Why is it so hard for people to accept atheism?

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sodette's picture
Why is it so hard for people to accept atheism?

In 1993 the Human Rights Committee, an independent body of 18 experts selected through a UN process, described religion or belief as "theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as the right not to profess any religion or belief."

"Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have a religion or whatever belief of his [her] choice."

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 18



http://www.refworld.org/docid/453883fb22.html (*edited late - added after posting this topic)

At least the thinkers of the world acknowledge that perhaps no religion or atheism are legitimate options yet, the world at large still holds atheists in contempt. Is this because we challenge their paradigms and they are intimidated? Is it because we think and rationalize and they BELIEVE? Is it because when they discover we are correct, their entire facade falls away and they are left with mortality?

What do you think?

Do you feel atheism is growing and people are becoming more understanding of what this is, what it means?

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Old man shouts at clouds's picture
For as long as we allow

For as long as we allow access to the education of our young by the religious, atheism will be the outsider.
Atheism de -structures the childhood conditioning and can lead to cognostic problems in some cases.

Unfortunately, like ex smokers, ex theists can often travel to the 'dark' side and become not just a rationalist atheist but rabid anti theist which in its own way is a disorder almost as bad as fervent religiosity.

sodette's picture
@Old Man Shouts...

@Old Man Shouts...

Angry atheists and anti-theists do rub people really wrong and these folks do not, in my experience, represent the silent majority. Love your 'dark side' analogy - that's exactly it. I absolutely agree, these folks tend to be just as dogmatic as theists and sometimes, just as ignorant of WHY they are atheists.

Sky Pilot's picture


"What do you think?"

It's all about the money, power, and status. Religion is big business. The only people who can afford to be atheists are the people who don't have a vested interest in religion. For centuries the Arabs in Mecca have been dependent for their income upon a steady stream of pilgrims who make the trip of Mecca. Today it's a big theme park. All kinds of people get a piece of the pie from that fairy tale. The same is true about other religious shrines like those in Rome, Japan, Spain, Israel, and elsewhere.

Book publishers and book stores sell tons of religious books. Architects and construction workers build churches, synagogues, mosques, temples. Clothing manufacturers sell all kinds of special religious clothes and hats. Why do you think some religions force their believers to wear special clothes? Because their buddies make and sell them and get rich. Livestock dealers sell animals for sacrifices. Banks handle the money. Politicians take bribes. Lawyers make money off of the legal affairs. Now all of those auxiliary people may be heathens but they will all support religion because it's a cash cow for them.

Pure atheists, such as we might be, don't have a financial stake in religion so we can curse it all day long. But tens of millions of other people besides the religious fanatics will defend it with all of their might because that's where the money is.

I'll bet that out of the billions of people who claim to be religious you would be hard-pressed to find one million true, legitimate, religious people. The others are just faking it.

Sapporo's picture
I think part of the reason is

I think part of the reason is that many see atheism as a negation.

Sheldon's picture
Many of the theists I have

Many of the theists I have interacted with tend to believe they have knowledge of absolute truth, they think they know what an all powerful deity wants from us, and therefore know the reason everything exists. They view their belief as the most important choice in their life, and can't therefore fathom that atheists don't attach the same level of significance to their lack of belief. This is why theists like Breezy keep trying to reverse the burden of proof, and then sulk when you make it clear your lack of belief in Jesus needs no more proof than his lack of belief in Zeus. They simply don't see the beliefs as having parity, yet when pressed can offer no evidence for what amounts to little more than special pleading.

ZeffD's picture
One reason is that

One reason is that religionists tend to see beliefs as something to be held sacred, passed on or defended. "Everyone should believe in something". Actually, all beliefs should be challenged.

Another reason is that belief in afterlife or ghosts is linked to their religious beliefs. One Christian told me that he would have to admit his mother (and other loved ones) simply ceased to exist. Apparently, for him, Instead of accepting the evidence, he found it easier to cling to the superstition.

Another reason is the language of religion. People have been taught that they aren't giving up a superstition, they are "losing their faith' - a bad thing, or so they are taught. They are not babbling incantations, they are "praying". Their dead loved ones aren't ghosts, they are 'spirits' or 'souls'. Non-believers aren't simply people who reject religious superstitions, they are 'atheists'. Their mythology is 'theology', and so forth.

A fourth reason is even more obvious. "Give me a boy under 7..." Like hatred, religion has to be carefully taught. If you teach a child to associate everything good with god and religion and everything bad with any opposition, you get a loyal follower who feels they are rejecting their parents and identity when they "lose" their faith.

And some exploit religion for their own power or position. For example, what's a forty year old priest going to do if he rejects his superstition? Try the jobcentre? Would the R Catholic Church pay the stipend or pension of an ex-Catholic? I know there are priests with doubts. I've spoken to one personally. Challenging religious faith is being weak, not objective, according to Christian teaching I experienced first-hand.

