How to be an Accommodationist

March 30, 2011

I like the label of “Accommodationist” because it points right at my own view that nonbelievers have a big responsibility towards religious believers. 

This big responsibilty is to help the religious accommodate themselves to the cold hard truths about naturalism and the firm political structures of secularism.

I never could buy into that odd “Accommodationist” vs. “Confrontationist” division as dogmatically preached elsewhere.  That division always sounded like it had to amount to “Confrontationists actually hit believers hard with The Truth” while accommodationists are apparently doing other things besides just demonizing believers and hitting them with The Truth.   We are told that atheism is betrayed by those “accommodationists” who won’t attack religious belief every chance they get.  Such an odd division between artificial camps can’t do justice to all the great educational work that so many atheists do.  Educators don’t just hit people with The Truth.

Doesn’t stridently hitting people with The Truth on the assumption that The Truth has intrinsic powers to overcome irrational ignorance, sound more like fundamentalist tactics?  Be that as it may, assaulting people with The Truth hasn’t been widely viewed as an effective educational technique since the Catholic Inquisition.  It’s never been essential to educated Atheism, either before or after the “New Wave” of sophisticated books by atheist leaders.

Instead, treating people as intelligent adults who frequently can be reasoned with is a method that has worked wonders for civilization since those dark days.  What are some specific techniques, helpful for accommodating the religious towards enlightenment?  You may already be acquainted with many of the best-selling atheist books, too many to list here, but I myself have written on these strategies for waking up believers:

“Science and Religion are Incompatible” explains why science must never accommodate itself to religion.

“Religion and the Madness of Crowds” points out that believers need to realize how religion is not a fulfillment of common sense, although it pretends to be.

“The Totalitarian Ambition of the Religious Mind” warns about the way that mythology can take advantage of our very human need for explanation.

“God Fails a Simple Rationality Test” offers a way to make sure that religious beliefs are tested against six basic rules of sane common sense.

“A Creator God cannot be a Reasonable Explanation” describes how belief in God must violate several basic rules of sane common sense.

“When God Calls, Don’t Answer” is a warning against taking any religious experience seriously.

“There is Objective Morality in Nature” refutes the religious claim that naturalism would reduce morality to some subjective arbitrary status.

“The Bible is No Place for Ethics” explains why the Bible lacks moral objectivity and diminishes ethical responsibility.

“Religion is Not Really about Hope” points out the way that belief in Heaven and Hell is not morally appropriate.

“Accommodate, or Confront: Atheists ponder their Options” considers which tactics are most effective for getting more evolution in the classrooms.

“Biology Textbooks Should Stay Out of Religion” is a call to defend the secular principle that science textbooks teach about science, not about religion.

“An Atheist’s Guide to What You Need to Know About Theology” explains how public atheism can get even smarter for effective debate in the public marketplace of competing ideas.

“For Atheists and Believers, Ignorance is No Excuse” recounts how both believers and nonbelievers can intelligently debate their opposed viewpoints, despite rampant pessimism that reason is irrelevant.


As another example, my new blog on “Where Can Naturalism and Religion Agree?” at the HuffingtonPost takes a look at some shared lessons about the meaning and responsibilties of life.

Nonbelievers who try to helpfully guide believers away from faith towards reason aren’t simply “accommodationists yielding to faith.”  There’s no accommodation to faith in anything I have ever written, and not much in other educators who have been tarred with the “accommodationist” label either. 

Save the pejorative term “Faitheist” for some who actually do want to accommodate naturalism to spiritualism or to God.  As for Accommodationists, we can keep on helping religious believers accommodate themselves to naturalism and secularism.