Religious people just want to he part of a Group

I was skimming through the comments on an article by Jimmy Akin on Strange Notions when I came across the following exchange.

8 months ago

Brandon wrote to me, as his suggestion of a good objection from atheists to Christians:

“From what I can tell, and please tell me if I’ve misunderstood, you believe A. But I guess I just don’t see how you could believe A in light of B. The latter, if true, would seem incompatible with A.”

You’ve confirmed my point for me.

You gave a schematic example of a failure of logic, as if this is what most atheists believe is the problem with Christian beliefs.

But, my point is that few if any atheists (not a single one among my acquaintances) think that the problem with Christianity is simply that Christians have simply made a logical error, have simply misevaluated evidence, etc.

It seems obvious to me, and to most atheists I know, that Christians are not guilty of a mere slip of logic but rather are choosing for some strange reason to adopt a patently absurd, obviously ridiculous, and monstrously evil system of beliefs.

And, I think the strange reason they are doing this is rather clear: “religion is a badge of group identity.” The obvious absurdity of Christianity is not a bug; it is a feature.

Just as a new frat member proves his loyalty to the frat by tolerating the absurdity of “hazing,” so also the Christian proves his loyalty to the Church by publicly adhering to beliefs that are obvious nonsense.

As I said above, “I get the impression that you think that many atheists view Christianity as at least semi-plausible, with some significant degree of credibility, but just not totally convincing. For better or worse, I can’t think of any atheists with that perspective.”

Your response confirms my point: you seem to think that there are a significant number of atheists who think that Christianity merely suffers from a few logical errors or some modest misinterpretation of the evidence.

No. I, and nearly all atheists I know, think that Christianity is so obviously wrong that all any adult of normal intelligence has to do is stand back from his group allegiances and look at Christianity and start laughing.

But, most Christians very much do not want to stand back from their group allegiances.


JefZeph physicistdave
8 months ago

“religion is a badge of group identity”

St. Anthony the Anchorite would have had a good laugh over that one. I find it rather comical myself.

physicistdave JefZeph
8 months ago

JefZeph wrote to me:

St. Anthony the Anchorite would have had a good laugh over that one.

I take it you do not actually know much about Anthony?

He was a bit of an ancient rock star: He ran a community of monks near the end of his life. Villagers helped feed him when he was lazing around out in the desert. Etc.

Joining a social group does not mean you spend every moment with the group: it is a matter of identity not hangin’ with your buds every single minute.

And, Mad Anthony clearly did choose to identify with the group of Christians. He could have chosen the group of Manichaeans, or perhaps the Mithraists.

Or he could have chosen to be sane and just lived his life himself without committing to any of those groups.

But, sadly, he chose the badge of group identity of Christianity.

Pathetic guy.


This has got stuck on my mind, and I’m not quite sure how I would answer this argument. How would you answer it?

Christianity was a response to an encounter with the supernatural, such as the miracles of Jesus, especially his resurrection. Since then, people have become Christians for various reasons. Some people, believe the testimony of those witnesses to the supernatural. Some people, like me, converted from agnosticism to Christianity because they too had a similar encounter with the supernatural. However, since we humans are not in control of such encounters, they cannot be scientifically repeated to the satisfaction of unbelievers.


So it’s either that or “we are too afraid of dying”. :ehh:

Always something selfish, isn’ t it? :rolleyes:

He wrote : " It seems obvious to me, and to most atheists I know, that Christians are not guilty of a mere slip of logic but rather are choosing for some strange reason to adopt a patently absurd, obviously ridiculous, and monstrously evil system of beliefs."

How can an atheist say anything is monstrously evil?

Evil cannot exist without a moral absolute like God.

But I’d answer more that it’s not group think. Tons of cases out there, myself included that converted without any group identity.

Perhaps it is the group think of atheism/secularism that this guy cannot step out of. See you can go round and round. It proves nothing. Even if it was group thinking, it does not deny that it is true or prove it false.

The military engages in group think, that does not mean they are delusional.

And, I think the strange reason they are doing this is rather clear: “religion is a badge of group identity.” The obvious absurdity of Christianity is not a bug; it is a feature.

