The Christian Guide to Atheists: Atheists Hate God

The Christian Guide to Atheists

 Myth: Atheists hate God

When Jason came out to me as an atheist, I started reading atheist blogs because I wanted to understand a little more what he was thinking. Something that I noticed as I read through them was that there was a lot of anger from atheists out there. And as Greta Christina outlines in her most recent book, there are a number of things for atheists to be angry about. When you are the least trusted group simply because of your lack of belief, that can lead to some anger issues. There are a number of injustices happening to atheists, from lack of representation in government to discrimination against in schools.

Beyond that, there are some genuine frustrations with religion. Some of these frustrations are related to things that are taught in religious communities including views about sex or morality or the nature of sin. Some have been hurt more directly by religious groups either through abuses in church leadership or through teachings that were more damaging than uplifting.

All of these things can lead Christians to believe that atheists are angry at God, and some will go so far as to say that atheists hate God.

This is another area where the elements of truth can sometimes blur the lines between what is actually true and what is not.

Some atheists would say that if God was strictly as depicted in the Old Testament, they would probably hate that guy. Some say that they have a real anger, and perhaps even hatred of religion. And will say that they hate what they believe God represents (a controlling authoritarian who condemns people to hell).

But none of these are the same as hating God.

There are some Christians who hate what the Easter Bunny represents. They hate that it takes away from the holiness of Easter. They hate that it contributes to the commercialization of a sacred season. They hate that it is a hold over from pagan traditions.

But because they don’t believe in the Easter Bunny, they don’t hate it specifically. It’s not real, so it’s not something that they can hate. Instead, it is a symbol of things that they hate.

The same holds for atheists. They don’t hate God because they don’t believe that God exists. When we as Christians make the mistake of saying that they hate God, we are ignoring the nuance of the discussion. We are ascribing belief where none exists.

And perhaps more damaging, we are ignoring some of the places where we might be contributing to the frustration and anger that some atheists are experiencing. If we do go by the title of Christians, we must acknowledge that we are the example of God to those that we meet – including atheists. And maybe, just maybe the problems lies not with God, but with us.

If we want to see fewer angry atheists, perhaps we need to give them less to be angry about.

Next Week: Atheists think Christians are stupid


Alise’s Disclaimer:

  • I’m one Christian and my pool of atheist friends is not vast. If you want to know about what an atheist believes, ask them. Daniel at The Barking Atheist will be co-blogging with me for this series and he is as committed as I am to having a good conversation between Christians and atheists. Stop by his place for additional thoughts on each of these topics!

Guidelines for Commenting:

  • Assume the best of the other commenters. Someone might say something that isn’t worded well. Rather than assuming that they meant it to be hurtful, please assume that they just didn’t know better.
  • Questions are good. If you see something that doesn’t seem right, ask for clarification. As much as I say this is a guide, what I really want to do is to open up a discussion.
  • No proselytizing. We’re here to talk. Not to make people think the same way that we think.
  • Full comment policy available here.
  • Gordon Duffy

    The first thing I was angry about was that I’d been lied to my whole life. But that anger was a tiny thing against the sense of joy and relief that realising there was no god brought me.

  • Agrajag

    The God described in the new testament isn’t much more appealing to me, since he, in my understanding, still promises eternal torture for those people who live decent, moral and compassionate lifes — as long as they don’t do exactly as he demands. To make it worse, his demand is one that can’t be fulfilled by many. If he demanded that I did (or refrained from doing) something or other, I could, in principle, do that. But his demand is that I believe a specific story — despite the fact that he’s choosen to offer me no credible evidence whatsoever that there’s anything true in that story. I’m sorry, but I’m not able to *decide* what I believe, so I couldn’t do that, even if I wanted to.

    In short, if the God described in either part of the bible existed, I would consider him an evil dictator, not because of ill will from my side, but because that’s what he’s described as. If I as a parent promised to torture my children unless they believe I can levitate — while simultaneously not offering them *any* credible evidence that I can indeed do that, I think most christians would agree that that’d be an evil thing to do for a parent. Why does God get a free pass on the same thing ?

    That said, you’re right: It’s meaningless to say that I “hate” a character that doesn’t exist. I -do- hate it when evils are comitted in the name of religion, but that’s not the same thing as hating God.

    • Mike Wise

      One has to be careful here, there is some extreme imagery used in both the old and new testament that if taken literally can cause a lot of anguish. As a Christian I think it is important to take the warnings in the bible, especially the New Testament seriously but one has to be careful as to how much is read of it in a literal fashion. The biggest warning is going your own way, thinking that one doesn’t need God or doing things that are contrary to the will of God is dangerous and one will watch their life consumed in a metaphorical fire, it happened to the Jewish nation in AD 70 and it stands to happen to those who are unrepentant. As to what that actually looks like? how it translates into eternity and to the duration of it? I don’t know and no one else does either. The good news should always be the focus Jesus came to set the world free and that includes the people in it.

      • Agrajag

        The finer details of what exactly hell is, are irrelevant for my point. My point is that the God described in the new testament is a God that punishes and/or threathens people that bad things will happen to them if they do not obey his demands — and his demands is that you *believe* something specific, in the absence of any credible evidence.