Religion is divisive, superstitious nonsense, but not easy for everyone raised 'in the faith' to relinquish.

[Edit added]: And sometimes rejecting religion means being rejected by religionist loved ones, or feeling alienated from them. In some parts of Pakistan, Bangla Desh, Nigeria and so many places, disbelief or rejecting religion can be a death sentence from the state or from fanatics.

Sheldon's picture
"Actually, all beliefs should

"Actually, all beliefs should be challenged."

Any belief that is ring fenced from criticism let alone comment, as religion has been for much of human history, is worthless. Beliefs should only be held as true because they have withstood proper scrutiny.

sodette's picture
All of the above... @ZeffD,

All of the above... @ZeffD, @Sheldon, @Sopporo, @Diotrephes, @Old man shouts... Brilliant.

I used to think it was the association atheism had with Communism that, in the West, made it such a magnet for hatred. People do not know what atheism is any more than they really understand the tenets of their own faith. They just believe it's wrong, without giving it any thought or asking themselves 'why do I believe the way I do about atheism and why is it wrong?'

I've heard some of the reasons above - my own father said "If there is no god then I wouldn't see your Mom or Grandmother or my own Dad in Heaven and I would just die when I die. What the hell would be in it for me if, when I die, I'm only dead?"

He can't even see the ridiculous positioning he put himself in by essentially saying he needs to believe the lies because they are more comfortable than the truth. Ugh...

ZeffD hit on the other, most common answer people give me in his [edit] note - community, family, acceptance. Religion is foundational for a lot of people. Marriages would be destroyed, family would be lost, community is certainly dissolved when a person recognizes the truth about belief because so often, those around you do not recognize it and your becoming apostate, leaving the fold, sets you outside of the comfort zone. I've experienced this one myself, it's a very challenging time and one has to be willing to move forward into the truth or remain in the lies and comfort. That is not an easy choice for most people.

I've seen people come to this forum over the past week or two who WANT to get confirmation about their faith, who want to believe, who try to justify their religion but who cannot seem to get untangled from their own lies and deceits. They just cannot recognize what evidence is or that what they are calling evidence, usually quotes from the very books that they base their faith upon, is not evidence but just the opposite - proof that what they believe is false.

The others are simply too dogmatic in their own views to see reason or rational thinking. Yet, I believe many of these folks are just afraid that atheists are correct because - all of the above. Fear. Loss.

Atheism is a position based on evidence but is not an easy label to carry - isn't that funny? The easiest positions to hold are those your communities believe and tell you to have, the hardest position to have is the truth. LOL... sad.

mickron88's picture
"They just believe it's wrong

"They just believe it's wrong, without giving it any thought"

they actually think that were working with the devil....
i just give them words to think about, then i walk my way out of the conversation with a devilish laugh...bwahhahahaha....

to feed their fantasy....

mykcob4's picture
I think religion is just

I think religion is just conformity. I don't think anyone in their right mind actually believes in a god, but it has been culturally ingrained into the lives like a permanent tattoo. The staunch professing of belief is just a show. Atheism represents a challenge to authority by its very existence. As much as christians fear and hate muslims, they hate and fear atheists even more.

Sky Pilot's picture
Why did Moses start his

Why did Moses start his religion? He wanted to be the big wig with the power and status as the one who talked face to face with God. He made everyone conform to his delusion or he killed them. He didn't kill people for being atheists. They wanted their own God, not his. Freedom of religion was not tolerated. He was just a thug criminal who forced the people to support his gang with money and the best of food. He got his gang a fully funded retirement plan. The common people had to work till they croaked.

In religious societies you don't get points for believing in a God unless you believe in the "right" God as worshiped by the more powerful gang. The French Catholics didn't give a shit about the French Protestants worshiping Jesus and following the Bible. They hated and killed them because they weren't Catholics supporting the Catholic church gang.

Dave Matson's picture
If you are raised in a family

If you are raised in a family that views atheists as something dark and evil, and dangerous, if you grow up with friends that constantly reinforce that view, if you selectively read books, magazines and other stuff that further reinforces that view, a view held by your society's respected leaders, and if you don't get some serious fresh air from the outside, and that's unlikely since you are usually cloistered within the group, then what else are you going to believe as an adult?

If you are forced outside of your religious circle, perhaps to get a job or take in some college courses, you may notice that some things don't add up. You might meet a really honest and intelligent guy who turns out to be an atheist! Someone may point out errors in the Bible that you have no immediate answers for. But then the rationalization machine gets going and pretty soon you have lots of "answers" based on loopholes. Erudite-sounding books are available to supply the "answers." Today, you just go to your favorite website to get canned answers to almost any problem. Of course, you don't fool around with those atheists sites, those dangerous tools of the devil! You are happy to give the canned answer and pursue the matter no further. You know you are right, so why delve deeply into a matter? The whole idea of studying such matters deeply would obviously be a waste of time. You know you are right, so there's no need to go to a lot of work. You just want the refutation in hand to feel secure--and to rebut the next atheist. (Those arrogant know-it-all atheists, defying God himself, need a good smack-down!)