One might make this claim for certain protestant sects (or people of other faiths, such as Islam), but it would be hard to level such a charge against typical modern Catholic laypeople. And, since this IS a Catholic Forum, I will respond from a Catholic perspective.

Modern Catholics are (sadly) not a particularly “social” bunch of people. We don’t usually fraternize with each other. Many Parishes will offer “coffee & donuts” or even a meal after Mass, to encourage more of a sense of community. But, a Mass attended by 500 people will see 30 or 40 people attend this “after Mass” social opportunity, and they tend to be the same people each week. If you consistently go to Mass at the same Parish at the same time you will see many familiar faces, but typical modern Catholics will have never spoken to those people (except, perhaps, to mutter, “peace be with you” if they happen to be sitting close when the peace offering is made) and certainly do not know even their names. We enter the Sanctuary in silence, and leave in silence., and usually decline to participate in whatever social activity is offered in the Parish hall afterwards. The priest entreats us to attend these activities, but most of us decline.

I’m not saying this is a good thing (because it is not). But I AM saying that it would be kinda silly to accuse modern Catholics of being drawn to the Church out of a desire for “group identity,” when we do not usually even associate among ourselves. Sadly, modern Catholic laypeople certainly do not typically go about “advertising” their Faith. I don’t talk a lot about my Faith among my associates unless some suitable opportunity presents itself, though I do publish here (and in other places) under my real full name and my real location (my name really is “David Filmer” and I really live in Portland, Oregon. My brother really is Father Eric Filmer, of the Catholic Answers ‘Ask an Apologist’ Forum). Anyone who knows me well will know that I am Catholic, but if an associate tells me he is a Jehovah’s Witness, I won’t argue with him about it (unless he first argues about my Catholicism, and especially if he misrepresents it).

FWIW, my wife and I are both converts. We did not go through RCIA, but were instructed by a priest (the old-fashioned way, but still permitted). But we did both require a sponsor, who must be a Catholic in good standing. Neither of us even KNEW a Catholic in good standing (I knew one “lapsed” Catholic, and my wife did not know any). Our priest actually appointed a volunteer sponsor for us, so that proper canonical forms could be observed. We had dinner with him once, and were then received. I converted to a Faith that did not particularly appeal to my secular side (which had ruled me up to that point), with mandatory days of obligation (including EVERY Sunday), and Confessions, and such. We converted because we came to realize the Catholic Faith is TRUE. There was certainly no sense of “group identity.” We converted into a group of strangers (who remained strangers).

This makes me so sad.

Well, to be honest, it seems like the atheists are the ones who want to be part of a group these days. They are starting all these “freedom from religion groups” and are trying to get other people to join. They are spending lots and lots of money on billboard and bus advertisements. And they troll Internet sites like YouTube and Yahoo! Answers trying to tear people down every time someone makes any mention of God at all, even if it’s simply offering a prayer for a sick person.

Christians are few in numbers these days. Most people are secular and it’s not always easy to find friends who share the faith. Wanting to be in a group is natural because people want to know at least a few people who have similar beliefs and values.

Atheists saying God is evil is ridiculous. They don’t know their Bible at all and even those who have memorized some Bible verses (former evangelicals?) constantly take quotes out of context. The events described were at a certain time and place and for a particular group of people. Certain things had to be done because of the “hardness of their hearts” and were less than ideal but better than the accepted custom of the time (divorce, the way prisoners were treated, etc.). The commandments are clear that not everything done in the Bible is condoned. Not to mention, there is no such thing as good or evil to an atheist because without God it’s just whatever popular opinion is at the time. We say slavery is wrong because it’s illegal now, but we live in a time where other evils are acceptable (e.g. abortion) and most atheists seem to think everything is fine.

Me, too. I think I used the word “sad” (or “sadly”) twice (at least) in my post.

But, oddly enough, out of weakness can come strength, or a sort (even if it is a strength that can cause sadness). I would prefer that I could NOT make such a refutation to the objection presented, but I cannot overlook the opportunity to point out that the objection cannot really be applied to typical modern Catholic laypeople.

