Social Question

Dutchess_III's avatar

Why would an atheist, or group of atheists, go to such lengths to try and convince believers that God doesn't exist?

Asked by Dutchess_III (42454points) December 22nd, 2014

What do they care? What is their point? I have a friend on Facebook who constantly posts things that point out how foolish believing is, in his opinion. (my personal favorite was when he posted, “If you believe in the Bible, then you believe the world was populated via incest. Twice.) They’ll ridicule, belittle, try to humiliate believers. Why? Why can’t they just let them be?

I once PM’d my friend asking him why he does that. He said he really didn’t know. Is it some sort of superiority complex?

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64 Answers

Darth_Algar's avatar

Why do you not ask the same question of theists?

hominid's avatar

I’ll assume you’re not just trolling, despite the fact that I know you’ve been involved in more than a handful of threads specifically about this in the past.

Let me remind you that beliefs have consequences in that they inform our actions. If you live in the U.S. and feel that your right to marry or your reproductive freedom is at risk, you might feel that could be reason to actively fight against the irrational beliefs that are a threat to you and your family. If you live in the bible belt and have had to deal with creationism/intelligent design/teach the controversy and the ever-changing attempts to smuggle religion into your kids’ classes, you might see that beliefs have consequences. There are plenty of things that might influence someone to attempt to question theism. It could be as simple as seeing planes fly into the WTC, or simply a commitment to making the world a better place, and seeing roadblocks wherever theistic belief is involved.

There are many paths to anti-theism, and there are just as many tactics for solving the problem. Ridicule may not work everywhere, but it certainly has its place.

One of the more frustrating things I have come across here for years has been the attempt for people to claim that we respect peoples’ beliefs, and that all beliefs are worthy or respect. This is not the case. And not a single person here – despite their claims of “just a belief” – really carries this over into any other question.

I don’t do Facebook, and I’m sure I would find your atheist friend insufferable. But the recent appearance of the head-scratching “why would atheists care what other people believe?” theme is quite strange. Haven’t we already beat this to death? You know why we care.

Dutchess_III's avatar

It’s just something to talk about @hominid.

@Darth_Algar The only thing about theists is some of them truly believe you’ll go to hell for not believing. In that case, they actually have a really good reason to try and convert you. However, I think that most of the time it’s their pastor’s attempt to get more people into his or her congregation, so he or she makes more money..

Darth_Algar's avatar

@Dutchess_III

Likewise one could say that some atheists truly believe that there is no Heaven, no Hell, no God and no Satan. In that case they have a really good reason to try and convert you.

BeenThereSaidThat's avatar

Because they’re hateful?

Dutchess_III's avatar

But what does that accomplish @Darth_Algar? It doesn’t “save” anyone from anything.

Darth_Algar's avatar

@Dutchess_III

Neither does trying to convert someone to Christianity. More often than not it turns people off from you, your church and whatever message you might be presenting.

DWW25921's avatar

They feel like the only way to validate their world view is by disrespecting the beliefs of others.

Dutchess_III's avatar

But they think it does, @Darth_Algar. They also think they get brownie points in heaven for converting people.

Jaxk's avatar

Bashing Christianity has become quite trendy. It’s not religion that gets the ridicule, it’s Christianity. Most Christians are quite nice and generally good people. Occasionally a born-again will become a bit pushy but most I’ve met with that attitude have few friends outside of their own group. The truth is most atheists are good people as well, they just go overboard when in a group.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I was desperately poor for a few years, but I almost never asked for help. One time though, I was frantic. I needed $100. I called a “friend” and asked if I could borrow it. I had borrowed money one other time in the past and I’d paid her back so she knew I was good for it. I always paid my debts.
She said no, because they were saving up for her husband to go to Mexico with their church to help the poor people there.

This is the same woman who I sent a gift of $800 when she and her husband both lost their jobs at the same time.

Blondesjon's avatar

Why does anybody go to great lengths to change anybody other than themselves?

It’s not just religion. It’s politics. It’s the food you eat. It’s the music you listen to. It’s the television shows you watch. It’s who you choose to fuck int he privacy of your own home and just about anything else you can think of. It is the shitty, hard wired need of 99% of humans to be dominant and exert their will over others.

Live and let live is the easiest thing in the world to say and the hardest thing in the world to do.

Darth_Algar's avatar

@Dutchess_III

Is harassing others ok as long as you think that you’re doing them a favor?

Dutchess_III's avatar

That’s a very good point, @Blondesjon. Vegans sometimes do that.

I don’t really know the answer to your question, @Darth_Algar. A believer could make the analogy of a house on fire. Would it be OK to harass someone to get out? I’d harass my kids if they were doing something dangerous.

