Hop on over to YouTube one of these days and do a quick search for “15 things to NEVER say to an atheist.” ?You’ll come across this video aptly titled 15 Things to NEVER Say to an Atheist. The video comes courtesy of The Atheist Voice and features Hemant Mehta of friendlyatheist.com. The premise is really rather simple: what are things Christians shouldn’t say to atheists? Let’s take a look at each one of these fifteen items where I’ll not only quote some of Mr. Mehta’s responses, but offer mine, as well.
#1: Where do you get your morality?
To quote Mr. Mehta:
Don’t assume because we’re atheists that we don’t have morals. We all have morals. We all have ethics. Ours don’t derive from a holy book.
I have to give Hemant credit in this one. Throughout the entire video he plays nice. It’s difficult for me to do so simply because I’m a bit more angry than he is. (Anger is a point that comes up again a bit later.)
Now, there is something else I’d like to point out to those who believe atheists have no way to measure morality: empathy. Empathy – the ability to feel and understand the emotions of other human beings – is a human trait not a Christian trait or Muslim trait or Jewish trait or Hindu trait. Just because someone ceases to be religious doesn’t mean they cease to be human (despite what many religious folks may like to believe). Top me off, Mr. Mehta:
And I would hope that your bible isn’t the only reason you’re not out there killing everybody in sight.
#2: Your life must be so empty!
Nope. I am currently living with the love of my life in a nice little town working a job I enjoy with people I like and we have a cat named Loaf who is awesome. Or as Mr. Mehta puts it:
No. I don’t believe in god, but I believe in many other things and there are a lot of things that give my life meaning.
Those things include friends and family. Atheists often have those and they tend to make your life truly meaningful.
#3: Why are you mad at god?
We’re not mad at god. We can’t be mad at what we don’t believe is there in the first place. Logic, folks.
Because, apparently if I don’t believe in god I must have this deep hatred and I wake up every morning and I curse the sky. Atheists don’t hate god. Atheists don’t believe in god. We also don’t hate unicorns.
I’m going to go ahead and leave it at that.
#4: You can’t disprove god…
Even I’ve heard this one. Mr. Mehta?
I always wanna know why Christians have no problem disbelieving in…Hindu gods, other religions gods and they just dismiss it. They never think about it. It’s not like they’re sitting around thinking ‘maybe Zeus does exist’. No. They’re just like ‘of course Zeus doesn’t exist. It’s silly for anybody to think that’.
There’s a popular saying among atheist communities that goes something like this (I’m paraphrasing):
We are all atheists toward thousands of gods. Some of us just went one god further.
The logic that Christians – or Jews or Muslims or anybody – use to claim that automatic dismissal of their god is unreasonable runs contrary to the logic they use to dismiss the gods of others. It’s a classic religious double standard.
#5: What if you’re wrong?
What if you’re wrong? No one knows what happens after we die. No one. Asserting that you – a human being – are more enlightened than I am simply because of your belief in an idea that is thousands of years old is nothing short of arrogance; and, if I’m not mistaken, the Holy Bible has something to say about arrogance in Proverbs.
If I’m wrong, then basically what you’re assuming is that God is gonna’ punish me for asking honest questions and trying to search (for things) for myself and ending up at the conclusion that he didn’t like.
For the record I’m enjoying this guy quite a bit.
#6: You just have to have faith.
There is nothing I can possibly add to what Mr. Mehta says:
God’s given me this mind to use, but you’re asking me to close it when it comes to religion. No, I don’t have to have faith. I have to understand what I’m thinking.
#7: Just open your heart to god.
No. There’s nothing wrong with my heart. It’s not like I’m actively shielding myself from god. I’m not wearing an aluminum (foil) hat or something on my head.
In other words, our hearts aren’t the problem here. Not to sound antagonistic, but it would seem to me that a closed heart is a problem among religious folks.
#8: You were never really religious to begin with.
