Eleven Myths and Truths About Atheism

Greta Christina explains 11 myths and truths about atheism (with a bit of riffing off of Sam Harrisoriginal list of 10).

She explains each of these in depth, but here’s her overall list:

1: Atheism are 100% convinced that there is no God, as blindly faithful as religious fundamentalists.

2: Atheists are immoral: without religion, there’s no basis for morality.

3: Atheists are angry and unhappy, with no meaning to their lives, and no hope.

4: Atheists are disrespectful, intolerant, and mean.

5: Atheists are whiny.

6: Atheists are just being trendy.

7: Atheists are just angry with God, or with religion. They’re angry about abuses in religious organizations; about actions of God that they don’t understand; or because God puts restrictions on them that they don’t like.

8: Atheists are arguing with straw men: they criticize the ugliest, stupidest, most simplistic, most outdated versions of religion, and ignore the thoughtful, complex forms of serious modern theology.

9: Atheists are responsible for the worst crimes in history: Stalin, Mao, etc.

10: Atheists think science belongs to them; atheists treat science as their religion.

11: Atheists think they’re superior.

Is there anything else you can think of that should have been included?

"Even when they brag about it, as in the Great Orange Maggot's case?"

Christian Groups Said Nothing as Teen-Groping ..."
"Abortion. There is nothing worse than that in their distorted minds - and it is ..."

Franklin Graham: Those Denouncing Roy Moore ..."
"The Bill and Monica incident was consensual, as between adults. Do you not understand the ..."

Christian Groups Said Nothing as Teen-Groping ..."
"As the grand-daughter of a soldier who helped liberate some of the camps, it's difficult ..."

Rick Wiles: Liberals Are Forming a ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • SarahH

    So many of these can simply be turned into “Some people are _____ and some of those people are also atheists.” It’s mistaking atheism for the root of whiny/snobby/mean/stupid behavior that’s the problem.

    Science totally does belong to me. Just like it belongs to anyone else who wants it :-) Science for everyone! You’ve all won SCIENCE!!! You’ve won science! You’ve won science! *points everywhere crazily*

  • NateDawg

    I like how #1 and #7 blatantly contradict each other. Most Christians I’ve encountered tend to believe both, but won’t admit it.

  • Shane

    Atheists share some set of other common beliefs, interests, or characteristics.

    This is the underlying fallacy of the whole list and is not true at all. Atheists aren’t a group like other groups or religions are. We are informally grouped by a common stance on a single issue, but I have little concern of and take no responsibility for the political/ethical/philosophical/etc. beliefs other atheists may have.

  • Yossarian

    Grammatical error in #1 should read “Atheists are…” rather than “Atheism are…”

    I agree with Shane – Atheism is simply a statement of disbelief. It is the ONLY thing you can say that atheists have in common.

    And #7 – How many times do I have to argue with fundies that it doesn’t make sense to be angry at something you don’t believe in. I will agree, though, that some atheists (myself included) are angry at abuses by religious organizations, and their blatant hypocrisy. But that’s the the cause of my atheism. Lack of evidence is the cause..

    And another myth that could be added – “I can convince atheists they are wrong by continually arguing the same points over and over and over…”

  • Skeptimal

    Myth: Atheists don’t believe in gods because they all have problems with authority.

    Myth: Atheists don’t believe in gods because they’ve been “hurt” by religion and need healing.

    Myth: Atheists don’t believe in gods because they’re afraid of having faith.

    Myth: Atheists don’t believe in gods because they haven’t met the “right” god yet. They’ve only experienced “false” religion.

  • Alex

    I was never as miserable as when I was a Fundamentalist Christian. I was told week after week how I was a filthy sinner and no matter what I did I would never measure up to the great spiritual men of days past. I remember my wife leaving church services in tears at the frustration of never being good enough. Add to that having to watch every move you make lest you ruin your “testimony” (and be looked down by other, “better” christians). Oh, and being “encouraged” to leave all your old friends and mingle only with church people whose idea of a good time at a party is naming your favourite bible character (I swear I’m not making this up). Oh, and who can forget being told that I could not have long hair, that my wife had to wear stockings or that we could not visit a movie theatre. Or having to be at church 5 days a week for bible studies, prayer meetings, soul-winning and regular services…or give 25% of my income in tithes, missionary support and special “love offerings” to the point where my family had to start going without while our dear pastor’s salary increased 30% from one year to the next. Or having to accept things like talking animals and dead people coming back to life knowing full well that they’re utter nonsense. I can say with 100% certainty that the most miserable period of my life was when I was committed christian.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Probably could be included under #2 or #4, but this deserves its own listing:

    #12: Atheists eat babies.

