“What’s the biggest misconception people have about atheists?”

I’m asked this often, and I never quite know how to respond. I usually end up answering this question with a question. “Am I limited to just one?” Or, “Where do I begin?”

I struggle because the stereotypes about atheists—most often negative—are numerous and widespread.

These misconceptions are sustained by a lack of communication; atheists in the U.S. are small in number, and it seems likely that many people do not know any atheists (or know that they do). But when people meet atheists, they have an opportunity to revise their ideas about who we are and what we believe.

"Ask an Atheist" Community Forum at Yale.

“Ask an Atheist” Community Forum at Yale.

In that spirit, the Yale Humanist Community is cosponsoring an “Ask an Atheist” panel with Hartford Faith & Values—Connecticut’s nonsectarian, nonprofit religion news website and an affiliate of Religion News Service—this Monday, April 7 as the kickoff event for our first ever Humanism at Yale Week.

At the panel, members of the broader community will have a chance to meet and ask questions of representatives from atheist, agnostic, and secular groups in Connecticut, including Tanya Barrett, Dennis Paul Himes, me, and panel moderator Dan Blinn.

In advance of Monday’s discussion, I invited the other panelists and moderator to share a brief response to the question, “What’s the biggest misconception people have about atheists?” Check out their responses below, and share yours in the comment.

Co-chair of Connecticut Coalition of Reason Tanya Barrett.

Co-chair of Connecticut Coalition of Reason Tanya Barrett, photo courtesy Barrett.

Tanya Barrett, co-chair of the Connecticut Coalition of Reason and 2013 American Atheists Connecticut Activist of the Year:

The misconception about atheists that I run into most frequently is that atheists are immoral, unethical, and not compassionate. Some people have only been exposed to atheists when they are interested in arguing about the separation of church and state, as opposed to seeing them as regular human beings who have the same capacity to be kind and helpful as anyone else.

Hartford Area Humanists president Dan Blinn.

Hartford Area Humanists president Dan Blinn. Photo courtesy Blinn.

Dan Blinn, founding president of Hartford Area Humanists, co-chair of the Connecticut Coalition of Reason, and Humanist columnist for Hartford Faith & Values:

[The biggest misconception is that] atheists have no meaning or purpose in their lives. Many theists find hope, happiness, and love as part of their faith, and therefore believe that atheists are missing out on all of that because they can’t find these things in the same way that theists find them. Absent a belief in a loving God with whom they can spend eternity, atheists suffer in cold despair, their lives devoid of purpose or meaning. Their cynical attitude masks the tremendous hole in their lives.

Dennis Paul Himes, Connecticut State Director of American Atheists.

Dennis Paul Himes, Connecticut State Director of American Atheists. Photo courtesy Himes.

Dennis Paul Himes, Connecticut State Director of American Atheists and co-founder and first president of Connecticut Valley Atheists:

I think the biggest misconception, or at least the one I find myself noticing the most, is the idea that Atheists wish they could have faith, and are envious of those who do.  For the most part Atheists are not only perfectly content to be without faith, but are happy they’ve managed to escape that fate. I think that more often than many people realize a believer and an infidel will each be pitying the other, but each will be too polite to say anything.

In addition to some of the misconceptions offered by my fellow panelists—the ideas that we atheists have no meaning or sense of purpose to our lives, that we are without morals, that we yearn to believe—I think another misconception is the idea that atheists and theists do not and cannot identify shared values or areas of mutual concern.

This is a harmful and ultimately dehumanizing assumption, predicated for some on the idea that atheists are so completely unlike theists—and that the chasm between believers and nonbelievers is so vast—that it isn’t valuable or even possible to work together for the common good.

But the reality is that we aren’t as different as we may think. Theist or atheist, we’re all trying to construct meaningful lives, understand ourselves and others, and learn more about the world around us. So let’s get together and get to know one another better.

Readers: what do you think is the biggest misconception about atheists? Please let us know in the comments. Perhaps we’ll incorporate your thoughts into Monday’s panel discussion.

70 Comments

  1. My favorite is that they are somehow angry at God for something and take it out on theists. The most ridiculous overused cliche of the atheist is someone who had something bad happen to them and lost their faith in God. You see it a lot in the media. Its bullcrap. As if atheism is merely some kind of angry misdirected hissyfit.

