Social Question

Dutchess_III's avatar

Why would someone think that if you don't believe in God you aren't capable of empathy?

Asked by Dutchess_III (42452points) June 28th, 2016

I was idly following a friend’s FB post asking for advice on helping a refugee family from Syria get settled here. She was was willing to open her home to them for a time, and help them find work and lend whatever aid she could.

There were a lot of suggestions, as well as cautions. Then someone jumped in and said, “You don’t even believe in God. Why would you want to help anyone?”

It kind of floored me…and her. And led to this question.

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38 Answers

Aster's avatar

That was one ignorant comment . I think I would have lectured her. Some people think that Atheists are cold hearted, cruel people and nothing could be further from the truth. It doesn’t sound like she thinks much of you as a person.

ragingloli's avatar

Because anyone who does not believe in god is under control of satan and therefore evil.

jca's avatar

If I wanted to know that, I would ask the person why they think that.

Dutchess_III's avatar

It wasn’t directed at me, @Aster. Not that it matters. I thought it was odd. I’m trying to think back on when I was a practicing Christian, and how I felt about atheists. I certainly never thought of them as…evil. Just lost. or something.

Mariah's avatar

To me it sounds like this person is saying “Why do good things if you don’t believe it’ll get you into heaven?” Which to me shows a total lack of empathy. She only can conceive of doing good for selfish reasons.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Hm. I never thought of that @Mariah.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Oh, this is ironic! I still have my name in at a local temp agency. The realtor thing isn’t going very well. Total lack of direction, among other things.
Anyway, the temp agency called not 10 minutes ago, and there is a position open at a local Presbyterian church. Pays $12.00 an hour, 40 hours a week. The position is an office administrative one, making flyers and answering phones. Hey, it’s a job (until the folks from the County Attorney’s Office calls me to give me a job with them…but I have to submit my app first. :)~ )
Oh, I hope they don’t try to preach at me. I have every intention of laying low, respecting their beliefs and opinions and refraining from expressing mine, even if I have to lie a little. (Only Christians go the hell for lying, so it’s fine. If lying makes them feel comfortable, I have no problem with it.)
Maybe I should get some advice here?

ibstubro's avatar

The business of religion is indoctrinating people to believe that the only thing that stands between them and chaos is Faith.
We’d all be psychopathic sociopaths were it not for our belief in God.
We are His children, created in His his image, and he’s determined to beat the shit out of us until we prove we can sit at the grown up table, else he will throw us down the basement stairs and leave us to rot in the cellar forever.

Seek's avatar

@Dutchess_III – I know several musicians who took paying jobs in churches to make ends meet. The music was boring as hell and their abilities far exceeded the demands of the job, but a paying gig is a paying gig.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Right. I just have concerns about how to respond if they go about trying to “save” me. I mean, I sure won’t bring my convictions up, but I don’t know what some of the members might bring up.

ucme's avatar

If I was in eeh-merry-ka & happened upon an open doored chapel with the sound of a gospel choir belting out “Like A Prayer” i’d probably enter & join in
Not religious but I can be quite camp when the occasion suits, they’d either welcome this strange agnostic dancer or twat me over the head with a tamborine…such is life

jca's avatar

@ucme: Would it be “Mah-donner” singing?

Seek's avatar

I’d totally lie. Most churches and church organizations have you sign a statement of faith before you get hired.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Because narcissists project their own lack of empathy upon others. They can’t help themselves. Religion can be a great home for the narcissist, promoting self righteousness. Easy to become psychologically enmeshed with like thinkers, and feel the right to proclaim judgement upon anyone outside of the cult.

Answering their question with empathy, “This is an example of why you might consider adjusting your view of Atheists”… or “Great question. You have an observant inquisitive mind. What a wonderful opportunity to discuss our preconceived notions about one another”… Answering their question with empathy provides a public example to establish the fact that Atheists can indeed express empathy, perhaps even to a greater degree than fundamentalist Theists.

The answer to her question, and the way her question is answered, is just as important as her original question. I’d suggest the manner of your answer is actually much more important than the original passive aggressive question.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Don’t get your hackles up unless they turn to probing you on your own convictions or you discover a surplus of “Make America Great Again” or “God bless America & Donald J Trump” pamphlet work. But seriouly, there are some otherwise sensible and enlightened “people of faith”

stanleybmanly's avatar

As for that ” you don’t believe, why would you want to help”, that really is a rather alarming jump for anyone beyond the age of 6 or so. In fact its the sort of thing that kind of demands a “what excactly do you mean?” Otherwise, it’ll drive you crazy.

cazzie's avatar

This was a single source attack on a person’s character. In this instance, I always consider it wise to not take the comment seriously until I consider the source. This sounds like a very dismiss-able source.

