Myths About Atheists

I’m working on a project at work for which I need a list of popular myths about atheists.  I could just scan Christian chat rooms, but that’s much more time consuming.

So, know of any myths we often hear about atheists?  Throw ‘em in the comments and even rebut them if you feel so led.

  • Crommunist

    - That atheists believe in a god, but maintain their atheism because they do not wish to be morally constrained

    - That atheism is a positive believe in there being no gods

    - That atheism is just another religion where people worship themselves instead of a god

    - That atheist ‘fundamentalists’ are just as bad as the religious bigots they criticize

    Those are my top 4.

    • Crommunist

      “positive BELIEF in there being no gods”

      Me fail English? That’s unpossible!

  • neatospiderplant

    My favorite is: you’re just an atheist because you hate god/want to sin.

  • Jeremy Shaffer

    Atheists have no morals or, if it can’t be denied that atheists have morals, only appear to have them because they get them from religion.

  • Glodson

    -That atheists hate God. That would be one.

    -Atheists are amoral with no basis for morality at all.

    -This is related to the one above: atheists reject religion to live in a state of hedonistic depravity.

    -Atheists are completely intolerant of religious people.

    -Shit, that all atheists have the same regard for religion.

  • Revyloution

    “Atheists eat raw human babies.”

    This one is easily refuted. I don’t know a single atheist that doesn’t cook them to at least 165F. There are far too many pathogens in babies to safely eat raw.

    • Bainisg

      Raw? Are they kidding? Babies are best in a slow cooker, get’s rid of that ‘gamy’ flavor.

      • Richard

        Deep fried with garlic.

      • Pierce R. Butler

        Shish-ka-baby!

  • http://paperdove.org/ nigelTheBold

    “Atheists worship science. Science and religion are just two different ways of looking at the same data.”

    The implication being, of course, that religion is the epistemic equal of science. Which of course it is not.

  • http://NextReformationBlog.com James Willamor

    - People are only atheist because nobody has told them about god.

    - That atheists claim to possess all knowledge in the universe.

    - Atheists are bitter and angry and can’t live happy lives.

    - Science is a religion to atheists.

    - Atheists have nobody to thank when something positive happens.

    - Atheists are all liberals/socialists/communists/etc.

    • P Smith

      Related to the lie that “all atheists are communists”:

      The religious will label any of their own as “atheists” as soon as they perpetrate something unpleasant, disgusting, immoral or illegal. One day they’re standing shoulder to shoulder, then as soon as the scandal begins, “they’re atheists!”

      .

      • Synfandel

        P Smith @7.1: “The religious will label any of their own…”

        What does that have to do with the assertion that “all atheists are communists”?

  • Yellow Thursday

    My relatives keep telling me that this is just a “phase” I’m going through (nevermind that it’s been 15+ years now) or that I’m “rebelling” against God.

    I’ve also been told, repeatedly, that if I have any morals at all it’s either because of my religious upbringing or because God has planted the seeds of moraltity in my heart. (Ouch!)

    • Ashton

      My mom tells people that I’m “questioning.” It’s maddening. I began the questioning stage at about the age of 7 and haven’t been in it since I was about 20.

  • Ashley Moore

    I had someone use the No Atheists in Foxholes at me just yesterday. I thought that had died.
    Also, all atheists convert on their deathbed.

    And that all atheists are nihilistic, bitter and have no appreciation of beauty. Which I think are linked to the common myth that atheists de-converted after some traumatic experience with religion.

    • kagekiri

      Yeah, I was going to say the “atheists only have bitter nihilism” bit. It became a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy when I first deconverted.

      I was a depressed, nihilistic, and bitter atheist…but mostly because realizing how much time and energy you’ve wasted for an empty lie of a religion tends to make you a bit bitter, and I had learned nihilism from Christianity (the pointlessness of this life is pretty well emphasized: see Ecclesiastes), and I had gotten depressed because of basic beliefs in Christianity too.

    • Tynk

      “atheists de-converted after some traumatic experience with religion.”
      That is the same accusation I get for being a lesbian. Yes I had a very bad experience with menr/eligion, but it was long after I realized I was a dyke/atheist.

  • http://paperdove.org/ nigelTheBold

    Oh, and my second-favorite: “Atheists have nothing to live for,” and its close cousin, “Atheists have no-one to turn to in times of grief.”

  • OverlappingMagisteria

    The two biggest ones for me are:

    1. Atheists have no morality and are therefore evil.

    2. Atheists live sad and empty lives with no hope for anything. This one, I’m guessing, forms because a theist imagines what their lives would be like without god and doesn’t realize that other people have different values. It’s like a golf fanatic assuming that everyone who doesn’t play golf must be absolutely miserable because she would be miserable without golf.

  • Hank Fox

    I think the one about “You can’t prove a negative; you can’t prove there is no god or gods” is a myth.

    But certainly:

    There’s no such thing as an atheist. Everybody believes in God, it’s just that certain willfully wicked people deny it.

    Atheists hate God.

    Atheists are jealous of Christians.

    Atheists were responsible for the Holocaust, for the millions that Stalin and Mao killed.

    The Nazis were atheists.

    Atheists don’t have feelings of mercy or love or compassion like Christians.

    A man unwilling to swear on the Bible is not to be trusted to tell the truth.

    Atheists worship Satan.

    Atheists lack morals, because without belief in the Bible and God and Jesus, you can’t understand the difference between good and evil.

    And therefore: Atheists are more prone to casually steal things or rape or murder people, because they don’t know it’s bad.

    But also: Atheists are more prone to steal things or rape or murder people, because they DO know it’s bad, but because they just want to get their kicks in before they die.