    Christians use this trope all the time to take on an insulting patronizing passive-aggressive tone to online postings. Something to the effect of “why are you so angry at God?” or “calm down and trust Jesus instead.” Usually followed by ,”I’ll pray for you”.

    The last part is Christian-speak for “you are going to hell and I want to send you there, damn foul atheist!” :)

  2. My favorites:

    “Atheists have no meaning to life” – Gosh! there is so much meaning IN life why look for more!??

    “Try and read the Bible” – Thanks, I know the Bible much better than you do.

    “Just believe” – That works….until it doesn’t. Then it never does work again.

    “Your life must be so empty” – Right. (Laughing hysterically) :-)
    this is empty: ..on my way to visit a friend recovering from surgery, a daughter who wants to borrow the car, a son who needs a few bucks at college, a wife who wants to meet me downtown for dinner, a friend who wants to go out for a beer later and a cousin who wants me to join her at a movie. But first I’m reading a book at the beach and teaching a child how to read! – really, really empty. :-)

    “You need God” – Bull***

    “You have no limits to your behavior” – TELL THAT TO MY WIFE!

  3. samuel Johnston

    My take is a bit different. Converts will always be different because they had to choose to abandon their family/group beliefs. My Father (a good man) was a minister and I was drilled in the faith by my mother and by obligatory church attendance. I loved my family, but I hated the Church, mainly because of the hypocrisy, mean spiritedness, and worldliness of many of its members. My journey to freedom was long, but worth it in the end. I know what I think and why. Should I meet God, I am ready with a few questions-when he has the time.
    My daughter has never attended Church as anything but an guest/observer. She never had to suffer family/friend alienation for her beliefs or lack thereof. This makes her personality different. One of her friends took her to his church and complained that she was the only person he had ever met who did not know the lord’s prayer. She just never took any interest in the matter.

  4. Susan Humphreys

    I have also heard all the other comments BUT what has gotten me the most, raised my hackles the most, was to be called a “threat to the moral foundations of society”. One pastor said that to me and when I got my wits about me I said I wasn’t the threat to society he was! Many Christians have been raised on fear, fear that if they don’t get it (the theology/beliefs/doctrines) RIGHT they won’t be saved. I have found that they can’t accept that Atheists have overcome those fears and much of the statements by Theists about Atheists are simply designed to comfort themselves that we can’t possibly be happy, moral, at peace with ourselves, because their religion hasn’t helped them be that way inspite of all their claims.

  5. Susan Mulloy

    I am not an atheist but I admire my atheist friends who can live with joy and peace in our troubled world. I think they are braver than those of us who have faith in God and an afterlife to sustain us through worldly suffering. Is this a misconception?

    • Susan Humphreys

      Are they braver? Perhaps. Perhaps they are better educated? Perhaps we Atheists (at least some of us) have THOUGHT things through, we have weighed the pros and cons, studied the inconsistencies, faced up to the contradictions, learned about other religions and secular ideas AND have made a choice that works for us. I think that all of us are at different stages in our life’s journey, some of us progress further and faster than others, some aren’t able to progress beyond where they are now. I don’t think it matters. What does matter are our day to day actions, how we treat our fellow man, all of them, especially those that are different from us, whether from race, ethnicity, country of origen, gender, sexual identification or orientation, wealth, social status, education, religion or lack thereof. AND I know this is TRUE because the Bible and the Upanishads and the Tao teh Ching, and the writings of many of our worlds greatest thinkers all tell me this is TRUE.

    • @Susan,

      Atheism is something you discover about yourself. I’m not smarter or braver than I was when I was a Christian.

      But if GOD can find a parking spot for Aunt Sally so she can buy a chicken, it makes no sense for God to also let Aunt Sally get killed by a truck on the way out of the supermarket.

      Discovering the incoherence of religion frees you to be honest about the whole culture we live in. We all need each other very much more than we can imagine. There is no big daddy watching out for us.

      • Susan Humphreys

        What you have discovered Max is the incoherence of People! Aunt Sally’s claims tell us about her NOT about Religions. Part of being honest about the whole culture Max is being honest about Religion and about the Bible. The Bible tells us about the thoughts and contradictions of the writers and compilers NOT about what God thought. Religion in an of itself isn’t Evil, people use it to justify and sanctify their bad behavior and in some cases truly evil actions. But that is what people do. They look for excuses, comfort, advice, reassurance, safety, hope, they are motivated by fear primarily and in some cases are able to move beyond their fears. Religion was designed to do that, free them from fear, but it doesn’t work for ALL people. AND in the hands of people without good intentions Religion has used fear to control, intimidate and harm people. Blame the people Max, not Religion. Religion is only a tool, like a shovel or a hammer. All can be used to build great things OR they can be used as a weapon, the choice is ours to make.

