Sympathetic Atheists

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69% of visitors (as of 12/2013)
are Sympathetic Atheists

Sympathy:  Greek etymology:  “syn” = together + “pathos” = feeling.

“Sympathetic Atheists” are Atheists who value of community, moral culture, and reflective living just like Theists do.  Further, Sympathetic Atheists acknowledge that religion can indeed do well to encourage these values.  Thus Sympathetic Atheists do not see religion as totaly bad and do not berate religion or its believers in a blanket manner.

However, though we are sympathetic with religion in these shared values, we remain critical of many of the specific doctrines and beliefs of Theists.   Thus, though Sympathetic Atheists feel religion can serve good purposes if used well, they also strongly realize that religion can serve terrible purposes if used poorly.  Sympathetic Atheists try to avoid unfocused criticism of religion as a whole.

Tell us what you feel about the category of “Sympathetic Atheist”:

Feel free to add your name in the comments if you consider yourself a sympathetic atheist.  Below are more specifics on how I think about religion.

My sympathetic views on religions:

  • Not all practice of religion is wrong
  • I try hard not to criticize religion in general but try to remain focused and specific in my criticisms.
  • Religion can (but is not always) used well to:
    • Nurture community
    • Encourage reflective living
    • Encourage moral living
    • Offer comfort
    • Can offer rich metaphors to serve the above functions

My critical views on religions:

  • I strongly support the criticism and resistance to many religious beliefs and practices.
    • However, we must be careful to criticize the specifics of a religion and not generalize.
    • And we must be careful to criticize the idea and not the person.
  • I am outraged by many religious beliefs and actions: well delineated on other sites.
  • I believe Atheists should speak out loudly again these beliefs and actions when possible.
  • I feel atheist are often oppressed and feel sympathy with religious people who are oppressed when they are harming no one.

My Atheism:

  • I do not believe in any gods (definition of atheist)
  • I do not believe in ghosts, spirits, angels, demons or the like.
  • I hold a naturalistic view of the world
  • I strongly value the scientific method

My Atheist “confessions”:

  • I have beliefs which I can not prove
  • Many of my beliefs and attitudes were obtained through trust (aka:”faith”)
  • I make many irrational decisions
  • I am often deceived by my own mind
  • I act against my own moral values, probably more than I imagine
  • There is far more that I do not understand than I do understand
  • The world holds many wonders for me
  • I can be lonely, sad, fearful, proud, angry and slothful like all other humans

Books by Sympathetic Atheists:

Confirmed Sympathetic Atheists:

Probable Sympathetic Atheists:


See other “Word!” posts, here.


Filed under Critical Thinking, Philosophy & Religion

16 responses to “Sympathetic Atheists

  1. I fall somewhere between sympathetic and militant atheist. I believe that while religion isn’t always bad. We, the human race, need to create new, non-dogmatic methods to share our goodness and to have community.

    Too much wrong has been done in the name of religion. Afraid I can’t support it in any way, shape, or form.

    That said, I think Unitarian Universalism is a good alternative. I may try it myself.

    Perhaps I wouldn’t oppose religion if folks would take it as a personal thing and didn’t go around trying to convince others that their way is the only right one.

  2. I could probably be considered a “sympathetic” atheist given the description above.

  3. Yeah, Like Qohelet I think I would with most of what you outlined. I DO however find myself critiquing religion vocally and on my site. But you have to admit, it does pose a bit of a ‘sitting duck’ when trying to find reasonable conclusions to common occurrences. For instance, I just learned from a coworker, that Rainbows are not a result of the prismatic effect of light shining through rain droplets at certain angles and certain times of the day. Noooo. Rainbows are God’s covenant that the Earth will not be destroyed by water AGAIN!

    So, to keep it short. If religion was not so gosh darn silly, cartoonish and dogmatically infallible I would agree 100% with your outline. But the moment I said to my coworker that her explanation sounded goofy she puffed up and bristled. Sanctification of Rainbows and invisible ghosts are always going to spur a reaction from me.