        It’s not morally acceptable for me to claim that bad things will happen to you, or that I’ll punish you unless you believe that I can levitate, yet not provide you with any credible evidence that my claim is true.

        “Do as I say or else …” is not a good way of parenting, and it’s an evil thing for a God to say. The specifics of the threats following “or else” aren’t really important.

        All actual evidence show me that nonreligious folks are significantly more free, this follows with certanity from the fact that a nonreligious person is free to (if he so choose!) do everything that a religious person does, while the converse is typically NOT true.

        • Mike Wise

          If we were friends and you were an alcoholic and I didn’t warn you about the damage you would cause to yourself and your family then I couldn’t rightly call myself your friend. That’s how it is with the idea of hell. It’s not a question of God saying “Do this or else” like he was some sort of totalitarian dictator, it’s more along the lines of God warning “If you continue on this road, these things will happen.” When someones values are so distorted that they live only for themselves and they make idols out of even the good things that this life has to offer the grief of those things passing away(good job, spouse, homes, money, even their own life) will consume them. There have been grave errors by much off the church in explaining the gospel and the warnings depicted in the bible and I apologize for those. I don’t know what hell is but I do know intimately what a life without Jesus is and I know how eventually that turns out, Not even figuring into the next life, I know how it turns out in this one cause I lived it.

          • Monika Jankun-Kelly

            You know how atheism turned out for you. That’s your self-described experience, and I won’t argue with it, you know yourself best. However, please don’t presume to speak for me. I experience empathy and altruism and sacrificial love, I don’t live just for myself. I feel grief when I experience loss, but I heal and move on and love and live, I’m not consumed by it. You have not lived what I’ve lived. You may have had a lack of religion, but that does not make you the same as someone with a humanist philosophy.

            Agrajag’s point about belief and hell stands. Christian doctrine says Agra and I will be condemned and punished for not believing in something without evidence. Please note John 3:18 says “condemned” not “lovingly warned”.

            John 3:18 18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

            And what is it we don’t believe in? Love, justice, mercy? No, we embrace all those values, we just don’t think they’re a being with will and cosmic powers, called Jesus, only begotten son of God. John 3:18 doesn’t warn about what will happen if we’re unloving, unjust, unmerciful, it condemns us for being empiricists.

            The comparison of atheism to alcoholism is deeply flawed (and insulting). Atheism does not cause distorted values, materialism, obsession with death, or whatever other ills you had in mind. If it did, why don’t all atheists suffer from those troubles? Why do many religious people suffer from those troubles? You are right to warn people away from materialism and such, but please don’t conflate them with atheism, when the world around you clearly shows they’re not the same.

          • MaryLouiseC

            But there is evidence — evidence for God, evidence for Jesus, evidence for the resurrection. There are cosmological, teleological, axiological, ontological, experiential, historical and archaeological arguments/evidence for God.

            There is evidence for the reliability of the Bible, for the existence of Jesus (from extra-Biblical sources, too).

            As a Christian, my trust in God is based on knowledge, not blind faith. It disturbs me when people say there is no evidence. That suggests to me that, either they have never hunted for any because they really aren’t interest in finding any or they have found it, but can’t refute it so they just deny it.

            I recommend sites such as run by ex-atheist J. Warner Wallace. He’s a cold case homicide detective who applied the same methodology he used on his job to the evidence for God and found it overwhelming and impossible to deny. His podcasts are good, too.

          • Agrajag

            Yes, people of all different religions will claim that there is evidence for their particular religion – while agreeing with atheists that there’s zero credible evidence for any of the other religions.

            If I say there’s no credible evidence for Shiva, or Buddha, you’ll likely agree with me. Meanwhile, if I tell a buddhist that I see no credible evidence that Jesus was the son of God, he’ll also likely agree with me.
            You’re an atheist about *every* religion on earth, except one. Likely the one that you happened to be born into and/or a dominant religion in your social setting.

            Odd how the claimed “evidence” for christianity isn’t much considered valid in Iran, and how the claimed “evidence” for islam isn’t much considered valid in USA – no ?

          • tildeb

            As a Christian, my trust in God is based on knowledge, not blind faith.

            This statement assumes a definition of ‘knowledge’ that is shared. A common
            definition is ‘justified true belief’, and this is where the confusion enters. For example, you list the arguments (cosmological, teleological, and ontological) as ‘evidence’ to support the justification of your beliefs. If the justification you seek could be produced independent of faith, then you wouldn’t require faith to be a central tenet of your beliefs! It is this crossing of the Rubicon, so to speak, that confuses faith-based beliefs with knowledge-based beliefs that is a source of conflict between believers and non believers. The two beliefs are not equivalent. If they were, faith-based belief would produce similar products to knowledge-based beliefs. Here, you run into reality head on and have to face the fact that faith-based beliefs produce zero knowledge because it produces no insight into the workings of the reality we share, no applications, therapies, or technologies that are
            equivalently true for everyone, everywhere all the time, no avenues of further inquiry to follow, and so on.

            Faith is not arrived at through ‘knowledge’ but requires an a priori
            commitment. This is why geography – and not what’s demonstrably true independent of the faith-based tenets for justification – is the very best predictor for your religious beliefs.

