It is undeniably the case that the atheist/theist argument sparks more emotional exchanges than rational ones.
“We should boisterously and unashamedly make fun of people who invoke religion or mythical beings at every opportunity. We should make them embarrassed that they even opened their mouths.”
An analogous theist opinion blog states:
“I hate Atheists more than any group of people, because they claim to be pure and unbiased and that everyone else is living ‘under rules’ and it makes me angry …[Atheists make] the rest of us feel inferior. I've had so many … like them try to tell me what's right and what's wrong. They think that not having a religion is going to make them the fittest candidates for any roles in government, opinions, etc. Ugh, I despise them.”
This is not, of course, to say that either side presents their opinions entirely devoid of rational arguments, but rather that such arguments are overwhelmingly accompanied with – or overridden by – emotional shouting matches unbecoming of either side.
This is, of course, somewhat understandable on the side of the religious. They are not only defending their own eternal fate, but the fate of those they are trying to convince.
Moreover, the rules, mandates, and codes they seek to defend are backed by an eternal, all powerful judge; as opposed to atheism, whose rules can only really be imposed and advanced by fellow human beings.
One aspect of religion is the love, devotion, and worship of the object they seek to defend, whilst Atheism simply opposes an object in which they do not believe. Why, then, the hatred?
“Hate” may seem a strong word, but still an accurate one according to some studies.
One such study from the January 2011 edition of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that when Atheists and Agnostics were prompted with measures related to past experiences, or with images of a hypothetical God, they responded with feelings of anger and bitterness.
In an ideal world, arguments and worldviews would be judged in a cold, rational way based on the supporting facts and logic. The conclusions thusly reached would then guide the actions and decisions of the person.
Do the conclusions of either Christianity or Atheism warrant the polarization and hatred?
Well, in the case of Christianity, presumably they do not. If Christianity is true, then the believer is compelled to follow the teachings and example of Christ who said such things as:
“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,” (Luke 6:27)
“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15)
“…forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” (Mark 11:25)
“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven.” (Luke 6:37)
Do the conclusions of Atheism warrant hatred and strong emotions against the religious?
This is a little more difficult to say. Atheism, as a worldview, simply says that God does not exist. There is no atheist Bible, no “teachings” that atheists are compelled to follow, no moral, judicial, or political doctrines that can be drawn from disbelief, and no object of love or devotion inspired by such disbelief except, perhaps, one’s self.
However, since Atheism – in its purest form – is simply the opposition of a particular kind of belief, this may serve as a partial explanation of the negative emotions that accompany it.
Perhaps the sometimes fanatical opposition adopted by both sides of the argument can be partially explained by the work of Psychologist Dr David Lewis-Hodgson, director of research at Mindlab International.
In his recent book, The Brainsell, he explains the radical polarization that occurs in society over branding. It turns out that some of the shallow reasons that people adopt to defend a particular brand such as Coke ™ over Pepsi ™, or Mac over PC, are surprisingly similar to the vitriolic behavior of Christians and Atheists toward one another.
This list contains a number of reasons why religious and irreligious zealots behave so rudely toward one another.
This list is modified from a similar list in the article “Why Fanboys Act Like Jerks” written by Keza MacDonald, and published April 15th, 2014 on the Kotaku website. All quotes from Dr. Lewis are taken from this article.