Why are atheists so mean?

Peter wrote us this week and he has a few questions about atheists…

Dear Ask the Atheist,

1. What is the most common reason for atheists being so, and saying that God can’t exist? I’m not trying to sound ignorant, but coming from a Catholic school and having a friend who is struggling with whether he is atheist or not, I don’t really know.
2. Why do so many atheists take the opportunity to rip on Christianity? Not to evangelize, but as a Catholic I believe that God loves the sinner, even atheists. But it appears from the ones I’ve talked to that they are surprised that I’m a creationist, am not actively fighting homosexuality (I am against it, but more personal than religious), and in short not a bigot.
3. Going from 2. They’re also fond of ripping on Christianity, and say there’s no point in following anything in the Bible. Even if there is no Heaven or Hell, it doesn’t hurt for the Bible to have guiding factors. The Golden Rule is cited even secularly in public school systems, and almost all of the laws of civilized societies can be traced back somehow to the Bible. If this is so, then why do they say that everything as a whole is flawed?
I’m not trying to generalize atheists; I just would like to get a better understanding of this out of curiosity and to be a better friend to mine. If it is possible, I also would like to email a writer questions from my theology class as a sort of social experiment.
Thank you in advance,
Hi Peter, thanks for the questions. These questions have been answered here before, so if my answer doesn’t help you enough, feel free to use the search function. You’ll find more thoughts there.
First, an atheist is just a person without a belief in a god. Some atheists may make the claim that a god can’t exist, some may not, either way the only thing one atheist has to have in common with another is a lack of belief in a god or gods. That’s it. Anything else is just that persons opinion.
Whats the most common reason people become atheists? Simple. The lack of objective evidence for a god. It’s been my experience that most people who become atheist start with an inconsistency in their religious belief. For some it may be a historical claim or philosophical claim or a supernatural claim, whichever it is they usually find a problem that they realize can’t be dismissed off hand. For myself it was learning to be more objective and realizing that religion was highly subjective. Whichever way a person leaves their faith is their own journey. Each one is different.
Why do so many atheists take the opportunity to rip on Christianity? Well I can’t speak for all atheists, but I think it’s the same reason people rip on any belief system that harms others. To you, your religious belief probably centers around your personal salvation and the love of your god. You probably tend to dismiss all of the ugly parts of your religion like slavery, racism, women and children as property, sexual repression, child abuse, and worst of all, the concept that another can pay for the things that you have done wrong. Have you given up everything to follow Jesus? Do you still eat shrimp? Do you cut your hair? Do you wear clothes of different fibers? These are all things that your bible says are bad, yet you probably don’t follow them do you? I don’t point this out to say that you’re a hypocrite or anything like that. I point it out because you also see where you don’t agree with your religion, and yet you and millions of other believers ignore all of the bad things about it. The difference is between you and others is that some people no longer wish to ignore the bad things. These people most often become atheists. Sometimes these atheists speak out against what they consider to be harmful to others. They don’t want others to be hurt they way they were or fall into the same illogical ways of thinking that they fell into. Some are hurt so bad that they become angry with their past belief system and lash out against those who perpetuate it. Some atheists get past that stage, some do not.
Keep in mind, the difference between a militant atheist and a militant theists is broad. The worst a militant atheist will do is write a post in a forum or make a video. The worst a militant theist does is take away your rights or kill you.
Lastly, yes the bible does teach some good things. However none of it is unique to the bible. The golden rule you talk about is better known as the “social contract” and exists in any society with more then one person in it. Just because a religion has some good points to it doesn’t make it okay to tell someone who they can or can not love, or who they should kill, or how other people should live their lives. If the KKK did charity work would you consider them a good organization or would you still judge them on the merits of their teachings? If a group of child molesters taught that everyone should love each other would you praise them? Just because your religion may have some good things to teach in it says nothing to the truth of their claims.
I hope that answers your questions. Feel free to continue the discussion in the comment section below, and as always, thanks for asking.

22 thoughts on “Why are atheists so mean?”

  1. 1) I think athiests, as a general rule, don’t see any proof that there is a god, and therefore see no reason to believe in one. From a scientific point of view no one can say will 100% certainty that there is no such creature as a god. That is also true for leprechauns, Santa Claus, or any other thing that someone has claimed exists for which there is no known proof of it existing. I don’t say that to be smart or cute, but simply to point out that mankind has many things that some believe exist even though there is no evidenced to substantiate such a stance.

    2) Some atheists might “rip on” Christianity, but in general I think atheists tend to point out the inconsistencies, logical fallacies, and impossibilities of religious claims to believers. Because religion is a personal thing to people, these statements are often taken as an attack by believers. I can understand that feeling on behalf of believers too, because they probably feel like atheists are making them feel ignorant or simple or foolish. I’ll be honest with you on something – in a way we are. There is almost no way to point out the holes in religion without insulting someone who has made their belief a part of their life. Arguments and stances that I held as a Christian are now so ludicrous and illogical to me that I find it hard to accept that I ever believed them. I don’t write that to insult you by the way, but to try to explain to you that from an atheists point of view a discussion on religion probably has no personal component and is more of a logical debate than anything. Obviously religious types feel differently.

    And Christianity only seems like the main target because that is the predominant religion of this country. I’ve had the same discussions with Hindus, Muslims, Jews, etc, just not nearly as often as I do with Christians. Most atheists in America that used to be religious were also Christians, so they are most familiar with that belief system and can comment on its particulars easily.