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies has a serious point when he says often the person doing the accusing is very much guilty of the accusation themselves. They are saying that without their faith, they would be uncaring of other people. It says much more about them than the person they are pointing at. I like it when people expose themselves. I’m all for freedom of speech because it makes the hypocrites, bigots, misogynists, etc. that much easier to identify.

Dutchess_III's avatar

My hackles aren’t up @stanleybmanly.

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies could you clarify this for me: ” I’d suggest the manner of your answer is actually much more important than the original passive aggressive question.”

I agree @cazzie. People who are the most likely to quickly point out “transgressions,” especially imaginary transgressions, by others are usually even more guilty. Like my first husband suddenly accusing me of seeing other men. It was out of the blue! It took me a few weeks to realize he was seeing someone else.

Zaku's avatar

Some Christians espouse the idea that God gives humans all their goodness, which is a frighteningly common misinterpretation of their own texts.

It’s nonsense, but a good red flag that the person subscribes to messed up forms of Christianity.

MrGrimm888's avatar

It’s possible that this person simply has never known an atheist (or knew someone they didn’t know was an atheist. )

When people aren’t exposed to people who look, or act , or believe different from them, they are stuck with conjecture or preconceived notions. It’s interesting to me for instance, in my country (US) lots of racist people I’ve met have never really ever known a person they don’t share skin color with . They simply regurgitate ignorant content they heard from some other bigot that also doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

Or. Like I assume of most religious people, they just aren’t that smart. Usually incapable of original thought. Any concept that differs from what they’ve been told is inconceivable to them.
If I were you I would take the job, and take there money. If someone tries to talk to you about religion, just say your dead grandmother taught you to never discuss religion. It is between you and God. Most will probably respect that. So, yes, lie to them. No church, or faith I know of has any moral high ground…
Chase that cheddar yo. Make your money. If it becomes intolerable, put in your 2 weeks and ‘Dueces’....

MrGrimm888's avatar

To clarify, I didn’t mean steal their money when I said ‘take their money. ’ Just get paid.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I kind of want to get upset over the comment “Or. Like I assume of most religious people, they just aren’t that smart. Usually incapable of original thought.” because I was a practicing Christian for many years, but I was still smart. But…I was told I was not a good Christian on a couple of occasions because I was capable of original, critical thought, and I seriously questioned the reality of all of the “miracles.”
So, I guess I have to agree with the comment in many ways. It’s almost like they’re afraid to believe anything other than what they’re told.

MrGrimm888's avatar

Dutchess, you’re right. That came off as pretty arrogant. I apologize. I was raised Baptist, Sunday school and all. But it didn’t take long for me to question my ‘beliefs ’ once I lost trust in people. Religious people ARE afraid to believe anything other than what they’re told. That means they may have wasted a part of their life, and the concept of an afterlife is potentially gone. Now they know they are mortals, but not what happens when they die. All of a sudden, all they believed in is different. The rock of religion in their lives replaced with the unknown. Some are so afraid to be wrong , they will hurt others to keep their head in the sand.

MrGrimm888's avatar

Dutchess, to me you follow the path of lots of atheists. I think it’s like Santa Claus. You’re told to believe in hI’m at a young age, so you do. Then as you get smarter, the logistics just don’t work out. And you question your belief in him. It’s scary to think of life without Santa. But at a certain age, or intelligence it becomes an obvious ruse.
I went from Baptist, to agnostic, to finally atheism. I feel like that’s the natural order , if you start off raised a certain religion.

It’s natural to question what you’ve been taught.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, it’s all Rarebears fault, anyway @MrGrimm888! He gave me the…. courage (?) to bring my questions out in the open, full blown, and then let me find the answers for myself. I finally came to the inescapable conclusion that there is only one answer that actually answers every singe question I had, perfectly.
I kinda miss it, though.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@Dutchess_III “could you clarify this for me: ” I’d suggest the manner of your answer is actually much more important than the original passive aggressive question.””


The person who made the original accusation, disguised as a passive aggressive question, is expecting an answer which inflates the issue into a defensive argument. Their self proclaimed authority on the matter depends upon your answer inflating the offense further.

By answering instead with patient empathetic kindness, their authority to speak on the matter is taken away. The dependent crumbles, and thereby serves to alter future expectant statements designed to start an argument.

If this person experienced enough patient empathetic responses that don’t feed into their intentions, then they will gradually change over time… and grow up and out of it. That’s why the manner of the response is important. It can change the world for the better by teaching hostile angry people to chill out.

I’m currently (not always have been) but currently of the mindset that instead of being shocked and offended by the actions of another (which is what they want), that giving them a show of empathy can go a long way towards teaching them how to be a different kind of person that isn’t so confrontational.

It’s kind of related to a relationship I had with a certain annoying person in my life a few years ago. I avoided them at all cost because their personality just rubbed me the wrong way every time. Made me sick to be around them. And the more I avoided them, the more they pursued me. It’s like they fed off of me in that way.

