We don’t ask for much
Let’s face it, believers are always asking for stuff. On their knees, with their arms uplifted, while sitting in exams, in hospital, before they go to war and while they are in it – they are all asking for something. Often, two sides even are praying to the same god for different results – like in the American Civil War, where it was remarked that god could not be both “for” and “against” slavery, as both sides were claiming divine support for their position. All these billions of prayers must surely test the endurance of the divine “ears” and temper. And despite never being answered1, except as chance would have it, believers continue in fevered earnestness to ask an un-answering god to solve their problems, heal their woes, and enrich them.
But atheists? We don’t bother god at all. We don’t ask for anything (other than to be left alone, but we never ask god for this). We are like the middle kid in a family of five which knows she doesn’t get stuck with the responsibility of the eldest, and isn’t pampered like the youngest, and so we keep our mouths shut and just do what we want and hope we won’t be noticed. And the parents are delighted that they have one less thing to worry about.
We are not boring
Believers are boring to watch. They do the same things, over and over and over. Go to an assembly place – temple, church, mosque, whatever – and do the same rituals, sing the same songs, chant the same platitudes, and read the same books over and over and over. In some cases, for thousands of years (think how mind-numbed the Egyptian gods must have been after a steady 3,500+ years of this). I mean at least an occasional human sacrifice might liven things up a bit. Feeding a virgin to a dragon would offer a bit of variety too, depending on which of the two participants was rarer in the relevant community….
But atheists are not as dull. We don’t sing hymns (out of tune or otherwise), and we don’t drone on with inane psalms, mantras, chants, or anything else that god has presumably heard a gazillion times before. However, watching us sit on the sofa and go brain dead watching TV or motionless as we read a book is probably not very exciting either. Maybe we should find a dragon and a virgin now and again….
God doesn’t have to inspect our genitals
Ever notice how fascinated god is with people’s genitals? I mean virtually every religion has rules about women’s menstruation, and some try to regulate or ban masturbation2 (got to check for the drippy penis). Some wacky religions even require circumcision3, because god won’t understand that you’re a male believer unless you cut part of your penis off – which god created that way anyway, with a handy bit to chop off I guess. Could be worse; god could require branding to make sure you are “his”. Some gods in antiquity even wanted castration4. Mormonism has its magic underwear5 – I am not kidding. And many religions have rules on how to have sex. I mean, if god can read your thoughts why does god need to inspect your genitals to confirm that you’re a believer?
Assuming that god is not getting a thrill out of all this (it’s sort of a nice idea, thinking about god masturbating while god checks to be sure all the males in a synagogue or mosque are circumcised), we atheists spare god from having to look at our genitals. We are headed for hell and eternal perdition in any event, so checking our groin is an experience god can ignore.
We provide a reason for him to inflict natural disasters
Almost every religion with gods has stories of calamities, either in their holy books or in their history like the sacking of Baghdad for Muslims, and the fall of Jerusalem first to the Romans, and then Muslims, and pretty much everybody really. All these religions usually blame god’s wrath on their unworthiness, or that they were tolerant of unbelievers or heresy in their midst. It’s a nice way for monotheisms to get out of blaming god for the natural disaster which killed thousands of innocent men, women and children. And for pantheisms, it’s better than saying someone else’s god is stronger than yours. Some religions even revel in the destructive capacity of their god. Yes, we are looking at you Judaism (and Christians who adopted the Hebrew stories into their Bible) and some sects in Hinduism. This was a popular way to “prove” a god’s efficacy in the ancient world – although why these fairy tales should hold potency for modern people is something atheists don’t understand. God is powerful because god can slaughter/punish us by natural disaster or plagues. God doesn’t want to, but god has to in the same way a parent (in the olden days) needed to discipline a rebellious or naughty child. Or maybe god just enjoys doing this, and wants someone else to take the blame.
Atheists, in the form of non-believers, heretics, and insufficiently devout believers, have been the justification for god having a good time killing and inflicting disease and famine upon people for thousands of years. We take the blame, so god’s believers don’t curse god as they watch their children die.