    3) There are good things in all ancient religious texts. That does not mean however that we needed religion to point them out (and in fact most of what you find in religious texts was borrowed or rehashed from earlier cultures, dogmas, and fables). The classic one is that morality did not exist before the Bible (or Koran or Vedas or insert your favorite one here), which is ridiculous. So while religion has good things that people should use in their lives, like respecting others for example, that does not mean we need religion to use it or to pass it on.

  2. I think atheists rip on Christianity because its the bad things and the absurd things about it that stand out to us. The good things, like the golden rule, seem pretty self evident and not like something we need a religion to teach us. Also, seeing as it’s the dominant religion in western cultures, Christianity is the religion we’re most familiar with, the one who’s flaws we’re most likely to see, and the one which most directly impacts our lives.

  3. Why do you feel it necessary to misrepresent Christianity? The thing that a lie hates most is the truth, that is why atheists rip on Christians more than other religions.

    You write: “You probably tend to dismiss all of the ugly parts of your religion like slavery,”
    Ah, yes… Atheists seem to always want to bring slavery up. They think that the Bible condones treating people like animals and beating and killing them. Actually, the Bible provides a basis for why slavery is wrong. From an atheistic point of view, treating people like animals makes sense—it is what we are. The only basis to reject slavery that atheists have is their opinion. Unfortunately for them, their opinion is no less unfounded than one who condones beating and murdering people. It is only the Bible that provides an objective reason to not beat and murder people.
    Slaves serve people. When a slave is beaten without cause, starved, or murdered, that is wrong.

    Seriously? Actually the Bible teaches that all humans are of one race and of equal value. Evolution teaches that there are higher and lower races of man. Anybody who has read Darwin’s Decent of Man knows this.

    “women and children as property,”
    Where does the Bible condone this? I’ve read the entire Bible and have never read anything like this. If you are going to claim as much, you should provide some evidence.

    “sexual repression,”
    I’m not sure what you mean by this. Could you please explain? If you are trying to say that the Bible teaches that sex before marriage is wrong, then you would be correct. If you are trying to say that the Bible says that Homosexuality is wrong, then you would also be correct.

    “child abuse,”
    Again, no proof. Where does the Bible condone child abuse? I’ll give you a hint—it doesn’t.

    “and worst of all, the concept that another can pay for the things that you have done wrong.”
    I’m surprised that you think this is worse than racism and child abuse. Finally, you did say something that is true, however. I do believe that Christ took my punishment because of his mercy and love. I believe that mercy and love are wonderful. Why don’t you?

    “Have you given up everything to follow Jesus?”

    “Do you still eat shrimp? Do you cut your hair? Do you wear clothes of different fibers? These are all things that your bible says are bad, yet you probably don’t follow them do you?”
    Are you trying to be funny? The only thing you have shown is that you don’t understand what the Bible teaches. Old Testament laws (such as not eating shrimp) were designed to set Israel apart from the other nations. It was similar to driving on the right side of the road. Eating shrimp isn’t morally wrong in the same way that driving on the left side of the road isn’t morally wrong. Also, most Jews did cut their hair. Only a select few (like Samson) swore to never cut their hair to show that they were set apart.

    So most of your arguments were simple straw men fallacies.

    1. I’m not about to have a scripture war with you. Thousands of sects of Christianity all teaching different interpretations and you’re going to say I misrepresent Christianity? I’ll tell you what, when you guys agree what the Bible says, then I’ll say that you’re right. How’s that?

    2. Jordan, seriously, you need to put that Bible down and read more widely in the fields of history and biology. Maybe even do a course.

      “Actually, the Bible provides a basis for why slavery is wrong.”

      Actually, no it doesn’t. Nowhere in either the OT or NT will you find a passage that explicitly says slavery is not allowed. The Bible merely regulates how slavery should be conducted. If the Bible says slavery is wrong how come Christian sects as diverse as the Catholic church (Dum Diversas and the Romanus Pontifex ), the Southern Baptists (the founding Convention of 1845 was based explicitly on scripturally-based pro-slavery teachings), the Church of England, through their United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (at one time, the largest single slave-owning organisation in the world), even some Presbyterian churches owned slaves. I could go on and on with historical evidence. if you think the Bible doesn’t support slavery you might do well to read e.g., Presbyterian minister Josiah Priest’s, ‘Bible Defence Of Slavery: On The Origin, History And Fortunes Of The Negro Race’. It proved so popular it was reprinted eight times in the first five years after it’s publication in 1843. Another highly influential work taking a literal Biblical view was ‘Inequality of the Human Races’ by Arthur de Gobineau, first published in French in 1853. If you want to see a document that bans slavery outright, in no uncertain terms, with no exceptions (its even been used to legally challenge some work contracts), try the European Convention on Human Rights. You’d probably think its immoral though – its secular.

      “It is only the Bible that provides an objective reason to not beat and murder people.”

      So what happened in the Crusades, the massacre of the Cathars, the Inquisition, the burning of ‘witches’ etc etc etc. Did they forget their Bibles? Jordan, anyone can make assertions. Please explain how interpreting the perceived instructions of some other being, of which you have absolutely no evidence for its existence, deemed to be ‘objective’? You are obviously using a completely different definition of ‘objective’ from the rest of the world. Please cite some empirical evidence -or any evidence whatsoever- that morality exists outside of a human brain. And what about the Jainist scriptures, the Vedas, the Pali Canon (>10x larger than the Bible), Tao Te Ching, the Analects of Confucious etc etc. Please tell us how the morality and ethics of the Bible is superior to these texts, because from an ‘objective’ viewpoint I can’t see it. Try comparing Jainist and Biblical scripture and then tell me – straight-faced – that the Bible is the more moral (or ‘objective’). It’s a no-brainer.

