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Atheism Myths & Misconceptions: How Theists Misrepresent Atheism

There are many myths and misconceptions about what atheism entails and who atheists are - not surprising, since even the basic definition of atheism is so misunderstood. Many of the myths and misconceptions addressed here will follow a similar pattern, exposing fallacious reasoning, faulty premises, or both. These arguments need to be identified as the fallacies they really are because that is the only way genuine arguments and dialogues can be made possible.
  1. Atheism As Rebellion, Pride (15)
  2. Atheism is Not a Religion (10)
  3. Fundamentalist Atheists (19)
  4. Myth-Defining Atheism (8)
  5. Knowledge of Religion, God (9)
  6. Is Atheism Dangerous? (8)
  7. What Do Atheists Worship? (9)
  8. Atheism Causes Hopelessness (11)
  9. Atheism, Atheists, Morals (15)
  10. Are Atheists Anti-Religion? (9)
  11. What Do Atheists Believe? (6)
  12. Atheism, Science, Evolution (9)
  13. Atheists Anti-Christian? (5)

Have You Been an Atheist in a Foxhole?
The claim that there are no atheists in foxholes has been around for a long time, but it became especially popular after the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001. For theists it may be natural to assume that such a thing is true, but it's not. Just as there have surely been atheists who converted to theism, there are plenty of atheists who haven't - and plenty of theists w…

Myth-Defining Atheism: Common Myths About the Definition of Atheism
Religious theists and apologists often have a lot invested in false definitions of atheism. Many of their arguments in defense of theism and against atheism are dependent upon misrepresentations of what atheism is, so it's not hard to imagine why they would be desperate to find some basis for rejecting the truth when atheists explain to them...

Atheism & Foxholes: There Are No Atheists in Foxholes
The claim that there are no atheists in foxholes has been around for a long time, but it became especially popular after the terrorist attacks in America on September 11, 2001. This myth claims that during times of great crisis, in particular those which threaten a person's life, it is not possible to 'hold out' and maintain disbelief in a...

Angry Atheists: Why Are Atheists So Angry All the Time?
There are many things which can cause atheists to be angry. Some were raised in very religious homes and, over time, they came to discover the things they were taught by family and clergy were all wrong. Some atheists come to view religion or even just theism as being deceptive - and, hence, harmful to society. Still other atheists experience ongoing discrimination because of their disbelief in gods. They have to hide their atheism from family, friends and coworkers.

Atheism & Choice: Atheists Choose Atheism & to be Atheists
I frequently hear the claim that atheists choose atheism, usually for some morally blameworthy reason like a desire to avoid taking responsibility for their sins. My response is basically the same every time: You may not believe me, but I didn't choose any such thing, and I can't just 'choose' to start believing. Maybe you can, but I can't. I do...

Myth: It's Harder to be a Christian than an Atheist; It's Easy to Not Believe
Some religious believers, though mostly Christians in my experience, seem to have a need to perceive themselves as being persecuted and oppressed. Despite controlling all the levers of power in the American government, some Christians act like they are the powerless. I believe that this myth is a symptom of that attitude: the perceived need to...

Myth: Real Atheists Don't Convert Others, Wouldn't Promote Atheism
This isn't an uncommon perception which people have about atheism. More than a few people imagine that "real" atheism must be passive and indifferent towards theism and religion. There is nothing about either the broad definition of atheism used by atheists or the narrow definition used by many theists that would justify this belief. It seems to...

Top Myths About Atheism & Atheists: Common Myths About Atheism & Atheists
There are many myths and misconceptions about what atheism entails and who atheists are - not surprising, since even the basic definition of atheism is so misunderstood. Many of the myths and misconceptions addressed here will follow a similar pattern, exposing fallacious reasoning, faulty premises, or both. These arguments need to be identified...

Atheism, Science, Evolution: Is Atheism Based on Science, Evolution?
Atheism is commonly associated with science, which should be a good thing - right? What's wrong with science? It says something about the ideology and attitudes of some religious believers when they imagine that associating atheism with either science generally or evolution in particular somehow constitutes a criticism. One problem is how often...

Atheists vs. Christians; Atheism vs. Christianity: Are Atheists Anti-Christian?
An essential element of Christianity, one which goes back to the origins of Christianity, is the belief that Christians will necessarily be persecuted for their faith. This was true of early Christians, but many today think that this is a permanent condition and must be the case for all 'true' Christians now. Thus they seek out examples of...

Failures of Atheism: Does Atheism Do Less for People than Theism, Religion?
A popular tactic for trying to rebut atheistic critiques of religion and theism is to claim that atheism fails to provide the same things that religion and theism do: a basis for morality, meaning in life, explanations for the universe etc. These argument suffer from significant problems, two of which are most common: religion and theism do not...

