Richard Wade’s advice column this week is on a great topic, which is well illustrated by the comic he leads with:
In the letter which occasions this topic of discussion, Trevor describes his mother’s reactions to his atheism:
the next day she continued saying “I can’t believe you think you’re an atheist…how can you have any hope? Why do you even bother getting up in the morning?” I countered with the fact that regardless of her belief in God, she doesn’t get up every morning simply because of that fact either. She ignored that, talking about how she “knows” she’s seen a dead pet in heaven (in a dream) and how she “knows” there’s a god.
And here’s a key bit of Richard’s reply:
Generally I think people’s fear about atheists and atheism comes from three sources. One source is the many slanderous myths spread for millennia mainly by clerics to isolate their flock from contagion by unbelievers. The hatred and derision shuts up the doubters in their midst, and if they dare speak up anyway, they’re driven out.The second source of fear is the threat to their own fragile faith when they meet an intelligent, sane, decent, and successful person who just isn’t convinced of their cherished belief. The scary implication is that if this person doesn’t buy it, then maybe they shouldn’t either.
The third source is usually reserved for parents. Their child’s unbelief might suggest to themselves that they are failures as parents, and suggest to their community that they are deficient in their own faith.
Both Trevor and Richard have much more worth reading in the full post.
And you can see some of my own thoughts on another possible cause of atheophobia in my post on The Threatening Abomination of the Faithless.