      “Evolution teaches that there are higher and lower races of man. Anybody who has read Darwin’s Decent of Man knows this.”

      Obviously you haven’t read it. You’ve probably read carefully selected excerpts hand-picked from people with no training in evolutionary biology. First, you might want to read up on the distinctly Christian notion of polygenism (e.g., Josiah priest, Louise Agassiz, Josiah Clark Nott, George Gliddon, Arthur de Gobineau, Houston Chamberlain) which Darwin directly refuted by his claim that all human beings have descended from the same ancestor species’. Next you might want to read copies of The African-American Methodist paper ‘The ‘Christian Recorder’ which, in the 20 years following Origin of Species’ actually ran editorials and articles praising Darwin for questioning the Christian polygenist notion of ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ races. This is from 1863, before he had published anything on human evolution:

      “One question of much dispute seems to have been settled by Mr Darwin…….the Caucasian, the Malay, and the Negro, according to his facts, are varieties of a species, and may all have descended from a single pair”

      Doesn’t quite fit with current creationist lying claptrap, does it? Of course, creationist quote-mining didn’t exist in those days. Here’s some of what Darwin actually thought and wrote on the subject:

      “I was told before leaving England that after living in slave countries all my opinions would be altered; the only alteration I am aware of is forming a much higher estimate of the negro character” (letter to Rev. J.S. Henslo, 1834)

      “I always thought well of the negroes, from the little which I have seen of them; and I have been delighted to have my vague impressions confirmed, and their character and mental powers so ably discussed” (letter to Colonel Thomas Higginson, 1873)

      “By the way, a negro lived in Edinburgh, who had travelled with Waterton, and gained his livelihood by stuffing birds, which he did excellently: he gave me lessons for payment, and I used often to sit with him, for he was a very pleasant and intelligent man.” (Autobiography)

      “I was incessantly struck, whilst living with the Feugians on board the “Beagle,” with the many little traits of character, shewing how similar their minds were to ours” (Descent of Man)

      “………all the races agree in so many unimportant details of structure and in so many mental peculiarities that these can be accounted for only by inheritance from a common progenitor; and a progenitor thus characterised would probably deserve to rank as man………..It may be doubted whether any character can be named which is distinctive of a race and is constant. Savages, even within the limits of the same tribe, are not nearly so uniform in character, as has been often asserted…… Man has been studied more carefully than any other animal, and yet there is the greatest possible diversity amongst capable judges whether he should be classed as a single species or race, or as two (Virey), as three (Jacquinot), as four (Kant), five (Blumenbach), six (Buffon), seven (Hunter), eight (Agassiz), eleven (Pickering), fifteen (Bory St. Vincent), sixteen (Desmoulins), twenty-two (Morton), sixty (Crawfurd), or as sixty-three, according to Burke…… the races ought not to be ranked as species……they graduate into each other, and that it is hardly possible to discover clear distinctive characters between them” (Descent of Man)

      How on earth, after reading that last passage, can anyone deduce that Darwin believed in ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ races? He’s questioning the very idea! Oh, I know how! You get a sentence from here and a sentence from there, and a sentence from later on, then you put them together, publish them on a creationist website, claiming it to be a direct quote…….and some people are so gullible they believe it. Good grief, the concept of ‘higher’ and lower’ structures, organisms, species and ‘races’ doesn’t even exist in evolutionary biology. And even if Darwin had stated that there were ‘higher’ and lower’ races, so what? He wrote that stuff 140 years ago! Where do you get the idea that modern evolutionary biology would still think that? The genetic evidence alone strongly says otherwise.

      “women and children as property,” Where does the Bible condone this?
      Well, the little thing about Abraham and his son springs to mind…..also
      Ephesians 5:22-24. husband is head of the wife
      Collosians 3:18. wives submit to husbands
      Timothy 2:11. a woman not to teach or usurp authority over a man
      Titus 2:4-5. a wives should be obedient to husbands.
      Corinthians 11:9. man was not created for woman, woman was created for man.
      Romans 1:27. the natural use of a woman is the sexual pleasure of a man.

      Obvious psychopathology. You wouldn’t want to teach to teach drivel like that to your children, would you?

      1. So Peter, I guess the answer to your question is that some Atheist are just angry people and they feel more secure when they can vilify Christians.

        1. Is it anger, or is it just thin-skinnedness on the part of some Christians? Open up any academic book, journal newspaper or magazine and you’ll find critiques – of scientific experiments, technology, political ideas, theatre productions, poetry, novels, films, photographic works, music, architecture, landscape gardening. Is there some special reason why Christianity should be exempt from critique? Is there some reason why theism in general should be exempt from critique? When people make ridiculous and/or unsupported claims – in any field at all – they are going to get critiqued and ridiculed. Especially if they expect other people to kowtow to their beliefs. Like Rohit said, no-one is exempt, even Muslims.
          So, when people like Jordan come up with completely untrue statements like “evolution teaches that there are higher and lower races of man” in order to bolster his worldview, he’s leaving himself open to rebuttal. And for some people, who actually know something about biology and have worked in the field, those rebuttals will often be passionate. Where’s the problem?

          I agree with Rohit on another point he made, I know people who are Christian and they have no problem at all with jokes about Christians, including clergy and Jesus. But then they’re mainstream, majority Christians, not the loony tune fringe creationists (there I go again, I really should get back to my anger management classes…….)