Fundamentalist Atheists, Fundamentalist Atheism: They Don't Exist
More and more people are responding to atheist critiques of religion or theism by labeling the person a 'fundamentalist' atheist. Atheists are told that they are 'intolerant' when they criticize religion and that they should show more respect to religious believers. In reality, these complaints are more about how atheists are ceasing to be...

Do Atheists Have No Reason to be Moral? Are There No Atheistic Moral Standards?
For most religious theists, their religion and their god provide the basis for their entire understanding of morality and moral values. They thus find it inconceivable that atheists who don’t believe in any gods and who have no religion could possibly have a basis for morality or even understand what true moral behavior is. Many go further and...

Myths on Atheism, Meaning, Morality: Atheists Lead Meaningless Lives of Despair
Theists who cannot defend theism or criticize atheism through logic or evidence are left attacking the alleged implications of atheism itself. Even if they cannot prove that atheism unreasonable, they hope to prove that the consequences of atheism are so abhorrent that no one will want to take the chance. Among the more popular targets are to...

Everyone is Religious, Worships Something: Atheists Worship Satan, Themselves
Many religious theists insist that everyone worships something: they have some sort of god and some sort of religion. Because of the central importance of their religion and worship to their own lives, they assume that atheists not only have a religion and worship something, but also that these things hold a similarly central position in...

More People Have Been Killed in the Name of Atheism & Secularism than Religion?
A common criticism which atheists raise against religion is how violent religion and religious believers have been in the past. People have slaughtered each other in large numbers either because of differences in religious beliefs or because of other differences which are further justified and intensified through religious rhetoric. Either way,...

There are No Real Atheists in Foxholes, No Real Atheists: Atheists Can't Exist
One effective means for critiquing a belief system and/or its adherents is to point out significant contradictions between how believers behave and the ideals they espouse. These contradictions can suggest that they don't really believe what they say, that the ideals aren't taken seriously, that the system teaches worse things, etc. Atheists do this with religion frequently, but can religious theists do it with atheism? They make claims about what 'real' atheists would do, but they are wrong.

Atheism & Religious Experience: Atheists Haven't Experienced True Religion
Atheists have constructed many trenchant critiques of both religion and theism over the years. Some of these critiques can be responded to reasonably, but others are much more difficult to address in anything like an adequate manner. Sometimes, it may be easier to simply find a way to dismiss atheists entirely by claiming that atheists have...

Atheism as Rebellion & Pride: Are Atheists Just Rebelling Against God & Family?
There are many popular myths about atheism and atheists which claim that people are atheists on account of some sort of rebellion (against god, religion, church, families, fathers, etc.) or pride. At most, these myths might be true of some but not all or even most atheists; even if true, however, none of these myths would have any implications...

Atheism, Depression, & Meaning: Do Atheists Lead Meaningless Lives?
This is a very common claim heard from religious theists, especially Christians. It is also a very curious claim because it sidesteps the issues which most atheists would regard as central: does God exist? Is theism reasonable? Is atheism reasonable? By ignoring the important questions about the validity of theism and atheism, this claim is an example of the Red Herring fallacy, attacking an ultimately irrelevant issue.

"Dropped Chalk" scared off an atheist professor...
There are any number of stories circulating by email and web site which are designed to somehow "prove" that faith in God is appropriate and disbelief inappropriate. These proofs do not proceed by logic or evidence; instead, they attempt to arrive at their conclusion via some personal story which illustrates the nature and value of faith.

Atheism is just another religion
For some strange reason, many people keep getting the idea that atheism is itself some sort of religion. It's an assertion which I keep hearing in newsgroups, in private email, and in this site's chat room. Maybe it is because these people are so caught up in their own religious beliefs that they cannot imagine any person living without religion of some sort.

Many atheists have experienced deathbed conversions
Sometimes atheists will hear from a Christian that this or that famous nonbeliever converted to Christianity on his or her deathbed. Other times, atheists simply hear the very general claim that atheists tend to convert to Christianity when they are on their deathbeds, facing their immanent and certain demise. This is very similar to the myth that "there are no atheists in foxholes"...

You refuse to accept that you sin
This is simply untrue - atheists do not think that they are perfect. Like everyone else, atheists try to do the right thing, yet know that they sometimes fail; so being an atheist has nothing to do with refusing to acknowledge that we do make mistakes and do choose the wrong thing at times. Atheists just don't call their mistakes or failings sins...

Atheism is Based on Faith? Atheism Myths: Atheists Can't Disprove God & Have...
Many believers claim that atheism is as much of a faith as theism because atheists cannot prove God doesn't exist. This is a mistake on multiple levels: it's not necessarily true that atheists can't prove God doesn't exist and even when it is, that doesn't make it a 'faith' like a religion or theism.

Atheists are just Selfish? Atheism Myths: Atheists Avoid Morality and...
Some assume that atheists not only cannot be moral without god, but in fact do not want to be moral. This attitude can be summarized by the oft-quoted Psalm: 'The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.' They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none that does good.' Although those who quote this verse rarely go so far as to include...

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