The most interesting people to discuss religion with often don’t have a religion. Atheists have a singular way of looking at the world, and their views can add valuable insight to religious discussion. But they can also have an ugly side. At their worst, a militant atheist with a bone to pick with God can be an extreme nuisance to theological discussion. But even less argumentative atheists still tend to cynically view religion as a quaint philosophy on its way out.
They have lots of reasons why you could believe them. Science has obviously proved that evolution must be true, so any belief in a creator is obsolete. Bad things happen all the time, and in great frequency, so why would anyone believe in an all-powerful benevolent being? I’ve even read a blogger who asked why Christians would want health care. After all, they have the power of prayer!
These claims are gross caricatures, but atheists do make very broad assumptions about religion and the way people understand it. Their arguments tend to focus on the stereotypical Judeo-Christian deity. There’s a lot of variation even in the way that Christians understand God, without even bringing the world’s other faiths into the equation.
It doesn’t make sense to me that regular atheists generally don’t take interest in these subtleties. I think different religious philosophies are still fascinating even if you don’t believe in them.
It’s also curious how these angry atheists abuse science to make their points. They look around them at all the things that science has explained, and don’t see why anyone would need God for anything else. It’s one thing to see the evidence for how things work in the physical world, and accept and use the laws that science forms from these observations.
It’s another thing entirely to assume that because this process is so successful that the physical world is all there is. Atheism requires an equally large leap of faith, in this respect, as religion. It’s a bold, reasonless approach to make such arrogant conclusions like “there is no God” when there is not a single observation that supports this.
If atheists want to seriously debate religion, why don’t they approach religious differences and philosophy more accurately? I think that the core reason for this reluctance is unfortunately a genuine lack of intellectual curiosity. Rather than delve into the complex field of theology, they’re more satisfied with lumping every Calvinist, Sunni, Jain and Aborigine into a tiny monotheistic simplification that fails to address any substantial issue. I suspect that the average atheist is looking for a fight far more often than he’s interested in what his theistic friend might have to say.