. Sure, there’s no “empirical” evidence for God, but there’s none of that against Him, either, and so it really is a question of faith, regardless of which side of the question you come down on … but it seems to me that it would take a great deal more faith to follow the path of atheism, to believe that order and logic, and life itself, came about accidentally, with no mind initiating and propelling the process—and I think it far less likely for such a faith to be an atheist’s motivation as opposed to pure, unadulterated dislike of God.

In fact, I think it’s impossible—yes, I said it—impossible for a person to have a genuine, authentic, nonselfish, non-“dislike of God”-inspired atheistic faith. If you’re an atheist, it’s not because you truly believe there’s no God, it’s because you don’t want for there to be a God. I base this, of course, on personal experience, for it seems that every atheist I’ve met—while claiming that there is no God—is nonetheless angry at God. And how can you be angry at Someone who doesn’t exist?

I also base my belief, of course, on what the Bible says. Psalm 14:1 states: “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’ “; I’ve always taken this to mean that you’d have to be blind to not see that God is real—in other words, that you could mistakenly but naively believe there’s no God; like, a person who’s just clueless—but now I’m wondering if it refers to something else: The one who, for purely selfish reasons, has turned his back on what he knows to be true. That would be true foolishness.

P.S.: After seeing this photo of Sedgwick, I can totally picture him saying the above quote, with just the right amount of crotchetiness and humorous disdain, and I imagine he was a cool old curmudgeon—in the best sense of the word. =)

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12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Larry
    Apr 13, 2012 @ 12:00:40

    Hi, I think you’re reaching the wrong conclusions. Atheists don’t hate god, because they don’t think he exists in any way. However, some of them hate religion, because of the bad things it can do to people. And some of them hate belief in god because it is not backed up by evidence and is very unlikely, so they dislike the belief. Of course, all atheists are different.

    Hope that gives you some food for thought 🙂 keep posting.

    Reply

    • jasondrexler
      Apr 13, 2012 @ 14:04:54

      Hi, Larry. Thanks for your comments and encouragement.

      There are indeed some atheists who hate religion, and some who hate belief in God, but I’ve also gotten the distinct impression from some (including the late Christopher Hitchens, not to mention Richard Dawkins) that they actually hate God, in addition to those other hatreds.

      You also touch upon a couple points I find intriguing. You say, first, that religion “can do bad things to people,” but it’s my contention that PEOPLE do bad things to people. Religion is a tool that can be used for good or evil, but so are other things, such as money, and power … yet I rarely hear of anyone who dislikes money or dislikes having control of their life. The real problems of existence are with people, and people misuse lots of things, including religion.

      You also state that belief in God “is not backed up by evidence and is very unlikely.” First, why do you think it unlikely? If we’re talking in generalities, or in basic odds, it’s a 50-50 proposition: God exists, or He doesn’t; one’s just as likely as the other. What you then have to do is consider the proof for each side of the argument; as I said in the original post, no, you’re not going to find so-called empirical evidence for God, but you’re also not going to find any empirical evidence AGAINST God—the question of God goes beyond empiricism. I would say, however, that there are many things that point toward God’s existence, such as love, the existence of right and wrong, the existence of logic and order, and the presence of elements of design in nature—none of which makes sense in a universe spawned and driven by random, unintelligent, unguided forces.

      Reply

      • Larry
        Apr 13, 2012 @ 14:39:54

        Thanks very much for your response and consideration jasondrexler. I’d like to touch on some points you made…

        “You say, first, that religion “can do bad things to people,” but it’s my contention that PEOPLE do bad things to people. Religion is a tool that can be used for good or evil, but so are other things, such as money, and power … yet I rarely hear of anyone who dislikes money or dislikes having control of their life. The real problems of existence are with people, and people misuse lots of things, including religion.”

