Top 10 Misconceptions About Atheists

Atheists have been getting a lot of attention these days it seems, as non-believers have been organizing on social networks like never before and conflicts involving religion continue to find a spot in the headlines of news media outlets across the globe. Things are heating up, and atheists are in the middle of it.

With all of the cross-talk being continuously splattered across the online forums and yahoo comments sections from both believers and non-believers alike, a few misconceptions about what it means to be an atheist have developed and seem to come up over and over in my conversations. To set the record straight and to help you learn a little bit more about this part of my Humanist philosophy, here are the Top Ten Misconceptions About Atheists:

1) If you’re an atheist your life is meaningless. FALSE. As an atheist I don’t believe that there is any objective meaning or plan in life ordained by a supernatural power, but that does not mean that I can’t have personal meaning in my life. I’m sure there are atheists that go through life without much direction, just like there are Christians and Muslims that walk through life aimlessly as well. But there are many atheists who lead very productive and meaningful lives. They have jobs, families and mortgages; they have children and they pursue goals in life in accordance with their own personal meaning, just like everyone else. I personally feel that life holds more meaning and satisfaction for me now that I am an atheist than it did when I was a Christian. Please read my blog post about the meaning of life.

2) If you’re an atheist you have no morals. FALSE. Many religious people claim that their morality comes from God. In other words, if you don’t believe that good people go to heaven and bad people go to hell, and if you don’t follow God’s commandments, then you have no morals. Many religious people even suggest that this is what attracts people to atheism in the first place. This is incredibly insulting. If you as a Christian are saying that your belief in an imaginary God is the only thing keeping you from stealing, murdering, lying and raping, then there is something truly wrong with you. I have morals because I have a conscience, and I can tell the difference between what is right and wrong. In fact there are even many species of animals that display moral and ethical action and thought, and they certainly don’t believe in a higher power. Please read my blog post about what religion gets wrong about morality, and also my blog post about the true nature of good and evil.

3) All atheists are miserable and mean. FALSE. Atheists have a reputation as being cranky, pretentious know-it-alls who constantly bash religion and hate their own miserable lives. While I’m sure there are some atheists who fit that description perfectly (just like there are many Christians, Muslims, Jews, and Hindus who also fit that description), this of course does not describe every atheist. Many atheists are, however, particularly outspoken against god and religion or are simply lost or depressed due to bad experiences with religion in their past, and some non-believers, unfortunately, can be very mean to those who choose to believe in God. I do not endorse this behavior. Please read my blog post about how to speak out against bullshit without being mean.

4) There are no atheists in foxholes. FALSE. Some people believe that atheists actually believe in God deep down and will, when faced with a life and death situation, cling to the idea of God once again and even pray for help or guidance. Again, this is insulting. If a person is an atheist, then they do not believe in God. Period. I have been in several scary instances where I could have lost life or limb and I did not once think of God or pray. In fact, in a crisis situation, I would think it’s much more productive to focus on how to stay alive rather than praying for divine intervention. Please read my post about the existence of God.

5) Atheists worship the devil, eat babies, and hate our country. FALSE. Atheists do not believe in ANY deities, including the mythical figure of Satan, nor do we worship them. We do not eat babies. I honestly don’t know how that one got started. And we most certainly love freedom, equality, justice, and have national pride. Here in America, where the separation between church and state is guaranteed in the Constitution, being an atheist can be especially patriotic, and we are often very politically vocal when a religious group infringes on this establishment of our founding fathers.

6) Prove that God doesn’t exist. IMPOSSIBLE. You cannot prove that something does not exist. I cannot prove that God does not exist, any more than I can prove that a omnipotent Flying Spaghetti Monster doesn’t exist. Atheism is not itself a claim, it is a rejection of the claim that God exists. I don’t believe that there is enough evidence to say that there is such a thing as God, and I do not personally believe that there is a God. In fact, I think the evidence leans to the negative by far. That is what it means to be an atheist.

7) Atheists worship science. FALSE. Atheists do not worship science, or evolution, or Darwin, or nature. We see no need to, although many atheists do have a great reverence for life and its processes. And atheists do not have faith in science, as religious people have faith in God. Faith is the belief in something without the need for any evidence. Instead of faith, I trust in and use reason, logic, and the processes of science to look at the evidence to figure out what is going on here. It also helps that science is a self-correcting discipline, meaning the story can change with better evidence as time goes by, and that is perfectly normal and okay (even expected and hoped for!), while religions tend to not change much over time, clinging to dogmas that are thousands of years old despite better evidence to the contrary.

8) Atheists hate God and his followers. FALSE. Atheists can’t, by definition, hate or be angry with God, since we don’t believe in a God or Gods. We also don’t hate people just because they are religious. As I said before, there are many atheists, like myself, who are outspoken against the harms of religion, and there are, unfortunately, some atheists who personally attack Christians and others on the internet or in person. Again, I do not agree with this behavior. I believe in the power of having positive conversations. Please read more about that in my blog post about saving the world.

9) Atheists don’t believe in anything. FALSE. Atheists are very individualistic and are free to make their lives significant in any way they see fit. Some atheists want to make the world a better place, and some just don’t care. Some are very compassionate and do a lot of charity or activist work, and others don’t bother. A movement called Humanism, which is what I identify with, is made up of people who don’t believe in God or a higher power, but they do believe in the power of humanity to be ultimately good and successful, provided that we change the way we humans are handling things at the moment. We believe in logic, reason, education, and compassion, and many are working to help our fellow humans to “wake up” to what’s really going on here.

