Of the many arguments that I’ve heard about peoples’ perceptions about atheists, two of the most intriguing are that some people perceive us to be arrogant or angry.
The first point I’d like to make to anyone – atheist, theist, or otherwise, is to avoid sweeping generalizations. Sure, some atheists are arrogant, but so are many theists. And when you say “angry,” angry about what? Do you think atheists are just grumpy people, or are we angry about something specific? So again, try to avoid generalizations. They don’t help healthy debate in any way.
The issue I’d like to most focus on is the perception of arrogance. Personally, and generally speaking of course, I’d say that atheists are humble, and here’s why:
Atheists generally believe that nothing is to be assumed true, or deemed a fact, unless there is solid evidence to support the assertion. We aren’t out to disprove God; we just choose not to believe in God without evidence, which is sorely lacking. We believe in science. We believe in the scientific method. We believe that evidence should draw its own conclusion, not finding evidence to support what we already believe. Hypothesis -> Testing -> Conclusion. We also appreciate testing that can be replicated and independently peer reviewed by a qualified scientist. In my opinion, any assertion made, whether it be related to the existence of God or otherwise, should be provable by more than one person.
But most importantly, the reason we are truly humble is that we don’t know all the facts. Science is what leads us to the facts, but we are humble enough to acknowledge that we don’t have all the facts. That’s why science is so great. It allows us to explore, to expand our minds. Famed astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson once claimed that we only know about four percent of what is to be known about the universe. Isn’t that exciting? Do we know what started the universe for a FACT? No, but there are some interesting ideas (e.g., Big Bang) out there with some pretty solid evidence, that scientists are exploring. Do we know how life started? No, but we have some pretty good hypotheses out there, like abiogensis. But we don’t have all the answers, and we’re OK with that. That is the source of our humility.
Unfortunately, Christians, as well as many other religions, pretend to have all the answers all the time. “Just read the Bible. It’s all there.” Wow, I’m glad to know that a book written thousands of years ago, when science was but a pipe dream, explains absolutely everything there is to know. Problem solved. Now we can close our minds and stop learning. That’s how the Dark Ages came about…nothing arrogant about claiming to know everything, eh?