        I see what you’re saying. It is the people doing the bad things, but people like suicide bombers, people who hate homosexuality, people who hate atheists, people who believe in young Earth creationism above scientific evidence to the contrary…all of these people thoroughly believe their cause is justified due to its presence in their religious dogma, and I don’t think they’re using religion as an excuse. Do you honestly think somebody, in a very extreme case, would crash a plane into a building without religion? Of course, that’s the extreme end. But I can’t help thinking religion as a whole adds nothing positive to society that cannot be achieved through secular means, and simultaneously brings bad things.

        Above all, if religion is not true, then that is more important to me than everything else put together. Regardless of how much comfort it may bring people, I simply feel that there is no place for it if it’s not true. Does that make sense?

        “You also state that belief in God “is not backed up by evidence and is very unlikely.” First, why do you think it unlikely?”

        Many reasons. It’s hard to pick one and some of them take a while to explain, but I’ll do my best.

        Firstly, God overcomplicates everything. The notion that a ‘perfect’ God created an ‘imperfect’ universe is already extremely suspicious to me. Religious people will come back to this saying that he gave us free will and thus the ability to sin, but it doesn’t explain a) the atrocious death tolls mindlessly generated by forces of nature, b) why God just didn’t make heaven and leave it there, and c) why God would give us a choice if he was going to torture us for making the wrong one. And he KNEW we were going to sin, because he’s apparently ‘omniscient’ – so to create such an imperfect world knowing full well it was all going to be screwed up could only point to an angry celestial dictator.

        Secondly, somebody commented this on my blog and it raises another point:

        “If God knows how to build a cell, then His brain contains information, or “specified complexity” (to borrow a term from Intelligent Design). Surely the mind that designs a cell has more complexity than the cell itself. So we can reason that there is either an infinite regression of intelligent designers, or complex information without any cause, or that (our own) intelligence started from nothing and arose over time. I think the latter is the most reasonable.”

        Thirdly, evolution makes far more sense to me than us being suddenly conjured up into existence by a creator. Although I know most religious people believe in evolution, some do not, and that is kind of baffling. All evidence points to evolution, and the idea of it occurring over billions of years very, very, very slowly makes far more sense than magical appearances. I’m just adding that into the mix if you don’t believe in evolution either.

        There are lots more…if we’re talking the Biblical God, the fact the Gospels contradict each other, the fact there’s no historical evidence for any of the miracles, the fact it was written by humans and not by God and over such a long period of time…

        “If we’re talking in generalities, or in basic odds, it’s a 50-50 proposition: God exists, or He doesn’t; one’s just as likely as the other.”

        If I said there was a teapot orbiting in space between this planet and the sun, would it be 50/50 just because there’s no way of disproving my claim?

        “What you then have to do is consider the proof for each side of the argument; as I said in the original post, no, you’re not going to find so-called empirical evidence for God, but you’re also not going to find any empirical evidence AGAINST God—the question of God goes beyond empiricism. I would say, however, that there are many things that point toward God’s existence, such as love, the existence of right and wrong, the existence of logic and order, and the presence of elements of design in nature—none of which makes sense in a universe spawned and driven by random, unintelligent, unguided forces.”

        All of those things seemingly are present in a godless universe, though. They can all be explained by evolutionary and biological means. If they couldn’t, that still wouldn’t prove the existence of a deity simply because “unknown stuff” doesn’t equal “god”.

        Yes, science has pretty much validated that the universe very much could have come about through unintelligent and unguided forces, though I wouldn’t call them random. Abiogenesis and evolution provide fascinating explanations for our existence that are validated by science, although as of yet we don’t have a “big because” for everything – but that doesn’t mean we should fall back on ideas mankind generated thousands of years ago (and further back than that). Don’t you agree?

        Nice thoughts by the way. I just want to add some considerations into the mix.

  2. Larry
    Apr 13, 2012 @ 12:02:05

    “In fact, I think it’s impossible—yes, I said it—impossible for a person to have a genuine, authentic, nonselfish, non-”dislike of God”-inspired atheistic faith. If you’re an atheist, it’s not because you truly believe there’s no God, it’s because you don’t want for there to be a God.”