Once in a great while the rationalization machine gets jammed on some little pebble, a little nothing really, an insignificant player in the greater theater, and the attempt to remove it awakens the believer to other problems which causes a growing panic as the believer begins to wake up. If the person is intelligent a serious study may follow to resolve these problems. At some point, maybe a couple of years down the road, it sinks in that there are no solutions! Thus are born some of the most capable atheists such as Dan Barker.

Cognostic's picture
It should be obvious. No one

It should be obvious. No one understands Atheism; not even the council on human rights.

No one defines Atheism as a belief system except the ignorant who do not get it. There is no such thing as "atheistic beliefs," Until the frigging religious idiots get that, Atheism will continue to be misunderstood. They will continue "NOT TO GET IT."

sodette's picture


I think that is at the core of why people have such a hard time with atheism/atheists. The lack of understanding exactly what an atheist is or what atheism means leaves a lot of people, most people, filling in the blank with a lot of really misdirected and incorrect information.

People are generally lazy, they simply do not want to do the research themselves, they want someone else to do it (and the thinking) for them. This means most people take their idea of atheism from others who are more verbal but who are likely very biased, incorrect, or maliciously misrepresenting of atheists.

I think Greensnake has it right also... why is it that almost all adults accept and understand that there is no Santa Claus (even if they choose to play along with the charade and celebrate the holiday season) but they just can't bring themselves to do the homework and understand the same things about religion - it is all made up myths and fairytales - with a spackling of truth tossed in to make it sound real?

Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, Frosty the Snowman, etc. - stories, made up, not real.

Jesus, God, Zeus, Angel Gabriel, Satan, Muhammad (as prophet of an invisible god), Wonder Woman, Superman - stories, made up, not real.

I get the believers rationality, but I don't understand why the are so compelled to hold on to what is obviously made up. I guess like Santa Claus, they like the songs and traditions more than they want to remove themselves from the myths.

Tin-Man's picture
If people do not have their

If people do not have their gods and devils to hide behind, it means they are faced with having to accept full responsibility for their behavior and actions. On one hand, owning one's mistakes is too much for many people to handle. And in another sense, it deprives some of a "valid" excuse to exercise their own warped values of discrimination and bigotry. Basically, they rely on an "outside source" as a foundation and guide for their personal sense of moral righteousness.

As atheists, however, we are "independent" and think for ourselves and lay our OWN foundations. We do not "go with the flow". And, as I have learned over the years in many different situations, that type of attitude and behavior can be very disturbing and intimidating to those whose brains are programmed to follow without question.

LogicFTW's picture


Yep, it seems clear to me, the theist that rely on faith are the ones that are leaning heavy on what I call the "faith" crutch, that allows them to be intellectually and scientifically lazy, a warm blanket of denial that allows them to not face life how it really is.

I also put much of the blame of the embarrassment of the current administration in the white house, and general far right control through many political offices in this country at the feet of religion. How else can people so badly vote against their own self interest, while the morbidly rich and powerful rob them blind with a few baubles and trinkets of distraction? These people have been trained to believe in lies and deceit and not fact checking anything that they do not like the answer to. Chronic liars get to run the show, making empty promises, the ultimate, latest form of the snake oil salesmen.

Alic2k18's picture
I accept the view that all

I accept the view that all religions are wrong and that their idols are false but still think a creator may exist not as in God or the other false idols that people pray to. But as in a being that started the creation of the universe more like a scientific study into evolution and how universe starts and finishes

LogicFTW's picture
Look up the common

Look up the common definitions of god. You will find, the shared accepted definition of god, that a creator is only a part of that definition.

So you believe in the possibility of a creator. Not god. Great. If you also reject all religion that worships a god, you are not a theist anymore but atheist. You are agnostic if you say you "don't know one way or another if god religions are real or not.

I to believe in the possibility of some sort of creator or greater being, but most certainly not god. (Although I think objectively, based on what little evidence and reasoning we have on this, that even a "creator" seems unlikely. I consider my self to be a "strong atheist." based on my reading of the accepted shared definitions of all the words involved and the accepted shared definitions of important words within those definitions.

turning_left's picture
Hey all. I've been a lurker,

[removed my post since I didn't read the op thoroughly and my response was only tangentially related]

sodette's picture
@Stone Jade

@Stone Jade

Your original post was exactly related... because what you experienced is also part of why others find atheism so hard to accept.