Some Muslims and protestants (and others) will have to deal with the objection in their own way, if it is presented on one of their Forums (it is not within our purview to defend Islam or protestantism here, on a Catholic forum - that would be presumptuous). Sadly, the objection does not really apply to us (Catholics), and we cannot really “refute” it here in any meaningful sense.

But it makes me sad as well. It is not NECESSARY, in any theological sense, for ANY Catholic to “socialize” with any other Catholics, but “socialization” is a good thing, and certainly not a bad thing, and it is something that modern Catholic laypeople typically neglect, despite the fact that most Parishes offer many such opportunities.

But our anti-social behavior DOES make us somewhat immune from accusations (as presented here) of “group-think” (to quote George Orwell, but with my own addition of the hyphen, and which speaks to the title of this original post).

What does a Christian mean when he says God is a moral absolute?

It’s not really a “Christian” question, but a logical question. A necessary existence must be complete in whatever attribute it has. God cannot be 99% love and 1% hate (or any such ratio). God must be 100% (exactly) in whatever property he has, and 0% of whatever property he DOES NOT possess.

Ever notice just how organized and religious in the practice of their irreligion the atheists have become in recent times? Are they so human that they desire to be part of a group?

My brother in law, who is considering atheism, attends regular meetings with atheist groups.
They meet often at coffee houses, etc. He says they have impromptu meetings that pop-up on a regular basis and he will be contacted (via text?) about the location of the next meeting.

He also said that they are so passionate and insistent about their belief system that they are almost like “pentecostals” in their fervor.

Is there anything wrong with wanting to be part of a group though?
I mean one does not get very far on their own, right?

The Church teaches that man “is a religious being.” Atheists bear the Church out on this one.

Not that I can tell. We are by nature social animals. The only instances that I can think of (note- I’m not an expert) in which someone doesn’t want or need some sort of group identity are people with some sort of mental disorder or abnormality.

It isn’t even an argument. It would be like me saying, “All atheists have daddy problems and like to reject authority. We thinking adults on the outside look at atheists and wonder how anyone could believe something that is obviously false.” I won’t deny that some theists argue in similar ways. But their arguments are non-arguments as well.

(To speak more formally, it is an instance of the

That said, we can consider some of his more specific points. First, it would seem that even if atheism were true, his argument is wrong. The idea that all religious people just want to be part of a social group seems like a hasty and false generalization. People have a number of reasons for becoming Christians (and other religions). Even if Christianity were false, it is true that throughout the world, there are solitary practitioners of religions (or you could look at “spiritual but not religious” people in the secular west–people clearly have an interest in spiritual practice, with or without other people).

Otherwise, I don’t see why anyone should care too much about a particular atheist’s intuition (or even a large number of atheists’ intuitions) that Christianity is “obviously false.” I thought Christianity was obviously false when I was an atheist. I also had woefully misrepresentative views of what Christianity taught. I only knew of caricatures of the arguments for God’s existence. My opinion was tainted by popular intelligent design and creationism movements.

The claim that Christianity is morally repulsive is question begging.

No. I, and nearly all atheists I know, think that Christianity is so obviously wrong that all any adult of normal intelligence has to do is allegiances and look at Christianity and start laughing.

But, most Christians very much do not want to stand back from their group allegiances.

He’s making some insulting presumptions: if a Christian stands back from his group he will see that it’s wrong and that most Christians don’t do this or want to do this.

How would he know if I stood back and gave Christianity or Catholicism a good, hard look? If I did and I embraced it then I’m an idiot. Or I’m too scared to look outside. Please. :rolleyes: If you have to insult me to sell what you’re selling it’s not worth buying.

My answer is metaphysically simple: I just look in the mirror. I don’t like joining groups. Never have, never will. I’m actually anti-joining groups. Ask my wife. It’s cost me a lot of opportunities in life. Whatever. I don’t join. :shrug:

Those who convert to Christianity are not joining a group but are becoming sons and daughters of God and are therefore joining a family. Anyone who has and is part of a family can tell you it’s not a 247 picnic. Do we join this family for our own selfish reasons? Sure, I don’t doubt that there are some who do; however, those who join this family for the right reason do so for the love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; God. And we bear our fellow family members with all charity for the love of God and in imitation of Him.

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