The Trouble With Atheism

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The Trouble with Atheism is an hour-long documentary on atheism, presented by Rod Liddle. It aired on Channel 4 in December 2006. The documentary focuses on criticizing atheism, as well as science, for its perceived similarities to religion, as well as arrogance and intolerance. The programme includes interviews with a number of prominent scientists, including atheists Richard Dawkins and Peter Atkins and Anglican priest John Polkinghorne. It also includes an interview with Ellen Johnson, the president of American Atheists.

Liddle begins the documentary by surveying common criticisms of religion, and particularly antireligious arguments based on the prevalence of religious violence. He argues that the “very stupid human craving for certainty and justification”, not religion, is to blame for this violence, and that atheism is becoming just as dogmatic as religion.

In order to support his thesis, Liddle presents numerous examples of actions and words by atheists which he argues are direct parallels of religious attitudes. He characterizes Atkins and Dawkins as “fundamentalist atheists” and “evangelists”.

In response to atheistic appeals to science as a superior method for understanding the world than religion, Liddle argues that science itself is akin to religion: “the problem for atheists is that science may not be as far away from religion as you might imagine”.

He describes Fermilab, a U.S. Department of Energy National Laboratory focused on particle physics, as a “temple to science”, and characterizes Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species as a “sacred text” for atheists.

The Trouble With Atheism , 3.9 out of 10 based on 1025 ratings

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  • dan

    This documentary is breathtakingly sloppy in it’s characterization of the issue. It presents atheism in a very simplistic view and constantly makes incorrect assertions. For example, in saying that atheism pretty much started with Darwinism, overlooks the fact that buddhism and hinduism don’t believe in a god that created the universe, so they are both more “atheistic” positions ultimately.

  • dan

    To find one scientist who casts doubt on the validity of the darwin theory, is to ignore the absolute vast majority of scientists, for whom the many strands of independent evidence continual to validate and strengthen the darwin theory.

  • Mich

    this is looking at a specific type of Atheist (one who grasps on to Atheism as if it were a religion)….although I’ve never personally met any non-believers who act this way. If I were to make a documentary about the problem with religion and only looked at religious extremists, it would also make religion look bad. Dawkins gives fair answers to everything as usual. I like his humble approach, as he is ready to admit that science doesn’t yet explain everything, and probably never will as it’s always up for revision, but it’s an honest, logical and humble approach to trying to find out the truth.

    I agree with the bit about human nature at the end. Whether or not society would be better or worse without religion is irrelevant, though, to whether god exists or not. I think many members of society will always ‘need’ some kind of belief system to help them through life, whether they throw themselves into religion or use atheism as some kind of religion. Let’s not forget that in it’s true sense, atheism is not a ‘thing’, it’s just NOT BELIEVING in a god or gods. To me this seems like the default position, the neutral, and if a religion or god somehow presents itself to you in a way that you can’t deny, then fair enough, start believing in something. Personally, though I’m not sure if some kind of supernatural-seeming experience would lead me to believe in god. could be wrong, but I feel that there could be many simpler explanations before concluding that there is a god who created everything.

  • john

    yes religion is stupid …. i even don’t understand why there is need to keep demonstrating the idiocy of religion over and over and over again.

  • john

    i don’t want to vote unlike, because i like the fact that here we have one more example of a failed attempt to show that religion has some sense, and another failed attempt to show that science cannot know everything.
    the power of science is that science operates with reason, knowledge, research, verification, review, recognizes its limitations and provides the best explanations that a human must use in order to make any judgemet.
    any attempt to “demonstrate” the veridicality of religion is shallow, hopless and simply guaranteed to fail.

    • PJ

      u r insane and ur mind is cover by false knowledge

  • Tom Caram

    I made it to 06:00 . Worst documentary ever. This guy is really misinformed

    • nick

      I got to 5.12…

    • bobb

      i got to 9:10 because we all know what happens at 9:11

  • Anon

    The biggest question raised by this documentary is whether or not atheism is a “belief” just like religion or an “absence of belief” on a higher order than religion. Liddle argues the former – that atheism is on par with theism by simply asserting the opposite. However, this “either or” perspective (either god exists or he doesn’t) hinges on the cultural legitimacy of believing in god. Liddle’s argument is made weaker by thinking “either Santa claus exists or he doesn’t. Either fairies exist or they don’t. Either magic particles of good and bad luck float around in the air or they don’t.” Supernatural entities such as these are generally rejected by our culture, and those who don’t believe in them are not challenged to defend their “claim” of nonbelief. (Just realized I think this is Russel’s teapot argument)

  • Vadim Korolov

    Great movie … love it !!!

  • tom19r

    Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot were all atheists!!

    • Pwndecaf

      Everyone has some good points. They may have kept a nice lawn, too.

    • Marj

      Hitler, however, was never an atheist.

      Hitler was born and baptized as a Roman Catholic

    • stick

      it doesn’t mean it’s an atheistic regime, that’s just a sad way to form an argument.

      I’ll try to explain it this way; Catholics are almost just as atheistic as atheists are.. they don’t believe in any gods what so ever except their one God.. if you would lose your belief where would that put you?
      In comparison, by not doing sports you’re not doing a sport. not sporting isn’t a sport in itself.

      I hope I’ve clarified the matter a bit. it’s sad to see people hold on to such an untruth as their first most argument.

  • Curtis

    “Even has some of it’s own sacred texts.”