        • @SUSAN HUMPHREYS,

          What the hell is good about religion?
          I see nothing but commandments, assertions and claims about reality – all of which are FALSE – they are based on debunked superstitions.

          Atheism is not the highest bar of ‘enlightenment’ but it is the NECESSARY FIRST RUNG ON THE LADDER.

          Religion is no more valuable than a Zeus myth, cultural bauble from frightened human infancy. If good things are done in its name that DOES NOT validate religion. Hamas and Hezbollah are not adherents to ‘valid’ faith just because some members see their cause as just.

          It is condescending to endorse religion as valid (as you do) when you KNOW that all of its claims are based on LIES.

          I know this:

          If you were my atheist aunt and I found out that you had been giving me bibles and crucifixes only because you felt I couldn’t handle the truth – I would never forgive you.

          • Susan Humphreys

            Religion Max is neither good nor bad. It can be used to promote the good or it can be used to promote the bad. Religion is a tool like a hammer or a shovel. All tools have a purpose and when used as designed can produce good results. All tools can also be used in ways they weren’t designed for and can become a weapon. Religions have served many purposes over the centuries. The 1st purpose was to simply help people make sense of the unsensible, help provide some sense of security in an insecure world, by explaining why things happen. A 2nd purpose is to build and nourish a sense of community among the people. There was the realization that together we can accomplish more than what we can do singly. BUT there are always problems with conflicting human Ego’s and religion designed ways to control Ego’s and build a sense of united purpose, a common narrative about their history, where they were from, why they were special above all others. 3rd: Rituals and laws governed day to day actions so they could live in some sort of harmony for the benefit of all–to help maintain that community spirit of purpose #2. #4 Help people connect with that something beyond themselves: God, Nirvana, Brahmin, the Tao, Oneness with the Universe, Peace. ONLY someone who is blind would fail to see that some people benefit from their religion, it has helped them become better people, helped them find some sense of solace and security. BUT humans are NOT all the same. What works for some in a productive and positive manner works for others in a destructive and negative manner. For these folks religion has helped them become worse people not better ones. Then there are some of us that have been able to move beyond religion to find what is for me a higher level of spirituality, a level that sees beyond the strict dualism of Christian, Judaic, and Muslim thinking to what is for me the complimentary aspects of the Yin and Yang, and a oneness with the Universe.Religion is simply a tool and like all tools, how we use it tells the world about the kind of person that we are.

          • Show me ONE example of how religion can be good for the believer:

            Compulsory Compassion?
            The price: Destruction of honest empathy.

            Calming effect of belief in an afterlife?
            The price: You just cheapened this life.

            Charity?
            The price: you just validated Al Queda.

            Vicarious redemption?
            The price: You just validated irresponsibility itself.

            Compulsory Love?
            The price: You just destroyed true love.

            Compulsory Forgiveness?
            The Price: You just destroyed respect and responsibility.

            Comfort of God’s care?
            The Price: Dissociative psychosis. The jarring incongruity of a loving God and the daily onslaught of random suffering.

            “Miracles” happen?
            The Price: The laws of nature cannot be bent for only your benefit! if any miracle claims are true then ALL must be true as you have disconnected critical analysis from ordinary experience. All religions are now TRUE. Welcome to madness and the psych ward!

            It gives Meaning to life?
            The price: Servitude, giving in to the desire to be a slave.

            RELIGION POISONS EVERYTHING.

    • samuel Johnston

      Hi Susan,
      You are questioning and probing. Good for you. Keep at it and you will become your own person with your own views. That is what takes courage, but it yields a sense of self worth unknown to the follow -the -leader mentality.
      best wishes,
      Sam

      • Susan Humphreys

        Mr. Johnson I am no longer questioning, I am still probing and will be until I die.But now I am probing into the minds of other people, what makes them think and act as they do. I was raised to ask questions. When I was 20 I read Siddhartha by Herman Hesse and realized Christianity didn’t have all the answers. I am now 63, my questions have been answered, I have found my Tao, AND I have reached a stage in life when I can withstand the abuse of Atheists and Christians, and I get it from both sides, those of us who follow a middle path between the extremes get that. So I speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves, trying to encourage others to THINK, to ask Questions and to Search for answers. AND when I can challenging the extremeists on both sides to tone down their rhetoric and in the case of Atheists, who claim that logic and reason should rule, I try to point out the irrationality and illogic of their positions.

