S%#t I Wish (Some) Atheists Would Stop Doing (And Saying) – (Patheos)


How delightful. A nice softball to start the year off with.

So you’re an atheist.

Great. I’m a Christian.

They do often across like that, don’t they. Wearing the atheism label out-front and with pride. Because “theists do it, so why shouldn’t I?”. Even though those theists will not be moved by this, and most other people (uninvolved on either side) will be annoyed at facing either extreme unexpectedly. 

Don’t get me wrong, one can embrace whatever labels they choose. Just don’t be shocked if you are treated in the same manner as a religious zealot. Because in a way, you kind of are.

Atheism is not a religion!

Yeah . . . fuck off. 

Here’s the thing: I don’t have an issue with you. Some of my best friends are atheists, and over the course of the last few years, I’ve been purposeful about building bridges with the atheist community– because you know what? There’s a lot we actually have in common when you move past the question of the existence of a divine being. 


I also like to live life beyond such labels. A good lesson for zealots on both sides. 

Now, I get it. My tribe makes bridge building hard because we’ve got a pretty decent sample size of obnoxious people. Trust me, they bug the daylights out of me too. In fact, I make my living by writing about all the things they’re wrong about (which means I never have a slow day).


Those on the atheist side are often even worse than yours since being on the side of reason and logic often results in a mind incapable of taking ANY criticism (legit or silly) without assuming condescending talking points (like any good ideologue). 

They point to theists as being devoid of logic, reason, rationality, nuance, and every other intellectual buzzword. But many of them could use a look in the mirror. 

As if that will ever happen. 

But here’s the deal: While I’ve focused near-exclusively on trying to clean house on my side of the fence, I have to be honest– your team has rabid fundamentalists, too. And those folks? Well, they make it hard even for a liberal Christian like myself to find common ground to work from.

So for any of my atheist friends out there who’d like to do what I do– change your own culture from the inside out, here’s a few things I wish you’d get your folks to stop saying (or doing). 

Believe me, I know. Trying to bring order and unity to my own house (the secular collective of stances) has proved more difficult (and fruitless!) then all of the digital atheist VS Theist debates I have ever seen, or been a part of. 

But yet, I have not given up entirely yet. Because its not just important to me, its important to ALL OF US. 

Please stop saying or insinuating that we’re a bunch of uneducated or unenlightened idiots. 

I’m not arrogant, but I have a hard time engaging in dialogue with an atheist who begins the conversation by stating or acting like we’re uneducated, unenlightened idiots simply because we believe in God, in some form or another. Do we have idiots in my camp? Sure thing– but it’s not a belief in God that makes them that way, just like it’s not a lack of belief in God that makes some of your folks ignorant or obnoxious.

Let me give an example: when you paint us all with this broad brush and assume negative qualities about us simply because we are theists of some sort, it feels the way I imagine you feel when you hear a theist explain that you have no morals because you’re an atheist and thus have no foundation for morality.

It’s just dumb to make such sweeping assumptions about an individual human being based upon where they stand on the God vs. no God question. You don’t like it when we do it to you, and it is equally as off-putting when your peeps do it to us.

Don’t be to off put. Many atheists act in this condescending way, even towards other secularists. Hell, even intellectual superiors. 

Its what happens when you’re sure that  you’re on the side of reason. Everyone else is below you. 

I should know. I am on the side of reason. You all are below me. 

Please stop insisting that we read our Bible like right-wing fundamentalists.

I get it– there’s some weird stories in the Bible. Plenty of verses to make fun of. But I just want to bang my head into the table when I see some of my atheist friends quote some of these Bible passages as if the only way to read them is the way a fundamentalist would read them. It is amazing to me the way both conservative fundamentalists and many atheists insist on reading and interpreting the Bible with the same rigid literalism that takes into account almost nothing regarding literary genre, authorial intent, context, original languages, etc.

If you want to bring up issues with the Bible, have at it– but at least read a bit of scholarship on a passage before quoting it as if you understand exactly what it meant, what it means, and how a good Christian should apply it. That’s the type of unenlightened, ignorant nonsense that fundamentalists do with the Bible, and I know you’d hate to be associated with them. 

Its annoying to me when an atheist uses a bible quote to back an argument, period. Its one thing if you are illustrating hypocrisy. But as a method of debate . . . come on. 

You are an atheist. You have figured out that scriptures is about as accurate a depiction of reality as a roll of toilet paper. Thus, pick a new tactic! 