  • http://www.bayinghound.com Rachel

    Atheists are depriving their children of a spiritual life and way to get to heaven.

  • Nick

    Atheists are depriving their children of a spiritual life and way to get to heaven. superstitious nonsense that has no place in the lives of intelligent human beings living in the 21st century.

  • http://www.ravingsofamadsceptic.blogspot.com Heathencat

    @Rachel: Atheists are depriving their children of a spiritual life and way to get to heaven.

    And, according to the bible, anyone who leads a child astray is GUILTY GUILTY GUILTY!

    Of course, that always appeared to me as a thinly veiled attempt to get people to conform, at an early age, no less.

  • http://www.myspace.com/tommy_n_chucky Rev. Wally Real

    Open an invitation to all atheists into the Church of Reality:

    http://www.churchofreality.org/wisdom/atheism/

    This is my approach to atheists: Converting atheists to realism

  • http://www.sheeptoshawl.com writerdd

    I think the half of 7 is true (angry at abuses of religion), and 8 is sometimes true. The rest are just garbage.

  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ Greta Christina

    Thanks for the link, Hemant! And thanks for the correction on the typo, Yossarian. It’s now been corrected in the original.

    And good point, NateDawg, about #1 and #7 being contradictory. I hadn’t even noticed that. Good eye.

  • http://www.joebible.com Joe Bible

    I know a lot of people that think atheists are just depressed.

  • Ubi Dubium

    I’m a little worried about this list being posted here without Greta’s wonderful commentary, for a couple of reasons.

    First, you can just bet that the god-bots will lift this list straight into their blogs proclaiming “see – the atheists agree that they really are all of these things” entirely missing the “myths” part of it.

    And my second concern is more subtle. I’ve read about studies where, when people hear two things mentioned together often enough, they tend to remember them as associated, even if the fact that they are not associated with each other was part of the context they heard them in. So if people hear “Joe Blow is not an alcoholic” often enough, their brain makes the connection between “Joe Blow” and “alcoholic” even though there wasn’t really a connection there. Mention Atheism with negative myths like those above often enough, and people will just remember the negatives. So, we need to make sure that we are mentioning Atheism in conjunction with positive descriptions a lot more often.

  • http://darwinsdagger.blogspot.com Darwin’s Dagger

    Whadaya mean “think” they’re superior? 😉

  • bill

    myth: atheists think they are superior.

    truth: atheists are superior.

    myth: atheists eat babies.

    truth: atheists inhale, smoke, snort, AND eat babies.

    myth: the atheists represent a secret agenda to destroy christianity and all that is good in the world.

    truth: said agenda is not secret

  • http://www.atheistnexus.org/profile/MattDittloff Mattmon

    9: Atheists are responsible for the worst crimes in history: Stalin, Mao, etc.

    Well at least they’ve learned to take Hitler out of that list.

  • AnonyMouse

    Myth: Atheists are all liberals.

    Truth: While I’ve certainly met a fair share of liberal atheists, we do come from various positions on the spectrum. I hold a number of liberal beliefs – on human rights, environmental responsibility, and that sort of thing – but I do not support free-range abortion, and I am not particularly partial to embryonic stem-cell research. And I’m sure that there are other subjects on which I can agree with my religious cohumans.

  • Julie

    “Atheists fuck hookers.”

  • Eliza

    (Well, someone has to.)

  • Saint Splattergut

    “Atheists are too busy doing experiments and organizing militant camps to obtain the famous parched lips of former pastor Ted Haggard. Or they just use a lot of neutrogena.”

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    I’ve heard this from Christian fundamentalist friends:

    “Atheists are under the spell of Satan”

  • http://howgoodisthat.wordpress.com Jim Gardner

    More in the last few weeks than at any time previous, I have actively sought out debate with Christians. I ensnared a couple of “big names” via my new-found love of Twitter (having previously failed to see what it was all supposed to be about).

    Partly this was to get a spread of opinion on some articles I wrote for my howgoodisthat.wordpress.com blog, on everything from my decision to seek a formal act of defection from the Catholic Church to a summary I wrote on a section from Victor Stenger’s latest book on the universal constant.

    But mainly it was a genuine attempt to open dialogue with a random group and explain why irreligious views are not without consideration for what those with a subjective reason to believe in God might genuinely think of as revealed truth.

    I have to say I was extremely disappointed by how few of the correspondents grabbed the olive branch and sought common ground. It was as if merely by my broaching certain subjects without using certain agreed upon religious vocabulary, I had unleashed an army of automata; call and response straw men.

    It was disappointing, but not entirely a shock and although I am at least learning to sharpen my wits as a debater—I suppose I’d prefer it if there was no need to constantly restate that which should be obvious. This got me to thinking about why we do what we do—out there among people who aren’t interested in understanding even what they’re told to believe, let alone what they’re told to be frightened of.