  6. TheGreatGodPan

    The biggest misconceptions about atheists are the ones spread by Chris Stedman and his Twitter pals: that atheists are homophobic, “privileged white dudes,” etc. Stedman is a bad spokesperson for atheists.

    • Susan Humphreys

      There are certainly some that THINK that anyone that preaches a middle way is a bad spokesperson for Atheism. That maybe TRUE. Which is why I don’t associate with the American Atheist or Humanist groups. BUT he is a good spokesperson for humanity and it’s great diversity. Atheism is just one step on the ladder towards enlightenment and it certainly isn’t the highest rung on the ladder.

  7. I think one of the biggest misconceptions about atheists is the belief that all atheists hate everything about religion, including religious people, monuments, holidays, etc. Despite what Fox news might say, this simply isn’t true. Many non-believers come from religious backgrounds, and not only love and cherish their religious family and friends, but still very much enjoy celebrating religious holidays with them. These people have no issues with religious symbols, monuments, or sentiments, and enjoy religious art, architecture, stories and music just as much as anyone else.

    • Its really just a matter of saying that atheists don’t want their government to act like it is owned by people of any religious faith. That is not even an atheist concept. Its one respectful of beliefs which are not the majority.

      Fundamentalists of all stripes want to take ownership of government expressly for the purposes of attacking all other beliefs under the color of law. There is no such thing as a fundamentalist who respects democratic principles.
      Failing to respect the separation of church and state is essentially telling people: Your government belongs to X religion, all others can go —- themselves.

        • But you say nothing which refutes it or even challenges it in a substantive way. There are enough examples of fundies behaving badly when they have authority to make your statement sound entirely silly.

          Secularism has religious roots (going back to Roger Williams and the Anabaptist Seekers Sect of the 17th century). It is supported in this day and age by not only atheists but minority religions as well. Those who have the tendency to be discriminated against by the vocal majority.

          Fundamentalism is all about giving one’s religious beliefs the color of law, at the expense of all others beliefs. They are by nature narrow minded and likely to act badly in service of their religious belief. There is not a single fundamentalist of any faith who shows a modicum of respect or consideration for religious beliefs besides their own.

          They express this by attacking secularism and secular institutions. There is nothing democratic about such ideals. The ideal fundamentalist government is a dictatorship under God (at best a religious oligarchy.where they hold sway over people of other faiths).

          We have enough examples of fundamentalists attacking separation of church and state and outright telling other believers in other faiths to buzz off.

          Unless you have examples to the contrary, I will just chalk up your response as knee jerk defensiveness.

  8. Edward Borges-Silva

    I am not personally acquainted with any atheists (Beyond those I’ve met on this website) Most people I’ve encountered outside the Christian faith community are merely indifferent to the the question of God’s existence. While each of us is passionate about our own belief structure, I’ve been troubled by the venomous and crude language used by some atheists in this forum. So for me, the truism that atheists are ‘angry’ has at least been reinforced anecdotally (sic). I am equally bothered by humanists who are not necessarily atheists, but continually refer to the ‘Enlightenment.’ It is my sense that the enlightenment, and the principles associated with it, beyond (perhaps) bringing scientific principles closer to the common crowd, has in fact done nothing to advance the spiritual or moral condition of the human race. If the French Revolution is any example of the forces unleashed by the enlightenment , I would rather do without such illumination. Ditto Marxism, Darwinism, and all the other isms associated with materialistic thought. Vis’a’vis this forum, I try to be polite, rational and respectful in my posts, if in my zeal for my own point of view I have occasionally offended non-theists, I must beg your pardon.

    • I couldn’t care less about someone who believes fervently and quietly in gods. I do object strongly to people who claim GLBTs shouldn’t get married because gawd thinks what they do in bed is icky. Keep your religion to yourself and you won’t hear anything from me unless you start a conversation. Whine about how your company medical insurance shouldn’t pay for contraception because gawd thinks birth control is icky and I tell you exactly where you can stick your god.

