I often wonder why Atheists are so disliked within society. It’s not as if we’re serial killers or rapists wandering the landscape, searching for our next victim. We don’t, well at least none I know, worship Satan or practice demonology. We’re just regular people, with jobs and families that happen to differ with the majority over whether there is any proof for the existence of any god. I’ve not been discriminated against as an atheist, but I understand why some will not be open about their disbelief. So what is the reason why we’re so disliked? I think I may have at least a partial answer.
There are some atheists that are very radical and vocal. that’s okay as I believe that people should (well, within limits) say whatever they want and if sometimes that takes some rough language, then that’s the way it is. Most atheists I know or am familiar with are quite the opposite. They are very generous, kind people. It is the one or two out there though that can give an entire group a bad name. Not by doing anything illegal, just their attitude towards others that may be believers. I’ve seen this and I think that it is these few, that describe believers as bigots generally, have that affect on the general population. Think about it: describing an entire class of people in a pejorative manner is not going to make any friends or win any allies. Not every believer is the same as the others, just as not every atheist could be classified the same. When a person decides to describe a group, any group, based on their religion, race, ethnicity, or other characteristic, doesn’t that person become what s/he is claiming?
I see some of the “atheists” online often and when I do see their tweets, I shake my head. What purpose is there for denigrating others based on their belief? Certainly, I don;’t believe what they do, but I don’t spend my time mocking their belief. I will point out why I think it’s a false belief, but that’s about as far as I go. More recently, I’ve decided to mainly stay out of that entire argument. I don;’t care what others believe as I’ve said before: as long as these same people do not attempt to force me toward their belief. That’s where I and most atheists I know draw the line.
Sure, I often say here and in social media (when it comes up) that religion is false, in my opinion. What I won’t do is call those same believers stupid (although I may actually think that in some cases). I often ask those that inquire of me, why they believe what they believe and how they know its true. Other times, they will ask me something similar: How do you know there is no God? Of course, I don’t know for certain, but my lived experience tells me that.I’m interested, though, when possible of having a dialogue and not just throwing verbal stones. How To Not Win Friends is what I refer to that as being.
As an atheist, I’m interested in the why of belief. Is it a family tradition? Is it because a person feels better knowing there’s something after this life? Is it fear of eternal punishment? and I’m more willing to have a discussion with someone based on those questions, turned around, as an atheist. Was I raised a non-believer? Do I know there’s nothing after this life, and if there is, why do I not fear that same eternal punishment for not believing? All of these are what may be able to be discussed without breaking each others windows.
As atheists, we don’t do anything for our cause be denigrating others beliefs, in the same way that a believer telling me I’m going to spend eternity in hell. I’m unconvinced by that “argument”.
I think we can be better, and we should.
16 thoughts on “Why Antagonize Believers?”
Religious people are not harmless. Firstly they accept absurd ideas, call them sacred and then proceed to act according to them. They also claim immunity to any wrong they do based upon their Faith. They refuse to accept criticism of their behaviour because of their Faith.
The Christian doctrine of Redemption clearly says that if they accept Jesus that their sins are already paid for by the Blood of the Lamb. And so no restitution, or compensation needs to be provided to the victims of their sin. And if the victim was a non Christian then that person was going to Hell anyway and does not count.
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First, it is you (and me) that may believe their ideas are absurd, but trust me, believers don’t think that way at all. That’s why it’s not helpful to engage a believer of any faith with that attitude. It’s not that your ever going to change a mind (possible, but unlikely), but all it does is end any chance for dialogue. Yes, they sometimes do similar things, calling atheists immoral, evil, Satan worshippers, etc., without any evidence behind those statements, but it doesn’t mean that atheists have to respond in kind.
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Partner, you can either shrink from their claims of privilege that they declare it’s impolite to challenge them on their Faith, or you can engage them rationally. If they can’t be engaged rationally then handle them however you like. There is no single way to deal with them.