    I wonder if any other commentators here have come to some sort of conclusion about why, despite that atheists generally don’t even like the word atheism itself, we nevertheless feel compelled to fight the good fight, in the name of reason and humanity and on such a time consuming albeit life affirming level?

  • http://www.otmatheist.com hoverFrog

    On “2: Atheists are immoral: without religion, there’s no basis for morality.” the Christian does have a point but only if they mangle the definition of morality and claim that it can only come from their god. Atheists have no absolute basis for morality but then a fickle and changeable deity that probably doesn’t exist is no absolute basis for reality either.

    I think these myths are born out of one assumption. Namely that the positive, life changing aspects of faith that build communities and make lives better are true for everyone. All the lives that are twisted and confused and destroyed by religion do not count. Only the good things count. If only good things count then anyone foolish enough to reject religion is under some sort of delusion and the stereotypes are a way to explain this.

    If theists (and atheists for that matter)could accept that religion has both positive and negative aspects then these stereotypes would be easier to dispel. Of course I’m an atheist because I don’t believe in gods but I don’t go to church because I think that the negative aspects of religion far outweigh the few positive aspects of religion. Some Christians and Christ followers agree with the second point but not the first.

  • Christophe Thill

    What about “Atheists hate God” ?

  • Josha

    I wonder if any other commentators here have come to some sort of conclusion about why, despite that atheists generally don’t even like the word atheism itself, we nevertheless feel compelled to fight the good fight, in the name of reason and humanity and on such a time consuming albeit life affirming level?

    When I came out as an athesit to my dad he tried to convince me it wasn’t the right choice. The last argument he gave, when he realized I was firm in my stance, was, “Your life will be so much harder. You will have to fight this for the rest of your life. It will be difficult for you to date and find someone like you. Do you want to fight this your whole life? Is it worth it?”

    I decided then that it was. Why should I pretend to be something I am not simply because it gives me acceptance into the greater society? Atheism doesn’t say much about me, my secular humanism does, but for now self-identifying as an atheist and speaking out as an alternative voice to the majority religious one is important. My dad may see a life constantly fighting, but I think he failed to see the diversity of thought that is out there. And do I think I can help someone look more critically at their beliefs? Probably not, it takes time and many different voices, but at least I let my side of it be heard.

    I’ve heard all the following when debating with theists: #’s 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11. Plus: “You’re young, it is just a phase you go through in college.”

  • Bart the Pirate

    Embrace reality.

    Suffer the consequences.

  • MisterDomino

    With anyone older than 35, I always encounter this one:

    Atheists are dirty communists who hate democracy.

  • http://www.wayofthemind.org/ Pedro Timóteo

    I wrote a list like this one before, in 2006: 16 Common Myths about Atheists. I think Greta’s is better, though (besides, I was young and foolish back then :) ).

  • Brooks

    First, you can just bet that the god-bots will lift this list straight into their blogs proclaiming “see – the atheists agree that they really are all of these things” entirely missing the “myths” part of it.

    I’ve learned to ignore people like that because they hate our mere existence and will always find something to smear us with even if it’s not true. People like that don’t care about what’s true and what isn’t, so there’s no point wasting time worrying about them because they’ll always find some lie to spread about atheists. It’s like trying to argue with a conspiracy theorist. There’s just no point. I think it’s more important to dispel these myths with Christians that actually care to listen to what other people have to say.

    I hold a number of liberal beliefs – on human rights, environmental responsibility, and that sort of thing – but I do not support free-range abortion, and I am not particularly partial to embryonic stem-cell research. And I’m sure that there are other subjects on which I can agree with my religious cohumans.

    I think this is another myth to be dispelled, that issues like abortion and stem cell research are not simply left vs right godless liberal agendas. While I myself am a liberal atheist, you can be a conversative atheist while still supporting abortion and stem cell research. Christopher Hitchens is one example but a lot of people act like you have to be one side or the other to support abortion or be against it.

  • withheld

    church people whose idea of a good time at a party is naming your favourite bible character

    As a balding man, I’d have to go with Elisha

  • http://potomac9499.wordpress.com/ Rodibidably

    I did a post on atheist sterotypes not long ago: Thoughts On Revealing The Atheist Stereotype

    It’s mostly the same list as here, but I tried ot give my thoughts on them as well…

  • derwood

    As an atheist, I REVEL in these myths. God is in the cocktail…

  • dartigen

    Here I often get:
    Athiesm is ‘just a phase’

    If athiesm is ‘just a phase’, doesn’t it then make sense that religion is just a phase too? Are all life beliefs just a phase? I don’t think so.