      All too often religious people use their religion to push a particular socio-political agenda. That’s what I and a lot of other atheists don’t like about religion and what we are angry about. Greta Christina has an excellent blog post on Atheists and Anger. I suggest you read it to discover why atheists are angry.

      • Edward Borges-Silva

        Are you without any socio-political objective of your own? Nonsense. And honestly, isn’t it somewhat odd to insist that I keep my religious views to myself on a religious website forum? Further, what ever a LGBT person may do in the privacy of their own home is not my affair, but when an agenda affects public policy I reserve my right under the 1st Amendment to comment upon it from my individual point of view as does everyone who contributes to this forum.

        • Sorry, but there is no parity here. You do not see atheists trying to give their views color of law out of any kind of irrational, self-promoting ideals. Not in this day and age.

          Our laws are set up so that they are supposed to have rational and secular purposes. (google “the Lemon test”) What you see generally are atheists simply demanding that the laws be followed as they are meant to be. That our system not be undermined by people seeking to give their religious views priority over all other considerations. If anything an atheist political agenda is simply trying to uphold the principles and rule of law we already have.

          Your view of “enlightenment” and “humanism” are self-defined strawman. Someone who is taking a guess at what Humanism means but has no desire to find out for themselves. If you feel the urge to educate yourself, rather than make phony sweeping generalizations, you can start here.
          http://americanhumanist.org/Humanism/Humanist_Manifesto_III

          Linking of atheism (and humanism) to Communism is akin to linking you to the Taliban or Nazis. Its using extremist hyperbole and pretending it represents the entire belief.

          • Edward Borges-Silva

            Secular based laws to the complete and utter exclusion of any social or moral sentiments framed by Christian precepts. I have also read extensively on the precepts of humanism as expressed by Hume, Mills, and others, at its base it appears to promote the idea that humans are somehow inherently good by nature, and eminently perfectible through social engineering, a argument for which there is scant evidence.

          • I you read so much about Humanism, why do you say such ignorant things on the subject and completely misrepresent it?

            You are criticizing laws which mean to respect all faiths, not just yours or Christians. Christian precepts include by their nature sectarian discrimination and arbitrary authority.

            To say you oppose secular based laws is to say you prefer discrimination favoring your own religion. Our laws are inherently secular because they are meant to respect religious belief in a general way, to all faiths. You are essentially telling me you prefer theocracy or some kind of government.

            “it appears to promote the idea that humans are somehow inherently good by nature, and eminently perfectible through social engineering”

            In other words, the basis for democracy. The basis for civil liberties. A government by people, not just the self-proclaimed mouthpieces of the alleged divine authority. The evidence for this is hardly scant. Its right in front of your face but you have no appreciation of it.

  9. Susan Humphreys

    Mr. Borges-Silva you confuse the Enlightenment with being enlightened! With the little “e” the word is referring to being awakened, illuminated from within. Which by the way applies to those who found their way through Jesus and God as well as those of us who have found our way through a different path. It is a state of being, not a social movement.

    • Edward Borges-Silva

      I am quite clear on the distinction, but I find in your comments on the source of enlightenment, you select a little from column A and a little from column B, this is merely unsystematic woolgathering. It seems to me, a belief system ought to be clearly defined within coherent parameters, I find Christianity quite coherent as traditionally taught and am quite content to wait upon the judgement of the future in this regard. I have examined a host of other belief systems, but avoid expostulating unduly on them, because beyond a few common sense truisms, they are largely mere gobbledygook.

      • Susan Humphreys

        A belief system Mr. Borges-Silva needs to be clearly defined within specific paramaters, at least people seem to think that must be the case. However Enlightenment isn’t a Belief system. It isn’t a religion, it is a stage beyond religion. As to the “gobbledygook” that is what many have come to realize is “traditional Christianity”. You can believe whatever
        “gobbledygook” you want, just as others can believe what they want AS long as none of us interfere with the rights of either or others to believe the “goobledygook” of their choice!

        • Edward Borges-Silva

          It depends on the definition of enlightenment; I cannot except yours as you equally cannot except mine. I agree with you entirely that each individual has the right to her own opinion, but I reserve the right to contend with, but not legally compel or coerce others, also reserving the right of persuasion.

  10. Atheism is itself a faith orientation. It is just as impossible to prove the non-existence of God as it is to prove existence of God. Atheists just happen to believe God does not exist and in many cases that the concept itself is meaningless or hurtful to human evolution. While consequence of belief in the existence or non-existence of God can be measured, it remains impossible to prove one way or the other if God exists. Hence any answer to the question is a belief not a fact.