          • Agrajag

            No, it’s -precisely- a case of God saying “do this, or else” for several reasons. First, he’s God, he’s got the power to do whatever he wants, including preventing the bad thing from happening. But he’s saying he won’t, unless you obey.

            And “there’s been errors in the past but -this- time we’ve got it right” isn’t credible. Reality is that religion has been dragged kicking and screaming along with the rest of society.

            Society gets equal rights, decades later religion is forced to accept the same (because the alternative is to become increasingly irrelevant). Society gets equal rights for gays, decades later religion is forced to accept it (still not quite there, but the process is ongoing). Society evolves and says torture or punishment for believing the wrong thing is unacceptable, and lo and behold, the christian hell evaporates — and all those speaches about fire and brimstone turns out to have been just “misunderstandings”.

            Does it make a difference if a person converts to christianity and accepts Jesus as his saviour in the last week of his life, or does it make zero difference to what happens after his death ?

            If it makes a difference, that’s a clear case of threaths. Completely inacceptible behaviour from anyone, including God.

    • MaryLouiseC

      People misunderstand hell. It’s like this:
      There is no such thing as an innocent, moral, decent person. We’re all born with sin natures. We are selfish. We lie. We are proud. We hurt other people. We exhibit our sin natures each and every day.

      We cannot change our sin natures. God, being holy, can’t have sin in his presence. That’s why he sent Jesus. Jesus died in our place and offers us HIS righteousness (which he has because, being both God AND human, he is sin-free) in exchange for our sins. Our dead spirits are brought alive, our sins are forgiven and we have right-standing with God.

      If a person rejects the righteousness Jesus offers to him or her, then that person retains his sin nature and remains estranged from God. The person who says he doesn’t need or want God in his life will have his choice confirmed in the next life — he will live it apart from God. In other words, God doesn’t send anybody to hell. People choose to go there themselves.

      As I said, everybody is born a sinner. If a murderer stood before a judge and the judge said, “It’s okay that you murdered somebody. I won’t punish you for it”, how would you feel about that? I think you’d say there was no justice in that.

      In essence, when someone insists that a loving God wouldn’t punish people for their sins, that’s what they’re suggesting — that he should just let everybody go scot-free in spite of their sins. But sins have consequences that can’t be eradicated — except through Jesus Christ.

      And, as I said, God has offered everyone a way out, so that nobody has to go to hell. Again, it boils down to the individual and the choices he or she makes. So I don’t think anybody can be angry at God if they don’t like hell when they get there when he is only giving people what they want — life apart from him.

      • Agrajag

        You forget that atheists don’t generally believe there is such a thing as “sin”. Sure there are good and bad actions, but those exist on a continum. If you merely mean that we’re imperfect, then I agree, but imperfection is something else. For example, a person who does 5 good things, and one bad thing of equal magnitude, is overall contributing more to what’s good in the world than to what’s bad. The world would be a better place with more people like her (or him).

        The fact remains that christianity has a *long* story of telling people that horrors will befell them unless they toe the line and do as they’re told. That’s attempted coercion, and not ethically defendable. This continues to this very day. Look at all the christians telling gays that they need to live in celibacy and refuse love itself, if they want to “be saved”.

      • A guy

        “If a murderer stood before a judge and the judge said, “It’s okay that you murdered somebody. I won’t punish you for it”, how would you feel about that? I think you’d say there was no justice in that.”

        “Jesus died in our place… in exchange for our sins. ”

        Where’s the justice in that? No good judge would allow an innocent to take the death penalty in place of a murderer.

        This judge metaphor also contradicts the claim in the paragraph before it: “God doesn’t send anybody to hell. People choose to go there themselves.”

        I prefer the argument that sins have consequences in this world–I have herpes from having casual sex, for example–and that Jesus is suggesting a way of life which can lead to happiness. From that perspective, I could take a Christian seriously. In that case, Jesus is a self-help guru. When people start talking about magically turning water into wine or claiming to know what happens after death, I just think to myself, “where’s the evidence?”

  • Cam

    “If we want to see fewer angry atheists, perhaps we need to give them less to be angry about.”

    Nailed it. I can’t be mad at something I don’t believe in or that I’ve seen no tangible evidence of, but I can be absolutely infuriated at some of the representation and justification.

    I used to be one of those angry atheists, I still can be sometimes, especially when those I love are oppressed, harmed, or threatened in the name of God. I have moved passed being threatened with hellfire and damnation for my lack of belief, but I when those I love are hurt by supposed representatives of God…well…let’s just say the temper matches the red hair.

    It wasn’t until I started talking to friends online who were Christian, friends like you, Joy, Preston, and many others, that I realized not all Christians were jerks. So thank you for that. :)

    • Agrajag

      Indeed. Many christians (and muslims, and other faiths) are reasonable, compassionate and caring people, and the best friends anyone could hope for.

      For me, the line I have a real problem accepting, is the line where someone claims that because of *their* religion they have the right to impose restrictions on *others*. Unfortunately many religious people make such claims.

      Because *I* am a christian, *you* should not be allowed to have an abortion.

      Because *I* am a christian *you* should not be allowed to marry the person you love if she is the wrong gender.

      Because *I* am a muslim *you* should not be allowed to make cartoons depicting Muhammed.