    Sorry jasondrexler – as an atheist & former Christian, I disagree!

    Reply

    • jasondrexler
      Apr 13, 2012 @ 14:06:06

      What was your Christian experience like? And why did you stop being a Christian?

      Reply

      • Larry
        Apr 13, 2012 @ 14:40:46

        I had a great time as a Christian.

        It was very interesting when I was religious. Because I just didn’t seem to care about challenging my beliefs at all; I just cared about fitting everything into the realm of my belief. When people said extremely logical arguments to me against my belief, I somehow managed to blag it off with ways round it. I look back and I’m shamed with the illogicality of it, but at least I escaped when I did.
        Kind of how, if you ask a believer of Santa how they possibly believe such a ludicrous supernatural fairytale, they’ll go “Because I get presents on Christmas Eve”. And then you say, “Couldn’t that be your parents putting the presents there?” and they’ll go “No, because he eats the mince pies and milk during the night”. So you ask, “Couldn’t it be your parents eating the mince pies and milk?” and of course the answer comes, “No, because otherwise there would be no point putting a stocking up”. As you can see, a change of subject to avoid a perfectly valid logical issue. And if you tried explaining to them how ludicrous their beliefs were, they’d find ways round it: “No, loads of people believe in Santa, and there’s evidence for him, because my presents disappear every Christmas Eve, and my parents wouldn’t trick me”.
        With that out the way, I don’t have a belief, rather a valid level of criteria that I use to assess God’s existence. That is peer-reviewed scientific evidence for God, OR him coming to me when I am in company of other people and both (or more) of us seeing him and witnessing some kind of miracle. If either of those things happened, I would gladly become a believer. If you want me to explain why those are my criteria, I will gladly.
        Furthermore, there’s no point looking at atheism as something I “accept”. I feel that’s as weird as asking you, “When did you accept asantaism?”. You just think, “well, there was no ritual, no dogma…I just stopped believing in Santa, simple as that.” And you’d be right. There’s no need to have the word asantaism, and there’s no need to distinguish people by that label. As far as I see it, it’s the rejection of illogical supernatural fairytales.
        Now, how did I escape Christianity? Well, I loved Derren Brown, who is a conjurer, a hypnotist and a mentalist (somebody who pretends to do ‘mind reading’ as part of an entertainment show). I thought he was brilliant, watched all of his shows and got his books. Then I found out he was an atheist. The first word of his book was “The Bible is not history”. And I’m glad it was. It gave me a way in. It made me question my beliefs. As I read, more and more about his own deconversion, I felt a strong pang of realization come across me. You see, when he was learning to be a hypnotist as an evangelical True Believer Christian, his Christian friends demonized him and explained to him that hypnosis was the work of Satan. Immediately he was confused, as he was pretty sure he knew far more about hypnosis than they ever did, and he knew that it was harmless language patterns that created hypnotic phenomena, not the conjuring up of some kind of evil spirit. He put it to one side, but the Christians around him also shuddered at the idea of Oujia boards, but he knew fairly well that it was simply psychological phenomena such as the ideomotor effect and suggestion driving that. He knew pretty confidently that there were no evil spirits, just a clever illusion. He found it harder and harder to shrug off their suggestion of evil spirits. It seemed like they were just misguided and that they misunderstood the way these things worked, relying on anecdotal tales to fuel that fear.
        He also began to realize his own hypocrisy. He laughed at his friends who believed in psychics, because there was no evidence and they’d been debunked many times. He wondered how they could possibly believe in such myths. He laughed at his friends who believed in homeopathy and alternative medicine, because there was no evidence and they’d been debunked many times. He wondered how they could possibly believe in such myths. He began to realize that believing in God when there was no evidence and the idea had been debunked many times made him very hypocritical. He began to realize that this, on a bigger scale, was simply a similar myth.
        You might wonder what it’s like to realize that everything you’ve stood for is false. Well, it hurts at first, but you get used to it, and then everything goes back to normal. How much it hurts depends on how close you feel like you are to God (because it’s in the mind, you see) – if he’s a big part of your life, it might feel like somebody quite close to you has died. If he’s far away, it will feel like somebody in the distance has died. Either way, that initial pang of sorrow is overtaken very quickly by an overwhelming feeling that you’re finally out. You feel free, less confused, and if you’re like me, you begin to look at other Christians and see the illogicality of their arguments. In a while, you stop demonizing atheists and realize they’re good, kind, friendly people, you realize that the whole God thing is actually damaging to society, and then within a few days you feel better than you did before. And within a few months, you feel as normal as you did then, just with this new rejection of a supernatural fairytale that had spun out of hand and had started to alter your brain chemistry.
        You’re no less happy, no less kind, no less moral just because you’ve dropped that ridiculous superstitious myth. In fact, I’ve now realized why God’s prayer answering is no better than chance. It is a circular belief system, and I understand that now.
        If you want to question your beliefs, watch “Slaves to Superstition” by Richard Dawkins, watch clips of the Atheist Experience on YouTube, talk to atheists, look up people like George Carlin, Penn Jillette and so on. As you watch them, fight the urge to post comments insulting them. It will feel unnatural and they will look bad at first, but over time, you will realize that they make perfect sense and that they’re more logical than other people. Also read the Bible cover-to-cover with an open mind. It’ll turn you into an atheist if you actually start realizing the illogicality and the immorality of what’s in there. Don’t cherry-pick, take everything literally, even the bits about death and killing. You’ll soon understand.
        Another thing that might turn you off your faith, providing you’re not a creationist, is going to a young Earth creationist site. They’re absolutely ridiculous, and if anything will propel anybody away from Christianity, it is the knowledge that they share the same faith as creationists. Seriously, those people are scary. Don’t spend too much time around them though; you may begin to believe their circular logic and claims of scientific discovery. All of their “discoveries” have been refuted by actual scientific boards. Their logic is mostly, “If it’s in the Bible, it’s true, therefore geology, physics, chemistry, biology, paleontology etc etc are completely false if they disagree with the Bible”.
        Overall, have fun, and do what you feel is right. If you don’t want to question your beliefs, that’s fine. I’ve just offered it as suggestions. Whatever you do, aim to be kind and loving in everything you say and do, and ultimately your beliefs will barely matter. Sincerity and openmindedness are far greater traits to have than any belief in anything.