      2. You are right, I misspoke. The Bible never explicitly bans slavery. My point was that slavery as westerners usually imagine it (eg. humans as property, beatings, murder, etc.) is wrong according to the Bible. However, it cannot be wrong from an atheistic worldview (unless you want to accept some arbitrary, unfounded opinion).

        Most of your reply is logically unsound. Your arguments boil down to the following: John Doe is a Christian and he does X (something that you have arbitrarily decided is bad). Therefore X is what the Bible teaches. I hope that you can understand how weak of an argument that is.

        Darwin was actually an abolitionist. However he did make it clear that humans have evolved which necessarily implies some sort of hierarchy. You quoted Darwin as writing that different races of human beings “graduate into each other”. How is that not a hierarchy? If that wasn’t enough, he says in The Decent of Man: “We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution, would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilized societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.” Do you ever wonder why the full title of Origin of the Species is rarely mentioned? Its full title was On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of FAVOURED RACES in the Struggle for Life. Did you catch that? even the title of his book proclaims that their are favoured races. The length of the title isn’t the only reason we never hear the whole thing—the other reason is the inherent racism of it. Darwin says in The Origin of Species that there is “one general law leading to the advancement of all organic beings, –namely, multiply, vary, let the strongest live and the weakest die.”

        What bothers me is how often atheists only give one side of the evidence. Forget all of the horrible things Darwin said, let’s just focus on the good things.

        I appreciate that you backed up what you claimed about the Bible with actual references. The ironic part is that non of those verses even hinted that women and children are property. As usual, you don’t want to understand the passage, you just want to make it sound as bad as possible. You are correct that the Bible teaches that women are to submit to their husbands and that husbands are the head of the wife. The husband and wife have different roles in the family. It is similar to our government—there are three branches that all have separate but important roles to play. It is the same way in a family with the husband and wife.

        Also you took Romans 1:27 way out of context. The context is talking about the wickedness and unnaturalness of homosexuality. It says that union between a man and a woman is natural while anything else is not. It is in no way saying that women are for the sexual pleasure of men.

        You write: “Obvious psychopathology. You wouldn’t want to teach to teach drivel like that to your children, would you?”
        This is a typical atheistic argument. “Oh, the poor children!” Ironically, the Bible teaches that children are made in the image of God and that salvation requires child-like faith. This is in stark contrast to the atheist who believes that children are nothing more than animals.

        1. “Most of your reply is logically unsound.”

          No, it’s not. You’re playing the notorious ‘No True Scotsman’ card. Christians are defined by what they believe and how they behave. If you say you’re a Christian and use the Bible to support your views on slavery or whatever, then Christianity is a religion that supports slavery. It might not do so now, but it has in the past. The reason we no longer have slavery in much of the world is because we have matured from a morality based on divine command to one largely based on empathy and reason. Some Christians supported that shift, others didn’t.

          “You quoted Darwin as writing that different races of human beings “graduate into each other”.

          Darwin is saying that the lines between what we call races is blurred. There is no sharp distinction between races, there’s just a population of people with variation within that population. Its not a hierarchy. The concept of hierarchy doesn’t exist in evolutionary biology. Ever see a cladistic diagram? Notice that no one species is ever placed at the top? Including humans?

          As far as your quote from the Descent of man goes you are doing exactly what I criticised creationists for doing. You’ve picked a few sentences and presented them as if that was the matter settled. It’s dishonest. You wouldn’t get away with that in any peer-reviewed journal. You are simply ignoring the very next paragraph in which Darwin makes crystal clear his contempt for eugenics:

          “The aid which we feel impelled to give to the helpless is mainly an incidental result of the instinct of sympathy, which was originally acquired as part of the social instincts, but subsequently rendered, in the manner previously indicated, more tender and more widely diffused. Nor could we check our sympathy, even at the urging of hard reason, without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature. The surgeon may harden himself whilst performing an operation, for he knows that he is acting for the good of his patient; but if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with an overwhelming present evil”.

          So, completely contrary to what you are claiming, Darwin actually told us that the practice of eugenics would result in “deterioration in the noblest part of our nature” and be “an overwhelmingly present evil”. So what’s the problem?

          “Do you ever wonder why the full title of Origin of the Species is rarely mentioned?”

          No, I don’t wonder, because unlike you I’ve actually read the book. In fact, bringing up the subtitle of the book is a sure sign that the person you’re debating with hasn’t read the book. Throughout the book Darwin (as did many scientists in his time) uses terms like ‘race’, ‘sub-species’ and variety’ interchangeably when discussing a range of animals such as dogs and horses, barnacles and finches as well as plants. The book makes no mention at all of human evolution, so how can you possibly infer racism from a book that talks about vegetables and birds and barnacles and dogs? For example, in this passage from Chapter 1 Darwin uses three different words to describe the same concept:

          “When we look to the hereditary varieties or races of our domestic animals and plants, and compare them with species closely allied together, we generally perceive in each domestic race, as already remarked, less uniformity of character than in true species”.