Having never read the bible beyond the pillars of salt story (my grandmother gave me a picture bible when I was a kid), a few years ago I started reading again, figuring it important to know what I was debunking. 

Then I realized, no. Why waste mental space on information that I know is useless. The books are essentially old time fairy tales that are still given credence. End of story.

Please stop referring to our belief system(s) as fairy tales.

I’m not sure the best way to break this down, but here’s my beef: following the religious/ethical views written by Moses (Torah), or the teachings of Jesus (love your neighbor, love your enemies), is not the same thing as going to Disneyland and believing that Mickey is actually a real-life talking mouse. It’s not the same thing as believing that there actually was an old woman who lived in a shoe who had so many children that she didn’t know what to do.

Religious/ethical beliefs and fairy tales are not same thing. Every time I hear this “fairy tale” insult my inner Samuel L. Jackson voice kicks in and screams, “It’s not in the same ballpark. It’s not even the same $&#@ game!” (Pulp Fiction reference for you.) 

For the record, the 2ed last sentence in my previous commentary was completely coincidental. As it happens, it betrays my personal feelings on this request. 


Do all the mental gymnastics and hijinks you want to convince yourself that you are different from a Voldemort worshiper. You’re one and the same in my book. 

Also, cult classic or not, not a big fan of Pulp Fiction. And not just because Scientology apologist John Travolta is a big star in it either. 

Maybe lay off the whole, “religion hasn’t done any good for humanity” type of argument, because it’s obnoxiously untrue.

I get it, we religious people have done a lot of douchey things in the course of history, but that’s not all we’ve done– and to make a broad and obnoxious statement as if we have never contributed to the good of society as a result of our religious beliefs is just ignorant nonsense. In fact, in many eras it’s been religious people leading the way.

Put a list of names of charitable organizations into a hat and pull one out– there’s a pretty good chance that organization is actually a religious one, because religious people are among the most financially charitable from all categories. Modern hospitals? Those were largely Christian endeavors. Orphan care? That’s largely a Christian-led movement. Relief work in countries affected by famine and natural disasters? Throw a dart and you’ll land on a religious organization leading the way in places others don’t go.

I’m not even going to list all the good that’s done in the name of religion, because you have google and a brain. But suffice to say, the idea that religion makes or has made no positive impact on society is ignorant and lazy thinking. 

The religious do tend to be responsible for a lot of good in the world. Though the author is quick to tie this altruism to religious values, I tend to credit simple human decency above all else. Because no matter the ideology, human traits ALWAYS come first. Hence you can have good and well valued Christians, and immoral Christians. 

And on the topic of Christian charity (or any faith based charity really), how many just exist as tools of indoctrination? 

“You can have this bread, but let us first read from Leviticus” type of thing. 

 So, back to the beginning: you’re an atheist and I’m a theist. That doesn’t mean we have to be natural born enemies. In fact, I would argue that both sides have reasonable arguments for why they believe what they believe.

When we move past that, there’s a world of commonality just waiting to be discovered– because a human being is infinitely more than what they believe or don’t believe about God. People are complex and cannot be reduced to assumptions or stereotypes without completely dehumanizing them.

But to discover that– to get to that place where we can see the humanity in one another, and begin finding areas of common ground, we need to stop viewing the other as if they represent the worst their tribe has to offer. Both sides have their fundamentalists and antagonists, but they don’t represent the whole of either of us.

Not every Christian is Ken Ham building a modern ark to transport dinosaurs. Not every atheist is Richard Dawkins or the anonymous internet troll who dehumanizes people of religion while acting as if they are morally superior.

I’ll keep working with my tribe to try to reform it from the inside, but these are just a few things I wish we could dial-back within your tribe.

If we work on individually reforming our own cultures, we just might find a different future for all of us. 

I agree that now, more than ever, we need to try and bridge build. It’s a big part of the reason why I quit the religion debate circuit in the first place. Seeing it as a waste of time, when efforts could and should be focused elsewhere. Yes, there are many religiously based problems in society that still must be tackled (some more pressing than others). And (for the Atheists), the whole label of Atheism tends to be quite misunderstood. 

Yet, when compared to a problem like climate change or nuclear proliferation (let alone  someone like Donald Trump having access to these weapons in mere days), those problems for all intents and purposes . . . don’t matter. 

And really, this goes for all the different groups in which we like to split ourselves up. Tribalism breeds self interest. Which worked fairly well in the past. But we’re beyond that point in EVERY way now. I we don’t grow up, it’s the end of the line.

To quote my Rockie mountain residing best friends opinion on the Trump presidency:

“We done son”

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