    All atheists are going to Hell, and devout Christians will be able to look down at them and laugh at their richly-deserved torment.

    There are also some converse beliefs related to atheism:

    Anyone who claims to be a Christian, yet who does something really bad, is NOT a Christian. It’s never said, but the assumption is that those phony, lying, evil people are godless, and therefore atheists.

    • kagekiri

      There’s an opposite but similar belief to the “All horrible sinners aren’t real Christians” bit.

      “Christianity is a cure for sin, so obviously the most desperately sick people join” and “Christianity makes you better; not necessarily the best, but the best person you can be” (aka Hitler would have killed even more people more horribly if he weren’t Christian).

      This lets them accept terrible Christians, or at least defend their own failings at being better morally than atheists and non-Christians.

  • RhubarbTheBear

    Satan keeps atheists blinded to the reality of God, and atheists don’t need to actually worship Satan when they’re already doing exactly what the devil wants them to do anyway.

  • http://www.arizona-writer.com Kimberly Hosey (Arizona Writer)

    -That they’re all “out.”

    Maybe not a myth per se, but it galls me that the “default” position is belief and credulity; and belief in a particular sect, namely Christianity, here. Anyone who doesn’t make a Big Deal out of their nonbelief is assumed to be a believer. It’s weird.

    -Related: That they’re all in your face about it.

    Some are, of course, and I’m tremendously glad of that. It makes it easier for the everyone else. But some simply don’t have the luxury, or else they choose slightly different priorities. And atheists communicate it in as many different ways as anyone communicates any idea.

    -That anyone who exists isn’t an atheist.

    I know, not original. “We’re both atheists; I just go one god further.” But really, it’s important. The same thought process (or lack thereof) that means a given person doesn’t believe in Allah, or Poseidon, or reincarnation; is what’s taking place with “full” atheists. It’s not “Screw you, screw God, and screw every idiot in your family who thinks that way.” (Not, at least, with respect to the God claim itself.) It’s more like “Nah. I haven’t been convinced of that. Can you pass the potatoes?”

    • http://www.arizona-writer.com Kimberly Hosey (Arizona Writer)

      *makes it easier for the everyone else.

      • http://www.arizona-writer.com Kimberly Hosey (Arizona Writer)

        Damn. The strikethrough tag doesn’t work. “Everyone else.” Gah.

        • Sheesh

          Strike will work when you spell it all the way out: <strike>like so</strike>

          I’d guess the most common error is that the shorthand <s> doesn’t work. Just trying to be helpful!

    • RhubarbTheBear

      I’m not sure that all would agree that they are atheist with regard to other gods. In my own experience, I did actually believe that non-Christian gods existed, insofar as they were all manifestations of Satan, and yes I definitely believed in Satan. Satan was around every corner trying to deceive me with everything in his arsenal, and atheism was just one more trick of the devil. It took me literally decades to get over the idea that a prince of cosmic evil wasn’t actually spending his time and energy infiltrating my thoughts.

      • RhubarbTheBear

        scratch “wasn’t” – should have been “was”. See, I need a text editor, too!

      • http://www.arizona-writer.com Kimberly Hosey (Arizona Writer)

        That’s a good point. I still think it applies, because you didn’t believe that they existed, not like their adherents claimed. And I seriously doubt there’s anyone who believes that every god invented ever exists, as a satanic manifestation or otherwise. I guess I was just trying to say the not-believing process occurs in everyone, believers included.

        I had a relative who believed that the Ouija board, while not magical in the any of the ways it claimed, “opened the door” for satanic tomfoolery. I’d still label him a Ouija board atheist, though even when I was a believer I didn’t think the slope was as slippery as he feared.

        • http://nathandst.blogspot.com NathanDST

          And I seriously doubt there’s anyone who believes that every god invented ever exists, as a satanic manifestation or otherwise.

          Actually, I saw that belief back in my paganism days. All the gods, ever, existed as manifestations of either the Goddess or God, and were all equally valid (usually, but not always, sanitized in some way).

          I also once saw a site that proposed you could perform rituals honoring Superman or Bugs Bunny (as a Trickster god) if you felt more of a connection with them than you did with the classic deities.

  • Evan P.

    Got this one from my dad (a Baptist preacher). It’s probably nothing new, but here goes:

    “Atheists read the Bible just like fundamentalists do! If more atheists read the Bible like ‘us’ (e.g. people with advanced degrees in theology), there’d be fewer atheists because they’d see how silly their reading of the Bible is!”

    Hope this helps :)

  • August Pamplona

    Atheists are angry at God.

  • TGAP Dad

    Several of the above are the ones I’ve most commonly encountered. But I don’t see the popular “Atheists are generally unhappy because they don’t have god/jesus/etc.” Corollary: “atheists have a ‘god-shaped hole’ in their hearts.”

    Related to some of the above is the myth that we must, at some deeper level, “know” there is a god, but are denying it on the surface.

  • Jenesa

    all atheists hate theists and think they’re stupid.

    Sure some atheists are like that, but most of us have religious friends that we can totally get along with and enjoy each others’ company, and even joke about it

  • Bainisg

    I gotta read faster, everyone beat me to the best ones. But after those, I’d say:

    1) We atheists pretend to KNOW, with absolute certainty, there is no god. (Playing pretend is what theists do!)
    2) We are all arrogant and think Christians are stupid. (Using logic to reach a conclusion doesn’t equal arrogance; and most Christians are brainwashed, not stupid.)

  • http://lordsetar.wordpress.com Setár, self-appointed Elf-lord of social justice

    is (mean/aggressive/strident/angry/closed-minded/attempting to win rather than being correct/some other baseless dismissal)

    At least, that’s what I get the most.