          And favoured doesn’t mean what you think it means. It means that, in retrospect, we have been able to identify which subpopulations of a species have been lucky enough to have survived (reproductive success). Who or what do you think does the favouring? Evolution by natural selection is non-teleological. It’s an algorithm. It has no plan, no purpose, it’s a blind process – how can a ‘race’ be favoured, using your definition. It’s only possible to discern which populations within a species have been reproductively successful (lucky) in retrospect. Natural selection can’t ‘favour’ anything. It selects against traits that are not well adapted to a particular environment (which might change abruptly). We don’t even count individuals as reproductively successful, we observe which alleles have survived over time in populations. The strongest does not mean the most physically powerful, or the most intelligent. It means the alleles which produce traits best suited to a particular environment. If you were to ask an evolutionary biologist which organisms have the best track record in terms of ‘fitness’, they would undoubtedly tell you its the simplest ones; bacteria, worms etc (and simplest in terms of morphology does not mean simplest in terms of genetics as most creationists seem to think – there are species of onions whose genome is 5x larger than that of human beings). Anyway, I don’t see why I should give you a Biology 101 lesson, if you were really interested in learning how the universe works you wouldn’t be listening to dishonest, scientifically illiterate people who have obviously been lying to you. Like I say, put the Bible down and go and do a course in history and/or biology.

          “This is a typical atheistic argument…….the Bible teaches that children are made in the image of God and that salvation requires child-like faith”

          So what? I couldn’t care less what the Bible teaches. It’s got so many things wrong, scientifically and historically, it’s full to the brim with metaphor which can be interpreted in a thousand different ways including in the most evil manner, in many cases it’s obviously not authored by the people who purportedly wrote it, it’s morally repugnant, and it’s been cobbled together, post-hoc, by people with some political axe to grind. Now if it contained some information that couldn’t possibly have been known by bronze-age goat herding tribes, like a mathematical axiom or the germ theory of disease (casting out demons definitely doesn’t count), then maybe I’d sit up and take some notice. But as it is, it doesn’t pass even a basic test of credulity and nor do any of the other scriptures from around the world (though the Buddhist Canon does seem to have some interesting philosophical points and some of the techniques they use are gathering a little support from neuroscience research).

          “the atheist who believes that children are nothing more than animals.”

          Not sure what your point is here. Of course we’re animals. Where’s the evidence that we’re not? Are you the sort of person who feels that we must always derive an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’? If so, I feel sorry for you. I’d rather share empathy and reason with my fellow humans to try to come to some decisions as to what’s the best way to treat one another and bring up our children. Like I said earlier, present some evidence that morality exists somewhere, in some way, outside of a human brain and you can bet I’ll listen. Because I want to know what’s true, not what makes me feel good.

      3. Just one comment ‘ Do unto others as you would have them do unto you ‘ says it all concerning slavery . Who wants to be a slave no one !

        1. Hi Carole,

          Although this phrase might appear to be a sound basis for morality people as diverse as medical ethicists, social psychologists and Buddhist thinkers have pointed out that, if applied without exemption, it can lead to an increase in suffering.

          The problem lies in the notion that it places the subjective wishes of individuals at the centre of moral decision making; an ‘ego-based morality’ as some Buddhists have called it. There is little or no role accorded to empathy. For example, those with masochistic tendencies would be encouraged to act sadistically toward others. Likewise, a person with psychopathic tendencies that involved low aversion to existential risk would be encouraged to treat others as if they also had a low aversion to such risk; “as you would have them do unto you”. This is abundantly evident in the political and economic domains, both historically and currently. Thus, this kind of morality can negatively affect basic human rights. If you’re a devout Christian or Muslim and believe that life is a gift from god and so should never be willingly taken or given up, you are more likely to deny, say, medical euthanasia to people in wretched circumstances, regardless of the patient’s rationale, wishes, hopes, desires etc; there being no requirement to take these into account.

          A kinder moral precept would be to treat others “as they wish to be treated” – we are seeing a (slow) move toward more reasoned, empathy-based morality in the developed nations. After all, although most people may not want to be slaves (though Islam specifically requires that adherents see themselves as slaves of god), likewise, most people do not want to either be subject to or administer a tyrannical precept that has no place for the hopes and desires of others.

          Another thing worth mentioning is that the precept isn’t Christian, not originally biblical. It’s found in several texts that predate the Bible, both Middle-Eastern and Asian.

    3. Jordan, Not only are you ignorant about evolution, you are also grossly ignorant of what your bible says. You only demonstrate
      your ignorance and stupidity with a statement such as the one you posted.
      Go back to square one and study,study, study untill you are capable of posting something that merits recognition.

      1. Hi Larry. I am not ignorant about evolution. I’m just skeptical. I am a science major in college right now and you would be terribly misinformed if you thought that evolution wasn’t shoved down my thoat every single day. Also, I am extremely familiar with what the Bible says. I read it with the intent to understand it. This is contrary to most atheists (who usually do nothing more than copy and paste verses from atheist websites), who read the Bible in order to twist its meaning to serve their own purposes.

        1. Oh Jordan, you are not sceptical. You are merely trying to push an agenda without presenting any actual evidence or even citations.

          “I am a science major in college right now”

          I’m sorry Jordan, I don’t believe you. Not for a minute. And I’m not merely indulging in personal animosity here. I have a background in university scientific research and teaching. Science undergraduates should understand what scientific methodology and what a scientific theory is, they don’t go around making statements like “Is evolution really a scientific fact? Actually it is a theory”.

          “I am not ignorant about evolution.”

          Oh yes you are. Abysmally so. You make ludicrous statements like “Evolution teaches that there are higher and lower races of man” and “Molecules to man Evolution cannot be observed, tested, or repeated. Sure, most scientist believe it”.

