So... I was reading the other thread on Mensa and it brought back some scenes from my childhood (it's actually an ongoing childhood, let's just says scenes from before). For purposes of this anecdote, I'll simplify my de-conversion as follows: I was a catholic until I was about 14, then an agnostic until a few years ago. I can still remember my views on atheism in general, prompted by some encounters with a handful of atheists.

I met one when I was about 11, he was some boy my age. He was quick to blaspheme and make fun of religion. Other kids saw him with awe, like the bad kid who will do mischief while the teachers not there. I just thought he was trying to show off, and that he really did believe. I now think he probably was an atheist, but he also wanted to show off. I met several other similar people, and I always thought the same of them.
By the time I got to highschool, as an agnostic, the atheists I met seemed arrogant and especially insensitive to the beliefs of others. I did not personally feel offended, but I must confess I was pushed back from entertaining thoughts on atheism simply because these people seemed like real assholes. Even now that I'm more open about my atheism, I would not think about looking for them, cause I still think they are.

So, I know it's wrong that based on a few encounters with atheists, I dismissed the idea of atheism. It was intellectually dishonest and as much as it hurts me to say it, it was one of the big bumps I had to deal with before realizing I was an atheist. And since I skipped over to the dark side, I have met lots of nice atheists. My question is this:

For de-converts: Do you remember how you saw other atheists while you believed?
For those who never got into religion: Were you one of those assholes who was all arrogant and stuff?
And for all: Even though it shouldn't, the impression we make as atheists could actually push people like me from coming to terms with their beliefs. In the end, I think I would have accepted my atheism sooner if I hadn't met any atheists. It doesn't matter if we're right, it doesn't matter if we are being arrogant. If others see us as arrogant, we could be doing Reason a disservice. Could this be same hint of a tactic?

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"Friendly atheist" will probably open more minds than "attack Rottweiler" atheist.

Well put!
All my life some people have said that I was arrogant. Nowadays, I hear people say the same things about my kids. My own wife (a theist) has commented that I come off to others as arrogant and tried to get me to change. I've always found it odd as I have no 'better than thou' introspection on my appearances and I fully acknowledge the fundamental truth that every other person contains some knowledge that I don't have, so I don't see any arrogance and refuse to change. An intellectual who knows the answer cannot be arrogant. It is only those who don't know the answer and believe that they do, that show arrogance.
I have never seen myself as arrogant. I cannot help that I, and my children, are addicted to knowledge, tend to speak with 'big' words and sometimes go way over the heads of those I'm around in explanation.

Simply put, the intellectual average of society is inversely proportional to the perceived level of arrogance. So, maybe it's society's flaw that certain people are viewed as arrogant.

You might try finding your old friends. They may come off as assholes, but if they're not in prison, not doing drugs, not cheating on their spouses, not stealing, etc, maybe they aren't as bad as you once thought. People do change over time.
Everybody using the word "arrogance" here, bear in mind that the word divides into two distinct usages.

There are people out there who are truly arrogant, people who think -- and project -- that everybody else is beneath them.

And then there are those people who are LABELED arrogant by others.

To give you an example, I was in politics once, years back. In the small town I lived in, the elected officials were in cahoots with developers, and were bent on raping the town coffers for the benefit of the rich guys. I was one of the ones who spoke up.

Picture it: Here’s this social situation where the rich, influential people, who all belong to the same little club, think it’s natural and right for them to run things and to do it without interference or question from the “little” people. And then someone starts to ask questions, to suggest that those people are doing something wrong.

They can’t imagine it. So the person asking questions or protesting, even though it’s a core principle of democracy, seems arrogant. Uppity.

Because he’s acting as if he’s an equal to people who KNOW they’re his betters.

That’s the situation a lot of times. You can be doing something as simple and fair as demanding equal time, equal rights, an equal voice, a place at the table ... but if you do it in a social atmosphere in which there are “big” people and “little” people, and you’re one of the little people ... the big people, the ones who really ARE arrogant in thinking they deserve a bigger slice of the pie than you (and who have never been called on it), THEY will call YOU arrogant.

Back to my slave example cited elsewhere in this thread: If a field hand had walked up to the porch where the white plantation owners were sitting in the shade sipping tea, and had asked for a cool glass for himself and his kids, the reaction would be astonishment at his sheer ARROGANCE. And it would be expressed in such terms as “How dare he? Who does he think he is??”