Blondesjon's avatar

@Dutchess_III . . . You could make the same argument for an atheist harassing a Christian mother in to taking her cancer riddled child to an oncologist instead of trying to “pray” it out of the poor kid.

trailsillustrated's avatar

I have a Facebook friend that I went to uni in the us with in the 90s, we were strippers and did mountains of drugs. Having recently re-connected, I now see her constant postings about Christianity, abortion, Obama hate, on and on, pull your bootstraps up (what is a bootstrap) and I just think it’s rude. I would never post anything remotely religious or political. I don’t know why people do this sort of thing and, who cares.

Darth_Algar's avatar

@Dutchess_III

In that analogy the house isn’t on fire, the believer only thinks that it is. Come charging into my house to “save” me from a fire that isn’t there and it’s not going to end well for you.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Yes you could @Blondesjon, and I would harass her. I think there are times when harassment can be done for positive reasons.

I understand your argument @Darth_Algar.

Dutchess_III's avatar

We’re battling unicorns here!

Blondesjon's avatar

It’s actually a battle to have a “right” answer to a question that doesn’t possess one.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Exactly! But people’s beliefs can be so strong they put their lives on the line for them. And the lives of their children.

kritiper's avatar

Same reason a teacher in school would: for educational purposes. Or, for some, to expound their self-righteousness, like some religious types might.

dappled_leaves's avatar

Exactly what @hominid said. GA.

ucme's avatar

For the sheer fucking hell of it?

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

Any belief, religious or otherwise, impacts how a person functions as a member of society. It is not in the interests of society to have people believing falsehoods. For some atheists, making fun of religious beliefs is the same as making fun of people who wear tin foil hats and think sugar crystals are miniature CIA surveillance devices.

It is important for these discussions to take place, if only so that opposing points of view can understand each other better.

ucme's avatar

Buncha kids picking on other kids for believing in Santa.
Buncha adults bitching to other adults for believing in their God.
Apes, together strong!

stanleybmanly's avatar

It may appear to some that Christians are being bashed, but @hominid hit the mark regarding the penchant of more zealous practitioners to muscle their superstitions into the public schools, the public laws and the very sciences themselves. It is disingenuous to pretend that all of the followers of Jesus adhere to a live and let live philosophy of “peaceful coexistence” The proliferation of obtuse whacko legislation in this country from regions where the more fervent devotees manage to concentrate should be evidence enough of the dangers involved with accommodating cults or lavishing reverence on ignorance.

Mariah's avatar

Tired of being a minority with all the shit that comes along with that.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I’m not tired of being a minority.

Mariah's avatar

It doesn’t bother me either, but of course we can’t speak for the whole group and many atheists are very fed up with being a minority. In some states atheists truly have to hide in a “closet” because their families would disown them or their neighbors would hate them. I can see how that gets tiring.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Why would they even want to tell them in the first place? What would be the need?

None of it bothers me.

Mariah's avatar

You can’t imagine that it’d be hard to live with the knowledge that your family would disown you if they knew more about your beliefs?

I mean, I agree that people should not be trying to convert each other one way or the other. But I do not feel it is difficult to see why atheists have a rough time in certain parts of this country, and why some of them get so bitter.

Darth_Algar's avatar

@Dutchess_III

Why is it that theists can be open about their beliefs, but atheists should, apparently, just shut up and keep it to themselves?

Dutchess_III's avatar

Because it doesn’t matter! I could care less if anyone knew I’m agnostic! If it’s gonna cause problems, then I’ll keep it to myself. I don’t have a problem with that because it isn’t that important to me. It’s not like being gay.
I put being agnostic, for me anyway, right up there with not telling people how many times a day I poop.

Mariah's avatar

Just because it’s not important to you to be open about it doesn’t mean it should not be important to anybody.

If you’ve been raised in a religious way then yes it truly feels like you are hiding something and being dishonest if you allow your family to continue to believe that you’re religious.

And there are factors that could make it extremely relevant – if you have kids, maybe you don’t want grandma and grandpa putting religious things into their head at a young age. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in science and your family has beliefs that conflict with that. If you’re being dragged to church constantly.

It hasn’t come up or been important to you – great. But you can’t just speak for everybody.

Darth_Algar's avatar

@Dutchess_III

Maybe it doesn’t matter to you, but it does matter to some people.

Dutchess_III's avatar

You were talking to me. I don’t have any family around any more that might do that. If they did, I’d just go with the flow, and talk to my kids about it later. There are lots of notions that I had to disabuse my kids of. Stuff they heard from friends about sex and stuff. No big deal. But, I can understand how some might be banned if they were to tell of their lack of religion. So just don’t tell.

