A Short Reply to SJ Thomason’s Video: Evidence Atheists Believe in God

One of the most common responses among apologists is the employment of the psychological defense mechanisms of cognitive distortion and projection. SJ’s video is a clear example of distorting the arguments of atheists to avoid the cognitive dissonance and threat to religious beliefs that would result from processing these arguments and facing them head on, as well as projecting onto atheists her own doubts about faith. Here SJ reimagines atheists’ legitimate opposition to god in general and the example of the bible as an attack on the god of the bible as if we thought he were real. We attack the character of the god of the bible as we would other literary characters who symbolize a disagreeable belief and the inanities that apologists blurt out when cornered in their own contradictions, such as “There’s nothing wrong with babies being born with cancer. It’s all relative.” But we don’t for a second actually believe this god exists. We argue against the religions that accompany the Bible and the claim that it’s anything more than primitive mythology and superstition. In the West we tend to focus on Christianity since that is the predominant belief among those who still persist in religion. In the US we do so for several reasons, including philosophical and political grounds. It isn’t remarkable that those of differing philosophies debate their positions, and many of the arguments with theists are of that sort. There is also the political element of countering Christian claims that the US was founded on Christian principles and is grounded in Christian culture. The growing number of nonbelievers rightfully strive to remove religion from its assumed place of privilege to safeguard our own freedom of conscience. Apologists rarely, however, listen to these opposing arguments but instead dismiss them without consideration with the same rote responses, much like a mantra.

The more interesting aspect is projection, in which apologists such as SJ project a violent fear of crisis of belief onto atheists. SJ’s performative and much too long laugh at the end of the Turek and Silverman clip is a clear expression of psychological defense in the form of denial and projection. We see apologists try to imagine atheism as a religion taken on faith and its adherents as subconsciously accepting the existence of god as the mirror image of their own fears and doubts. The claim that a theist podcast that appears every Sunday at 4:30 is a religious act is as absurd as claiming Rachel Maddow appears religiously at 9:00 every evening. Adhering to a schedule does not imply religious observance or belief. Another telling example was the critique of Richard Dawkins acknowledging he can’t know the origin of life but positing possible hypotheses. SJ reflexively jumps to the conclusion that Dawkins accepts the position of panspermia on faith when in fact he doesn’t accept it. He merely holds it out as one possibility, but SJ cannot let herself distinguish between the weakness of her own position which proclaims absolute truth on nothing more than faith and a scientist positing various possibilities but not proclaiming anything beyond scientific knowledge as truth.

She concludes this exercise of psychodrama with a return to her comforting and prophylactic mantras repeating the claim that Christianity is true until her doubt subsides for now.

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