      This is unacceptable !

      It’s fine for people to believe what they want, aslong as what they *do* and *say* stay within the limits of law and reasonable ethics. It’s *not* fine for them to insist that their beliefs form a sufficient basis for restricting *others* from living the life they want.

      • MaryLouiseC

        Here’s the thing: You say that I, as a Christian, have no right to tell you what’s right or wrong or how to live. Yet you, as a non-Christian, are telling me what you believe is right and wrong and how to live. What makes it okay for you to do that, but not for me? Do you see what I’m saying? You have a double-standard.

        You say it’s okay to do and say what we want within the law and reasonable ethics. But how are we defining reasonable ethics? I think killing a child in the womb is unreasonable ethically. Why should someone who thinks it isn’t unethical be the one who defines what is right and wrong?

        Secondly, where do these “reasonable ethics” come from? From the government voted in by the majority? Okay, then what about Nazi Germany? If the majority votes in a Hitler, is that okay?

        My point is this: If there is no source of morality outside of the human being, then we are left with relativism — where whatever the majority chooses is right — even if it’s a Hitler who kills blacks, Jews, the disabled and babies who are born prematurely or with dark hair, etc.

        In other words, without a source of morality outside of humankind, then, as Dostoevsky put it, everything is permissible.

        Bottom line: What gives you the right to dictate what is right and wrong to me or to anyone else, especially when you say such dictating is wrong. That’s hypocrisy!

        • Agrajag

          On most points, I don’t. And that’s precisely my point. If you want to refrain from drawing Muhammed, then this is your right. If you want to pray five times a day, I support your right to do so. If you want to cover your hair in public, this is perfectly OK with me. If you want to banish contraception from your home, go right ahead ! If you refuse to wear mixed fibres – more power to you ! In short, you’re free to do anything you want, aslong as your actions do not unduly impact others negatively.

          None of the examples I give above have substantial negative impact on others. But the same could be said about the reverse. If I show my hair in public, I claim that this choice is not a huge burden on anyone else. If I use condoms while having sex, this choice also does not substantially impact others.

          You’re right that it’s a dilemma how to set the limits for acceptable behaviour. In a democracy we do so by discussing it with eachother, and building a shared framework based on the things we agree on. Sometimes that’s hard. Nobody ever claimed life was simple.

          My point was merely that “because this holy book says so” is not at all a valid *argument* in favor of restricting the actions of others.

  • Michael Mock

    One other point when it comes to anger – anger can sometimes be a shield for grief. For some people, losing their faith is a genuine loss. It leaves them feeling cut off and adrift, scared and hurt. And some – not all, and not with everyone, but some – of the anger displayed by atheists (particularly the newly-deconverted) is nothing more or less than a reaction to that.

    The best parallel I can think of is that losing your faith is like breaking up with someone. Sometimes, for some people, it just isn’t that big a deal; that’s how it was was for me. But for people who were really invested in their faith, having it come apart on them is like going through a really bad breakup.

    • Alise Wright

      I definitely agree with this. I think when you’re not allowed to grieve the loss of faith, that can lead to a prolonged period of anger. Jason & I were talking about that last night with the “never really a Christian” thing. When we say that, it doesn’t allow space for grief and that can leave people in this angry stage for a lot longer.

  • HopefulLeigh

    That’s a great distinction, Alise.

  • Jim Henderson

    Many of Alises points will be addressed in our next book “Saving Casper” changing the conversion conversation

  • Shannon M. Howell

    Okay, I’m not Christian, and I’m not an atheist. But… I was raised Catholic and that didn’t last very long. I had declared myself an atheist (publicly, no less) by 7th grade, although I was one long before that. My reasons for no longer being an atheist aside, I think I have something to contribute to this (highly interesting) dialogue.

    1.) I did not “hate” G-d. I thought the whole idea was silly.
    2.) I did find it frustrating that text books (social studies) say things like, “… and atheists are people who deny the existence…” (by using “deny” the authors imply that there is, for certain, at least one Higher Authority, and it makes anyone who doesn’t believe sound like a kid denying they took the last cookie when they’ve got crumbs on their hands and face)
    3.) I found it supremely annoying when people would say the following things: “I’m just concerned for your SOUL” (thanks, but please worry about your own first and let me take care of mine) and, “You should believe in G-d because if there isn’t it’s no loss but if there is and you don’t, well, then you’ll be in trouble.” I found the later insulting… to believers! I mean, if this is the same ALL-KNOWING power, then I’m just going with He’d know it wasn’t really belief. CYA is not the same as belief, and that confusion was irritating. But, it offended me on behalf of the devoutly religious… it cheapens what they believe in.

    I actually found discussing religion fun, until people tried to convert me, and that was what made me irritable. I mean, a few really annoying folks aside, most people wouldn’t pester a Muslim or Jew who they became acquainted with to go to church, but it was totally “okay” to pester an atheist.

    I may be atypical. As I said, I’m no longer an atheist, but I do remember what it was like, and all those people trying to push me just made me think they were silly and brainwashed (in some cases at least). They didn’t see their own lack of perfection in living according to their own religions, but thought they needed to put their nose into mine… with the supreme arrogance of “being right.” Now, of course people only believe things they think are right (nobody’s going, “I believe in the Superman even though I know for a fact it was just a movie.), but it’s more annoying with religion than, say, one’s choice of fat content in milk, because religion is a very fundamental belief.

