What are the biggest lies/misconceptions spread about atheists and agnostics?
It seems there are a lot of opinions about atheists and agnostics without a lot of facts. Some of the more common ones are lack of religion/God causes moral decline and atheists are waging war on Christians etc. Other common myths are atheists can't be as compassionate as religious people because we don't answer to a "higher power". - What most fail to realize is we answer to ourselves and most of us believe that this life is it - our chance to leave a mark on the world and we try to be better humans.
Let's start trying to understand one another instead of demonizing people
One of the biggest lies/misconceptions spread about atheists and agnostics is that they are not spiritual people. I happen to know from personal experience that they happen to be very spiritual. If one can understand what I'm about to say--and let me first preface this by saying that I'm a Christian, I'm spiritual, but I'm not religious--agnostics and atheists may very well be more Christian-like in terms of love, acceptance, and open-mindedness than some Christians themselves.
Thank you for asking this very relevant question, ChristinS.
Thank you I agree, many people assume atheists/agnostics are not spiritual and like you, I believe many of us in fact are. Thanks for answering
" I'm a Christian, I'm spiritual, but I'm not religious..." That's cool, I like that!
Many atheists are spiritual people, they obtain their spirituality from other sources. There are many religious people who are anything but spiritual!
Well, some people have assumed when I tell them that I'm an atheist that I actually worship Satan. Not sure how that works. People also assume that atheists have no moral code and that we know nothing about religion. Both categorically false.
Absolutely, many atheists/agnostics I know including myself were raised in religion, examined it and came to a different conclusion. I also get sick of the whole "no moral code" issue as well.
I've heard this one so many times I can't count! I totally agree, Georgie!
Surveys have shown that atheists tend to know more about religions rather than less.
Borsia - I agree, and yet we the agnostics and atheists are the ones often called ignorant. Georgie - I agree also
Oh dear, Georgie, I heard this also. What are these people "thinking"? Atheists DON'T worship Satan at all! They just don't believe in a God no more no less. Atheists do have a moral and ethical code. What preposterous thinking indeed!
That is a little ignorant not @ you Georgie but for the ones who assume you worship Satan. If somebody does not believe in God, how can they believe in Satan?
LoisRyan13903, some people hear "atheist" and the Danger Will Robinson bells go off because they're trained to believe we're evil.
@Georgie atheist aren't evil maybe some are but you have evil people in all areas of belief or non Same as Muslims people tent to think that they are all terrorists not true some yes not all
Absolutely LR; atheism consists of 3 words "no gods exist" that includes Satan of course.
I just fell off my chair...what??? A Satanist?? this is so wrong, they just have been taught that anybody who doesn't worship their God is worshiping the Devil... a way to scare people, keep them in line and sometimes divide to reign
I think one of the biggest misconceptions about atheists is that we're immoral anarchists. I find a surprising number of believers that seem to believe that without a god it is impossible to be a good moral person. I also have a lot if people telling me that since I'm Assn atheist now, I was never a real Christan to begin with, and I should just pray and read the Bible more to discover the truth
some people think they have an answer to everything. One "Christian" had the nerve to tell me he hopes I raise my children to have a choice smh. I suggested he do likewise and allow his to have free thought.
Chris - I'd love to have seen the look on his face!
JM - re immorality - I've found that the person questioning the morals of an atheist/agnostic are often severely lacking in the same
One woman was a few min. into her pushy speech confirming that she's truly a Christian, when I turned the tables to convert her to atheism."Yes, that feeling of belonging to a small, isolated, man's world...but then I let go of all those myths..."LOL
I have had two colleagues whom I consider THE most actively humanitarian people I have ever met; both are atheists. My friend, a former nun, questions religion in the same ways as I do.
JM, you are correct. I think many Christians think this way because that is what they hear from the preacher at their church. It's much simpler to dismiss atheists that way than to really understand where they are coming from.
I think the lack of morals is the one that I come across most often. But there is also the myth that atheists think they know everything; acting as if we have it all figured out. It's a strange myth because suggesting their is a deity seems more finite than there being none. Atheists understand and embrace the unknown. Many of us are drawn to science because it actively seeks out new answers and new knowledge, which is the opposite of deity based religions that discourage such progression. Then, of course, there is the myth that atheism is a religion at all, rather than a single belief that can coincide with religion. I wrote a hub about a lot of the misconceptions and I'm glad to see a question about it on here. People fear what they don't understand, so as atheists, we need to work hard to spread the truth about who we are.
