Reactions to Atheism

The other night, a Friend and I went out with a number of her classmates– I didn’t know any of them. But I introduced myself and things were fine. When I left, a couple of the classmates asked the Friend who I was, what’s my deal, and the other typical interrogation questions all people ask about strangers. As my Friend told them about me, it came out that I was an atheist. The classmates were apparently stunned. They told my Friend to stay away from me. You know how that goes.

The Friend told me later she had no idea people could be so antagonistic toward atheists. She had read the review by Mojoey last week and said she didn’t believe his stories at first, but now, they seemed plausible to her.

This is nothing new. I like that people who get to know me before finding out about my atheism are usually taken aback, because I’m not what they had in mind when they envisioned “an atheist.”

An incredibly nice host of a Christian radio show I was on sent me an email where she talked about some responses she received after my appearance. She added:

… my mom had a mama bear type convo with an 88 year old lady in our church that voiced that she couldn’t believe that “[the host] even gave him the time of day!”

I’m not sure what the aftermath will be of the Life Today episodes, but even on the show, the hosts were anticipating some negative reactions from viewers who might be appalled that an atheist was given airtime on a Christian program.

Sometimes, the reactions can be worse, though.

Reed at Unorthodox Atheism tells the story of how he lent his copy of The God Delusion to a friend who asked to borrow it:

His father found the book, took it from his son (censoring him from any literature clashing with his own personal beliefs), and called my cell phone number (written inside the cover) to tell me he was going to come over to my house to personally return it that night. It was already 11:00 PM. He read me my address (I assume he got it from the phonebook) and told me, “You made this too easy.” I obsessively checked every lock in my house and went to sleep with a metal baseball bat held across my chest.

He sounded a bit drunk on the phone and I assumed he wouldn’t drive across town to deliver my book in his state, so I called the school and left a message, asking to deny him a visitor’s pass to the student areas of the building. He indeed came to school, and I assume he tried to visit me but was intercepted by the principal first. Whatever occurred, he ended up talking to my principal and demanded that I be punished for “handing out literature” and attempting to convert his already-Atheist son to Atheism.

There are a number of stories of hate crimes against atheists. In one case, a man was killed by a Christian (and Eagle Scout) directly because of his non-belief. There are lesser forms of violence, too, like when a student in Canada was recently beaten up because of his atheism.

There’s a list of cases (PDF) of discrimination against atheists, and it isn’t a short one. It’s also incomplete since many of these crimes go unreported.

It’s just sad that some people are so insecure about their beliefs that they can’t stand anyone they know being exposed to different ways of thinking. Or it’s scary that people can be so deluded, they really think the “evil atheists” must be punished and they will take care of it themselves. I mean, if God is supposed to be the Ultimate Judge anyway, one would think we don’t need humans taking over God’s role on Earth.

(via Atheist Revolution)


[tags]atheist, atheism, Unorthodox Atheism, The God Delusion, Christian, Eagle Scout, Canada, Justin Trottier, Anti Discrimination Support Network, Atheist Revolution, Life Today[/tags]

  • http://www.kathrynlang.com Kathryn Lang

    Let me apologize to you for the treatment that you have received. As a devout Christian, I agree completely with you. It’s not my job (or the job of any one on earth) to condemn you, convert you, or to try and control you in any way. If more Christians walked the walk instead of talking the talk, then it would be a different world indeed.

  • chatterbox

    Sadly, it’s those who take the bible literally who are most inclined towards this violence. It’s full of examples of god telling them to destroy heathens and unbelievers. The people who believe religion / christianity / whatever is about love are ignoring the roots of their religion that some of their not well intentioned brethren violently embrace. There are bad apples everywhere, and the worst ones claim to be able to justify their actions.

  • Susan

    Thank…well…humanity that not all religious people are like this. I’ve had the good fortune never to encounter anyone who was truly hostile to atheists. I spend a lot of time discussing all kinds of philosophy with a great many friends who are Christian or some other religion, and I’ve never met anything but respect (and maybe a little sadness) from them. (Though at least one friend of mine did cry when she found out I was an atheist, before she got used to the idea.) That’s why angry atheists puzzle me a bit–it’s pretty clear to me that we all can get along, and that lumping all religious people into the same category as fundamentalists is as silly as lumping all atheists into the category of satan-worshippers. At the same time, though, we definitely need to make religious folks understand that this kind of thing is happening, and that it is unacceptable.

  • Karen

    It’s just sad that some people are so insecure about their beliefs that they can’t stand anyone they know being exposed to different ways of thinking. Or it’s scary that people can be so deluded, they really think the “evil atheists” must be punished and they will take care of it themselves. I mean, if God is supposed to be the Ultimate Judge anyway, one would think we don’t need humans taking over God’s role on Earth.

    It’s not so much the “evil atheists” they are scared of, it’s the “evil spirits.”

    Honest.

    These people believe that Satan and his demons are constantly trying to tempt Christians and lead them astray. Atheists and people from the “wrong” religions are under the sway of evil spirits, according to this viewpoint, and so their influence is dangerous and they are not to be trusted at all.

    My husband is a fundy and just last year he about had a conniption when he came across my copy of The God Delusion. That’s how little freedom of thought is allowed in these extremely conservative religious paradigms.

  • http://unorthodoxatheism.blogspot.com Reed Braden

    Thank you for publishing my story. The best thing that can happen right now is for the word to be spread that these things still happen to Atheists.

  • TXatheist
  • Pingback: Reactions to Atheism « The Green Atheist

  • Mriana

    Sadly, it was the behaviour of Christains that turned me off and it is the biggest thing I complain about. However, you are very right, Susan, not all religious people are like this and those are the Christians I get along with very well and have no complaints with. They are not judgemental and agree to disagree without any religious battles. They are more tolerant of beliefs that differ from theirs. I have no issues with them, but I do those who display behaviours that are undignifying and dehumanizing to others, nothing but pure hatred without any show of compassion for others, control, and/or oppress people. Those are the people who upset me and get me going about their behaviours.

  • Pingback: Reactions to Atheism « The Green Atheist

  • http://unorthodoxatheism.blogspot.com Reed Braden

    I have to thank you for linking me. I’ve gotten a lot of hits from readers of your blog and others. I linked you from the sidebar on my blog as a favour.


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