Why Atheism Specifically Targets Christianity More Than Other Religions
Map of World Religions
Atheism's Relationship with World Religions
Jason Pratt, a former atheist who spent his fair share of time debunking Christianity, talks about his days in college:
“I even had a few [Christians] as roommates. And I frequently took pleasure in ridiculing them. I generally enjoyed playing their intellectual superior, and I enjoyed challenging what they believed.
“As I was going through school I had a number of other roommates from various other countries: I had a Muslim from Oman, a Buddhist from South Korea, and various other faiths – and it was interesting, none of them really bothered me too much. Their faith and what they said they believed was not of much concern to me: it was really only the Christians.”
This is typical of atheists everywhere. Look up atheist literature from Nietzsche to Russell to Dawkins to Oppy and barely a word will be spoken on New Age beliefs (very influential in pop culture), Scientology (exerting a strong influence in Hollywood), Pantheism – the most influential belief system in the East – and very little will be said in regards to the other “Abrahamic” religions, Judaism and Islam, the latter of which is likely to surpass Christianity as a world religion in the next several decades.
In fact, if one wants to find any literature debunking any of the above, it is Christian authors – not atheists – to which one must look.
Atheist writer and speaker John Loftus gives his fellow non-believers a metaphorical escape-hatch from having to answer the metaphysical claims of other religions in his Outsider Test for Faith. The titular “test” essentially asks Christian believers to examine their beliefs with the same skepticism they have for other religions – like Pantheism and Islam – assuming that once said skepticism is employed, the Christian will reject his or her own belief just as easily.
This “if you’ve debunked one, you’ve debunked them all” approach is certainly convenient in that it allows the atheist to excuse their lack of concern with all world religions and knuckle down to the task of debunking the Christians. Whether or not this is really a workable tactic, it still doesn’t explain why atheists everywhere have selected Christianity and Christians as their one-and-only target.
One possible answer comes from a point brought up frequently by the atheists themselves: a person will tend to adopt the beliefs prevalent to their immediate location. So, as the argument goes, someone from America is more likely to be Christian while someone from India is more likely to be Hindu. Perhaps atheists will likewise tend to attack the religion most prevalent to their geography. Jason Pratt - quoted at the beginning of this article - had come from a Christian church background before adopting his atheism. In fact, a large body of the most outspoken atheists had backgrounds in Christianity: Nietzsche’s father was a Lutheran pastor, Bertrand Russell was raised by a puritanical Christian grandmother, Richard Dawkins considered himself Christian until he was a teenager, and so on. In point of fact, while atheists may reject the supernatural in general, the religion they are in the process of rejecting is most probably the one they once held or the one which was forced upon them – others are of little interest to them.
Another possible motivation for the exclusive attacks on Christianity is political. In his January article for The Weekly Standard, David Gelernter makes the following observation:
“Almost all human beings need religion, as subway-riders need overhead grab bars. The religious impulse strikes conservatives and liberals alike. But conservatives usually practice the religion of their parents and ancestors; liberals have mostly shed their Judaism or Christianity, and politics fills the obvious spiritual gap. You might make football, rock music, or hard science your chosen faith. Some people do. But politics, with its underlying principles and striking public ceremonies, is the obvious religion substitute.
“Hence the gross asymmetry of modern politics. For most conservatives, politics is just politics. For most liberals, politics is their faith, in default of any other; it is the basis of their moral life.”
This idea – that politics is the religion of the atheist – has significant evidence to back it. In her article “How God Messed Up my Happy Atheist Life,” Nicole Cliffe writes that, after converting from atheism to Christianity, "My politics have not changed; the fervency with which I try to live them out has." At the 2016 Reason Rally in Washington DC (billed as “the largest gathering of freethinkers in the U.S.”), the top issues under consideration included LGBTQ Equality, Climate Change, and Women’s Reproductive Rights. At the time of the writing of this article, a survey of the top atheist posts on the popular Atheist/Theist discussion group “Unbelievable” shows that five out of the top ten were primarily about political issues, not theological ones.
If it is, indeed, true that atheists are politically active to a religious degree, this goes a long way toward explaining the level of aggression they hold toward Christianity over any other religion. It would be uncouth in today’s political climate to attack believers in, say, Buddhism or Hinduism, as these are products of Eastern cultures, and attacking them might be considered xenophobic. Islam, especially, has become practically untouchable, as demonstrated by atheist writer Jeff Sparrow. Sparrow calls out by name atheists within his party who would seek to attack Muslims, accusing them of “Islamophobia.”
But Christianity is the face and the name tag associated right-wing politics in the West. When talking about right-wing ideals, the word “Christian” or “religious,” are never far behind. The main page to the 2016 reason rally had this slogan:
“If you know that you can be a good person without believing in a god … If you think public policy should be based on scientific evidence, not religious beliefs … If you support the separation of church and state … then join us for the biggest gathering of nonreligious people in history!”
This slogan more or less sums up the struggle. If Right-Wing morality is informed by Christian belief and tradition, such beliefs and traditions must be attacked and destroyed in order for left-wing policies to triumph. This, of course, assumes that all Christians are right-wingers and all atheists are left-wingers, a gross generalization, but one which still seems to intuitively characterize the overall political discussion.
One final reason which may explain why atheists seem so focused on Christianity is the possibility that Christianity may be the most robust characterization of God of any other religion. One would suppose at the forefront, that if atheists were widely convinced that there were a more persuasive version of theism floating around out there, that this would be the primary target of atheist philosophers and skeptics everywhere. Yet it is solely Christianity which earns their intellectual efforts.
Former atheist blogger, Darrin Rasberry, recognized the superiority of Christianity in his comparison of world religions:
“After considering Deism (the belief in a God who abandons His creation), Islam, Hinduism (yes, Krishna, don't laugh), Baha'i, and even Jainism briefly, I have decided to select Christianity due to its superior model for human evil and its reconciliation, coupled with the belief that God interacted with man directly and face-to-face and had *the* crucial role in this reconciliation. This, of course, doesn't prove that Christianity is absolutely true (although I can prove that God exists), but rather reflects my recognition that Christianity is exactly what I would expect to be the case given that God exists.”
A similar sentiment was given by former atheist Jennifer Fulwiler, who studied spiritualism, Buddhism, Hinduism, mysticism and a number of other spiritualist topics before studying Christianity and being amazed by its comparative substance.
Perhaps, as Loftus’ “Outsider Test” implies, if skepticism can triumph over Christianity it has already defeated all other religions.