    • http://lordsetar.wordpress.com Setár, self-appointed Elf-lord of social justice

      FTB really needs to figure out how to differentiate between HTML tags and non, let’s try that again.

      (insert perfectly reasonable criticism of religion here) is (mean/aggressive/strident/angry/closed-minded/attempting to win rather than being correct/some other baseless dismissal)

  • Parse

    Common myths that I hear:
    – Ex-Christian atheists never truly believed in Christianity
    – Atheists actually believe in God, but pretend not to so we can wallow in hedonism
    – Atheism is a phase that you’ll grow out of, or that you’ll give up when times are tough
    – Atheists have more faith than Christians, because you need faith to believe that everything came from nothing, and that man came from monkeys, and that I can’t type any more lest my brain start to melt.

    Common myths about atheists that I see Christians demonstrate, but not say:
    – Atheists have never read the Bible, and that they’d accept quotes from it as Gospel
    – Atheists haven’t heard argument X for Christianity before
    – Saying stuff like “Every knee will bend…” or threatening people with judgement and hellfire will convince atheists that they’re wrong
    – Because atheists argue against Christianity, it means that they hate all Christians
    – It’s spelled ‘AthIEst’

  • H.D.Lynn

    -You can’t trust atheists because they have no morals and are soulless. Also, because atheists don’t believe in souls, they are evil robots who don’t respect human life.

    -Atheists will one day be struck by the power of ‘GOD’ either on their death bed or when life gets really crappy and they need to find something to live for. Those that aren’t shown the light are damned, and the idea is to pray for all of those atheists to be struck by ‘GOD.’ (Fortunately, prayer doesn’t do shit.)

    -Atheists don’t really understand Christianity and/or religion. Or else they would be religious. (Duh…?)

    -To be an atheist, you have to be an asshole and argue with everyone all the time about religion. (To be fair, this is probably a reason for why more people don’t come out as atheists sooner. Or this was at least one of the things I felt.)

  • http://mid-west-atheist.blogspot.com/ Volizden

    - Atheism is a belief and therefore is a religion

    - Atheists lack a moral Compass without god

    - Atheists hate all religious people/religions

    - Atheists are closed minded, belief biased fools, who only accept facts that support their views

    - Atheists are inherently evil

    - Atheists are followers of social Darwinism

    - Atheists are full of hate (hate god, hate religion, hate the religious, Etc)

    IF i think of More I will add them

  • Hank Fox

    Further thoughts:

    I think you CAN prove there’s no God or gods, just as I can easily prove there’s no real Batman, or real Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

  • Glodson

    Oh, here’s something that might help. The Hollywood Atheism page on TV Tropes.

    This might be helpful as it highlights how atheism gets protaryed in popular culture. There’s even a page on atheism in general with a few myths(most of which seemed to be covered here but still in the lens of popular culture).

    Maybe this look from popular culture on atheism can give you a handy guide on how some myths get popularized.

  • kylesmith

    Here’s a whole article i just read about the ‘hallmarks’ of radical atheists:
    http://www.everydaychristian.com/blogs/post/10405/

    Hallmark # 1: Angry
    Hallmark # 2: Anti-Intellectualism
    Hallmark # 3: Unloving
    Hallmark # 4: Judgmentalism
    Hallmark # 5: Weakness

    • http://nathandst.blogspot.com NathanDST

      What’s wrong with #1 and #4?

  • Hank Fox

    THERE ARE NO ATHEISTS IN FOXHOLES!!

    —spoken in a smug, sneering tone of voice.

    • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

      Here’s something that’s NOT a myth: there are no atheists hijacking planes and crashing them into buildings.

  • Finbarr

    The biggest one for me, and I think it has been mentioned above, is:

    Atheists can’t be happy or fulfilled, because it’s impossible to be truly happy without God.

    You can’t believe how much I heard that one growing up Catholic, and how badly it affected me after I became an atheist. I got into some serious depression because of that one. Whilst it may not seem as openly aggressive or hateful as the ‘atheists are immoral murdering Satanists’ stuff, it is all the more harmful because it is insidious and gets under your skin.

    • kagekiri

      Yeah…it’s a horrible self-fulfilling prophecy. Christianity is like a bear trap that is designed to wound you when you try to get free.

      I am pretty fresh from deconversion, and it’s tough shaking that nihilism and depression I was so certain had to be the default state for non-believers, but was actually mostly caused by Christianity.

      • http://nathandst.blogspot.com NathanDST

        Interesting. Your experiences at least have a small benefit (maybe) of putting lie to the idea that all atheists are simply rebelling, or just want to sin. Somehow, I doubt you’d go through that depression just to rebel.

        Stick around. It gets better, and there’s lots to love and experience when you’re not believing falsehoods.

  • http://freethoughtblogs.com/lousycanuck/ Jason Thibeault

    Biggest knock-down drag-out fight I’ve had with a robotic Christian troll (look up Zdenny at my place) was about whether atheists could love, since in the atheist worldview love is just the result of electrochemical reactions in the brain. That, coupled with the presupposition that God exists and is the source of all love, meant that by being an atheist, we were not partaking in the collective love-energy of the universe and our chemicals were just tricking us into thinking we loved anything.

    Or something like that. It was so convoluted and twisted. Happened right around the same time that my wife and I were about to get married. I still totally chemicals her.

  • Hank Fox

    On the other hand, here’s some REAL stuff about atheists:

    Atheists have longer, more intense orgasms.

    When you become an atheist, your skin clears up.

    Atheists are, on average, 18 IQ points higher than goddy people.

    Atheists really DO eat Christian babies. But atheist doctors recommend against the practice because of all the mercury and lead.