Mariah's avatar

Well I don’t know how to convince to see beyond your own situation. I have a hard time imagining that you truly can’t see how difficult it would be to stay close with family while knowing that you have a secret they would disown you for if they knew. It’s also just a matter of principle….people shouldn’t be asked to hide some aspect of who they are to protect themselves from the wrath of bigoted people.

If there were some way for people to hide their skin color, do you think black people should be held responsible for any racism they face because they chose not to hide their blackness?

Dutchess_III's avatar

Yeah, I just don’t see why it would be so hard to just stay silent. I imagine my husband’s family might be shocked to learn of my lack of religion. It’s never brought up though.

At one family reunion of his, a couple of years ago, when the group prayer was said, there was one asshole that remained defiantly upright, eyes wide open, looking around with contempt at everyone. I know this because at one point I glanced up. You know, there were some old, old people there who could have been really upset at his behavior, and I think he was a jerk to do that.

I was a Christian when I met my husband. I think he knows my views have changed, but we we don’t talk about it. My son is agnostic, after having been raised in the church, but again, we don’t talk about it. I mentioned something the other day and he said, “Mom, you don’t want me to get off on God! You won’t like me!”
I said, “Well, you might be surprised.” And I grinned and that conversation was over. So he knows. And it’s a non issue.

We talk about important things like the kids, and their lives and their house.

Mariah's avatar

I agree that behavior was rude. There is no need to force your religious beliefs or lackthereof. However, that same argument applies to the people who were insisting on having a group prayer in mixed company, too.

You didn’t answer my question. Religion is a bigger deal to some people than it is to you. You admit that it’s different for a gay person to stay closeted. I imagine that you wouldn’t expect a black person to closet their race like in my hypothetical scenario. Why do you feel you get to decide that religion ranks lower than both of those things in importance?. To other people, their religion or lackthereof might feel like an important part of their identity that they’re not willing to hide. I get that this isn’t the case for you but not everyone shares your exact priorities…

Darth_Algar's avatar

@Dutchess_III

We get it, you don’t consider it important. Other people do.

Dutchess_III's avatar

That is just how I feel about it. I can understand that others could face serious repercussions if their thoughts were known (Seek comes to mind.) When I was a Christian it was a big deal to me. When I became agnostic the deal turned to 0. Christian = 10. Non Christian = -10. 0.

Being gay isn’t easy to hide, and no one should have to. It’s who they are, and in many ways it’s what defines them. When I was a Christian, it was who I was. As an agnostic, it’s not who I am. It isn’t what defines me. It is far from the most important thing in my life. Far, far from it.

And it’s fine if not everyone shares my exact priorities. Never felt that anyone should.

Mariah's avatar

OK. It just seemed you couldn’t see why anyone would ever feel that way.

I’m like you, being an agnostic atheist is not an important part of my identity. But, I’m also surrounded with people who accept that just fine. I think I’d be more bitter and militant if I’d ever faced persecution for my atheism.

Darth_Algar's avatar

@Dutchess_IIIAnd it’s fine if not everyone shares my exact priorities. Never felt that anyone should.

Yet you’re suggesting that anyone who does place a higher priority on it than you should just shut up about it.

Dutchess_III's avatar

OK, so why would agnosticism it be important to anyone? It’s true. I don’t understand how something like that could be so important, the way religion is to some people. I don’t believe in God. I don’t believe in unicorns either. No big deal to me.

I agree @Mariah. If I were to face persecution for my agnosticism I’d be unhappy too. But I don’t face persecution. The worst that’s happened to me because of it was a long time friend unfriended me. But that was no big deal. She was really a judgmental hypocrite.

Mariah's avatar

If you’ve grown up with everybody around you thinking one way, the distinction between that type of thinking could become important. A lot of people find their love of science closely intertwined with their atheism. Their entire moral code is different from everyone around them; they don’t run their lives by the Bible.

It’s very different from not believing in unicorns because we’re not living in a society where most people in unicorns and where people say they would never vote for someone who doesn’t believe in unicorns.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I can understand that. Thank you for taking the time to explain it to me, and not attacking.

My next question is why can’t the atheist just not say anything about it? Why can’t they just quietly continue to perform whatever minor rituals, such as saying grace at dinner? Just bow your head and be quiet?

I can see a problem if people were constantly preaching at them and demanding answers to questions, but I’ve never really experienced that. Well, except when I was the one asking questions of the pastor, to which he had no answer!

It would help if someone could describe a first hand experience they’ve had with making it known that they are atheist.