God enjoys tossing us into hell, especially when we’ve been “good”
Even notice that good works alone don’t get you anywhere with any god in any religion with gods? You must “believe”. You must follow the rules, do the rituals, bend the knee to the priests or imams or rabbis or yogis or ministers. It’s not enough to be “good,” you must be a part of the “tribe.” Follow orders, hate the outsiders. But all the insiders get to go to heaven or advance in reincarnation, and since many gods have gone to all the work of preparing a special place for non-believers to be punished, whether for eternity or just for a very long time, a god would be justifiably disappointed if his special “hell” went under-utilized after going to all the trouble to set it up. But many gods want all people to believe in them, thus the desire for conversions. Ethnocentric religions (i.e., ones based on bigotry) like Judaism, Hinduism, Shintoism and modern Zoroastrianism, typically don’t really want converts, so they never run out of outsiders, but they don’t always have a “hell” as a part of their belief system either. If the religions seeking converts are successful, there will be no one left for the pit of eternal torment.
So, atheists solve the problem. Even once all the other believers convert to the god’s religion, there will still be the atheists, those skeptics who just won’t believe anything without evidence. So at least god will have the enjoyment and satisfaction of tossing them into the specially prepared abyss and enjoying for eternity their screams and lamentations. Except that there won’t be any, because hell doesn’t exist.6
It means that someone is actually reading god’s favorite bits of the holy books
We all know the routine. Whenever an atheist and a believer are in a discussion, invariably the truthfulness and holiness of the underlying religious text enters into the discussion. The believer most of the time isn’t familiar with some of the morally offensive texts cited by the atheist, or tries to justify them through some nonsense or other. Believers in modern times tend to focus on the “nice” bits of their holy works, the ones which make them feel morally superior, and are in accordance with popular mores and cultural norms. The uncomfortable bits, and there are a lot of them in all religions, are usually ignored in modern study or worship by believers.
But atheists read them. Atheists love them, and even put them on t-shirts sometimes7. The holy books are god’s inspired or directed “word”, and we all know that every author loves to be read.
It gives god’s believers someone to feel superior to
Virtually every modern religion feels itself superior to the others. Many polytheisms in the ancient world actively practiced syncretism, which was an acknowledgement that different gods represented the same fundamental forces which were deemed to stand behind the godhead. So “whom you call Bob, we call Charlie” was a way of making everyone feel equal and part of the same theistic community. It did lead to a lot of gods, but there is remarkably little religious warfare or hatred recorded in the polytheistic world. For that, we had to wait for the certainty and intolerance of monotheism.
Monotheisms in particular are pretty vile when it comes to the treatment of non-believers or of those outside the tribe. Outsiders can be, or are even required to be, killed, raped or taken as slaves in some religious teachings. They can be taxed more heavily, denied basic rights, and generally are second class citizens at best.
Atheists are the ultimate outsider. No religion offers them any protection, consideration, tolerance, or refuge. They are fair game for every vile treatment, prejudice or torment. In many countries, it’s illegal to be an atheist, or it’s a crime punishable by penalties up to death8. Atheists are denied the ability to hold public office9, participate in certain civil functions, are denied State benefits, and the list goes on and on. Atheists are forced to limit their criticism of religions, because of blasphemy laws10. They can’t even be Boy Scouts in the US11. There is in virtually every country, even liberal Scandinavian ones (some of which still have State religions12), some degree of prejudice against atheists.
For believers, atheists are the ultimate lowest lifeform. Someone you can always look down upon. What better way to make your believers feel superior?
So next time someone wants to save your soul, or condemn you to hell or some other vile treatment, just remind them of the valuable service you are providing to their god and their religion. For without us to kick around, they might just have to focus on their own shortcomings and disappointments.
2 You can find my take on masturbation here: http://www.atheistrepublic.com/blog/deandrasek/five-reasons-why-sex-can-...
3 For me, this is one of the most disgusting of religious practices, and the least defensible. See: http://www.atheistrepublic.com/blog/deandrasek/stop-mutilating-children-...
5 Cf. http://mormonvoices.org/66/magic-underwear , which gives the Mormon justification for the underwear, but most believers think it protects them from harm. I have first-hand experience of this, as I had to sit and listen to a Mormon businessman expound at great length over dinner how his underwear had saved his life in a car accident.
6 One of the best videos on this is at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wgj65-EfmoA
7 My personal favorite is the one about the Jewish god not being strong enough to handle iron chariots. Get yours at https://www.zazzle.com/iron+chariots+gifts
10 For an overview, see: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/07/29/which-countries-still-ou... Canada only recently eliminated theirs, http://globalnews.ca/news/3512946/commentary-at-long-last-canadas-blasph.... But the problem we see is that many countries are looking to put in place a new form of blasphemy law, in the form of laws against “hate speech”, which is often deemed to be any criticism of an established religion. In many ways, we are going backwards, not forwards.
12 I don’t generally use Wikipedia as a source, but this is a decent article and it’s up to date: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_religion