Myth: Atheists are Satan worshipers
As people of the Christian faith, worship is part of what we do. A fair portion of our faith is dedicated to determining if we’re spending enough time worshiping God or if God is the true object of our worship. No matter the particular tradition, worship is inherent in it.
So when we meet an atheist, the tendency is to want to figure out who or what it is that they worship. The idea that worship could be missing from their daily experience seems to be unsettling to a number of Christians. And since the opposite of God is Satan, many will say that atheists worship Satan. So much so that this was the number one comment that I got back from atheists when I asked about common misconceptions that Christians have concerning atheism.
I suppose if you believe that the decision not to worship God is automatically a decision to worship Satan, then there is an element of logic in this pronouncement. However, I don’t know if this is really applicable.
Worship implies action. We seem to understand this when it comes to our own belief in God. Most evangelical Christians will agree that simply using the title Christian does not mean that the person is worshiping God, but that instead it needs to be backed up with action.
However, this knowledge of what worship is often goes by the wayside when it comes to atheism. The truth is that if one is an atheist, they don’t believe in the Devil any more than they believe in God. No belief means no worship.
But even if one does not believe in God or Satan, it doesn’t make these kinds of statements less hurtful. I think this can be expressed in a couple of ways.
First, it does not show a willingness to understand what atheism is, at its core. When we start talking about Devil worship, we are choosing not to listen to what the other person is saying about their lack of belief. Any time we choose not to listen, it is an act of disrespect and that is not something that inspires loving feelings.
Perhaps more importantly, even without belief, most atheists are familiar with what Christians are saying when they suggest that someone worships Satan. Just as our worship of God is what is supposed to make us better people, if we say that an atheist worships Satan, we are saying that this perceived action makes them inherently more evil.
If you encounter this kind of language being used about atheists, I would encourage you to ask the other person to examine why they are saying it and help them understand why it could be hurtful to an atheist. And if you are the one who is using it, I would ask you to consider eliminating it from your speech.
That’s this week’s Christian Guide to Atheists.
Next Week: Deconverted atheists were never true believers.
- 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!
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