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Austin Cline

Mailbag: What do Atheists Do?

By February 3, 2013

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From: "Miss"
Subject: What is Atheism?
I just want to know if atheists practice anything like sacrificing animals or anything sort of devilish? I don't know much about the subject, so sorry to be ignorant to it. But I was told once that they do sacrifice goats.

No, we don't sacrifice goats - just baby sheep on every full moon.

I'm joking! I don't know of any atheists who engage in animal sacrifices or any similar behavior. Perhaps there are a few, but what would they be sacrificing animals to? Probably some "higher power," and not while some atheists believe in ghosts and such, that's not the sort of thing you make sacrifices to. Usually that's some sort of god, and atheists don't believe in any gods.

As far as "devilish," that depends upon what you mean. Some atheists are Satanists, but they don't believe in a literal Satan - a Satan that is a real, living being. They treat Satan more as a metaphorical principle - some of the things they do might be regarded as "devilish" by some, but I wouldn't use that label.

Maybe the source from which i got my information was joking, but I just found out that someone for which I care alot for is an atheist, and I don't know how to take it. So, if you could just briefly explain to me what an atheist does or if they/you practice any type of rituals or anything of that nature to better help me deal with this, I would greatly appreciate it...

How do you take it when someone close to you is an atheist? Well, there really isn't much to do: just accept it and treat your friend like you always have, as a decent human being. There aren't any rituals or habits that need to be dealt with. The only thing atheists have in common is a lack of belief in gods. After that, anything is possible - you may share more in common with an atheist friend than with other theists.

More selections from the Agnosticism / Atheism Mailbag...

August 12, 2007 at 11:00 am
(1) Betsy says:

Well, at least she’s asking questions and not jumping to conclusions. That’s a start!

August 12, 2007 at 12:40 pm
(2) Blunderov says:

“…like sacrificing animals or anything sort of devilish?…”

[Blunderov] A lot depends on the eye of the beholder. The Bible is chock full of sacrifices both human and animal. And the Catholic church practices ritual cannibalism in it’s primary rite: “Mass”. The horror, the horror.


“The Bible, especially the Old Testament, is filled with numerous stories of animal and human sacrifice. God, we are told, likes the pleasing aroma of burning flesh. Animal sacrifice is much more common than human sacrifice, but both occur and are “pleasing to the Lord”.

Genesis, the first book of the Bible, has Abraham preparing to sacrifice his son to God. “Take your son, your only son – yes, Isaac, whom you love so much – and go to the land of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will point out to you.” (Genesis 22:1-18) Abraham takes his own son up on a mountain and builds an altar upon which to burn him. He even lies to his son and has him help build the altar. Then Abraham ties his son to the altar and puts a knife to his throat. He then hears God tell him this was just a test of his faith. However, God still wanted to smell some burnt flesh so he tells Abraham to burn a ram.”

August 12, 2007 at 1:01 pm
(3) Rosalie says:

It’s just like the response to learning that someone you know and love is a homosexual. Homosexuality and atheism are considered abnormal, and the observer regards the person as a freak of some sort to be feared. We’re all just normal people (really!) neither more nor less likely to have strange foibles as anyone else.

August 12, 2007 at 1:17 pm
(4) Elaygee says:

The depths of stupdity among the “righteous” are deeper than imagined.

August 12, 2007 at 2:18 pm
(5) Eric says:

Austin, I have a lot of respect for you, but I think your troll detecting instincts might not be so hot.

August 12, 2007 at 9:01 pm
(6) tracieh says:

Actually, Eric, I would have labeled this person a troll but for one experience I’ve had. A coworker of mine, who was a close acquaintance, told me that she was taught as a child that atheists worship Satan. She was not joking.

I was raised in a pretty conservative church, but they never said anything like this. So, I’m not sure which religious group or doctrine puts this out (my friend’s father was pretty far-out, and had some odd religious views). But as “made up” as this question sounds, I’ve heard this claim at least once before, put forward as a serious statement.

August 12, 2007 at 11:32 pm
(7) tr says:

Your ignorance is unreal, you certainly are jesting. We only sacrifice Christians.

August 13, 2007 at 1:24 pm
(8) Gotweirdness says:

Don’t forget, we toss animal bones on the ground to divine the future.

Seriously, a few people within my own local atheist group had said they had family members who believed that atheists were on consort with the devil. These family members were brainwashed into some form of evangelical Christianity which has a lot of nonsensical beliefs.

August 13, 2007 at 7:37 pm
(9) Ron says:

We only sacrifice Christians.
TR, You forgot to mention that we sacrifice them to the Invisible Pink Unicorn. Bless her holy hooves!