10) Atheists believe we all came from nothing. FALSE. Most atheists, if they subscribe to the findings of our best science, believe that our Universe was created in an event called The Big Bang. We do not believe that nothing magically came from nothing. We don’t yet know what came before the Big Bang, but perhaps one day we will know the whole story. As for life on Earth, we don’t believe that humans evolved from nothing. We admit that it is remarkable that molecules came together in forms that could process energy and replicate, but after billions of years, that’s exactly what happened. Apparently that’s what stardust does.

To quote atheist author Sam Harris, “The truth is that atheists are free to admit that there is much about the Universe that we don’t understand. I mean it is obvious that we don’t understand the Universe. But it is even more obvious that neither the Bible nor the Koran reflects our best understanding of it.”

So remember, we non-believers aren’t all bad. Help make the world a better place…hug an atheist.

~ by christhehumanist on July 15, 2012.

5 Responses to “Top 10 Misconceptions About Atheists”

  1. “I don’t believe that there is enough evidence to say that there is such a thing as God, and I do not personally believe that there is a God. In fact, I think the evidence leans to the negative by far. That is what it means to be an atheist.”

    Technically, atheists positively deny the existence of God. That is, they believe in something which they also have to way of proving, that there does not and never did exist a conscious, creative force which somehow caused the universe. And agnostics believe that knowing the truth is impossible. They have no real basis for this belief either.

    Why should we even bother with any of these beliefs?

    • Hey Jeremy, thanks for taking the time to read and post a comment. Technically technically, atheists reject the belief in a god, rather than believe there is no God, but I contend that in the end, it’s basically the same thing. But then again I don’t believe that the Easter Bunny exists, and yet I have no need to create a title as an “a-easter-bunny-est.” I think that most people who do not believe in God vocally identify themselves as atheists because of their concern about religion. I think that is why we bother with these beliefs, so to speak. I respect agnostics just as I respect Christians, Muslims or anyone else, and, having been there myself, I view agnosticism as a step along the path, but ultimately I think that everyone must make a call on the God issue, because whether or not you believe in a God affects the choices you make in life, which in turn affects the world.

      On the other hand, being technical, I have to technically be agnostic because you cannot prove that God does not exist, so there is always that possibility that there could be a God. That does not mean, however, that I am shaky in my non-belief nor, do I actually think that there might be a God. There could also be an Easter Bunny. But I am still confident enough in the evidence that we do have about the Universe to make a personal call and say that God does not exist.

      The point is that we are having civil conversations about this, and I believe that is key to saving the world. Thanks for your time.

  2. ah so Pilgrim ….”. a rose by any other name .”…..

  3. Jesus said those who deny me here on earth I will deny before my father who is in heaven. So you don’t have a choice not to believe by sticking your head in the sand. Lucifer will claim you as his own, you only have short time in the physical world but a very long time in the spiritual world. So go ahead disbelieve and make lucifers day.God have mercy on your soul.

  4. Thank you Chris, you have a beautiful way of explaining what I feel in my heart but would never say in public. In much of the world, it is filled with close minded sheep that listen to one religion or another. You must be very careful, they preach love and peace but most can commit horrible acts of violence in the name of their God and tell themselves they will be rewarded by him. The whole 72 virgins thing, Christians can be just as extremist.

    You talk about freedom in America but you are very wrong about that. The Christian extremists rule the land, your money even says “In God We Trust”. Religious freedom is only for those who believe in religion, you won’t get a tax break for atheism and you will not be allowed in the military if you don’t say the oath to God and country. You are on the right track to claim your religion as humanist, even if they don’t know what it is they see a religious label they can understand. If the not so peace loving Christian God lables you as the enemy for not believing in him then you are fair game to them. And when I say God lables you, I’m talking about the wolf who says he speaks for God to all his sheep.

    God is not real but the power he has over people is real. Religion was invented thousands of years ago by making up stories to teach their children how to behave in the community and then used by the first wolves to control the people. Look how well the Egyptians worshiped Pharaohs as living gods for thousands of years. The oldest religions should have more credibility then the new ones. They were here first, and closer to the time they say the world was created. Or is it the newer the religion, the more right they get it? If so, are Mormons more likely to be right than Catholics? I don’t believe either is right but can never figure out how they justify saying there’s is the only right one.

    There are ten thousand gods in the world, why is it so easy for them not to believe in the other nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine but so hard for them to accept someone not believing in theirs. I found that last quote years ago and found it to be so telling of the “believers”

    What is the difference between a religion and a cult? Is it a measure of power or influence?

    I find it funny to think about “believers” who read thes comments and get upset and want to lash out in a way that is not very Christian. But then again, all they need to do is repent and all is forgiven.

    If you look at Lawrence Kohlberg’s stages of moral development, you notice that those that are most devout stay in the early stages of development and never move past what is moral maturity of an adolescent. While for an atheist to stay a good person they must do it by maturing to a higher understanding of morality that they act as they do because it is the right way to act and not for fear of punishment from some God like a parent controlling a young child. It looks like Dennis is stuck in this most basic form of moral development and unable to recognize right and wrong without a wolf leading him by the nose.

    I do know that it is wrong to pick on Dennis and his immature thoughts but I have not obtained the highest level of universal ethics myself and find it within acceptable social norms to point out his inadequacies in a hope to improve society as a whole. As a side note, it looks like only Jesus can obtain the highest level of moral development for believers and everyone else leaches off of him. But any atheist is free to reach universal ethical principles themselves. In fact you can’t move on morally if God has to tell you right from wrong. It also seems to be the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Islam and Christianity) that control the moral development of its followers so strictly.

    This highest level of moral maturity is beyond the capabilities of most people and may be beyond me, at lest for now. The level of empathy required to understand others point of view is a talent that might not be able to be learned or at least very difficult.

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