    But, yeah I am sympathetic, largely. I would be divorced and not be able to see my kids if I wasn’t. 😉

    PS: I found out later that the Book of Genesis does speak of the Rainbow as an omen of God’s covenant. Geesh, SCIENCE has let me so far from the truth! 🙂 🙂 🙂

  4. Michael E Davis

    You have truly lived an interesting and eventful life! And I thought my life was pretty interesting! Also, thanks for your comment on my recently posted discussion on Atheist Nexus regarding Bruce Sheiman’s book “An Atheist Defends Religion.”

    [admin has moved this comment and my reply from the “Comment Policy” page, which is not, for appearance sake, is closed to comments]

  5. @ ME Davis:

    After reading the comments and his site, I disagree with Mr. Sheiman on key points:
    Consider these ridiculous quotes of Sheiman from his book:

    ** religion provides a combination of psychological, moral, emotional, existential, communal, and even physical-health benefits that no other institution can replicate.

    **atheism is an impoverished belief system and that, individually and collectively, we are much better off with religion than without it.

    **we achieve our fullest humanity only in religion

    **atheism … reveals an ideological and emotional emptiness.

    My conclusions:

    1) Mr. Sheiman is mistaken in his view of evolution.

    2) He seems to agree with Wright in “The Evolution of God” that religion is evolving in a general directions. I tend not to agree with Wright on his hopefulness for some direction of evolution in general.

    3) He mistakenly feels most atheists are unhappy with their unbelief. I am not. My “unbelief” is only a minuscule part of my mind. I have many strong beliefs that allow happiness deeply without gods or spirits.

    4) I am totally unsympathetic with his phrasing “Aspiring Theist” !!

    Consequently, I have read enough and definitely will not be buying his book.

  6. geoih

    I think I tend to be quite sympathetic to religion, as long as it stays away from being judgmental of those outside it’s sect and away from forcing beliefs on to others (e.g., through government).

    I also try to be the same way toward atheists, but I generally find atheists are far more willing to force their collectivist beliefs on others, than the religious are.

  7. geoih — I wish you had a website so I could add you to the list. And as you know, I am very sympathetic to your analysis !

  8. Geoih,

    You may enjoy my slant on Atheism if you are less inclined to In-your-face confrontations. I have a very timid approach to sharing my beliefs with others, unless the context is appropriate. I would also love to hear some examples of how Atheist could possibly be more overt that the Big Three Monotheisms! Obviously, your experiences have been different than mine!!!

    Best Regards,

  9. amy

    I like your confessions. 🙂

  10. Pingback: Common Sense Atheism » Are You a Sympathetic Atheist?

  11. Lukeprog is helping me through the backlog of your blog by posting current entries regarding your past ones. 😉

    Another good one, Sabio!

  12. This post has been linked for the HOT5 Daily 12/8/2009, at The Unreligious Right

  13. GaryD

    My Theism:
    I do believe in a God
    I do believe in angels, demons and the like.
    I hold a super-natural view of the world
    I strongly value the scientific method
    My Theist “confessions”:-
    I have beliefs which I can not prove
    Many of my beliefs and attitudes were obtained through trust (aka:”faith”)
    I make many irrational decisions
    I am often deceived by my own mind
    I act against my own moral values, probably more than I imagine
    There is far more that I do not understand than I do understand
    The world holds many wonders for me
    I can be lonely, sad, fearful, proud, angry and slothful like all other humans.
    Almost the same,

  14. @ GaryD: thanx for sharing.

  15. Yes, this umbrella is the one to shelter me I think.
    My brother became heavily involved in religion when in his teens, Pentecost i think? He was preaching forgiveness about my step father when we should both have been giving him a damned good kicking [I would have been about 11 then] So that is what turned me away from religion. I could not and still cant forgive any man who beats a woman.

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