Mariah's avatar

They can keep quiet. But why should they have to? I think usually these people are just pissed off about living in a world where they are expected to stay quiet, to avoid conflict, when their atheism is not the problem; people’s bigotry is the problem. No persecuted social group in history has ever improved their situation by agreeing to stay quiet.

I think it’s misguided at times. I don’t think progress will be made by being unpleasant and argumentative. But I do understand where the anger comes from.

janbb's avatar

@Dutchess_III You are looking at things very narrowly. Can you not see how much the far-right Christians have influenced legislation and issues like reproductive rights in this country? Isn’t it pathetic that any candidate who is serious about running for President has to profess faith? Why are science books being bowdlerized in some states and creationism being taught as a valid theory? Atheists, just like Christians, don’t have to be obnoxious, but why should they be silent unless society were really live and let live?

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, you don’t have to be silent on specific issues. I’m not. I uphold separation of church and state, but I felt that way even as a Christian. And I tell people I uphold it.

If I come across some stupid legislation, as I did once, that promotes teaching science without using the scientific method, I don’t hesitate to decry that.

The thing is I don’t do in on the basis of my belief or non belief. I don’t say, “As an agnostic….” I do it because it’s the only logical thing to do, IMO.

Mariah's avatar

The thing is that some people view the lack of acceptance of atheism as a specific issue. The fact that we can’t elect atheists is really troubling to many (myself included). It’s a variety of bigotry that is actually quite socially acceptable nowadays, which is fucked IMO.

Haleth's avatar

Religious belief underlies a lot of the political policy in our country, and it reverberates into our daily lives. Laws to limit women’s access to abortion and contraception, abstinence-only sex ed, bans on gay marriage, and teaching creationism in schools all have their basis in Christian beliefs. A state lawmaker in the south recently introduced a bill where married women would have to get approval from their husbands to get an abortion, with no allowance for an abusive relationship. A lot of abusers mess with women’s contraception to keep them from leaving- that would take it one step further and actually enshrine it in the law.

Atheists are dismayed at social policies like that. When these beliefs become the basis of our laws, it holds us all back as a country. If kids grow up believing in creationism, we might miss out on the next Albert Einstein or Issac Newton, because they grew up not knowing science. The cure for cancer might be locked inside the mind of a kid who goes to one of those schools. If women don’t have the same rights as men, we’re not living in a true democracy, we miss out on women’s contributions, and it holds us all back. Abstinence-only sex ed has been shown again and again not to work. The next generation of girls could grow up not knowing a single thing about sex, not knowing how to protect themselves. Atheists like me lose sleep over stuff like this. The laws won’t change unless we change people’s minds.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Good points @Haleth, and well said. But we can’t change people’s minds by ridicule, as my young friend tries to do.
What changed my mind was a patient, well spoken, intelligent atheist Jew—Rarebear. It took time but I was finally able to accept that religion is simply illogical.

Mariah's avatar

I agree that that particular form of argument is really counterproductive. I don’t think it is meant to actually convince anybody. The main place that I see ridicule is in atheist-specific message boards where everyone who reads it is going to agree. I feel it is a form of venting since they can’t usually do that with their real-life friends or family.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I was a member of a FB page called “Godless Engineering” for a bit. There just seemed to be a lot of assholes posting the most insulting stuff, so I left.

Darth_Algar's avatar

@Dutchess_III

Why should the onus be on atheists to keep quiet? Why can’t Christians just not say anything about it?

Dutchess_III's avatar

There is no onus on atheists to be quiet, but sometimes it’s the most respectful thing to do. It’s up to each individual to decide if telling their family that they don’t believe in God could create a huge problem.
Me, I simply keep quiet. I have no reason to discuss it with anyone else. Why would I want to discuss it? What reason? But I realize that’s my perspective only.

Darth_Algar's avatar

You say that, yet this whole thread, on your part, has amounted to “just shut up about it”.

Also, respect is a two-way street. Christians cannot, and should not, prattle on and on about their believes and then expect everyone else to just “respectfully” not say anything about theirs.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Darth_Algar The thread evolved. Some folks were able to make it clear, and in a nice way, that that doesn’t work for everyone, OK?
Whether people chose to talk about it is each individual’s choice.

Darth_Algar's avatar

“Whether people chose to talk about it is each individual’s choice.”

Yup, so questions like “why can’t they just not say anything” are hallow.

Dutchess_III's avatar

And if they choose not to say anything they shouldn’t be berated.

Mariah's avatar

Don’t think anyone was saying that it’s not OK for an atheist to be quiet if that’s what they desire.

Darth_Algar's avatar

Oh for the love of fuck….

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