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That is very true. Religion, all religion, is harmful by its very existence. Some are certainly more harmful, but none of it is harmless. It is a mind poison. It affects how people think. It affects how they behave. It affects how they vote. It affects how they raise their children and how they treat others. If it was just something they did on Sunday morning, I wouldn’t say, but it is something that colors their very perceptions of reality all the time. They can’t see that what they are doing is wrong because, as you said, all they care about is their faith. Hitler believed that God had ordered him to kill the Jews. More than 11 million people were killed in the Holocaust That’s not harmless in anyone’s book. Now most theists aren’t going to kill you, but the might vote to take away your rights because they are offended by your non-belief in their religion. They may raise their children to hate your guts. They may decide that some people aren’t worthy of doing business with because of their religious beliefs. All of these things need to be fought against. We simply cannot accept that, based on irrational faith, we should just throw up our hands and ignore anti-social behavior that demonstrably harms society because it would make the religious sad. Too bad. Maybe they ought to grow up.
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We can only gasp at the current battle between the Evangelical Trump supporters and their immunity to facts. They live in a parallel nonphysical master reality where facts can be rejected in order to pursue their goal of bringing about the End of the World. You cannot reason these people out of their delusions, they have been programmed since very young and the brain patterns have been well established.
….Far from harmless!
I’ve written before that if every major religion that exists today wer suddenly gone tomorrow. another. would pop up. For some reason, people have a need to believe in the supernatural – that is, that this life is not the end. I think it is the ego of humanity…that we cannot ever end. There must be something after this life. It’s a hard realization for all of us, even atheists I think, to know that there is nothing else. A Pew poll even showed that some 2 or 3 percent of atheists believed in an afterlife. Even non-believers – some – want to think there is something else beyond this life.
Somebody said: “You’re not going to win the battle of ideas by insulting people you disagree with.”
Which is a fair point. Or it would be if we were engaged in a battle of ideas. But unfortunately, religion doesn’t have ideas. It has dogma. And the purpose of dogma is to get in the way of ideas, to stamp them out and kill them off before they succeed in changing anything. Because, as everyone knows, change to religion is pretty much what kryptonite is to Superman. It’s about as welcome as daylight to a vampire because it threatens the position of those who control religion for their own narrow ignorant selfish ends.
And secondly, I don’t insult people because I disagree with them; people who believe in things like spiritualism or astrology, even though I don’t believe in those things myself. Although I have to say I think the planets do influence our lives mainly by not crashing into us, which I think is quite considerate of them, really. But if astrologers were demanding special privileges all the time and insisting that their beliefs be allowed to dictate the behavior of others then I’d probably have a different tone. If astrologers enjoyed a tax-exempt status which they routinely abuse to meddle in politics and force their values into other people’s lives, or if they reacted with fury, threatening to kill people for the slightest criticism of their beliefs, or if astrologers were allowed to indoctrinate young children before their minds were fully formed, and if they then molested many of these children, and protected each other from justice while insisting that women not be allowed to practice astrology because they’re women, then one or two insults might slip out. That’s how it works. And I don’t apologize for that. Why should I, when religion has the arrogance to claim moral authority over us, when anyone can see it doesn’t even have any moral awareness. How can it have, when it’s so insulated from self-examination by its blind obedience to scripture?
It seems like hardly a week goes by these days that we don’t have to listen to some mealy-mouthed clergyman complaining that secularism is going to lead to moral anarchy and the breakdown of society. As if people really are stupid enough to swallow this shallow-minded self-serving bullshit. Obviously, nobody wants to live in a moral vacuum. Well, nobody outside politics and banking. But, far from filling this vacuum, as it always claims, religion has actually caused it by using scripture as a vacuous substitute for genuine morality, by denying people the chance to formulate their own more substantial moral bearings in the only place you find anything of real value, and that’s within. If it hasn’t come from within it isn’t worth a damn, and people know that in their hearts. They know it’s been put on like a cheap Sunday suit and it’s as phony as a bad hair piece. If one gets their morals uncritically from scripture, they’re really no better than a dog who’s afraid to steal the meat because they know they’ll be whipped. They’d love that meat more than anything, but, their finely tuned moral compass keeps them on the straight and narrow. What a good dog. Of course, a dog doesn’t have a soul, apparently, so he doesn’t have the problem of having to live forever, but people do, and they know that they’ll be whipped forever if they even think about touching that meat, you bad dog, you miserable sinner. Now, maybe this doesn’t apply to everyone because they’re happy worshipers’. Maybe threy embrace the Lord every day with a joyful heart. And that’s great. But surely they realize that the moment they change their minds about the Lord and stop embracing him they’re setting themselves up for some terrible eternal torture. Don’t they ever feel as if somebody is shooting at their feet to make them dance? Because that’s how it looks to a neutral observer. Maybe that’s just my ignorance talking, because that’s something else I get accused of quite a lot. Somebody said recently: “Clearly you just don’t understand what a person’s faith actually means to them.” “For me”, she said, “it’s like the water of life.” And I thought what a great phrase – the water of life, without which, of course, there can be no life. But even the water of life needs to be contained and properly managed or it can run out of control, get into places where it doesn’t belong, and cause real damage. For example, if the water of your life gets together with the water of other people’s lives, and they form a deluge, a rushing torrent of righteous certainty that sweeps all before it, including reason, then it’s not so much the water of life any more, is it? It’s rapidly turning into the water of death, as everything in its path is crushed; original, thought, rational inquiry, free speech, and their broken pieces are thrown upon the rocks of scripture and blind dogma.