          First, you can’t even get the definition of evolution correct. Second, there is no way you have been taught any of this in a biology, chemistry or psychology department in a properly accredited university anywhere in the world, and certainly not by any reputable researcher. Third, even in the highly unlikely circumstance that some science department somewhere is happy to accept such a low level of understanding and analysis from students, I’m sure they’d lose accreditation – or you’re going to fail the course.

          “evolution wasn’t shoved down my thoat every single day”

          What do you mean, like poetry is shoved down an English Lit student’s throat every day? If you don’t want to familiarise yourself with and analyse the evidence for evolution, why are you (allegedly) doing a biology-based degree? Why not study basket weaving or flower arranging? You’d find it much easier.

          1. Wow, I am honestly slightly surprised by the excessive ad hominem attacks in your response. I’ve seen it from many other atheists, but I had hoped that you were above it due to the relatively civil discussion we have had so far. I want you to know that I do not want to partake in a discussion of name calling and abusive ad hominem attacks. If that is what you would like to do, then please find someone else to discuss with.

            “Oh Jordan, you are not sceptical. You are merely trying to push an agenda without presenting any actual evidence or even citations.”
            Actually, when I was making a point about Darwin, I provided numerous quotes as evidence. The discussion hasn’t primarily been about the embarrassing amount of evidence against evolution but because you asked we could start with the fact that there has never been an example of ANY life form coming from non-life. After that, we could discuss that fact that macro evolution changing one kind of animal into another kind has NEVER been observed. We could also discuss the tremendous lack of transitional fossils in the fossil record (I could go on, but I tried giving SmartLX a longer list and he got mad…).

            “I’m sorry Jordan, I don’t believe you. Not for a minute. And I’m not merely indulging in personal animosity here.”
            As a Christian, I believe that lying is wrong—I have a moral obligation to tell the truth. I can assure you that I am not lying. If I was an atheist, your hesitancy to believe me would be reasonable.

            “I have a background in university scientific research and teaching.”
            Really? With all due respect, it appears as if your goal is not to educate, but to alienate. If you wanted to change my mind, why would you a resort to attacking me personally?

            “Science undergraduates should understand what scientific methodology and what a scientific theory is, they don’t go around making statements like “Is evolution really a scientific fact? Actually it is a theory”.”
            Most secular scientist would agree that our understanding of science is not perfect. There are even some scientific laws that we are discovering may not be entirely true. Do you hold to your beliefs with such religious fervor that you are unable to recognize that they may someday prove to be false?

            Me:“I am not ignorant about evolution.”
            You:”Oh yes you are.”
            Me: Oh no I’m not! Seriously Gary, this is how children argue…

            “You make ludicrous statements like “Evolution teaches that there are higher and lower races of man” and “Molecules to man Evolution cannot be observed, tested, or repeated. Sure, most scientist believe it”.
            With regard to my first comment: if we all evolved from apes, then some humans would be more closely related to apes than others. Would you disagree? As for the second comment: if it is so ludicrous, could you please provide a link which describes such an experiment?

            “First, you can’t even get the definition of evolution correct.”
            I don’t recall ever giving the definition for evolution. Also, evolution is a vague term that can mean multiple things.

            “Second, there is no way you have been taught any of this in a biology, chemistry or psychology department in a properly accredited university anywhere in the world, and certainly not by any reputable researcher.”
            More ad hominem attacks.

            “Third, even in the highly unlikely circumstance that some science department somewhere is happy to accept such a low level of understanding and analysis from students, I’m sure they’d lose accreditation – or you’re going to fail the course.”
            Usually, a person only resorts to the ad hominem fallacy as a last resort. They can’t damage the opposing argument, so they attempt to instead damage the ethos of their opponent.

            “What do you mean, like poetry is shoved down an English Lit student’s throat every day?”
            Good analogy. Evolution rears it’s ugly head often in my science courses so I can’t help but know what it is. In the same way an English student understands poetry and other writings due to the fact that he studies them often, a science student understands evolution because he studies it often.

            “If you don’t want to familiarise yourself with and analyse the evidence for evolution, why are you (allegedly) doing a biology-based degree?”
            Another straw man fallacy. I never claimed to be pursuing a degree I biology. It is actually a physics and astronomy degree.

            “Why not study basket weaving or flower arranging? You’d find it much easier.”
            Are you trying to be funny or just rude? I find it ironic that you wrote this on a post entitled “Why are Atheists so Mean?”.

            1. Jordan, you’re giving us conflicting messages. On the one hand you’re saying that you understand these issues, then you show, by the arguments you make, that you don’t. Then you say you’re just sceptical, implying that you have an open mind, then go on to give the standard creationist canards, which, quite honestly, make anyone with a science background squirm.