    Atheists tend to be have fewer children than Christians because we believe in the Conservation of IQ: that there is an unknown maximum of IQ available to the total childrenicity of any couple, and that every additional child divides the available IQ that much more.

    Atheists don’t have a boner against Christianity, they have it against ALL religion.

    During orgasm, atheists scream out “Darwin! Nietzsche! Alexis De Tocqueville!” (This partially accounts for why atheist parents don’t mind their atheist children spending so much time in the shower. They assume the kids are just brushing up on facts for a first-period test.)

    • troll

      This comment needs a like button.

  • Hank Fox

    That there exist “fundamentalist” atheists.

  • Hank Fox

    Atheists do not or should not celebrate Christmas.

    Atheists are not good citizens.

  • Vx

    - That the people who are represented by atheist organisations and the people who fall under the literal label of atheist are the same people.

    This is false.

    In particular, they have nothing to do with the Raelians.

    I guess what I’m trying to get at is that the particular path of examining the evidence and the ideas in order to come to the conclusion that there is no god is more specifically what they represent. As opposed to coming to the same conclusion by default through not being exposed to any ideas, like babies, or through spurious reasoning, like any number of UFO cults.

    This may not be one of the most obvious myths, but it certainly does seem to pop up implicitly all over the place.

    Also,
    – That as an atheist, one has a greater trouble finding reassurance in the world.

    Particularly pernicious in hospitals, apparently. Ok, so that was just a guess. Frankly I don’t understand how believing that there is an omnipotent omniscient unknowable character judging all your actions would be reassuring (rather the opposite), but apparently, people think you need that to feel better.

    • Hank Fox

      Speaking of hospitals, I’d be damned careful about announcing my atheism if I woke up one day in a church-connected hospital.

      Damned careful.

      • TV200

        Depends on the hospital. I know of one in particular that I would be safe in doing so. Mainly because I know the priest that is in charge there, and know the guy he used to date.

        Oh, an this is one myth that was used on me recently.

        “Believers and Atheist are flip side of the same coin. They both believe something that can’t be proved, agnostics are the true freethinkers”

    • Vx

      Oh, also:

      – That atheists are unfeeling creatures that don’t have empathy.

      Perhaps that’s more a media trope. Whatever. As a person who works hard to keep his feelings sane, I find that the accusation that I don’t have any makes me angry. All this work and this is what I get. Perhaps I should just punch people in the face, that would show them I have feelings!

      Well, I don’t. Why? Because it would make me feel terrible. Why? Because my brain is so constructed as to do that. Why? Because not punching the people around me confers survival advantage upon the group, and thus was a behavior selected for. Probably. This one is still being explored.

  • Hank Fox
  • Douglas Kirk

    - All atheists are skeptics and prize science, evidence and rationality (more of a gran falloon than a myth, but still)

    - Atheists think they’re perfect and incapable of making mistakes (probably because christianity pounds it into people’s heads that they’re worthless, anything other than complete disingenuous humility is regarded as arrogance)

    - Atheists think science is infallible (usually accompanied with, but see here where it was wrong and corrected it’s views accordingly? Take that, ATHEIST!)

    - If atheists were really intellectually honest, they’d call themselves agnostics. They only pick atheist to rankle feathers like petulant, unsophisticated children.

  • Douglas Kirk

    Oh! And this one:

    - Some singular (usually horrible) event in their life cause the atheist to give up on God.

    • Hank Fox

      I joke about it like this:

      “I’m an atheist because God killed my kitten when I was 5 years old. Now I try to tempt other children into atheism, so someday God will look down and go ‘Gee, I guess I shouldn’t have killed that kid’s kitten.’ “

      • Douglas Kirk

        I’m definitely stealing this. I think I’ll use puppy though and join you in combatting the most sinister of all atheist myths; that atheists have cats and dislike dogs. :-)

    • http://surgoshan.blogspot.com/ Surgoshan

      See TVTropes.org for the Hollywood Atheist for that one, Douglas.

      http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/HollywoodAtheist

      You know what? That also works for many of the myths about atheists. As does this handy-dandy link.

      http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/UsefulNotes/Atheism

      • Douglas Kirk

        Thanks a lot Surgoshan… there goes two hours of otherwise productive time. :-)

        • http://surgoshan.blogspot.com/ Surgoshan

          Coulda been worse; could’ve been a link to Cracked.com’s list of the ten biggest lies about atheists.

  • Melanie

    Mentally ill/drug addicted/alcoholic atheists are that way because they are denying the love of God and just need to return to him and they’ll be cured! :headdesk:

  • Jeff Sherry

    God didn’t answer your prayer(?)…used to drive me up the wall decades ago.

  • jacobfromlost

    Here’s an exaustive chronicling of misconceptions and myths about atheists from the mythmakers themselves: http://conservapedia.com/Atheism

    The ones that annoy me the most are that atheism is a worldview, ideology, philosophy, doctrine, belief, faith, religion, assertion, value, denial, or claim.

    • Synfandel

      Well…atheism is an assertion, a denial, and a claim, isn’t it?

      It’s an assertion that God doesn’t exist. It’s a denial that God exists. It’s a claim that God doesn’t exist. I think those are fair enough.

      • http://surgoshan.blogspot.com/ Surgoshan

        Not necessarily. There are two kinds of atheism; I call them weak and strong.

        Weak: I don’t believe in god.
        Strong: I believe there is no god.

        The first is weaker position than the second because it doesn’t provide a positive belief, but rather a lack of belief, while the second is a positive statement about the absence of a thing. To put it another way, the first rejects a claim, the second stakes one.