I decided one day to stomach the notion of giving that person my full attention, and offering them the quality time they so desperately seemed to want from me. Magically, the person became more relaxed and easy to get along with. Then they lost interest and went on to annoy others, never bothering me again. The person simply didn’t want to get along. They needed to start conflict in order to feel noticed. I just let them know with my actions that they couldn’t annoy me, and were pleasant to be around. Then I watched as they vanished out of my life without any pushing from me.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Very nice @RealEyesRealizeRealLies. Excellent point. I do know people like that. The person making that comment did catch hell, but not from me. I just basically asked the same question I asked here, but it was never addressed. Others started feeding into her attention thing and the Bible verses started flying and I bowed out.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

These personality types thrive on conflict, and being the center of attention. The hateful comments she received only serve to reinforce her propensity for continuing the tactic in the future.

It’s difficult, but I’m trying so hard to have patience and empathy for them. She probably learned the behavior from her parents, the way they treat one another. It’s a learned behavior that can be unlearned over time, assuming she is met with enough empathetic responses.

She’s learning to live life the best she can. We’re all learning. Especially me. Doesn’t hurt to dish out a few breaks now and then.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Right. She would have been taken aback if all of the atheists had treated her with the love and compassion that Christians are supposed to show.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Yep… Wouldn’t she… haha.

So easy to figure out. So difficult to implement.

MrGrimm888's avatar

Respect is a two way street. Show it to others, and they should reciprocate. (Not always )
Give them a reason to respect your privacy, and wish for indifference. It would be unwise to try and converse with hard core religious types about why you don’t share their beliefs. When you fall out of a raft in white water , you try and keep your feet up and go with the flow. If you try to gain footing in rapid water, you will regret it.
Sometimes, life is the same way. Just go with the flow. Fighting the current is unrealistic. Do your job. Avoid religious debate. Be a professional. While on the clock , you simply do what is asked of you . Make your money. Hopefully you can move on / forward when the opportunity presents itself. But where I’m from 12 an hr and 40 guaranteed is not bad. The economy is ‘just fine.’ Sounds like a cake job, if you ignore the religious side. Try and be apathetic. Just think of the money. I wager that’s all the church cares about. Where I live preachers drive Cadillac’s and have expensive suits and jewelry…As God intended?
The big churches in Fla. USA are worse. Morally speaking, you’re higher than the people you would work for. You would simply be a tool. I could live with that, if it paid my bills easy. Take care of yourself. Nobody else will…..

Setanta's avatar

I have come to the conclusion that theists feel beleaguered. They seem to take the idea that others might not agree with them as a sort of a threat. I see many theists obsessively attempting to describe atheists (a term only theists can justify) as amoral, if not immoral. I find theists to be very aggressive in that regard, and I suspect that they are over-compensating for their own doubts and shortcomings.

ibstubro's avatar

I think @Setanta is describing theists that try to explain or justify their faith to non-theists.

IMO “faith”, by it’s very nature cannot be explained or justified. It just is. The best of the theists – like the best of the atheists – just live their lives to the best of their ability, confident they have found the best personal path.
It’s when the proselytization comes in that things get sticky.

jca's avatar

I am a theist who lives like @ibstubro described. Stereotyping us is as unhelpful as it is when stereotyping any group (boys, girls, various genders, different nationalities, elderly, young, rich, poor, different political groups).

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Setanta Someone once pointed out that “persecution” is a fundamental core of Christianity. The Bible is rife with stories of God’s Chosen being persecute. Therefore some Christians find ways to appear persecuted. They go so far as to persecute people with alternate lifestyles, but switch it around so that gay marriage, for example, is a war on Christianity. Gay marriage is an attack on Christianity.
Atheism is an attack on Christianity.
Feminism is an attack on Christianity.

BTW, I’m having fun at this job. All the folks are super nice, and no one is trying to preach at me. Best of all, I get to do what I do by myself, on my computer, creating stuff, and getting paid for it!

Setanta's avatar

Perhaps theists come from a perspective of those who once were the members of the dominant group, which is a position they now see as having been eroded. I had an employer who suspected that i was an atheist (how i loathe that title), but who understood that he lived in a world in which he could not make that an issue. So he judged me on my job performance, and my value to his business. As I have said many times on-line, it isonly an issue on-line, and not in the real world apart from the on-line environment. It just doesn’t come up elsewhere.

Significantly, empathy has an evolutionary value to the small early human communities from which we descend. It almost surely predates the rise of theism.

MrGrimm888's avatar

Setanta, empathy is older, but religion is a priority. Religions, and their beliefs, will ALWAYS supercede things that conflict with them. Some people would rather die than stray from the way they interpret their beliefs. Some will kill to ‘protect’ their beliefs.

Setanta's avatar

Yes, but religion is the priority because of the emphasis by the believer. Absent religion,there will still be empathy, which Ii think is germane to the topic.

I would not want to burden this thread with the details of the low opinion I entertain of religion.

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