This Just In: Rick Warren Tweets Nonsense

03 Dec

Rick Warren recently tweeted this drivel:

“People become atheists because of hurt, then seek intellectual arguments to validate their desire to live without God.”

Rick WarrenFrom the heights of solipsistic arrogance, Warren has performed the verbal equivalent of pulling his pants down and wagging his bare butt at the entire atheist community. Allow me to pull his pants the rest of the way down.

For starters, he is dead wrong. Most atheists are atheists primarily for intellectual reasons. End of story. Even a casual relationship with a few atheists will make this fact obvious.

Second, consider the plausibility of what Warren really believes: an invisible being who created the universe by speaking a few words also revealed himself to an obscure Middle Eastern sect by causing a virgin to conceive a son that was 100% himself and also 100% not himself, and then that son died, un-died, saved all of humanity and flew back into heaven. And it’s supposed to be hard to see why people might disagree for purely intellectual reasons?

Warren’s sentiments represent the worst of Christian xenophobia. Even Christian theologians–the category we reserve for those crazy enough to devote their lives to the study of the invisible and confusing–understand that there are plenty of intellectual reasons to abandon the brand of faith Warren traffics. Sure, they might not do so themselves, but their exposure to the pressing intellectual problems of Christianity makes them much more circumspect and far less apt to accuse atheists of believing the way they do for no other reason except being hurt.

I myself have heard some Christian friends and family parrot Warren’s idiocy to me, and it’s insulting. First, how dare anyone tell me why I made the decision I made? I was the one making it(!), and I assure you it was for intellectual reasons. Second, why would anyone think that the mere moral failure of a few Christians would motivate me to reject the faith altogether? I wasn’t hurt–I actually had a pretty good Christian experience–but even if I was, how dare someone insinuate that I would sacrifice my intellectually integrity to an emotional response? That’s just downright rude, and even I, an atheist, grant my intellectual opponents more respect than that.

Finally, it is only from the apogee of blind faith that people believe there can be no purely intellectual motivation to disagree with them. The hideously effective belief encoded in many strains of the Christian meme is that it affords literally no space for the possibility of its untruth. Those infected are so convinced that they cannot be persuaded otherwise by evidence or logic. At least us atheists usually acknowledge the possibility of being wrong.

No doubt Warren will continue spouting his nonsense to the cheap applause of some Christians. But the rest of us will just laugh at him flailing about with his pants down.


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  1. Nathan Jacobson

    December 20, 2009 at 5:18 am

    Andy. Warren’s tweet was infelicitous, indelicate, and probably wrong, to be sure. A 144 character tweet is not the place to be making such contentious claims. One could read it charitably and hope that by “people”, he meant “some people”, but that’s really giving the benefit of the doubt. That being said, your response is unmeasured and also inflammatory: “xenophobia”, “idiocy”, “crazy”, “spout nonsense”, “traffics”, etc. Are you channeling Hitchens? (Wink.)

    You’ve previously written: “essentially, religious beliefs are a coping mechanism”, and that the the formation of religions is based on “convenience” over truth and “the universal human condition of fear”. Now, I could get all offended and apoplectic that you would smear my carefully considered religious beliefs in this way and would presume to know my reasons for belief, but it’s too early in the morning for that :)

    Warren’s and your attempts to understand what makes those of another persuasion tick is a natural human tendency. When reason and experience lead us to embrace a particular view of the world, it is natural to wonder what could justify the contrary view, and all too common to impute character defects as the cause. It annoys me as well, though I don’t of any ideological community that resists the urge. I am also regularly frustrated by similar claims made by secularists and atheologians in those forums where they vent.

    And yet, in almost all cases, it seems likely to me that non-rational factors are at play in the worldviews we adopt. Though I don’t think “fear” plays any significant role in my views, I’ll concede that longing and hope do. Some psychological and sociological musings on the roots of belief are appropriate, if done with great care. You probably know by now that my own view is that, at least with the imperfect rational faculties we have, in many respects, the world is genuinely ambiguous to us all.

    In case you’re curious, I also address this issue of imputing reasons to others in my article, “One Less God“.

  2. Andy Walters

    December 20, 2009 at 2:34 pm


    It is true that my riposte was inflammatory, but I deny the charge of unmeasured. Trust me–I measured out the most inflammatory words I could find. :)

    I have my Hitchens moments. There are times where I deal with religion in a careful, circumspect manner, and there are times where I employ hyperbole and even ridicule. In my view, Warren’s recent idiocy (yes, idiocy) is completely deserving of my response.

    The words of mine you’ve quoted above are suspicions about the origin of all religions; I would not chalk up most living Christians’ belief to irrationality like Warren did for atheists. As you know, I believe there are plenty of rational reasons to believe in a deity, though I don’t find any of them ultimately compelling. So it seems to me you’ve no cause for offense, at least from this corner of my work :)