August 22, 2007 at 12:02 pm
(10) LisaG says:

Well, if this is troll-mail, it sort of backfired, since it gave the forum for information to be shared.

August 22, 2007 at 1:18 pm
(11) FrumiousBandersnark says:

Waitaminute. No ritual sacrifices of and then feasting on babies?

But … they’re so tender and delicious … oh, man. I’ve been doing it wrong all this time …

August 22, 2007 at 4:44 pm
(12) Bob Howard says:

I have heard of atheists sacrificing a sheep for a barbecue on a holiday weekend. Apparently it is a sacrifice to the god of leisure.

August 23, 2007 at 4:19 pm
(13) Rob says:

“Homosexuality and atheism are considered abnormal”

I am so tired of people unionizing these two decidedly different practices. The fact is that, societally, perhaps they are persecuted in a faintly similar way.
But that connection is tenuous at best. Homoesexuality is rarely a choice but ahteism is. They are really distinct and I have great repect for both groups. Both groups have good and bad members. It is time to stop with the image of homosexuals and atheists strolling hand-in-hand into the great godless rainbow.

Rosalie, I am sure homosexuals do not think homosexualtiy is ‘abnormal’. Atheists do not think atheism is ‘abnormal’ What is the source of your erroneous comment?

August 23, 2007 at 4:34 pm
(14) Austin Cline says:

Homoesexuality is rarely a choice but ahteism is.

I’m not aware of homosexuality ever being a choice. As an atheist, I never “chose” to be an atheist.

Rosalie, I am sure homosexuals do not think homosexualtiy is ‘abnormal’. Atheists do not think atheism is ‘abnormal’ What is the source of your erroneous comment?

Rosalie’s comment is that both are considered to be abnormal — by the observer, i.e. by outsiders. That is not an “erroneous” statement.

August 24, 2007 at 3:39 pm
(15) tom says:

I’ve always enjoyed animal sacrifice. During the late summer/fall months this usually takes the form of bushels of Chesapeake Bay Blue crabs spiced to the point of breathing fire washed down with steins of your favorite lager. Amen.

September 12, 2007 at 1:15 pm
(16) Tom T says:

Mmmmm ritual sacrifice of cow – prepared in thick slabs and sacrificed on the BBQ burner!

Sacrificial reef fish prepared with lemon and ginger!

Seriously – While it is possible this may have been a trolling. I have encountered a high level of genuine igorance and brainwashed foolery.

When confronted with someone who was convinced that atheists worship the devil, I sat them down and asked them where the whole concept of satan and devils came from … when it was finally drawn out of them that they were angels cast out of heaven, and I pointed out that if we didn’t believe in god how would we explain satan? And that there is no way a sataist or devil worshiper could possibly honestly be an atheist … they thought about this and then admitted to feeling very stupid about the whole thing.

That was when I stuck the spit up their backside and lit a fire under them!!

This belief that atheists are satanists and devil worshipers is nothing more than brainwashing, it stands up to no logical scrutiny at all.

I personally give kudos to this questioner for having the sense to give reality a chance to prevail over brainwashing

Congratulations ‘Miss’ and thankyou.

February 3, 2013 at 5:39 pm
(17) Edmond says:

What do atheists do? Well, for starters, when we want to learn about something that we don’t understand, we Google it at the very least. Or visit Wikipedia. Was “Miss” just hanging by her computer, waiting for a reply from Austin, the whole while giving suspicious, sidelong glances at her friend? Could she have not asked this person for which she claims to care a lot? Sometimes I have to wonder if theists PREFER ignorance, until it bubbles up to such a level that they can no longer apply their limited knowledge to the people in their lives, whom they KNOW it doesn’t accurately apply. Until they are challenged with contradictions on a personal level, it seems that it doesn’t even occur to them to investigate at all.

I applaud “Miss” for actively seeking out some real information, and I don’t want her to feel TOO chastised for not knowing something. But sheesh, the information is out there for anyone interested in learning it.

February 4, 2013 at 3:22 pm
(18) Dean J. Smith says:

I’ve gotten the entirely serious question ‘does that mean you worship the Devil?’ when someone found out I was an atheist. Just the once, but it’s a common belief among fundamentalist evangelicals. Imagine how prevalent it may be in rural areas!

February 12, 2013 at 4:42 pm
(19) JaytheOstrich says:

It’s all back to the old ‘if you’re not with us, you’re against us’ bit. You’re not Christian? Well, you must be against Christ then, and who do we know that’s opposite (old black and white view here)?

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