              Let me give you some examples of your apparent lack of knowledge and inconsistency. You wrote “I wrote a research paper on this last year. The connection between Darwinian evolution and Hitler is hard to deny.” Now, why a student studying physics and astronomy would be required to write a paper on Darwinian evolution completely escapes me (and also why it is “shoved down your throat” daily). Sounds like a very strange physics department. But let’s look at your level of analyses on that particular paper. One of your criticisms of biological evolution is that “macro evolution changing one kind of animal into another kind has NEVER been observed.” I’m sorry, Jordan, but this line of reasoning shows me, clearly, that you do not understand biological evolution. One animal into another? What are you on about? Species don’t change from one into another. Where do you get that idea? Populations within a species may show divergence via changes in their heritable traits. And why animals? What about the other (by far the majority) life forms on the planet? Why pick on a comparatively minor type of life? Does your evidence for not accepting biological evolution somehow depend on data from animals? Macro evolution (as you call it) is, in effect, speciation. This has certainly been observed in non-animal species on many, many occasions (you can look this stuff up yourself, start with Lenski, or polyploidy). So I don’t know who is telling you that speciation has never been observed, but they are certainly lying to you. Now, the reason it has not been directly observed in more complex life forms, such as mammalian species, is because their lifespans are so long and genetic changes are slow and gradual taking, ordinarily, millions of years. You are an astronomy and physics student. The concept of a process taking millions of years is integral to your field of study. You should have no problem with the concept. Now if we ever did directly observe “changing one kind of animal into another kind” (note you’re claiming to fully understand biological evolution but you’re using the term ‘kind’, which has no meaning in biology, though it does in creationism, albeit undefined) then that would mean the modern synthesis of Darwinian style evolution (and most of molecular genetics) is completely and utterly refuted, destroyed for ever. That would be saltation and we would have to start the study of biology all over again. You then go on to defend your views by claiming “if we all evolved from apes, then some humans would be more closely related to apes than others. Would you disagree?” This makes my jaw drop. Of course I would disagree. I don’t know where you’ve got the idea that that we have evolved FROM apes to become something different. The last time I looked, WE ARE APES. The taxanomic family Hominidae comprise 7 currently living species, of which Homo sapiens are one. Please acquaint yourself with the study of cladistics. Are you trying to say that, if evolutionary theory is correct, then some Homo sapiens would be more or less Hominidae than others? Any comparison between the human genome and the genomes of the other extant Hominidae species (particularly our genetically closest cousin species Pan troglodytes and Pan paniscus) demonstrates that Homo sapiens are not only a distinct species (as you would expect) but also demonstrates the integrity of within-species genetic variability. This was a key observation of Darwin, discussing variation in human traits, all those years ago and he knew nothing of genetics. While Christian polygenists were blathering on about the distinct differences in traits between the ‘races’ being created by God, Darwin swept all that aside and pointed out the actual relative lack of trait differences between the ‘races’. Darwin was correct. All Homo sapiens differ genetically from the Pan species’ in exactly the same way (though there is, as you would predict, some overlap with the transitional proto-human species, especially Neanderthals and modern Europeans). But there is no genetic ‘hierarchy’ that makes some individual Homo sapiens ‘closer’ to either of the Pan species. ‘Race’ is not even a biological concept. Within-group geographical variability is often larger than between-group geographical variability. This is exactly what we would predict if evolutionary theory was correct and speciation in the Hominidae family occurred 6-7 million years ago. And this is where your reasoning that “The connection between Darwinian evolution and Hitler is hard to deny” goes awry. On the one hand, you’re claiming that speciation, change BETWEEN SPECIES (which was Darwin’s finding – he was concerned with how life became so diverse – he had nothing to say on how life started, which is something else you implied with your “molecules to man” definition of evolution) has never occurred. Is impossible. But then you go on to say that Darwin’s ideas influenced Hitler because Hitler had some religious ideal of ‘races’ that had him attempt change WITHIN a socially-constructed subpopulation of a species, a field of study which Darwin didn’t ever contribute to. Yes, he did publish a book about the matter ‘The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication’ (1868) but none of what is in that book was his own research, it was merely a discussion of previously published work. How then, can Darwin’s scientific findings be blamed for Hitler’s unscientific religious idiocy? It can’t. Unless of course, you don’t understand Darwinian notions of evolution and you’ve been reading stuff by dishonest clowns like Weikart and Bergman. Similarly, it’s amusing that creationists have been forced to accept the evidence for what they like to call ‘microevolution’ (all the while attempting to redefine evolution to mean Darwinian ‘speciation’ only) while unfairly blaming Darwin for ‘eugenics’, which is based on, oh that’s right, ‘microevolution’! Which brings me to your comment “evolution is a vague term that can mean multiple things.” This, from a science student. Jordan, just as I’m sure there are no vague definitions in physics, there are no vague definitions in biology. I think you’re confusing the observation (fact) of evolution i.e., ‘change in the form and behaviour of organisms between generations’ or ‘change over time of the proportions of individual organisms differing genetically in one or more traits’ (both definitions of which surely no sane person denies), with the theory (mechanics) of evolution i.e., the variable degree to which natural selection, random mutation, genetic drift etc. have effect. Darwinian natural selection or now the ‘modern synthesis’, is the theory that has lasted for 140 years precisely because, contrary to what creationists assert, it has yet to be refuted (though it is continually being tweaked). In terms of the quantity of research findings from a wide diversity of fields, it is probably the most substantiated theory in the whole of science. In any case, contrary to what you assert, all biological evolution is measured by changes in allele frequencies over time. Hardly a “vague term”.

