General Question

xenializ's avatar

If you are religious, are you offended by those who call themselves atheists?

Asked by xenializ (325points) March 26th, 2009

I grew up in a traditionally (for the midwestern US, anyway) Christian (moderate) home and also had experience in more fundamentalist churches in high school and college. Years later, I find myself fascinated by arguments put out by atheists such as Richard Dawkins. I know some fundamentalist Christians would be very put off by the mere mention of someone thinking about this topic or questioning their religious upbringing. But what I’m interested in knowing is what do more moderate religious people think about atheism in general and how knowing someone was an atheist would affect their views of and/or interactions with an atheist.

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43 Answers

xenializ's avatar

perhaps I should spell my question correctly! I meant atheists in the question. Sorry!

Facade's avatar

i’m offended by the term “religious.” ok so i’m not offended per se, but the connotation is bad…and no, “atheist” doesn’t offend me either

Blondesjon's avatar

“There comes a time in the life of every human when he or she must decide to risk “his life, his fortune, and his sacred honor” on an outcome dubious. Those who fail the challenge are merely overgrown children, can never be anything else.”

Amoebic's avatar

Since most of my friends are atheists, I’d say it doesn’t bother me at all. It’s not really an issue for me. My personal beliefs are none of their business, nor are theirs mine.

I’m not a big fan of individuals who go around giving atheists a bad name by being aggressively dismissive, confrontational, or belittling, same goes for other religious folks. I generally just avoid that kind of situation or discussions in casual social gatherings.

I’m certainly not going to be offended by what people choose to believe (or not to believe, or to not choose), I find that incredibly hypocritical.

Jeruba's avatar

Offended? Isn’t that like someone who’s blonde being offended by someone who calls herself brunette? Or someone who’s Irish being offended by someone who calls himself Italian? The question doesn’t make any sense to me. Is the offense the assertion of the existence of someone who doesn’t believe what you believe (one believes)? How could that be news to anybody?

Darwin's avatar

Personal beliefs are just that, personal beliefs. As long as no one forces their personal beliefs on another, what is there to be offended about?

cak's avatar

No, not at all. Why would I be offended? You have freedom of choice in what you follow or don’t follow. Believing in a certain faith doesn’t make me a better person, just as not believing doesn’t make someone better than me.

My sister and I were raised Catholic. We even went to a Catholic private school. Now, my sister says she is atheist and I go to a completely different denomination – no longer a practicing Catholic. She just declared herself as an atheist – before she was agnostic – I think she only said she believed in something, just not sure what, for my mother.

xenializ's avatar

@Facade I understand the connotations that go with the word “religious.” What words do you think would be better descriptions?

xenializ's avatar

@cak yes, strange… I have done the same, I mean with my mother. I think for some people the word atheist is such a stigma, I mean a HUGE one. Thanks for your answer.

Facade's avatar

@xenializ Nothing brief or as easy as “religious.” I have a relationship with God. Maybe “religious” fits the fake Christians, but not all of us.

miasmom's avatar

As a very strong Christian, I am not offended at all by atheists. And there is nothing wrong with questioning, we should always be trying to have a better understanding of what we believe and I think that also means understanding the arguments other set out against your faith and being able to give them an answer for why you believe.

xenializ's avatar

@Jeruba I guess my question has to do with my experience with some family members who see or hear my beliefs/understandings/questionings and freak out—think I’m going to hell, disregard any argument I may make, etc. From their reactions I assume they are offended by the whole idea that someone would even suggest something different from what they believe.

The question also comes from on one hand being someone who stands up for what I believe but also someone who is quite empathic, and, therefore, affected by others reactions (I’m working on being a little less so).

Just fishing the waters for the fluther response… however, I should have known that flutherites (?) would be more thoughtful than average.

Thanks, y’all.

xenializ's avatar

@miasmom thanks for your answer.

Ivan's avatar

@miasmom As an atheist, you have no idea how much I appreciate that response. I will attempt to reciprocate.

xenializ's avatar

@Ivan I completely agree. about miasmom.

miasmom's avatar

That doesn’t mean I will change what I believe, but it is good to be able to give an answer for why you believe.

That being said, I surround myself with other strong Christians also so that I can get their feedback on different things I hear from others. That has really helped me to understand my own faith even further.

Thanks @Ivan and @xenializ

crisw's avatar

“That doesn’t mean I will change what I believe, but it is good to be able to give an answer for why you believe.”

Out of curiosity- and not pointing at any specific belief- would you change your beliefs (about anything, not just religion) if you could find no evidence that they were indeed true? How about if you found evidence that they were false? In other words- which is more important- searching for truth or keeping a belief?

