Why are atheists so obsessed with religion?
Apologists sometimes claim that atheists are obsessed with religion. The reason is supposedly that God actually exists.
- "What is it about atheists that we would spend so much time, attention, and energy refuting something that we don't believe even exists?! What causes us to do that? "
- "If the term “atheism” simply describes a lack of belief, then atheists like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens went to an awful lot of trouble writing books describing their missing mental property. "
- "It's strange, though, that it isn't us, the faithful, who seem to be doing the worrying: it's all these neurotic atheists, humanists and secularists."
There are, in fact, other reasons to explain why an atheist might be well-versed in the details of religion and have an interest in speaking of it. The atheist might have had a strong religious upbringing, have an academic interest, have had researched religion in the course of becoming an atheist, or may simply be interested without reaching the level of an obsession. They might enjoy speaking of it because of the previous time investment they had put into religion, in the same way that a wine enthusiast might happily write a book on red wines after several years spending free time at wine tastings, or a graduate student will expand upon his or her research upon prompting. Crucially, neither the wine enthusiast or the graduate student is (in general) accused of having an obsession, so the purpose of this question is to undercut the atheist and make the atheist seem irrational and troublingly focused.
Furthermore, atheists live in a world in which the vast majority of other humans put stock in religion. Whether or not there is a god or gods, religious groups, institutions, and ideas most certainly exist, and religion does not exist in a vacuum. Religion affects social groups (e.g. Boy Scout troops), political discourse (e.g. Moral Majority), and the minds of the majority of the planet. It seems hardly reasonable for a person outside of an institution to take an interest in it due to its large influence in the world to be accused of an obsession.
The previous statements assumed the atheist had some sort of interest in religion. The atheist might additionally feel they have no choice but to know a great deal about religion because in the world as it is, atheists are expected to defend their lack of belief once they make it public. Alternatively, the atheist might be an out atheist but have no particular interest in religion except as it intersects their lives or the lives of the people around them.