    • Atheism is to religious belief what bald is to a hair color.

      Atheists usually get around the whole proof of non-existence by saying there is no evidence for the existence of God. Putting the burden of proof on the people who are claiming belief in a supernatural entity. Being the wilder claim of the two. Belief in said supernatural entity coming entirely from faith. Faith is defined as the lack of evidence and rational basis.

      Atheism is a belief with a measure of rational support, theism is not. So although both are beliefs, An entirely rational person would give one greater weight than the other.

      • @Larry

        If you wish to say a person holding an atheist belief and a person holding a religious faith is similar to a bald person or a person with hair the allegory fits as both are empirically verifiable based on the positions experienced from both people. If however, you wish to claim some superior or intellectually difference to a pure rationalist position you comparison falls short. For you cannot prove that pure rationalism can disprove the existence of God. You can demonstrate rationalism’s limitations in proving the existence of God but lack of knowledge or inability to see hardly is strong proof for saying something does not exist. It is conceivably possible even from a rational perspective that human reason based on sense evidence and materialism does not perceive all that may exist. See Thomas Kuhn as to how the materialistic nature of the scientific method is itself a faith based position. Even Hume figured that over a hundred years ago.

        • A pure rational approach would not be looking for lack of evidence for God. It would be to ask the believer to produce evidence of his existence.

          You are merely shifting the burden of proof to the party who is not making the positive claim. Not rational but done constantly to defend the undefendable.

    • Susan Humphreys

      Actually John I can prove that the Theistic concept of God not only doesn’t exist but is an impossibility. Now that doesn’t mean that other concepts of God as the “anima mundi”, “breath of life”, that animates the world, OR as the “glue that holds the world together”–dark matter and dark energy of the physicist, OR as the enrgy of tha atom doesn’t exist. It all depends on how you define God, and what HE/SHE is or is not able to do or not to do. The proof of the non-existence of the Theistic concept is based on the idea of Perfection, a PERFECT God can’t exist, it is a logical impossibility. An imperfect God might exist.

      • Susan Humphreys

        Oh, I should also have added that the proof also depends on what is meant by “existence”. Does God exist in the imaginations of men? Yes? no argument there. Does God exist as a separate entity unto His or Her self? Does God exist as an entity outside our system, not governed by our laws of physics? If so how can such a God interfere in human affairs? God may not be bound by the laws of our universe but we and our universe are bound by those laws. There are two problems one must address, the definition of God (characteristics and capabilities) and the definition of existence.

        • Edward Borges-Silva

          Trying to define ‘existence’ is is merely an exercise in sophistry, and if I recall correctly, you have rejected any definition of God that contains ‘anthropomorphic’ qualities; expression of such qualities are limited human efforts to frame a view of God within our comprehension. Ultimately, God in all His essence is a bit beyond humanity, but I am clearly convinced that He has revealed Himself in nature, the unfolding universe, and the Judeo-Christian scriptures.

          • Susan Humphreys

            Actually defining what you mean by “existence” isn’t “an exercise in sophistry” because you then just did it! Unless you are describing your own statements! As you said you see God as “Ultimately, God in all His essence is a bit beyond humanity, ” You say you see him “revealed” in Nature, in what you claim He created. That however doesn’t prove that God still exists, ONLY that he may have at one time existed long enough to create what we now see in Nature. He may have been the one that lit the fuse so to speak that set off the Big Bang, BUT that doesn’t negate the idea that he was what went Bang and all his little God bits are what animated the universe. So there are still flaws in your argument you haven’t proven that God exists.

        • The whole existence of God is merely an assertion.

          The problem being the burden of production here. Should it be on the person claiming there is a supernatural and perfect being controlling all of creation.

          You are framing the question incorrectly and deliberately dishonestly. The atheist doesn’t need to say “God does not exist”. Merely that, “there is no evidence that God exists”. One does not have to prove lack of existence, merely that the evidence does not support it being so.

          By saying, “there is no evidence that God exists”, the burden is on the believer to prove otherwise. Which is impossible. If there was tangible proof of God’s existence, you would not have atheism. No faith would be required for religious ideas.

