It’s not uncommon after a Christian leader is accused of some indiscretion to hear non-believers claim this demonstrates that religious people have some flaw. That is, some claim it is religion that caused the individual to do whatever it is they are accused of doing. But some of those same non-believers abandon this standard when it is applied to other groups.
For example, BuzzFeed reports that the board of American Atheists terminated David Silverman as president of their organization earlier this month because of financial conflicts and sexual assault. This happened within weeks of the American Humanist Association’s removal of Lawrence Krauss, a winner of the Humanist of the Year award, from its speaker pool because of alleged misconduct. The Freedom from Religion foundation removed Krauss from its honorary board citing, “Well-documented allegations of sexual misconduct” according to an article on patheos.com. What, if anything, does this prove?
I don’t mention these men as part of an effort to demonstrate that atheists are bad people; quite the opposite. I don’t accuse all atheists for the actions of individuals, but some non-believers condemn all Christians for the actions of individuals. It would be wrong to assume that something about atheism makes people do things like these atheist leaders have done. It is equally wrong to assume that there is something about religion that makes religious leaders do wrong. Individuals are responsible for their choices.
I think a good example is the way some non-believers react when a priest is accused of a crime against children. If I am going to assume that religion causes some priests to assault children; then by that convention I should assume that education leads school teachers to assault students. Making this assumption in either case is a sort-of composition fallacy; they are assuming what is true of a member of a group is true for the entire group. In this case, they add on an assumption of cause. This type of reaction to individual actions is assumption based on personal bias.
Terrible acts are committed by religious and atheist leaders; therefore, a researcher should look for rival causal factors.
What are your thoughts?