Atheists aren't really jerks, but we sure can act like it sometimes. Can we create a friendlier, less angry atheism? Here's a blog post on the topic, inspired by Ara Norenzayan and Sam Harris.

http://jonathan-tweet.blogspot.com/2014/09/why-atheists-are-jerks.html

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Comment by Jonathan Tweet on November 2, 2014 at 5:37pm

@Laura, the "tribal marker" judgment would come across as an insult to most believers. I try to use it in the opposite way, to tell atheists that belief and unbelief are tribal markers, so look at the hostility as being about identity rather than about logic. 

Comment by Jonathan Tweet on November 2, 2014 at 5:35pm

@Dr. Clark, thanks for the pointer to Reade and his book. 

Comment by Luara on October 27, 2014 at 11:52am

I suppose that he would have been considered a jerk in his times for his candor.

You have a deft touch. 

Comment by Dr. Allan H. Clark on October 27, 2014 at 11:08am

An interesting book from 1872 is Winwood Reade's The Martyrdom of Man, a universal history by a man who was an explorer in Africa and a correspondent of Charles Darwin. Reade does not mince words and I suppose that he would have been considered a jerk in his times for his candor. He concludes:

Supernatural Christianity is false. God-worship is idolatry. Prayer is useless. The soul is not immortal. There are no rewards and there are no punishments in a future state.

His book was roundly condemned, but went through fourteen editions by the end of the century. Conan Doyle has Holmes recommend it to Watson in The Sign of Four. Reade seems not to have been an atheist but a deist, and he draws his evaluation of religions from their history and considers the religions we know as merely a matter of loyalty.

Reade's book is available online—it runs over 500 pages, but is well written and fun to dip into here and there. It's an amazing achievement for a man who died at 36.

Comment by Luara on October 27, 2014 at 9:22am

Beliefs are tribal markers first and then people use reason to back them up.

That's a social science assertion and susceptible to investigation. 

It seems insulting people for having a different belief from you, tends to make them more convinced of the belief

This is thought to be one of the mechanisms behind the formation of belief-groups.

Comment by Jonathan Tweet on October 27, 2014 at 8:59am

@Dr. Clark. That's how I see it. Beliefs are tribal markers first and then people use reason to back them up. 

Comment by Joan Denoo on October 20, 2014 at 3:45pm

Bertold, Thanks for the lead to  2000 Years of Disbelief - Famous People with the Courage to Doubt, Prometheus Books, 1996.

It is now in my Kindle ready to read. I think there will be some tresures. 

Comment by Luara on October 20, 2014 at 1:16pm

A lot of liberal Christians and perhaps reform Jews do not practice their religion as a belief system, though. 

They regard it as a metaphor, a "way of speaking", a spiritual practice.

Comment by Dr. Allan H. Clark on October 20, 2014 at 12:29pm

My suspicion is that with most people rationality never enters the picture. Their loyalty to their beliefs is, as E.O. Wilson calls it, tribalism—adherence to what their parents, family, and other groups believe. They are not justifying their beliefs with reason, but with loyalty to chauvinistic inheritance.

Comment by Michael Penn on October 20, 2014 at 12:09pm

Any belief system that cannot be backed up by logic, reason, and evidence is really based in supernaturalism.

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