As a decidedly non-religious example, I was thinking of buying a Subaru Forester because of some things I believed to be true about it (due to a Consumer Reports article that turned out to be inaccurate.) I thought it was a cool car, and I would have liked to get one. But I found out that what I believed to be true wasn’t- therefore, I could not buy the Subaru. I think most people would agree that makes sense. I had been presented with evidence that I couldn’t just ignore and wish it were otherwise.

I tend to find that many people treat religious beliefs differently than they do something like shopping for cars. What I am not sure of is why the two are held to different standards of evidence. It seems to me that many religious people value the comfort and familiarity of their beliefs so much that they really can’t be objective about whether or not they are true.

Again- as I am a newbie!- this isn’t directed specifically at you. It’s just an observation.

fireside's avatar

I really never thought about atheists until I came to Fluther
But now that I interact with them almost daily, I have no issues.

Often, I find atheists to be more studied on religious matters which makes my conversations with them often times enjoyable.

On a side note, I love my Subaru Forester.

xenializ's avatar

@fireside I just joined fluther a few days ago on the invite from a friend, not knowing what this was all about, but I’m thinking I’m liking it. There are some interesting conversations going on around here.

fireside's avatar

@xenializ – Glad you are enjoying it. Welcome!

DrBill's avatar

Not at all, but I prefer to be referred to as faithful.

Vinifera7's avatar

“As a very strong Christian…”

Normally I disagree with your opinions, but I couldn’t agree more with that statement except for the use of the word “faith” because that doesn’t apply to me whether you are using faith to mean “unjustified belief” or the more colloquial usage, “personal beliefs based on faith”; I don’t have either.

However I think that I’m in complete agreement with the sentiments expressed.

Jeruba's avatar

Ah, @xenializ, different story. Thanks for explaining.

They are not necessarily offended at the idea that other beliefs exist; or maybe they are (why doesn’t everyone see things exactly as they do? because after all they are right), but that is not what they are expressing to you. It’s family we’re talking about here. They are upset that you don’t believe what you were taught to believe and what they still believe. That’s not only very threatening (Where did we go wrong?) and alarming (She’s going to hell.) but also potentially heartbreaking (We won’t be together in heaven.). Your folks don’t care if I am an atheist. They care if you are.

NaturalMineralWater's avatar

I am not offended in the least if someone is an atheist. I live, breath and work around so many non-believers that I don’t think there’s a discernible difference in my interaction with them vs someone of a different “belief”.

In my mind I have to wonder what made them become an atheist of course. I wonder if it isn’t a bit close-minded to be adamantly atheistic. However, that doesn’t affect how I interact with the person. It just makes for great,entertaining conversations.

xenializ's avatar

@Jeruba thanks for helping me clarify my question and for answering back.

benseven's avatar

I find it difficult that any Christians at all, including myself, are in any way ‘offended’ by atheism. Why should they be? We were given free will, and that means believing whatever you believe.

Being offended by the conduct of certain atheists is a different matter. People who are offensive when talking about someone else’s faith. If you can put across your arguments against the existence of God and the futility of religion in a logical, thoughtful and inoffensive fashion then I have the utmost respect for you. A lot of people seem to struggle to do that though, which just muddys the waters.

gambitking's avatar

I’m a Christian, which may or may not be similar to your meaning of ‘religious’... but either way… I have no animosity of any kind toward atheists. I have very good friends who are atheists.

If anything, I would want to do everything in my power to exhibit the spiritual world of my beliefs to my atheist friends and acquaintances simply through my friendship, my thoughts on things, and any other way I can hope it will manifest through me. I’m not a Bible thumper by any means, I don’t like it when other Christians or religious people ‘preach’ and press on the issues. Besides, we don’t do any of the converting. God does.

Jack79's avatar

I’m not all that religious. I consider myself an “agnostic” even though people use the word to mean “more or less atheist”. I think of myself as “religious agnostic” (ie I think God exists, but either way I’m too stupid to know for sure).