  11. Susan Humphreys

    Your problem Max is you were conned and you bought fully into the con and can’t recognize that there are others out there that don’t play the same con game! You seem to think that what you were taught about Religion is all there is to religion. You are as ignorant about Religion and religious folk (as many Atheists are) as Mr. Stedman recognizes that Religious folk are ignorant about Atheists and the many varied forms of Atheism. Many don’t buy into the Compulsory Compassion, the concept of an afterlife,…among other things. Many do find comfort in the sense of community, and the timelessness of ritual, they find comfort in the concept of a God that cares and suffers with them. Religion doesn’t poison everything. YOU have been poisoined by religion. But not everyone is as unfortunate or as pitiful as you! Oh and by the way when you use a quote like that you should give credit or at least acknowledgement that it comes from someone else! One last comment you have much in common with the people you abhor, you are as narrow minded and fanatical as the religious extremists you denigrate. Once you become that which you abhor, you have lost the war.

    • You seem to think that what you were taught about Religion is all there is to religion. You are as ignorant about Religion and religious folk (as many Atheists are) as Mr. Stedman recognizes that Religious folk are ignorant about Atheists and the many varied forms of Atheism.

      This, X100, Susan.

      I grew up in a mediocre, semi-oppressive version of Lutheranism and came out of the experience thinking that Christianity was rotten to the core. However, in college, I learned about how crucial black churches were to civil rights organizing. I learned that Christian churches—especially Quakers—were deeply involved in the Peace Movement and nuclear disarmament. Then I met a bisexual guy who had grown up as a Quaker and was one of the most emotionally healthy people I’d ever known and he loved his meeting house and denomination. Then I had an atheist friend invite me to a UCC church on a whim and discovered that progressive Christian churches can actually function as a life-affirming, healthy communities.

      I’m still not religious and I never will be, but I came to realize that Christianity—the religion which I thought I was most familiar with—isn’t always a repressive, hateful sh*t show.

  12. I suppose my case is slightly different considering I’m agnostic, not an atheist, but I’ve grown up going to Catholic school, so I think I get the gist of people having misconceptions about your beliefs.

    Just the other day, one of the boys in my religion class (which we are forced to take) told me that it didn’t make any sense that I didn’t believe in God and was idiotic for it and going to hell. I, being one of the smartest people in my class, responded with “How is it idiotic not to believe in something that has no fact or proof behind it? It makes more sense not to believe.”

    Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to hate on religion. If you believe, than that’s fantastic! Good for you! I just don’t.

    This leads me to my point: The biggest misconception that I’ve faced is that atheists and agnostics are idiotic, confused, or just being stubborn. That’s not it at all. I can give you solid reasons and a good argument for why I don’t believe.

    Another misconception that I often face is that all atheists and agnostics will try to force their beliefs upon you. Sure, if someone tries to argue with me about my beliefs or if I disagree with one of the things we’re talking about, I’ll speak up. But there is no way in hell I’m forcing my beliefs on anyone.

    Seriously, believe whatever you want. I don’t give a sh*t. Just don’t try to tell me that I’m idiotic for not believing or that I’m forcing anything into the minds of your children and neighbors.

  13. Edward Borges-Silva

    Larry, your declarations of my ignorance only reflect your personal perspective and biases, you are hardly an objective observer. Further my observations are not made in isolation, I freely admit they reflect the thought of other more highly qualified commentators who happen to represent a conservative viewpoint on history, politics, and religion. Actually some of the comments you have made are so colored with anger and hatred, one has to question your own rationality. Additionally, democracy is hardly a perfect model of human government and I would like someone, anyone to provide a coherent, sound evidentiary example of the putative perfectibility of humanity, which is clearly a construct of humanist social science.

    • And there is the point of my first post. That to a [fundamentalist] Christian, atheism must be the product of anger and hostility. As I explained earlier, such a stance allows for patronizing passive aggressive responses designed to ignore the substance of arguments and to make it somehow personal.

      You are annoyed that I am criticizing your take on humanism as ignorant. But it was clear you were misrepresenting it. Ignorance being more polite for such a response. If not ignorance, then it is deliberate dishonesty on your part. I chose to err on the side of unintentional fault here. I guess I was mistaken.

      Democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried. -Winston Churchill :)

      There are only three kinds of people who decry democratic government, 1) idiots; 2) people who think they have something to gain from a dictatorship; 3) idiots who only think they will gain from a dictatorship.