  3. NotAScientist
    Apr 13, 2012 @ 12:30:13

    “And how can you be angry at Someone who doesn’t exist?”

    I’m not.

    Nice to meet you.

    I’m occasionally angry at Christians. I’m not angry at the god you believe in, however.

    Reply

  4. Grundy
    Apr 13, 2012 @ 13:37:58

    I’d like to introduce myself too, a genuine nonbeliever.

    Reply

  5. jasondrexler
    Apr 13, 2012 @ 13:42:58

    Nice to meet you as well, Grundy and NotAScientist. And if you say you’re not angry at God, I guess I have to just accept that, seeing as I don’t know you and thus have no evidence to contradict you. Perhaps it’s just that my experiences have usually been with highly vocal atheists, and it was clear that they were angry—in fact, maybe they’re highly vocal BECAUSE they’re angry?

    At any rate, I’m fine with admitting if I’m wrong about something, and if you’re not angry at God, that’s a good thing. Just curious, though: How did you decide that there’s no God?

    Reply

  6. Trackback: the rebirth of God « JRFibonacci's blog: partnering with reality
  7. danielwalldammit
    Apr 23, 2012 @ 01:47:14

    This article is not about atheism. It is about the limits of its author’s imagination.

    Reply

  8. jasondrexler
    Apr 23, 2012 @ 07:45:51

    Dude, I got a good laugh out of that.

    Reply

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