    But, don’t get me started on why whole milk is so much better than skim… :)

    • MLE_J

      ‘Proselytize’ had become a dirty word. Nobody wants to be talked-down to, or have someone try to ‘convince’ them that they’re wrong – you’re right, that’s an arrogant attitude.

      Not all Christians come from that place though, even if they want a person to convert. It’s not all a battle of wits or intellect. Suppose for a bit that you truly believed that a supreme being created all life and loved you, tried to connect with you personally in a life-altering, meaningful way, that to ignore that being meant existing in the agony of separation. If you truly believed that with all your being, you’d do everything in your power to tell any and everyone you cared about it. The motivation isn’t “I’m-right-you’re-wrong.” The motivation is care for the well-being of another person.

      Sometimes the combination of conviction and clumsiness looks like and act of arrogance. Being a Christian doesn’t guarantee eloquence or intelligence, though there certainly are eloquent and intelligent Christians. Listening to a person full of conviction that you don’t share can be irritating. That doesn’t mean they’re always being arrogant.

      • Shannon M. Howell


        Please don’t get me wrong here, I never had a problem with THOSE folks! Those were the ones I found interesting! Actually, one of my college friends was actually a grad student who had attended or was also attending seminary (we took Latin together, of all things). We got into some really heated and interesting discussions, but if he was trying to “convert” me, it was by appealing to me and how I think, not hitting my nose with a rolled-up newspaper (although, I honestly don’t think he was trying to).

        I have friends who are full of conviction on lots of different things, that I don’t share (or even feel strongly about in the opposite direction). Sure, it can be irritating sometimes, but I don’t *think* I ever confuse it with arrogance.

        However, the one piece of difficulty I have with what you wrote is the “tell anyone and everyone you cared about.” I agree, but I spoke of acquaintances, not say, my neighbor of ten years. If you’ve only known somebody for a week, it’s probably not the time to go telling them how their religious views are wrong. I’m thinking of an actual incident where there was a new student on campus who tried to save me her 2nd week (after I turned down the 5th or so invite to her church group). You know, the person I’d had maybe 10 minutes of conversation with – not loved ones! :)

        I hope that clears things up.

  • Pingback: The Christian Guide to Atheists: Atheists Hate God | The Barking Atheist

  • Mike Wise

    The problem is, very few times have I met an Atheist who didn’t at least at one point have a belief in God. Something happens, their faith is shaken and shattered and they are left feeling pretty angry and their anger turns into an almost certainty about the non existence of God. No one can know that for sure so declarative statements whether in the positive or negative about the existence of God are statements of faith, a point that Atheists will vehemently deny. The point is I see very few people who simply don’t believe from a logical or philosophical point of view, from what I’ve seen(and I used to be a die hard, militant Agnostic) there are painful reasons behind their disbelief which are usually hid behind a shroud of science which is fast becoming it’s own religion with it’s own dogma.

    • Agrajag

      Sure atheists are angry ! It’s reasonable to be angry about being lied to for years. It’s reasonable to be angry about having had restrictions imposed on you for no good reason. It’s reasonable to be angry if you yourself, or someone you care about have suffered under the crushing weight of religion.

      When my dear friend Savita, had to return the guitar she bought with her own money, to play Eric Clapton songs in her own room, because her parents insisted that’d not be a fitting past-time for a girl, I cried with her, and I was angry.

      But I wasn’t angry at Allah. I was angry at her parents, at her society (Iran), and at those parts of her culture that forbid her even basic freedoms — and those parts are intimately intwined with religion.

      I’m not angry at God. I’m angry when people do or say bad things, in the name of religion.

      • Mike Wise

        You are convinced that people are being lied to when they are raised in a religion. That’s an unprovable notion, it’s a belief. You can no more prove to me that they have been lied to than I can prove to you that there really is a God. I am not going to pretend that horrible things, like what happened to your friend and worse, aren’t done in the name of God. They are, all the time and that sucks. That no more proves the nonexistence of God as a church coming together raising money for someone dying of cancer proves his existence. Either side of the coin it’s a matter of faith. Why do I believe? Because this world, in all it’s brokenness makes absolutely no sense without the redemptive story the gospel presents. I tried for 10 years to live as if the gospel was not true and I suffered for it. To paraphrase Dostoevsky Christ makes so much sense that even if someone were to prove that it wasn’t true I would stay with Jesus against the truth. That’s why I am a Christian.

        • An Thrope

          You wouldn’t say that a child being raised to believe in and worship Lord Khrishna isn’t being lied to, even inadvertently?

        • Agrajag

          Okay. I grant that parents who themselves believe they’re telling the truth to their children, aren’t lying. Since lying is willingly saying things which you know aren’t true.
          But religious parents are frequently making misleading statements, confusing their own personal belief with fact, and presenting what is merely a belief to their kids as if it was fact.

          This isn’t quite lying, but it’s at the very least misleading.