              Jordan, the reason I resorted to ad hominem is because you did by stating that atheists “usually do nothing more than copy and paste verses from atheist websites” and “read the Bible in order to twist its meaning to serve their own purposes”. I became frustrated. I was waiting for you to put something meaningful on the table. You have come onto this site purportedly with an open mind and a genuine interest in the subjects of theism and atheism and science. In fact, you have consistently demonstrated an arrogant ‘know-it-all’ attitude with the expectation that you are going to ‘catch-out’ the silly atheists and their illogical ‘beliefs’ armed with no more than the superficial, repeated assertions we have all become used to. Look at your comment “I wrote a research paper on this last year” (Was it published? Where?). And your complaint about your university education having the audacity to challenge your beliefs (on a subject you’re not even studying). Good grief, if a university education doesn’t cause you to question, critique and analyse the data you rely on and your beliefs, then it isn’t doing its job, is it?. You then go on to pontificate about a number of aspects of biological evolution, not by bringing up specific instances that might be engendering interesting avenues of current research, but by churning out the usual creationist canards, e.g., “the tremendous lack of transitional fossils in the fossil record” (hint: do some basic research before making inane blanket statements – if you had said something like ‘I can appreciate there exists a comprehensive timeline of fossils between A and B but how do you explain the apparent gaps in the fossil record between X and Y? we would then have some basis for a discussion, as it would show me that you have some genuine interest in and had put some effort into understanding the subject). But do you really think for a moment that the theory of evolution would have survived pre-molecular genetics if there were a “tremendous lack of transitional fossils”?. Everything I have written has been in reply to some outlandish statement you have made. I have commented in only those areas in which I have some expertise. I am not a student of either physics or astronomy so, if the tables were turned, I would not deign to pontificate to those who are (though I certainly would ask questions to have points clarified and learn more), regardless of whether my opinions came via more than a centuries worth of peer-reviewed physics journals or the unsubstantiated fringe ideas of obvious crackpots.

  4. Well … I vilify all religions (equal opportunity vilifier)… but no-one seems to notice (sigh).
    How do you target one specific fairy tale in a world that’s full of tomes that gives all Grimm brothers’ tales a good run for their money?

    Maybe (just maybe) some atheists tend to get fixated on the fairy tale they’ve been told since childhood – maybe because it’s had such an impact on them while growing up. And Christianity being a major world religion, you are bound to have a large number of atheists who were brought up Christian – thus so much disproving of / fixation on Christianity.

    I’ll give this to Christianity though (and to some extent to Buddhism) – at-least it’s not physically dangerous to speak ill of it. Speak ill of some other faiths (I won’t even attempt to name them here) and you might actually have your life in peril …

  5. New Atheists are essentially Protestant Calvinists, complete with biblical literalism and potential for fundamentalism intact. That is why they hate Christianity, particularly Fundamentalist/Calvinist Protestantism most of all. We hate that which we resemble most, and that with which we most compete for potential resources and converts. This is why Ayaan Hirsi Ali particularly hates Islam, and exHasids particularly hate Judaism. Yet they all remain blindly dogmatic and batshit crazy.

    Plain, Old, or small a atheists simply don’t believe in any god. I like them. Nice bunch. Sensible. Don’t make sweeping pronouncements on things they know SFA about.

    All of the complaints listed, slavery, genocide, reduced status of women were all things that existed in cultures prior to anything in the Bible, and have all existed in irreligious cultures after. Prior to the introduction of Christianity in Europe there was forced marriage and honour crimes in which women’s noses and ears were cut off and the church enacted progressive legislations forbidding these things and raising the status of women. The same church killed Jews and ran the Crusades, but also tried to stop some of the Crusades, which were inspired by mob fervour instigated by greedy secular leaders. Secular ideologies invested with emotional fervour have killed hundreds of millions in the last century. All religion does is give people different reasons for doing precisely the same things they would have done anyway, or require them to make different justifications for it.
    No gods are necessary for violence. Orthodox Buddhism has none, and has militant fundamentalists who urge attacks on minorities.

    It always fascinates me, the blind faith that New Atheists have that if only we could get rid of religion (hunt down the heresy, make war, kill the unbelievers who won’t recant if necessary….oh yes, it’s been said), then it would usher in a golden age of peaceful utopia in which Reason reigned forever and ever.

    And the Jew laughs the ironic unfunny laugh, having heard that schtick already several times….right before the knock on the door in the middle of the night.

    1. Hi Kavod

      “New Atheists are essentially Protestant Calvinists, complete with biblical literalism and potential for fundamentalism intact.”

      Its an interesting viewpoint, which It think might be inspired by the situation in the USA, where fundamentalist protestant Christians are found in much larger numbers than elsewhere. But how do you square your synopsis with the fact that Richard Dawkins’ books sell particularly well in e.g., Spain, a country which, in my experience, has a high percentage of ‘new’-style atheists and only a negligible history of protestant Christianity? Or the UK, in which fundamentalist fire and brimstone Christianity has been noticeable largely by its absence in the public arena for at least a century?

      I do agree with your observation that both secular and religious institutions have advocated violence and social inequality – but I’m not sure what point you’re ultimately trying to make. One major difference between secular and religious institutions is that secular institutions have never claimed to hold revealed knowledge regarding morality (as well as historically having a divinely ordained right to police that morality as they see fit; even that acknowledged pinnacle of Christian philosophical thought, Thomas Aquinas, wrote that atheists and heretics should always be executed; “severed from the world”). I don’t think there’s anything unreasonable (or “batshit crazy”) about holding such people – who claim to have a direct and infallible line to the source of objective morality – to a far higher moral standard than those who have never made such a claim.

      And, given that reason and secular thought has endowed us with so many things (which even the majority of theists are perfectly happy to accept), doesn’t it follow that we owe it to humanity to explore just how far reason and secular thought is able to take us?

    2. I am an atheist, and I don’t hate Christianity, although I do see it as both harmful and a bit silly. You need to avoid making blanket statements as though atheists present some sort of monolithic group. Being an atheist simply means that you do not believe there is sufficient evidence to believe a god (any god) exists.Beyond that, atheists are a diversified as religious people are.
      I agree that great harm has been done by all religions as well as those who claim no religion. Guess the point is that religion just gives humankind one more excuse for bad behavior, so why not dispense with it since it is based on wishful thinking anyway.

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