I am certainly not offended by atheists (or religious fanatics come to think of it). Arguments such as “religion is crap” or “God Rulez” are fine. It’s when they are offensive towards the followers that I don’t like it. Either by unprovoked attacks on decency (such as my recent example of “Venus is ugly!”), or attacks on intelligence (“we all know God made the earth in 7 days, because a piece of paper written by some Jew 5000 years ago says so”). Yes, then I am offended.

alossforwords's avatar

@benseven response to: “Being offended by the conduct of certain atheists is a different matter.”
This is a double-edged sword with one side being a bit sharper. As an atheist, I think that for me to live in a manner that is respectful, compassionate towards, and in service of others without being commanded to do so should speak volumes to Christians. Christians, on the other hand, that offend atheists with closed-minded, blind intolerance demonstrate a level of hypocrisy that is impossible for an atheist to match. If you follow a savior who took on the sins of the world so that we may live in peace and a great percentage of your people live in a country with “In God we trust” on your money, that possesses the strength to destroy the world with a press of a button… are you really living by faith? I am offended by people that hide behind the Bible. I am offended by people that feel that Christians are better than everyone else. But more than any religion or lack there of, I am offended by ignorance and herd mentality.

fireside's avatar

Do you really think a “great percentage” of Christians are American, as indicated by your quip about the money?

alossforwords's avatar

@fireside The number of Christians who are American is a significant number… I’m still looking for the exact number if anyone has a link. 71% of Americans are Christian as of 2007 but the number is declining each year by 1 to 2%. I’m only addressing the people of which I have first hand knowledge.

fireside's avatar

Here’s a link, let me know what you come up with.

alossforwords's avatar

Lots of data… but pretty much everywhere but Asia and the Middle East houses mostly Christians. How did Christians ever lose the Crusades?

Sticking to the topic though… Do you think the majority of the world is intelligent and informed? or simply following orders from a system that they do not fully comprehend?

fireside's avatar

I just wanted to clarify that you thought that a great percentage of Christian lived in America.
You confirmed that and now I have to disregard your opinion because I, too, “am offended by ignorance”.

alossforwords's avatar

Touche. But the same arguments apply to Italy, Britain, Spain… etc. Maybe a few 227 million doesn’t compare much in relation to the 2.1 billion Christians in the world, but that seems significant to me. The majority or all of the people reading this are from the US. I didn’t join Fluther to ostracize anyone. That sounds like something a bunch of people did to their “savior” around 35 AD before they nailed him to a cross for questioning their government. At the rate Christianity is going though, science and logic will put an end to this debate in the next few hundred years, just like it has put an end to other mythology.

fireside's avatar

“closed-minded, blind intolerance demonstrate a level of hypocrisy”

alossforwords's avatar

I now find myself being quoted without explanation. I know another group that often quotes things without explanation… I’m in the wrong discussion if all you need is Wikipedia and a bible to prove your point. I’m done.

I hope everyone finds peace, but I hope not at the cost of logic and reason.

benseven's avatar

@alossforwords – As a Christian, I find the people you describe as hard to deal with as you do, and I’m certainly offended by them more than your average tolerant atheist offends me!

My reference was because of previous experience with atheists who question faith in an offensive way or sling mud simply because it’s hard to get their head around my beliefs.

When you say “Christians, on the other hand, that offend atheists with closed-minded, blind intolerance demonstrate a level of hypocrisy that is impossible for an atheist to match.” I’m intrigued, because of course it depends on what side of the fence you’re on!

One could say that the Christian is more hypocritical because of their beliefs and supposedly high moral standing. If they’re so wise they should know that their intolerance of others beliefs is less than Christian. But on the other hand, I’ve had discussions with atheists that have accused me of all manner of stupidity while within the same conversation they’ve used typical logical fallacies and plain name calling to try and seem like the wiser mind (which as you might imagine backfired superbly). I don’t think out of bible bashers and mud-slinging atheists there’s really any moral high ground to be had by either party.

toleostoy's avatar

not for that reason. i would be offended if someone who thinks differently than i do called me stupid, irrational, or something like that. but i am not offended by people who tell me what they think.

crisw's avatar


Out of curiosity, what types of “typical logical fallacies” have atheists used?

In my experience, many theists get so offended by criticism of their beliefs that they miss the possibility that the criticisms are valid. For example, I routinely see theists on Yahoo Answers get supremely worked up by the question “What is the difference between the Christian God and The Big Sky Daddy?” or “What is the difference between God and Santa Claus?”, preferring to get offended rather than actually answering the (legitimate) question.

benseven's avatar

@crisw I’m guessing that was addressed to me, though you rep’d it to alossforwords.

I’m talking about previous discussions with particular people on this site. You can read more on logical fallacies here – essentially formulating unreasonable arguments that do not stand up logically in the context of a reason-led logical discussion on a subject, usually in order to incite an overly emotional or reactive response.

throsso's avatar

How could the opinion of another offend me? Unless I am in fear of myu own convictions. This, imo, would remain so whatever my/their convictions/opinions might be,eh?

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