Yes yes yes! I totally embrace the unknown and find the quest for knowledge incredibly beautiful. Religion to me discourages free thought and is very fear based, but comforting. I understand the fear, but religion seems limiting to experience.
M.T. Dremer - great insight re: "embracing the unknown" - never thought of it in quite those terms! People who study science understand what they don't know and have a high degree of integrity and respect for the enormnity of life's mysteries.
Just my own thoughts -- but many atheists and agnostics DO believe in some kind of higher power and in fact I've had discussions with some of them on this very subject. We're all created in God's image -- but the thinking/belief part is left up to all of us individually. I take the part of the bible very literally when it says "if you witness to a non-believer and they have no interest; dust the sand off your sandals and move on." I'm obviously paraphrasing here but He even gave us instructions on how to handle non-believers -- so I do that and unless one of them inquires I keep my faith and my opinions to myself.
This I can respect because you acknowledge that others are entitled to their beliefs as well. I embrace those who allow others to live and let live and I believe we all have the right to our beliefs thanks for your answer.
Bravo, both of you (Angela and Christin)! It seems minding one's own business isn't in fashion at the moment. You've said it much better than I could have!
This is a side track, but people almost universally seem to believe that Goths are atheists, amoral, anarchists, etc. Just because of the way they dress (which often includes lots of big Christian crosses, I must point out). Trying to convince them otherwise is a waste of time. Like any other group of people, they are a group of individuals with diverse beliefs, well beyond a penchant for wearing black (often very elegant black outfits) and listening primarily to a certain type of music. Atheists and agnostics are NOT all goths and vice versa, sorry to disappoint anyone. It's more complicated than that by a lot.
I participated in a discussion group that happened to contain a lot of atheists... we responded to a list of things we would/wouldn't do like: yell at your mother, keep money found in a wallet with ID, sell your soul... so one woman, a good woman and atheist, replied, "I wouldn't do any of those things except sell my soul, I'd sell my soul because I know I don't have one." Know. To the point of selling it. I don't think any of us "know" enough to take it to that point. I myself am not a Christian but I do find it reasonable that there is a strong possibility that we do have, or are, something we may term a soul. She knows I disagree with her and says to me, "I respect that you have a different belief than me." I'm like, "I don't want you to respect that I have a different belief than you, I want you to respect that I am a knowledgable person who knows how to critically analyze my own knowledge when I come to the conclusion that God and soul is possible." I think that many atheists do conclude that any person who thinks God is possible is a person who doesn't know how to analyze correctly and is delusional. Now, I'll admit, I think the same of atheists, I think they are very selective in what ideas they will allow into their analysis when they determine God and soul are fairytales for delusional people.
I know there are militant atheists who ridicule the religious and that's reprehensible also to me. I am actually a spiritual atheist. I don't believe in a diety, but I do believe in something that connects us all energetically.
Mike, please don't assume that woman's remarks are typical of how an atheist would answer that question. The question actually implies "Would you do something against your strongest moral code for your own gain.The answer of which should always be no
A true Atheist is one who, with an open mind, accepts that this world is full of different people with different beliefs. The Key word is ‘accepts’.
Those who claim to be Atheist and denounce someone else’s beliefs are no more than someone who does not like religion or religious people, not that they do not believe in God.
A truly Religious person is one who, with an open mind, accepts that this world is full of different people with different beliefs. The Key word is ‘accepts’.
Those who claim to be religious and denounce someone else’s beliefs do not understand what it is to be religious.
A true Atheist and a truly Religious person can discuss their differences and accept each other for the person they are.
Those who claim to be Atheist or Religious and are not; are those that will demand their beliefs are right and everyone else is wrong.
It is not the belief in God that makes us Christian; it is our respect for life.
I agree with this very much. I have a lot of respect for the many belief systems, so long as they don't try to infringe the rights or hurt others in the name of those beliefs. Excellent points
I agree, also! I think virtually all religions claim to respect life (how could they not?). Individuals who don't, those who would force their thoughts upon another, are by definition wrong by all measurement methods. Excellent points both of you.
Probably the religious who want to claim that atheism itself is a religion or a system of belief.
Atheism's total "text" is 3 words "No gods exist".
After that, every atheist has their own beliefs about every subject and the only way to know what any one atheist's point of view on a given subject is to ask that person.
I've noticed this too, that the more dogmatically religious a person is, the more they will insist that atheism is also a dogmatic religion/belief.
...and... Projecting false beliefs on others--or judging others as wrong--is a trait of most Christians I've met. They judge they're right because they're the majority in the US. So, explain the millions MORE globally who AREN'T Christian? All wrong?