    *Shows a picture of origin of species*…


    Please explain to me how a book written by a scientist, about a piece of science which is widely considered to be scientific fact, is a sacred text…

    • Calvin

      I imagine he’s saying its immutable/unquestionable/highly revered

      • http://yolol Adam

        Which is a nonsensical statement because ‘On the Origin of Species’ is not unfalsifiable so by definition it cannot be a sacred, undeniable text.

  • Nicola

    really interesting second look at atheism once you get into it. i found the scientific understandings about the origins of life and how they are changing especially interesting

  • Vanesa

    Rod Liddle, you’re a bit of a moron.

  • Matthew Theriot

    Mythology is a waste of time. But an individual’s religious beliefs only potentially influences their empathy towards others negatively or positively. You have people with the same set of religious beliefs who are both monsters, and good people. Similarly, atheism does not predictably influence someone to be a good person or a bad one. Religious beliefs, or lack there-of are only one variable to a person, and it is incorrect to assume that any one group of people who share philosophical or religious beliefs will behave in a certain predictable way. That being said, religion is a waste of time. Moral lessons taught through it could simply be taught on their own without it, and every religious group has it’s extremists who can commit terrible crimes in the name of their religion. The most harmful aspect of religion is when there is a rejection of science, or a view that causes violence/lack of empathy. Science is important not only to our survival, improvement as a species, understanding of the world, and quality of life, but science promotes and fosters empathy among people. The study of life, promotes the appreciation of it, and when religion serves as a substitute or a hindrance to scientific thinking, that is when intellectual harm is being done.

  • Alex

    Excellent documentary, doesn’t bash any involved party (though expresses an obvious distaste for ideals forwarded by certain people without specifying the non-universal expression of those ideals amongst the community from with those people originate). I feel like the presenter did well at not being biased in religion’s favour despite me being left with the impression he’s most likely religious. Almost seems like support for an agnostic and unobtrusive standpoint. Live and let live to all parties involved.

  • bodey

    768 comments, most defending atheism, further proof atheism and fundamental religion are two sides of the same coin. this documentary was a breath of fresh air, thank, dare I say it, god. just because the cartoonish superhero version of god that the religious heads cling to is ludicrous, doesn’t logically follow that there isn’t something more to this life. agnosticism is a far more reasonable approach, and is more in line with scientific thinking, in my opinion,

  • PJ

    @Mark Sharp Well said mate. Awesome documentary as it raises a lot of logical points. I think a lot of people wants to be or are atheists as it makes their life easier. I believe in science but cannot deny the fact that we would not have perfect conditions to develop life on planet earth without a supreme power.

  • Ib

    I think gods were created to explain the inexplicable.
    And Today, most of the inexplicable are explained with science.
    But humankind has too much history to stop believing in a higher power.

  • lawmanbutchino

    Why do people even make these doco’s, sure atheism can be a bit dis-tasteful in it open manner of criticizing of religion. But can you not see it’s an argument, of LACK OF EVIDENCE and EMPIRICAL DATA, if you want atheist to stop criticizing your ignorance stop claiming things to exist without evidence, go get one. . . just one piece of empirical evidence, proving higher powers may exist, if there is no empirical evidence, then either we do not have the ability to measure or detected it yet, or it does not interact with the universe, basically at this point in time you may as well be arguing the existence of the ether. (which like theology is a complete waste of human brain power) Dont criticize people because they believe in evidence, just because your to scared to admit, that its the only logical way to eliminate all other hypothesis. and yes that’s right you ignoramus’s, in case you didn’t know (which i find a lot pro theist don’t) science doesn’t prove anything, it eliminates the measurable possibilities of opposing idea’s, evidence is used to dis-prove. So go on go dis-prove that higher powers don’t interact with our universe. . if you can find any evidence that they might. Which i doubt you will. Have a good day in this universe that scares and confuses you so very much.

    • lawmanbutchino

      Also if you think that, religion influences you into doing moral right actions, your morally skewed, i don’t ever wanna meet the guy, who only has morals and values based on the fact, that some higher power we have no evidence for may send them to hell, I’d rather associate with ‘non-cop-outs’ who do things with a moral code, because they genuinely think they are right, opposed to doing them for their own ‘percieved’ personal gain.

      • Bon Bon

        You missed a very strong point of this video. In fact, your words and intent – should you ever act on them – exemplifies this point.

  • Bon Bon

    I find it curious that the majority of people commenting on this video are displaying the very behaviors this video brings to light. The comments actually prove the point.

    • JSL

      Was thinking the very same thing….

  • wur

    The guy hosting this is such a fucking idiot. Suggesting that Atheism has fundamentalists and Holy texts is utterly ridiculous.

  • Jamie Holmes

    Ohhh man.. This guy is a joke. He accuses every one of being over judgmental when he himself is no better. He needs peeing on.

  • Jamie Holmes


  • Syed Kamal

    He/she who swears loses the argument. The End.

  • JS

    When I meditate, self identification with this body dissolves, and I become everything. This is not a feeling, its what literally happens. Can’t prove it, but to me it’s authentic from the raw data experienced to the subjective meditator. I believe in this experience that you can have, not some abstract interpretation…of a translation…of a book. Too many dualisms in language to place someone on a pedestal as an official interpreter. It’s better to go directly to the source and find out for yourself. After you experience it, you don’t feel a need to cosign to a belief system…because none of them do it justice.