        • Stan Adermann

          Mike, I want to respond to a couple points you raised. First, I would agree that most recently deconverted atheists are angry. The fact is, they are grieving their loss, and anger is well known as one of the stages of grief. It is to be expected. But grieving ends. My deconversion was over thirty years ago and I can assure you the anger ends, and I feel my life is much happier. If I do have anger now, it is when I see people trying to enforce beliefs on me which I have long since rejected, but I have the right to argue with them and stand up for myself when necessary.

          As to whether I can know I was lied to, I believe I can. Christians make claims all the time which are counter to the Bible. Is marriage strictly defined as between a man and a woman? Or is it between a man and his 700 wives and 300 concubines, like Solomon? The Bible itself makes factual errors. Was Jesus born during the reign of Herod, who died in 4 B.C.? Or was it when Quirinius held a census, which was in 6-7 A.D.? It would seem that neither of these are true, but if one is, the other isn’t. These are just examples, certainly not enough to throw away your faith over but they illustrate my point.

          Are these lies, errors, mistakes, or problems of interpretation? What they are will depend on your perspective. For me, what I found amounted to a vast gulf between what Christians said and did, what the Bible said, and what the historical record said. I could say this amounted to a lie, I could say I was misled by people who were themselves misled. What I can’t say in perfect honesty was that I wasn’t given the best version of the truth. I can tell you, faith based on Bible teachings you no longer trust becomes very difficult.

        • MikeTheInfidel

          “You are convinced that people are being lied to when they are raised in a religion. That’s an unprovable notion, it’s a belief.”

          If you teach something as fact when you cannot actually know that it is factual, you are lying.

    • An Thrope

      Mike, I’m going to assume that you disbelieve in thousands of gods, making an exception for one in particular, which happens to be culturally familiar to you. Does your disbelief in, say, Zeus, stem from feeling angry or bitter based on negative experiences you had with the Greek pantheon of deity worship? Probably not.

      If you live in the United States, where there is so much religious zealotry, and also it’s opposite, atheistic zealotry, it can be easy to make assumptions. You tend not to see “angry atheists” in Europe, for example, because you also don’t see proselytizing religious people either.

      • Mike Wise

        I honestly try not to make assumptions, my comments are based off of the Atheists that I know and have met, I have found among them there is usually a reason, a deeply personal reason as to why they left from the faith and it usually carries with it a sense of anger. Many of them hide behind a philosophical of scientific reasoning behind their lack of faith but when you gently dig deeper there are other reasons and as I said they are much more personal. I think you and I would be in agreement that there are many people here in the west who do a horrible job of following the commission of Jesus and his example and the example set down by the early church. Yes I don’t want their to be any atheist, I want every single person to enjoy the same freedom I have found in Christ but I am not going to beat anyone over the head with it. I wish to establish genuine friendships with people, friendships that will last no matter if they convert or not and help people in any way I can. I want to pray for these people and give honest answers to their questions. That’s how the gospel and the kingdom is furthered but sadly I am only one guy among a relatively small church.

        • An Thrope

          ” Many of them hide behind a philosophical of scientific reasoning behind their lack of faith but when you gently dig deeper there are other reasons and as I said they are much more personal.”

          OK, well, to use my example again, is your lack of faith in Zeus the result of your hiding behind Christianity, or is it something “deeper”? I doubt it. Why would you assume that your atheism toward other gods would be any different that someone else’s atheism toward yours?

          Also, if you want to pray for more atheists to join your religion, I would suggest you pray for objective evidence for the existence of your deity. If that was provided, I would certainly acknowledge it’s existence. Of course, whether I would then respect or worship it would depend on it’s characteristics.

        • Monika Jankun-Kelly

          I’m an atheist who has never been religious. My parents raised me secular. They NEVER said things like “God doesn’t exist”. They simply didn’t teach religion, but did teach reason, compassion, ethics, critical thinking. They never stopped from me learning about religion, or restrict access to info about it. My parents did have very bad experiences with the Catholic church they were raised in. This is probably where you say “Aha! Your parents are angry at God and you, poor thing, never had a chance to learn about God!” I hope you’ll take me at my word that the latter is certainly not the case, and take my parents at their word that the former isn’t either. I’ve had bad experiences with and been angry at doctors, my boss, and the DMV. I still believe in their existence, and I still go to the doctor, do my job, and obey the DMV. I’ve had no bad experience with and no anger at leprechauns, ghosts, and Zeus, but I disbelieve in their existence. That’s not faith or lack of faith, and nothing to do with anger, just empiricism. Someone’s initial reason for leaving the church may well be anger, but empiricism is entirely independent of that.

        • Gordon Duffy

          I didn’t leave religion because I was angry. I just realised I didn’t believe it. Then I was a little angry that I’d been lied to my whole life. But the anger came second.

    • Cam

      I have never believed in God. When I asked my parents about God, they sent me to an encyclopedia. My views are very much based on logic, reason, and philosophy.

      As an adult I tried to explore the “spiritual” side of belief, but in the end I knew that any physical feelings of an omnipotent presence were really just my brain.

  • Monika Jankun-Kelly

    Thanks, Alise, for once again “getting us”. :) Reminds me of something similar. People think I’m afraid of, or angry about, burning forever in hell. Nope. I’m angry at people for thinking I deserve eternal torture for my few and finite transgressions. I’m afraid of what people who think that way will do. Don’t actually believe in hell (nor heaven nor immortal souls). Same issue you discuss.