Christianity actually makes up approx 33% of world's population not just US -all denominations. however, got this from wikipedia-so that amount might not be accurate
LoisRyn13903, you are correct: about 32-33% of the world's population is Christian. That means that the majority of people globally are non-Christian. Since Wikipedia is edited by people around the globe, it is probably fairly accurate. :-)
No matter what your belief is you are in a minority when it comes to the rest of the world.
However, of all the religions Christianity has the most people. Where the Muslims are about 23% Not really a minority About 15% of world's pop are non-believers (don't believe in any God)
The popularity of any religion or belief is irrelevant unless those believers can show that they have somehow fared better than those who believe in something else, or nothing. This hasn't been the case for any deity or group.
It is personal. And i can't and refuse to compare myself to others whether they believe or not.
The biggest lie I've seen spread, is that they are superior to people of faith simply because atheists are more intelligent, tolerant, and accepting of other beliefs than all of those "others" are. Atheists may very well be superior morally, mentally, and in a host of other ways to "others" - but not because they are more tolerant and accepting. In fact, most of my atheist friends have a very difficult time accepting the reality and continuing presence of Christianity *in particular,* as a belief system in our world. They will only accept it if Christians will keep quiet and never share their honest thoughts on things. This makes genuine dialog and true sharing impossible, because while it's true that Christians will *also* often be quite patronizing, superior, or inauthentic- they still frequently get shut down with "you are an intolerant bigot," "you are playing the victim card," or some other similar ad hominem, designed primarily to silence the other's point of view.
If atheists want to maintain truly open minds, and not make themselves look foolish, they must remain open to dialog and *honest* sharing with Christians, allowing Christians, and others, to have a true voice in debates, and not expecting perfect behavior of Christians. Without shouting them down with insults or personal attacks on character. If Atheists cannot, or will not do this, than they only contradict themselves, all while insisting that is not, in fact, what is happening- something only people who are intellectually dishonest and disinterested in dialog, will be able to accept and affirm. Then it becomes like two children having a rather vicious argument- instead of rational adults having a discussion. Or there is simply, resentful silence. I hope that doesn't happen here- it's an interesting discussion, so far!
I see your point, but I also know that society is much more tolerant of Christians that it is Atheists. We've never had an atheist president for example, but people admire presidents that talk about religious beliefs.
I think if Jesus were around these days he'd be saying the same thing he was to the Jews 2000 years ago: 'y'all just be nice to one another, for goodness sake!' We all have the same brain capacity, though some are smarter than others: we CAN coexist.
Some people, probably Christians, may admire a president for making those remarks, and that is because our civilization was founded, generally speaking, on the Judeo-Christian concept, and many of those values and beliefs are, more-or-less, retained.
Ignorance is the biggest myth I hear of atheists and agnostics. That we are ignorant merely because we do not believe as the person accussing us of ignorance does. Often we as agnostics and atheists know a lot, if not more of the religion in question than the person accusing us. Why? Because we have the freedom to learn about religion/s as we wish - all of them if we wish. Often in reaching our conclusion, we have looked and learned a lot about religion/s.
Lack of Morals is the next one - yet it is not the atheist or agnostic threatening unwitting people with Hell merely because they do not believe as we do. We couldn't care less what people believe as long as people don't force it down our throats.
I agree with your last statement wholeheartedly. While I am a Christian, I disagree with all of the lies and misconceptions spread on both sides. I think what happens is that people have a bad experience with someone and they classify all individuals with similar lifestyles or beliefs in that category. In reality, what you see when you look around is actually something different than what you hear.
If you look around, you will find that churches are struggling with a lot of selfishness lately. Many churches can't make the mortgage or rent, don't have money to give to missions, and don't help their own members when there are needs. NOT ALL - but many. Just as many agnostics and atheists currently are living lives that are actually more moral than those within the walls of the church. As you noted, if we start understanding one another we would find that we have so much to learn from each other.
So to answer the question specifically asked rather than the general idea, I feel the biggest lie is that people who do not believe in God or believe they will believe it when they see it are not as moral as those who do. The reason I believe I believe this is that many people who claim to believe, know, and/or love God use that as an excuse to abuse the relationship and claim forgiveness. Instead of spreading lies, I feel we should all talk and enjoy great discussions instead of trying to figure out who is most moral, smartest, or going to live longer. In the end, no one truly knows until we die, right?