In a society in which some enjoy special privileges, asking for equality is arrogance ... to those with the privileges.

In the case of atheists, typically the label is applied by nice Christians who see nothing wrong with verbally punishing people who don’t want to accept the “gift” they want to force on everybody – and by those bystanders who have unconsciously bought into the label because they haven’t yet examined who’s using it.

Most atheists I’ve known are atheists not because they want to buck the social tide just to piss somebody off, but because they have a burning desire to SEE, to know and understand real, true things. They’re atheists because they want things to MAKE SENSE. They’re atheists because they believe in justice ... which can only be based on truth and fairness.

This is admirable behavior. And in a society in which that desire is punishable, it’s even more than a little heroic.
I was conditioned to believe that atheism was the purest form of arrogance. My experience has proven otherwise. The atheists that I've encountered online and in person are mostly down-to-earth and interested in having a good time, always ready for a stimulating conversation.
Yeah, luckily I've also had a great experience after crossing the line.
But I have to disagree about "An intellectual who knows the answer cannot be arrogant." I think that's the whole point of atheist arrogance. I mean, its the way in which you express this answer which makes you come across as arrogant. The theory of Intellectual Level of Society being inversely proportional to the perceived arrogance would explain a lot of stuff, though. And of course religion is especially touchy to discuss. I think any atheist discussing religion will come across as arrogant.
I'll admit, I had no quarrels with laughing at a good joke at religions expense... but publicly attack religion? Around strangers? No. With exception to a certain span of time around an incident that enraged me.

I never did fall into religion. I had been dragged to church by various people through my childhood, but never believed. In fact, I felt rather disgusted at the notion that these "friends" were dragging me to this place, regardless of the fact that I had told them I did not enjoy it.

My mother and father never revealed their beliefs until I had revealed my own. They, like myself, feel it's wrong to push a religious persuasion on a person, regardless of what that religion is.

Those that did try to push religion on me did so in a manor that seemed almost intrusive... in a way, threatening. Like I wasn't allowed under any circumstances to say no.

Still... I said no. Fully expecting to be exiled from most of the people I knew for refusing their beliefs.

Since then, my close friends have all been Atheists and Agnostics.

From my point of view, it was the Religious who were being 'ass holes'.

I also recognise that I hold a grudge because of an acquaintance I knew as a kid.
3 fundamentalist kids decided it was within their morals to beat him up for being gay.
Long story short, ruptured organs from being kicked, dead not long after the beating.
He wasn't close enough to call one of my select few friends... but I'm still enraged by the ordeal regardless. Even to this day.
I know not all Christians would have done something like that... but the fact that they belong to the same group still makes me feel ill when dealing with them.

I'm trying to put aside that ill feeling for religious people... but it will likely take time.
... especially when some of the religious people I have spoken with claimed "he deserved it" and "god punished him" simply because he was gay.
Rather hard to change my opinion of a group when some of their members condone such things.
I used to think "How the hell can they deny something so obvious!?" or something similar.

At the least critical before being amongst their number I'd have thought "How can they say that! You can't KNOW!"

Strangely enough, while I called myself a christian, I was sure that most people were right, since "it's obvious", and once I discovered the truth, I realized "Of course! Most people are right, so most people must be atheists, too!" How sad reality is, eh. But the overall point of "Most people mustn't be living their lives for something imaginary." seems to be right enough, even among those who call themselves theists.
I think a lot of Atheists are harsh and bitter. It perpetrates this sort of callousness and disdainful attitude that theists are afraid to approach with anything but religious suggestions...

When I was little, I went to a religious private school. I remember being confused as I started to think about things in about 6th grade. I had always thought my religion was universal; to me it was just "the church". I started to get confused when my teacher would talk about "Mormons" and "Christians" because I didn't know the difference-- I didn't even know if I was Christian. In 7th grade, I must have started to question because I would skillfully avoid giving overly-religious devotionals. My older brothers had likely been nontheists since I was small but I had no knowledge of it, although I was jealous of their freedoms. Even as a believer I hated church, when you're that small it's just another duty. And I have no idea when I realized my brothers were Atheists, but it must have been about the time I was finding it out for myself. Although sometimes I want to crush their heads, my family is still one of the best supports in my life and I'm glad that most of them share my beliefs.