  • Miles O’Neal

    For years I have heard, “You may be the only Bible some people ever see.” That always kind of bugged me. No too long ago, God put it to me differently. “You are the only Jesus some people will ever see.”
    If anyone is angry at a God they don’t believe in, it’s probably not the God we claim to believe in, but some perverted God we see him as, and whom we portray. So even if they aren’t angry, in too many cases we haven’t even shown them God, because we have a twisted image ourselves. I know did for years (I still don’t claim to have it all right, which is another huge problem in the Church, knowing it all). And I know plenty who still do.
    That aside, another excellent essay. Thanks for doing these. As a whole, we think about such things far too little.

    • Monika Jankun-Kelly

      “If anyone is angry at a God they don’t believe in, it’s probably not the God we claim to believe in, but some perverted God we see him as, and whom we portray.”

      Very well said. If we are angry, it’s at people, and their actions and ideas. Sometimes, those actions and ideas are motivated by someone’s notion of God. Various people see God very differently.

      I have met some very decent, I would say very humane, Christians. By the way they live their lives and interact with others, they have shown love, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, patience, fairness, responsibility, honesty, etc. My disbelief has little to do with them, and little to do with the Christians who behave horribly. It has to do with the complete lack of evidence for deities, souls, the afterlife, miracles, and other supernatural things, and with the the Christian doctrine itself. It’s not the messengers, many of them are fine folks. It’s the inconsistent, supernatural, often inhumane message, and the way some Christians rationalize and justify it. Examples below.

      Canaanite genocide

      God burning babies alive

      God killing Egyptian babies

      Let me try to summarize the Christian message. There is objective right and wrong, good and evil, based on principles like harm and fairness. This doesn’t apply to God. God is always good and right. By what objective standard? The one that doesn’t apply to him? No, God is good because he’s God, and thus good. God saying do this, don’t do that, with or without explanation, always trumps objective human standards of harm and fairness. Therefore, some acts, such as baby or child killing, can be good or bad, depending on who did it or who ordered it.

      * Did God do it? Good.
      Egyptian baby boys, house fires

      * Did God order you to do it? Good.
      Israelites exterminating all Canaanites,
      Abraham being willing to kill Isaac

      * Did God order you to do it,
      but you’re not the winning group?. Bad.
      Lord’s Resistance Army killing children,
      and using child soldiers
      ( Clearly, the LRA weren’t Real Christians,
      just monsters using an imagined deity as excuse,
      brutal tribals in a territorial battle over resources,
      totally unlike those godly Israelites, who were
      Jewish anyway. Totally, completely different. )

      * Did some other deity order you to do it? Bad.
      Canaanites or Incas sacrificing babies and children,
      Taliban terrorists killing children
      ( Whether you do it to make the rains come
      or to intimidate your enemies isn’t important,
      the point is some deity other than the Judeo-
      Christian God ordered it. Allah’s a related deity,
      but doesn’t count. Close, but no cigar, Taliban. )

      * Did you choose to do it on your own? Bad.
      Abusive parents beating a kid to death,
      Loving parents euthanizing a toddler in agony from
      incurable and always fatal Tay-Sachs
      ( Again, motivation unimportant, harm and suffering,
      not important, point is your will is not God’s will. )

      * Did OT God do it but NT Jesus seems against it?
      Good at the time, bad now, if *you* do it.
      Any atrocity God condones but Jesus doesn’t.
      ( Any trepidation you have about good/bad changing
      over time, or a perceived conflict between OT God
      and NT Jesus, who are actually the same being,
      is solely due to your human imperfection, and not
      anything wrong with the Bible, God’s revealed truth.
      God can make sense of it, in his perfect wisdom,
      and you don’t need to always understand or even
      agree, just obey. )

      The Christians who are good people are probably motivated by their religion, are probably trying to reflect godly values, and believe those to be love, justice, etc. And yes, some parts of the Bible teach those values, although the explanation of those values varies between objective/human and arbitrary/”because God said so”. Good Christians believe they’re showing me God/Jesus, but they’re showing me themselves, the best parts of human nature, our potential for good realized, primate neocortex and empathy over reptile brain and selfishness. And they’re also showing me their very selective, very modern-filtered interpretation of the Bible, of God, not the entirety, not the original as intended by all the authors.

      Were someone to show me irrefutable proof of God, I would believe in his existence, empiricist that I am, but then I’d probably collapse in terror and despair, worried that his description in the Bible is accurate.

      • Miles O’Neal

        It’s up to God to give anyone proof. I can’t show you my irrefutable proof. I can tell anyone who wants to hear, what happened, but that’s it. I can pray. I have seen some miracles. People prayed for me and I was healed of diabetes (blood sugar of 1346, anyone)? But is that irrefutable proof for anyone but me? Nope.

        I have a hard time understanding some of that stuff, too. I only know who I’ve met, and that the God I’ve met is clearly Good. I gave up trying to explain some of that stuff. I can’t. Then again, I can’t explain physics (so far neither can anyone else past a certain point where they run into impossibilities, inconguities, and other problems). But I can build a guitar amp and have it do what I expect, so the physics clearly exists.