      • jacobfromlost

        Synfandel: Well…atheism is an assertion, a denial, and a claim, isn’t it?

        Me now: No, atheism is not. Atheism is a lack of belief in gods. A lack of a belief is not an assertion, a denial, or a claim of any kind, which is why these are not fair criticisms.

        • Synfandel

          Two things…

          1. They don’t sound like “criticisms” at all. They’re simply characterizations. Saying that atheism is an assertion, a denial, or a claim is no argument against it and I don’t understand why anyone would be “annoyed” by it.

          2. Atheism as a lack of belief is just the unanalysed stage of atheism as a belief. As soon as you answer the question, “Does God exist?”, that lack of belief resolves into one of three positive positions:

          a. Yes: You’re a theist.
          b. I don’t know: You’re an agnostic.
          c. No: You’re still an atheist, but now you have an assertion, a denial, and a claim.

          In fact, atheism as a lack of belief strikes me as more akin to agnosticism than to atheism, precisely because it does not entail taking a position on the central question. If you just lack a belief in God, I encourage you to take 30 seconds (it shouldn’t take more) and think about it. There. Now you have a positive belief or way or another.

          • http://cafeeine.wordpress.com Cafeeine

            ” Atheism as a lack of belief is just the unanalysed stage of atheism as a belief.”

            No it isn’t. It stands as it is. Whether it is analysed or not is a different question. When we refer to atheism as a lack of belief, we are referring to that concept, not whatever consequent position any atheist takes.

            “As soon as you answer the question, “Does God exist?”, that lack of belief resolves into one of three positive positions:

            a. Yes: You’re a theist.
            b. I don’t know: You’re an agnostic.
            c. No: You’re still an atheist, but now you have an assertion, a denial, and a claim.”

            No it doesn’t. The question “does god exist’ does not give us direct information on whether someone is an atheist. The pertinent question is: “Do you believe a god exists?” which can be answered in two ways:

            “Yes” in which case you are a theist.
            “No” in which case you are an atheist.

            “I don’t know” is not an option here since we are talking about states of mind. Unless you are e.g. in a coma ‘I don’t know if I believe or not’ is inapplicable, which is why the agnostic in your example is also an atheist.

            “In fact, atheism as a lack of belief strikes me as more akin to agnosticism than to atheism, precisely because it does not entail taking a position on the central question. If you just lack a belief in God, I encourage you to take 30 seconds (it shouldn’t take more) and think about it. There. Now you have a positive belief or way or another.”

            The point of the term s used is to identify all those that lack a belief. It doesn’t entail that they have no further thought about the issue, or that they have no positive beliefs, but that those beliefs are a personal issue, and not representative of the whole that identifies with the term.

            This is an important issue, since one of the biggest creators of myths about atheists (to bring this back into topic) is taking the actions and beliefs of specific atheists and generalizing them to apply to everyone.

          • Synfandel

            Merriam-Webster online–not my favourite dictionary, but hey, it’s free–defines “atheist” as:

            one who believes that there is no deity

            …not as:

            one who does not believe that there is a deity

            A child who has not been indoctrinated in any religion and has not yet grappled with the questions of divinity, origin of life, teleology, etc., doesn’t believe in a god, but that doesn’t make her an atheist. It makes her merely immature.

            …one of the biggest creators of myths about atheists (to bring this back into topic) is taking the actions and beliefs of specific atheists and generalizing them to apply to everyone.

            That may be true; this erroneous generalization may be a source of some myths about atheists, but it is not sufficient reason to redefine the term.

            The criminal acts of the 9/11 terrorists in the name of a political ideology grafted onto Islam are not reason to condemn all Muslims. Nor are they reason to redefine “Muslim” so that people won’t illegitimately generalize. Of course, they will anyway, just as they will still fall into the same fallacy about atheists even if you do subtly redine the term. The appropriate remedy for bad logic is instruction.

          • http://cafeeine.wordpress.com Cafeeine

            “Merriam-Webster online–not my favourite dictionary, but hey, it’s free–defines “atheist” as:(…)”

            Dictionaries are descriptive, not proscriptive. When the majority of self-described atheists offer a definition that describes them, it is the applicable definition when discussing them. Otherwise we could go back to the original meaning of ‘atheos’, that described those who did not believe in the Greek gods, and was ascribed to proto-christians.

            This is why your Muslim analogy fails to apply, and indeed supports what Ive been saying. The idea that Muslim = terrorist was externally applied by non-Muslims, to the protest of the majority of peaceful law-abiding Muslims. It was an attempt to force the characteristics of a sub-group onto the whole, which is what you’re doing here.

        • Synfandel

          I am not ascribing the characteristics of those who believe that gods do not exist to the (at least by definition) broader group of those who ‘do not’ believe in gods. I am simply saying that you’re not any atheist if you don’t take a position on the question of the existence of gods. It comes down to a matter of definition and at least I’m citing sources.

          Merriam-Webster is indeed a more desriptive than prescriptive dictionary. So, let’s consult Oxford English, which is the most prescriptive general dictionary of English that we have. OED says that atheism is:

          disbelief in the existence of God or gods

          How shall we split that hair? I would say that ‘disbelief’ is a positive position, not merely the absence of belief.

    • jacobfromlost
    • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

      Wow, that Conservapedia article takes hot-headed defensiveness into the realm of self-parody. (Like I expected anything else from anything with the Schlafly name on it?) They admit atheists exist, but then they have to tie themselves in knots trying to attack it, just to make sure their kids don’t get the wrong ideas.

  • http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/ Greta Christina

    Atheism means being 100% convinced that God doesn’t exist… so it’s just as much a faith as religion.

    Atheists are amoral.