What’s needed here, obviously, is a dam to contain this water of death, convert it back into the water of life, and give us all a chance to switch on a light-bulb in our minds. And that’s where secularism comes in. It’s everybody’s friend – believer and non-believer alike, which I think makes it the real water of life.
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In my own experience as antagonizing the deluded, most often Christian, i am debating the absurdity of the belief system that.is being put forth within the discussion. As soon as i hear about “God’s will” i simply ask the question, “why pray?” it always stops them, however briefly, because it really looks as if they have not considered this point before. There is alwayz some sort of back pedaling that they are doing when they get to where they want to flip the script on me… I’m not a rookie my 1st doubt of God happened to me at 8yrs.old…i am 51 and these debate/discussions are my way of examining how refined i can put forth, my non belief. I write stuff down, try to have a better way of talking because resentment was my first motivation for telling my apostasy story but tjat seemed to put me in a strange category of… Not so much as an atheist trying to change minds but rather, a dropout of religious doctrine from someone who has no tact!
Basically my benchmarking of disbelief by using the believers points to counterpoint with, knowing the inconsistencies that i used to bear as testimony.
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That’s actually a good way of having a discussion with a believer. Most atheists I see online are not there to purposely antagonize anyone. There are some, however that will attempt to anger someone just for the heck of it. That doesn’t look good. Oh! Believers (some) do the same thing. They try and “bait an atheist”. I ignore those and everyone should.
Well…each of us is different, just as each believer is different. Yet, as human beings all of us are very much alike. Meet people of belief and no-belief on common ground, and then deal accordingly with the differences. I “believe” that nearly all of us are simply doing the best we can to get through life.
If I could like this post twice, I would.
Religious beliefs are not harmless. Religion is a mind poison. It influences how you live, how you raise your children, how you think, how you vote and how you treat others. As such, the very existence of religion directly impacts the lives of everyone, thus we have every right to point out the harm that is done by religion as a consequence of its very existence. We can’t stop people from believing, we don’t have any amazing mind-control powers, but we can certainly criticize the things that they believe, for cause, because those things are inherently harmful.
I never said anything about pointing out the harm of religion, My post was how it’s approached. Approaching someone with a verbal hammer gains you nothing.,
It depends on what you hope to gain. Having a rational discussion with these people is essentially impossible. You cannot reason them into a more intellectually valid position. Sometimes, you just have to swing for the fences and hope you knock some sense into them. If you don’t, then maybe someone looking on might gain a clue. I’m not interested in making them happy. I’m interested in protecting society.
In the U.S., I think there are two main reasons we are disliked. First, the historic associations between atheism and Soviet-style Communism. Second, we fail to conform to the popular delusion of the majority. Our bad behavior online is not irrelevant, but it is also very new. I remember the hatred aimed at atheists back when I was in grade school, and that was decades before the Interwebs were around. I am fairly confident we’d be hated today even if we were all “saints.”
The issue of how we behave online is an important strategic one. Calling people names and hurling insults tends to turn them against us, and this is unlikely to be conducive to changing minds. When I think about the last time I was insulted by a Christian online (roughly 2 hours ago), I can tell you I didn’t stop and think, “Hmmm…I could probably learn something from this Christian” and come over to his side. All it did was serve as yet another example of why I have little interest in being a Christian. I suspect it works the same when we’re the ones doing the insulting.
That’s not even the objective. The purpose is to score esteem points among one’s own in-group (in this case, fellow anti-theists.) But it makes the rest of us polite atheists look bad.