    • MaryLouiseC

      You’ve brought up a really good point here, Miles. Nobody should dismiss a worldview on the basis of people who abuse it or fail to live up to it. We should all be assessing worldviews on their tenets. When it comes to Christianity, it’s all about Jesus. Therefore, people should be looking at him, his life, what he said, what he did, what he promises, etc., and judge Christianity on the basis of him, not those of us who, while aspiring to be Christ-like, never quite reach that lofty goal — at least, not in this lifetime!

  • dan mcm

    I think there may be different sorts of atheists, sort of like there are different sorts of Christians, and what they (the atheists) “hate” or dislike might vary by the ‘type’ they are.

    In Christian circles, we’ll categorize people as ‘true believers’ versus ‘nominal Christians’ (ie, in name only), right? Well, sometimes I think it might be like that with atheists too. Some atheists believe in the core of their being that there is no God. Others however, might actually still harbor a smidgeon of belief, but they are so disgusted with what they see from the religions around them that they say “this just can’t be, so I’m going to refuse to believe.”

    In the case of the former (absolutely no belief underneath), no they don’t hate God, because they really don’t believe he’s real. They may very well hate things that religious people do and what they stand for, but no, they don’t hate God.

    Now the other type, those that have a feeling that something is out there, but they deny it, I have found this type to be more likely to be angry with God. Typically (based on my small sample pool), these folks have been hurt by religion and are mad at the church, mad at believers, and often mad at God too, for allowing them to be hurt, etc. (Obviously, I can’t tell for sure what another person believes, but sometimes I can pick up enough clues to get a good idea….)

  • An Thrope

    Nice blog Alise. Thank you for bringing some critical thinking and rationality to what can quickly devolve into emotional partisanship. I especially like the fact that you don’t stereotype or have straw-man arguments.

    • Alise Wright

      Thanks so much! I appreciate it!

  • Stan Adermann

    Alise, you have a wonderful way of getting to the heart of the matter, succinctly and inoffensively. I really do love this series.

    • Alise Wright

      Thanks, Stan! I appreciate it!

  • tildeb

    I think there are compelling reasons for people to be justifiably angry – and not just non believers – for the privilege and effect personal religious belief has had, now has, and shall continue to have, the public domain. But because religious privilege and effect in the public domain is driven by the support of those who share an agreeable private religious belief, it is understandable (if unethical) why those who dare to confront and challenge how public privilege and public effect act contrary to the secular values of fairness and equality and dignity of the individual are then vilified. This vilification only adds to the anger. We are vilified not for the quality and accuracy and value of our criticisms, not for the quality of our characters to stand for values of fairness, equality, and dignity of the individual, not for supporting what is right on its own merits, but mostly for the tone employed. The best tone, the one that earns no rebuke, the most acceptable tone, seems to be silence. The only option to being silent far too often is to be labeled as intolerant. Because few believers stand up to religious privilege and fewer still criticize its negative effects, this task falls to those now known as New Atheists. And that’s why we have the reputation for being angry (as well as almost always hyphenated with other negative descriptors like shrill, strident, immoral, nihilist, proselytizing, evangelizing, fundamentalist, and – the standard smear – militant.)

  • MaryLouiseC

    My comment isn’t about atheism, but about the statements about the Easter bunny and Easter being borrowed from paganism. That simply isn’t true. It’s a myth that has been propagated so much that people now believe it. In reality, the word “Easter” comes from the German “Ostarmanoth”, not from any goddess named Eostra.

    Enter Jacob Grimm (as in Grimm Brothers) who speculated that the month was named after the goddess and the rest is history — bad history!

    As for the hare, that has its roots in Christianity. It was used as a symbol for Christ prior to the Reformation. As for the eggs, the Pennsylvania Deutch settlers brought their traditions about them to North America. The egg represented the tomb, and Christ’s resurrection with the giving and breaking of eggs when the fast of Lent was ended on Easter Sunday.
    The secular world took the hare and the eggs and gave them totally different roles that have nothing to do with Christianity.

    Check it out:

  • Pingback: Link Love (2013-05-07) | Becky's Kaleidoscope

  • E_Wild

    Even as a theist, I can see why some people can seem to “hate” a God they don’t believe in — what they really hate are toxic and negative interpretations of what “god” is.

  • The Other Weirdo

    The God of the Old Testament is a vile, genocidal monster who routinely orders the slaughter of entire civilizations and has actually committed a Life Extinction Event. This in addition to routinely killing off his own chosen people in wholesale job lots, as well as murdering a faithful man’s entire extended family and then torturing him, just to win a bet. That said, once you were dead, you stayed dead, mostly.

    The NT, on the other hand, offers us a new horror. Not only can you be abused, tortured and murdered in hideous ways by God’s own followers, but once you are dead, you will then be sent to suffer for eternity in unending agony.

    The God of the NT doesn’t need to order any killings, though Jesus didn’t seem to be too sanguine about that. There is something more horrible in store for you.

    This is why atheists are angry. People who believe this sad fiction( from an age so dark they thought demons caused disease) to be reality want to write our laws for us, to tell us who is and who is not a good person and tell us all that we must pray to these fictional characters, and determine what is good science and medicine and what is not.

  • Chris

    Thank you for this Alise!