    Atheists are unhappy, joyless, have no meaning to our lives.

    Atheists are angry at God.

    Atheists really believe in God, but just won’t admit it.

    Atheists are just being trendy.

    Atheists are responsible for the worst crimes in history (the Stalin argument).

  • jacobfromlost

    Here’s a new one: Atheists are fat.

    Seriously. http://conservapedia.com/Atheism_and_obesity

    Just scroll through and glance at the pictures (skimming through the words made my brain hurt too much–oh, the stupid!). If you don’t laugh, I’ll send you a million spiritual dollars.

    • http://surgoshan.blogspot.com/ Surgoshan

      Oh sweet Moses! Thank you for that!

  • Yellow Thursday

    Here’s one I have to classify as a lie, since the person saying it has no way of verifying it:

    “You may not know God, but he knows you/loves you/wants to have a personal relationship with you.” Or phrased a different way: “You may have given up on God, but he hasn’t given up on you.” (AKA Stalker God)

  • Peggesis

    This is what I’ve actually heard leveled at me:
    You want certainly and proof and there isn’t any absolute proof that God exists! (This from a person with whom I was sure I never said “certainly” or “proof.”)

    Also, there’s the idea that liberal Christians are of a higher plane spiritually. They are more attuned and receptive–not like atheists who are shallow and probably too lazy and arrogant to work at faith.

    This is what I’m getting personally, anyway.

    Hope this helps. :)

    • Peggesis

      Oh, and as a rebuttal, I can do no better than to quote pretty much anything said by Sastra, the wonderful commentator who said this on Butterflies and Wheels a while back:
      A quote from Sastra:
      http://www.butterfliesandwheels.org/2011/like-the-force-but-without-the-lightsabers/
      May 14, 2011 at 10:17 am
      “At one point in my life I considered myself a Transcendentalist. That ended I think when I slowly began to realize that all the profound and eloquent deepities were felt more than understood — and that this was not necessarily a positive feature in a world view, but — possibly — a malevolent bug. More often than not you can switch around the words in a brilliant passage and lose none of the meaning. Should you be able to do that? And at some point you start to wonder why people who worship the mystery of the spirit seem to have so damn much to say about the Unknowable. How do they know?

      What happens I think is that our brain-generated internal minds interpret external objects and events as if they are part of the inner narrative flow — and the cosmos becomes like a giant Mind itself. It’s all continuous, all connected. When you’re thinking of a song and it suddenly plays on the radio, there’s an automatic sensation of power: this, because of you. Maybe your memory was the direct cause; maybe you’re simply the focus of a higher power trying to tell you something or direct you somewhere; maybe you and the universe are all part of the same intentionality, manifesting in various ways. At the root of all supernatural thinking lies the conviction that thoughts are forces — and mind is the ground of being.

      That’s what the Ground of Being is: the Mind. The confusion of self and other. We’re filtering everything” through the example of our awareness and concluding we’re making a discovery about the nature of reality, instead of a discovery about the habits of perception.”

      Thanks, Sastra!

  • http://cafeeine.wordpress.com Cafeeine

    There’s this: Atheists rage only at Christianity/Islam (whatever the person accepts) and no other religions because they know its really the one true faith. Add specific denominations where applicable.

    I’ll try to think of some more at home.

  • Synfandel

    That atheists spend all their time mocking God.

    Debunking: I don’t spend any time mocking the tooth fairy, leprechauns, tree spirits, Cthulhu, the Green Lantern, the Great Pumpkin, purple people eaters, or the cosmic teapot. Why should I waste any time mocking God?

    • http://surgoshan.blogspot.com/ Surgoshan

      See above re: hating god or railing against what you know to be the one true faith (probably because you’re an agent of Satan, who you worship).

  • http://killedbyfish.blogspot.com feralboy12

    God has hardened our hearts against belief, for which we deserve to be punished eternally.

  • Celeste

    One of the favorite myths that Mormons spread about those that leave their church is that they only left because “someone in the church offended them”. They take this to the extreme of having local bishops call anyone who has left the church and asking that person what they can do to make up for whatever offended them. My husband got just such a call from a Bishop he’d never met because he’d just barely moved in to the neighborhood. It’s ridiculous.

    The other reason they give is the already oft-cited “Atheists just want to sin” load of crap.

  • Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    Atheists are ARROGANT when they speak up in public.

    Atheists don’t believe in Joy, Wonder, Love, or anything else that isn’t objectively measurable.

    Atheists believed in stars even when we couldn’t measure their masses, even when we couldn’t measure their inherent brightness, even when we couldn’t measure any number of other things.

    Atheists believe in exoplanetary atmospheres even tho’ we have no way of objectively measuring how thick they are or what they consist of (tho’ we can sometimes perceive that certain gases exist, we aren’t measuring their proportion of the atmosphere or the proportions of all the other gases).

    This lack of objective way of measuring how much joy one experiences doesn’t mean that there is no evidence for joy. Joy is absolutely unlike god – joy has measurable effects. People act different when they experience joy. They are likely to speak differently and experience different thoughts.

    I recognize that now I am attacking a misconception of transcendent realities, but this misconception, this assertion that they are the same as transcendent non-realities or the transcendent natural is the same as the transcendent supernatural is vital to attack to show why it’s ridiculous to assert that atheists don’t believe in the transcendent natural…and why atheists seem so ridiculous themselves when other people successfully stereotype atheists as disbelieving in the transcendent natural.

  • Ashton

    Atheists must not have tried to believe in god or given Jesus a chance, since “knock and the door will be opened unto you.” Any atheist who says that they tried to believe in God is either lying, crazy, or “didn’t do it right” (good luck getting anyone to explain that one to you) – most likely lying though, cause that’s what people who don’t have Jesus do.