Thank you, I completely agree and I know there are reasonable people all around and that we can all get along and mutually respect one another. I definitely agree about great discussions over argument
I agree with this answer in so many ways! Thank you!
Perhaps most Christians think that atheists were never Christians, and if they were, they weren't good ones. I'd like to dispell that notion.
I get the feeling that most of my newer friends who don't know me from the past, assume that my skepticism and my own label as a Secular Humanist comes from a life-long orientation in that direction. It doesn't. It has been a spiritual journey, if you will.
My friends seem a bit shocked when I recite the Beatitudes or mention that the 23rd Psalm is one of my favorite passages. They look at me with wide eyes when I tell how I sang, "Church in the Wildwood," or "What a Friend We Have in Jesus," to my dying cousin. (I know all the words to countless hymns and love them). When my culturally Catholic background inadvertently comes up in running conversation, and I say things like "corporal works" of mercy or the "seven deadly sins", their eyes get wide. I can recite the "Apostle's Creed" in Latin and even the altar boys' Latin responses to the priest during Mass. I understand the concept of Transubstantiation and can name all the Sacraments. I know a mortal sin from a venial sin. I seriously considered joining the convent as a teenager and ended up marrying a young man who had once been in the minor seminary. I find myself throwing all of these things into a conversation with Christians because of the feeling of disapproval that I sense when I don't accept their offer to attend their Church or go to their Bible study.
But in case people think it was Catholicism that made me a skeptic, it wasn't. I've been in all different kinds of Churches and have been exposed to all different types of religion through many friendships. I don't take my present journey frivolously. I feel it's based on a great deal of religious education and study. If people have the misconception that we haven't studied long enough or hard enough, I'd like to dispel it here because it's a wrong assumption. I try to be respectful of others' journey and understand their fervor. We're all on this road together and each of us yearns for and deserves understanding.
Wow, we have a lot in common. I grew up in the Catholic church/schools as well and have also studied different religions. I actually find the spiritual lessons of many quite beautiful, it's the literalism and dogma that turned me away.
Wow, what a cool journey you've had so far! I love your summary, "I try to be respectful of others' journey and understand their fervor. We're all on this road together and each of us yearns for and deserves understanding." Kudos and peace to you!
I turned 2 from the Catholic Church because of all the bullying I went through from other students and the nuns. I just found that there is a loving God. I just took a different direction
This may not be the biggest, but it's one of my favorites, only because it's so demeaning that it's funny.
I was raised Christian, and still am, and I have to say that I think that everyone else can believe whatever it is that they want to believe. I won't force mine on you if you don't force yours on me. But I digress.
I had a friend in high school who identified as agnostic. Well, one day she as well as several other friends (all Christian) were over, and we popped in a VeggieTales movie because we had nothing better to do. The movies are designed for children, of course, but who doesn't enjoy them from time to time, right?
Anyway, in the movie, there was a "felt board" scene telling the story of Saint Patrick. Now, St. Patrick was sold into slavery and worked, apparently, for pagans in Ireland. And I guess paganism isn't the same as atheism or agnosticism, but the way they portrayed these non-believers was almost repulsive.
They made these people seem like idiots, to be honest. "Instead of praying to God, they would pray to things like... twigs!" "Oh mighty twig! You are all powerful and... twiggy..."
So I guess what I'm trying to say is that it all starts young. Christians need to get off their high horses and open their minds a little. That's what I've always thought. It's good to understand other belief systems, even if you don't agree with it 100%.
I agree. I have a friend who is an actual Pagan witch and I respect her. She has a tough go of it too because she grew up and lived a lot of her life in an extremely religious area. Ridicule and humiliation were nearly constant. It was pitiful.
I think maybe the only one I have heard was "if he had God in his life he would not have done that" I think it referred to somebody in our are who murdered his family. However, I remember hearing that Adolf Hitler was a religious man. The ones who destroyed the World Trade Center and hit the Pentagon and killed thousands of innocent people were doing it for their god. The list goes on.
Biggest misconceptions about agnostics or atheists: evil, devil worshipers, no principle, no moral, no knowledge of dogma, no honesty, no goodness, no spirituality, etc...
People often assume that people are bad because they are ignorant of religious knowledge and obligations, they assume that any other religion and spirituality is bad as they have been taught!
Sadly, the most evil people I have met in my life, and I mean really evil, were religious. They had all the appearance, the outer coat of righteousness and tortured, used and separated people around them. They used religious beliefs and appearances to deceive people.
Essence prevails on appearance to me, I have judged people because of religion in the past because I was lost and lead by religious people. They are good and great people in and out of religion.
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