Outside of my family, I knew two Atheists, and online at that! One is actually the reason I'm here. I distinctly remember him saying he never thought he would "fall for a Mormon" and I guess I didn't think too much of it, but I thought he was really smart and he would tell me religious stories and things that didn't add up. I guess he was slightly bitter, but he was extremely adamant about his Atheism, which he would share with anyone. We were extremely close, though it wasn't until a few years later I finally started to call myself an Atheist. The other Atheist I knew was similar yet almost the opposite. As a person he was happy but when he talked about Bible fallacies he seemed to be angry and a little more attacking, though he did not bring it up as often.

I learned a lot from all the Atheists I've met. I think being friendly, well-adjusted, and intelligent is probably the best way. I don't see a reason to attack on sight, or to act like a pissy sad panda. I should have every right to enjoy my life, and I think that people realizing that I DO enjoy my life would make them accept me a little more, at the very least.

In a legitimate argument I've only been an Atheist spokesperson once, and although I wish I had more to go on, it was very civil on both sides.
I don't see a reason to attack on sight, or to act like a pissy sad panda.

Heh. Nor to act like a drunken, carousing, drop bear.
But a hopped up Marsupial is just a party waiting to happen.
I think a lot of Atheists are harsh and bitter

Oh really? It may be true in the Americas (with Canada a possible exception), India and the Muslim area, I doubt it is the case in most of the rest of the world. I live in a secular country where people are usually reluctant to promote their religious beliefs in public. For the record, there's only one person in the government to do so, and she often claims she's ostracized because of it. A harsh and bitter woman if you ask me.
My father is Atheist and my mother Christian - and they're still married! I went with my Mom to Methodist church and I was enrolled in a Methodist school, where I got sucked into the Student Christian Alliance (or whatever it was called.) Every day we had chapel, every Sunday went to Youth Group at the church. Now, when I think of all the hours I wasted on this cr#p, I get quite annoyed. I didn't even meet a girlfriend at church (which was a secondary motive for going.)

I used to worry and pray that my father would be thrown into the Pit of Fire ("where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth") for all eternity... he is a good man - why did he deserve to be damned, just because he didn't believe in something he couldn't see, just because his parents didn't teach him right? That disturbed me.

Now my mother is a "Happy-Clappy" Reborn Charismatic, who no doubt worries that her husband won't be with her in Heaven. That's just twisted, because he is rational and she is convinced that some guy died for her sins 20 centuries ago. Trying to discuss it with her or two of my sisters is just plain frustrating, because they insist there is an entity outside of nature that controls nature, despite the fact that nature can be demonstrated to be self-regulating (according to the laws of science). Try explaining Occam's Razor to them, and their eyes glaze over - I am speaking with a forked tongue, I am deceived, lost, blinded by reason... (?)

So am I arrogant, dismissive? I try not to be condescending, but when someone uses Un-reason to argue against reason, and won't listen to reason, where is the common ground? I don't discuss religion with my Mom, because she enjoys it, and it may be a balm for her when she dies. And I have to thank my Dad for opening the door to Reason and Clear thinking. As for the rest, they can all go to H... oh, I forgot, there's no such place.

Now I'm bringing up my children in an atmosphere of reason. Santa Claus was OK until First Grade, now they enjoy examining the world in all its beauty. My son loves Astronomy and Dinosaurs... and my daughter is a natural rebellious teenager who is nonetheless involved in community work. They both scoff at woo-woo, and listen when I point out faulty reasoning (kids seem to love to find unrelated connections - like "lucky underpants".) I recite post hoc ergo propter hoc to them, and it's slowly getting through.

Am I influencing them? Darn right - I don't want them wasting as much time as I did with Non-sense. Besides, they get the flip-side from school and their peers, so there's balance.

Perhaps I am perceived as arrogant - how can one not be, when one has the intellectual high ground? ;) ... I have practiced the art of squinting my eyes and pursing my lips and asking disingenuous questions that - I hope, anyway - makes the person start to doubt their own reasoning (or lack of). Only then can there be grounds for discussion.

Ah well... isn't life interesting?


P.S. Please excuse the rant, but I just love this thread! I suppose it's because it's about a process, a journey, rather than an absolute destination. De-converting ... Way to go!


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