    Bitter? Who me?

  • http://cafeeine.wordpress.com Cafeeine

    Here’s one Ive heard reported:
    (For unsuccessful atheists) God is punishing them;
    (For successful atheists) Satan is rewarding them.

  • Jeannie in PA

    Atheists are responsible for the mess America is in.

    • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

      The Republicans are all atheists?! Who knew?

  • LadyBlack

    Atheists worship Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens (no, I don’t worship anyone. Respect, yes).

    Atheists worship capitalism/film stars/money because everyone needs to worship something.

    Also, I’m still unconvinced that I would worship god even if he ‘revealed himself’ to me. But I think believers would be happy to confirm for us that we would.

    • lackinginsanity

      - Atheists want to be God

  • Anonymous

    You’re probably completely full up, but here’s GOBS of them, all in one place…

    http://www.everydaychristian.com/blogs/post/10405/

  • Pierce R. Butler

    Hitler was an atheist!

  • jacobfromlost

    Synfandel: How do you know that most self-described atheists mean ‘lack of belief in gods’? I have no data to the contrary, but it was not my impression that that was so.

    Me now: You need to ask them. Notice how TWO people here have tried to correct you, and no one has supported you? I also gave you several examples of famous atheists: Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, and Dennett. Moreover, many atheists (not all) value reason, evidence, and rationality. It is irrational to say that you know something does not exist. There is no way for humans to know such things, and to claim you DO know such things puts the burden of proof on YOU to demonstrate it doesn’t exist. The only famous atheist to do that is Victor Stenger, although one could still make criticisms of his stance (or reject his claim that a god does not exist as unsupported).

    Syndandel: I am not confused about how dictionaries work. I have a master’s degree in Library Science and know a thing or two about reference works.

    Me now: So why are you making an argument from a dictionary? And “Merriam Websters” at that?

    Synfandel: I’m not trying to determine anyone else’s position.

    Me now: You misunderstand. You don’t get to tell other people what their position is. For instance, you said a person cannot be an atheist if they do not take a positive position. That is incorrect. You have just met two here, and I have pointed out many others. Join the chatroom at “atheist experience” today and you’ll find most of them are agnostic atheists. I will also note that most of the hosts on “Atheist Experience” are also agnostic atheists. I can give you more data points if you still need them. (If most atheists are gnostic atheists, WHY has no one come to your defense here?)

    Synfandel: We’re just discussing whether atheism is a positive position or a lack of position.

    Me now: No, we are not. You’ve just changed the terminology. Arguably a lack of a belief IS a position–and the position is that I dont’ believe X exists. That does not mean I believe X doesn’t exist. THERE IS A DIFFERENCE, and I can hold the first position without holding the second. In fact, most self-described atheists DO hold that position on rational grounds.

    Synfandel: If we take agnosticism and atheism to address different questions and consider them mutually compatible, as you described above (and very nicely, I must say), then we’re both right or both wrong in so far as atheism can be either a position or a lack of position. That’s an interesting way to look at it.

    Me now: No, it is a position in any case, it is just that you are trying to make both of them a positive claim. When you draw a line around the category “atheism”, it includes BOTH, which means gnostic atheism is not required for atheism. ONLY a lack of belief, which is not a lack of a position (the position is that “I don’t believe god exists”, which is not a positive claim to knowledge).

    Me before: …quoting a bad definition from a dictionary doesn’t change that.

    Syndandel: I’ll let you sort out with Oxford University Press whether it’s a bad definition,

    Me now: Now you switched dictionaries. Are you sure you are not a theist posing as an atheist? I’ve never encountered an atheist argue in this way before. The Oxford dictionary used “disbelief”, which is fine. “Disbelief” is not a positive claim to knowledge, and is not absolute. I can “disbelieve” that the defendant is guilty on a jury as a default position, but that is not an absolute disbelief, it is not a positive claim to knowledge, it is not an assertion that he is innocent, and it is not personal position–it is fact the only rational one for any finder of facts.

    Synfandel: but I put it to you that they put a fair bit of research into their definitions and are held in rather high regard in their field.

    Me now: Good grief. As a holder of a degree in Library Science, do you not understand that a dictionary cannot redefine the positions of actual people in reality? You cannot do that either.

    Me before: I am not required to provide evidence that Santa does not exist to say that I don’t believe in him.

    Synfandel: Nor are you required to provide evidence to say that you do believe that Santa does not exist. No one has said anything about requiring evidence. We’re just discussing whether you’re really an akringlist if you do not believe that Santa Clause does not exist, but merely don’t believe that he does exist.

    Me now: You are confused about the term “disbelief”. Disbelief is not required to be absolute. You can disbelieve something, but once presented with evidence, easily switch to belief. If disbelief was absolute, you could not change it.

    Synfandel: The presumption of innocence, as it is often described–or more accurately the presumption of lack of guilt–before a court of law is a practical choice that our society has made because it feels that erroneous conviction is worse than erroneous acquittal.

    Me now: No, it isn’t. You really need to read up on how facts are determined in reality.

    Synfandel: It’s a choice based on values.

    Me now: No, it is not. Let’s say that we didn’t have a presumption of innocence, but a presumption of guilt. When making a determination of “guilty”, would we be more often right, or more often wrong? Obviously if there is no evidence a person is innocent, they they are GUILTY, right?

    …me continued. The burden of proof is not something that is based on values. It is an integral part of logic, which is why it works in reality, science, etc.

    Synfandel: It tells us nothing about what “atheist” means.