Presumptuous, no? It takes a truly confident individual to be able to assert such a matter-of-fact tidbit about somebody they’ve never met. Many atheists were, in fact, at one point very religious. Often Christian. Instead of assuming that atheists have never even truly considered your religion, ask why so many religious folks are abandoning their beliefs.
That’s interesting, because a lot of atheists I know come from religious families. Especially Christian ones. And they’re atheists and people always say ‘well, you must not have really been a Christian to begin with’. It’s like, well what do you want from us? Like, do you want us to speak in tongues?
#9: What happened in your childhood?
Yes, because all atheists stopped believing in god in the first place as a direct result of a childhood trauma. These assumptions often get tedious for atheists to handle, because many of us aren’t egotistical enough to just start judging folks willy-nilly.
…they all assume that we went through some traumatic event that led us to hate god, I guess, and that’s why we’re atheists. No. My childhood was fine and there’s nothing wrong the way I grew up. Nope, it really just was that I thought about my religious beliefs and I realized there was no evidence to back it up; and the more I thought about it, the more convinced I became of that.
#10: Have you read the Bible?
I’m going to go ahead and let Mr. Mehta take this one on his own:
I guarantee you that if you know an atheist – an outspoken atheist – they know more about the Bible than most random Christians that you know. If you gave them a quiz the atheist would do better… We think about this stuff all the time… What atheist books have you read, because if you want to have that discussion, then you might as well see what some atheists are saying.
This goes back to number eight above. Many atheists come from religious backgrounds and so they are educated on religion.
#11: I’ll pray for you.
Thanks. That frees me up to go to Taco Bell.
Religious people often think of this as some kind of compliment. They’re wrong. It’s condescension pure and simple. As Mr. Mehta says:
Thanks? I mean I appreciate that your heart is in the right place, but it’s not going to do anything. You know, if I’m going through a rough time don’t tell me you’ll pray for me. If you really want to make a difference, tell me how you’re actually going to help me.
#12: Do you worship the Devil?
Atheists don’t believe in the Devil just the same way we don’t believe in any god. We find the idea of a brutal, evil supernatural overlord just as unbelievable as a benevolent, all-loving supernatural overlord.
I don’t believe in the Devil. I don’t believe in god. I don’t believe in miracles. I don’t believe in a lot of supernatural things. But Satan is as silly as God is.
#13: You must be agnostic.
Being an agnostic is a lot different from an atheist saying that they don’t completely, one hundred percent, with all of their heart know for a fact that there isn’t any god. Agnosticism – from what I’ve been taught – deals with knowledge whereas theism/atheism deals with belief. By that logic we are all agnostic, because we do not know – no matter our faith or lack thereof – what happens before and after life. That being said, atheists don’t believe any of it. These terms are oil and water.
#14: Isn’t atheism a religion?
I’ve mentioned how I believe atheism has been forcefully turned into a religion by atheists themselves. However, by definition atheism is a departure from and lack of a belief in any religion.
Atheism is a religion like off is a TV channel. Like bald is a hair color. It just doesn’t make any sense.
Well said. Just do your fellow atheists a favor and stop borderline worshiping great men like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens.
#15: Why are you so angry?
Here’s why we’re angry. It’s not because we hate god. It’s not because we have some beef with the higher power. It’s because religious people do a lot of crazy things in the name of god. And I’m not even talking about terrorism or those extremes. I’m just saying whether they’re passing laws in America, whether they pass laws that restrict LGBT rights and women’s rights, whether they make bad science curriculum decisions or passing revisionist history (curriculum). They do things that make me really upset because I value the truth.
Now, before anybody gets too upset let me say this: I realize that not every religious person is judgmental or arrogant or bigoted or hateful. I know that. All atheists know that. This video and this article are not about those good people. And this isn’t designed to call out religion. It’s meant to clear the air.
Atheists are people. Often times we are moral people who care about others deeply including those of faith and statements/questions like these can be rather offensive. So choose your words carefully.
Edited/Published by: SB