As a side note - the more you accept that this reality is all there is, the more you become responsible for your own life and the less you look for help outside of yourself or luck or anything else. A simple application of cause and effect (affect) minus the fairytales and myths actually helps you get over your depression because your reality is not confused with expectations that are unrealistic or somehow guided by some supernatural blah, blah, blah.

Move forward... let go of the myths, have a much happier and more fulfilling life because you realize YOU control your own outcomes based on the reality that actually is, not one you've been sold by others.

Tin-Man's picture
Hey there, Stone. Welcome

Hey there, Stone. Welcome aboard the AR.

Well, I have no idea what you said, because you must have deleted it before I got here. Nevertheless, it is important for you to know that anything you post can have the potential of being useful to others in some form or fashion, whether it is directly related to the OP or not. And if it does happen to go off on a slight tangent, no biggie. That could simply inspire somebody else to start another thread about that related topic. Quite honestly, now I am really curious as to what you had originally posted. Please feel free to share whatever thoughts you may have. That is what we are here to do.

turning_left's picture
Thanks DragonBonz & Tin-Man.

Thanks DragonBonz & Tin-Man. I may end up making a separate post about what I'd posted. The gist was basically that I grew up a devout Evangelical Christian and was devastated when I lost my faith and have struggled with depression since.

Jared Alesi's picture
Because we're not a herd, or

Because we're not a herd, or part of theirs. Humans have a really ingrained herd mentality, and we're not part of it. They have their masses and large denominations of people worldwide that think and act very similarly, and then there's us. A small percentage of people with no specific creed or even unifying characteristic beyond disbelief in a deity. To them, we're defective units. We're the only people that don't partake in the social convention that to them is so obvious and important that we must seem to them as a brain dead calf does to a wildebeest.

Tin-Man's picture
@Jared Re: "To them, we're

@Jared Re: "To them, we're defective units. We're the only people that don't partake in the social convention that to them is so obvious and important that we must seem to them as a brain dead calf does to a wildebeest."

Aha! I believe you have hit on something there, young man. But it is not that we seem "brain dead" to them. I think it has more to do with they believe us to be a danger. A threat. They believe in a god or being that hands their rules to them and tells them how to behave and enforces those rules and behaviors with the threat of eternal torture. Therefore, they all "toe the line" of their collective herd for fear of being outcast and/or punished. They are quite comfortable being on a leash or confined to their secure pens.

We atheists, on the other hand, do NOT follow their chosen god, much less fear it. In most cases we stand up in outright defiance of it. In the minds of the believers, we have nothing to control us and keep us in line. We are the "pit bulls" who have slipped the collars and/or escaped from the fenced yard. We obey no master, and we are subject to attacking and mauling without provocation. In that same respect, they believe since we do not follow or obey any master or "higher being", we obviously are not capable of loyalty or obedience. Therefore, we cannot/should not be trusted. So, again, it is not that we seem "brain dead" to them. We actually think TOO MUCH for their comfort, rather than simply go baaa-baaa-baaa all day long with the rest of the herd. We defy their rules. We defy their master. That makes the herd most uncomfortable.

The funny irony of that (to me, at least) is that what few atheists I do know I would trust FAR MORE than most Christians I have ever known. *chuckle*

Jared Alesi's picture
Ah, but i f a sheep sees a

Ah, but i f a sheep sees a human, does it perceive the human's intellect? Or is the human just another animal?

Interestingly enough, cats think of humans as a bunch of big dumb kittens. That's why they sometimes try to bathe us or bring us dead things. They're trying to take care of us, because they think we don't know how to do it ourselves. On the other hand, dogs see us as their loved ones, and treat us similar to how we treat the average friend or peer. To them, we're equals.

Old man shouts at clouds's picture
Cats KNOW they are superior

Cats KNOW they are superior,They just humor us. We are like vending machines of food and comfort. Impossibly stupid in cat terms, impossibly clumsy and only a rudimentary knowledge of communication and its subtleties. I mean, we haven't even got a tail! How can humans even...?

sodette's picture


Absolutely, 100% agree. Well said.

algebe's picture
The Romans were similarly

The Romans were similarly suspicious of atheists. They were accused of cannibalism and incestuous orgies. Those atheists were in fact Christians, who were called atheists because refused to worship the Roman gods, accept the emperor's divinity, and observe public religious religions like normal people. Instead they met in secret at night, called each other brother and sister, and talked about eating flesh and drinking blood.

In later centuries, the Christian church took on many of the charming customs and attitudes of Nero's Rome and became persecutors in their own right. Like the Romans, they are suspicious and vicious toward anyone who refuses to join in their primitive rituals.

sodette's picture


Wait a minute... what orgies? Have I missed something here? Bahahahahaha!

Tin-Man's picture
Hey, Dragon, sadly I think it

Hey, Dragon, sadly I think it was the Christians supposedly having the orgies. Guess we would have to convert or something to get invited. (Dammit.... *frownie face*)


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