    Me now: It does WHEN THE ATHEIST IS TELLING YOU IT DOES. The reason I don’t believe in any gods is because those people claiming they exist haven’t met their burden of proof. Since there is no evidence for such a thing, I continue disbelieving until evidence is provided, the same as I do with every other claim. I make no claims about gods.

    Synfandel: And I’m sorry you’re annoyed that some people think you’re a gnostic atheist when you are in fact an agnostic atheist.

    Me now: The only people who have ever done this (in regards to myself or any other atheist I have encountered on the net, in books, on youtube, or in life) have been theists. I have never encountered an atheist in well over 15 years who didn’t understand the distinction I and others are giving you here.

    Synfandel: I guess it doesn’t bother me, because I’m a gnostic atheist. Until someone comes up with some pretty potent evidence to the contrary–and it would have to be seriously overwhelming stuff because it would totally rock my world view–I’m comfortable saying that I know that gods don’t exist.

    Me now: you’ve just described yourself as an agnostic atheist. By definition you cannot know something that is unknown, and if you SAY you will change your mind given new (now unknown) evidence, then you are admitting you don’t know.

    If you don’t know, you can’t claim to know at the same time.

  • Pingback: Who Gets to Claim Morality? « Seriously?!?

  • http://cafeeine.wordpress.com Cafeeine

    When discussing self-identification, there is no point of taking any prescriptive authority on the matter. You missed the point of my using the ‘atheos’ example above.

    When most self-described atheists use the term, they mean ‘lack of belief in gods’ most of the time. Either you can accept that, or we’ll just keep talking past each other.

  • jacobfromlost

    Synfandel: I am simply saying that you’re not any atheist if you don’t take a position on the question of the existence of gods.

    Me now: You’re confused about what atheism is, how dictionaries work, and on your power to determine other people’s positions. Agnosticism is not mutually exclusive of atheism nor theism. Agnosticism/gnosticism refer to knowledge, while atheism/theism refer to belief. A gnostic theist says, “I know god exists and I believe in him”, an agnostic theists says, “I don’t know or can’t know if god exists, and I believe in him”, an agnostic atheists says, “I don’t know or can’t know if god exists and I don’t believe in him”, and a gnostic atheist says, “I know god doesn’t exist and I don’t believe in him.” These are ALL positions held by real people in reality, so quoting a bad definition from a dictionary doesn’t change that. (Dictionaries get definitions from us, we don’t get definitions from them.)

    Synfandel: How shall we split that hair? I would say that ‘disbelief’ is a positive position, not merely the absence of belief.

    Me now: You are free to say that about YOURSELF, but you are not free to say that about anyone else (and it isn’t hair-splitting AT ALL). Most atheists are agnostic atheists–even the famous ones like Hitchens, Harris, Dawkins, and Dennett. Why? Because the rejection of a claim as evidentially unsupported is NOT A CLAIM! I am not required to provide evidence that Santa does not exist to say that I don’t believe in him. A rudimentary understanding of the burden of proof will help you understand that the default position is disbelief in ANY claim until evidence is provided, and that disbelief IS NOT ABSOLUTE, nor a claim, nor a denial, nor an assertion. When you sit on a jury and presume the defendent is not guilty, you are NOT denying they are guilty, you are NOT claiming they are innocent, and you are NOT asserting they are innocent. You are waiting for the evidence that they are guilty. And if there is none, you continue voting not guilty as the default (which does NOT mean they are innocent).

    Atheism is not guilty, the default. It requires no claims, denials, or assertions. We’re just waiting for evidence that still hasn’t come, just like we wait for evidence of every other claim. If it comes, we add the new information to our beliefs. If it doesn’t, we continue waiting!

    And this is why I’m annoyed.

  • Synfandel

    Cafeeine says:

    When most self-described atheists use the term, they mean ‘lack of belief in gods’ most of the time. Either you can accept that, or we’ll just keep talking past each other.

    How do you know that most self-described atheists mean ‘lack of belief in gods’? I have no data to the contrary, but it was not my impression that that was so.

    jacobfromlost says:

    You’re confused about what atheism is, how dictionaries work, and on your power to determine other people’s positions.

    I am not confused about how dictionaries work. I have a master’s degree in Library Science and know a thing or two about reference works. I’m not trying to determine anyone else’s position. We’re just discussing whether atheism is a positive position or a lack of position.

    If we take agnosticism and atheism to address different questions and consider them mutually compatible, as you described above (any very nicely, I must say), then we’re both right or both wrong in so far as atheism can be either a position or a lack of position. That’s an interesting way to look at it.

    …quoting a bad definition from a dictionary doesn’t change that.

    I’ll let you sort out with Oxford University Press whether it’s a bad definition, but I put it to you that they put a fair bit of research into their definitions and are held in rather high regard in their field.

    I am not required to provide evidence that Santa does not exist to say that I don’t believe in him.

    Nor are you required to provide evidence to say that you do believe that Santa does not exist. No one has said anything about requiring evidence. We’re just discussing whether you’re really an akringlist if you do not believe that Santa Clause does not exist, but merely don’t believe that he does exist.

    The presumption of innocence, as it is often described–or more accurately the presumption of lack of guilt–before a court of law is a practical choice that our society has made because it feels that erroneous conviction is worse than erroneous acquittal. It’s a choice based on values. It tells us nothing about what “atheist” means.

    And I’m sorry you’re annoyed that some people think you’re a gnostic atheist when you are in fact an agnostic atheist. I guess it doesn’t bother me, because I’m a gnostic atheist. Until someone comes up with some pretty potent evidence to the contrary–and it would have to be seriously overwhelming stuff because it would totally rock my world view–I’m comfortable saying that I know that gods don’t exist.


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