      For the benefit of a doubt I think #2 is most applicable to your comments. You attack democracy because you hope to form a government where people like yourself monopolize power.

      There is no substitute for democracy. Only forms of dictatorship. Governments which are unfree, inherently unjust and destructive to the value of humanity. Democracy is the most humane form of government we have. It is also the most perfectible form of government we have. One capable of moving with the changes of society and mankind. If you want evidence of the putative perfectibility of humanity one has to look no further than one’s own nose.

      We live in a world which surprisingly has gotten more peaceful and less destructive in the last generation. People live longer, suffer from fewer wars (except where Fundamentalist religion is an issue), it has never been easier for scientific knowledge to spread across the world, fewer genocides, fewer famines, more diseases eradicated and we no longer live under the spectre of global Armageddon. It is harder for genocide to occur now than it has ever before. Thanks to global information exchange, there is no place to truly hide from the eyes of humanity. Humanism, the idea that all people have inherent worth which, that human existence is worthy of protection for its own sake HAS made the world a better place. Much more than mere religious hosannas alone could have.

      • Edward Borges-Silva

        With all due respect to Winston Churchill, a republic is a far superior form of government than a democracy. As to a reduction in genocide, disease, etc. I’m not sure your claims fit the facts, I do not have specific figures, so I will not declare an error on your part in this, but I suspect that such relief as we may be experiencing in that regard is most likely a temporary abeyance, not proof of progress. With respect to my understanding of humanism, James Mannion, in ‘Essential Philosophy,’ defines it as: “The belief in, and celebration of, the potential and abilities of man, without dependence on divine intervention to solve our problems for us.” A hopeful, however naive sentiment: I cite Sudan, Syria, Ukraine, Afghanistan, Tibet, the possibility of human caused catastrophic climate change, and the degradation of our oceans.

        • Now you are just splitting hairs and moving goalposts. Your distinction between republic and democracy and proclamations of the quality of each is self-serving and merely assumed. What are the differences between the two which are relevant enough to make such distinction?

          My suspicion is that you are using more specific definitions now and moving between general to specific, depending on the direction of the discussion.

          Republic simply means any government which is not a monarchy. Democracy as I am using it is the most general sense. Representative government with elected leadership. One capable of representing its entire population.

          As for the world being safer, take a gander at these articles:
          http://hnn.us/article/142159

          http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Surprisingly-enough-the-world-is-a-safer-place-2324730.php

          http://www.newrepublic.com/article/117226/world-war-i-anniversary-world-safer-today-100-years-ago

          “Since World War II, precisely zero UN members have been forcibly removed from the map (the only country to disappear against its will—South Vietnam—held only observer status). Territorial disputes, which were the most common cause of warfare in the past, have dropped to record low levels, especially among the great powers. International borders have all but hardened. Today’s states are safe from annihilation or absorption by their neighbors. Conquest is dead.

          Intra-national war is also disappearing. Ethnic conflicts have declined to their lowest level since people started collecting data about them. This is at least in part because overall global repression appears to have diminished: The number of minority groups around the world experiencing political or economic discrimination at the hands of states has dramatically declined since 1991. Furthermore, since war is usually a necessary condition for genocide, it should be unsurprising that the incidence of mass slaughter declined by ninety percent between 1989 and 2005. Coups are also becoming more and more rare. Overall, there has been a clear, if uneven, decline in one-sided violence against civilians since 1989.”

  14. Thanks on your marvelous posting! I actually enjoyed reading
    it, you can be a great author.I will always bookmark your blog
    and will often come back in the future. I want to encourage one to continue your great posts, have a
    nice evening!

  15. Double trading is most often used by investors who have a good grasp of what goes
    on in the financial market. This makes it a highly flexible trading medium which can be
    used to generate profits from a wide range of market conditions.
    Remember that quality should be just as good as quantity when it comes to the additional features of
    a binary options broker.

  1. […] “What’s the biggest misconception people have about atheists?” I’m asked this often, and I never quite know how to respond. I usually end up answering this question with a question. “Am I limited to just one?” Or, “Where do I begin?” I struggle because the stereotypes about atheists—most often negative—are numerous and widespread. These misconceptions are sustained by a lack of communication; atheists in the U.S. are small in number, and it seems likely that many people do not know any atheists (or know that they do). But when people meet atheists, they have an opportunity to revise their ideas about who we are and what we believe. [Read more] […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comments with many links may be automatically held for moderation.