What Do Christians Do Better Than Atheists? October 6, 2008

What Do Christians Do Better Than Atheists?

Bjorn is expanding on a list I’ve discussed before on this site and during lectures I give — 10 lessons atheists could learn from Christians.

So far, he’s covered two topics in some depth.

Charity Work:

For all of the faults in theology, Christians have a lock on charity work. When someone thinks of Christian kindness, I doubt that they imagine brainwashing children to fear a non existent Hell and a deity who watches every move and knows your thoughts. Instead, images of soup kitchens, food shelves, homeless shelters, Habitat for Humanity, even sandbagging ahead of a flood are all things churches are known for. Why aren’t the same things associated with atheist kindness?

Giving Money.

The last statistics I remember hearing about the church I last attended, was that half of the membership gave every week, a quarter gave about once a month, and a quarter gave nothing. Still with these statistics, the church was able to build large facilities with class rooms, meeting centers, and worship areas, as well as paying a large number of full time staff. The weekly attendance was around 2,000, which is far greater then any atheist organization I have ever seen, but I have seen churches with membership around 300 who have a building to worship in, pay a pastor and usually a secretary, and still participate in community events.

Why don’t people feel the need to give money to atheist organizations? Part of the reason, I have seen, is that atheist groups don’t do much other than provide a social community. As long as someone brings the cookies, you don’t need to raise any money, right?…

What else would be on your list of things Christians do better than us?

What are atheists better at? (Besides simply being more rational about the whole “God” thing.)

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  • SarahH

    I think there are good arguments for atheists being better at:

    – Handling a life-threatening crisis
    – Giving sound advice about real-world problems
    – Fighting for First Amendment rights
    – Getting lots of sleep on Sunday mornings
    – Cooking babies properly

    Those are just off the top of my head, and they’re debatable, I know. Except for the last one, of course.

  • Adrian

    Re charity work – gimme a break. Doctors Without Borders, Amnesty International and the Red Cross are some of the most effective charities in the world and they’re secular. You want to see charities which try to destroy religion? Evidently atheists don’t like to mix our politics with charitable giving and he wants to hold it against us? Come on.

    The same goes in triplicate for church tithing. They can give all they want to their church but you’ve got to be blind if you imagine that church giving is any more noble than giving to a social organization or a sporting league. Again, because you’re so insular that you can’t separate your faith from your social outings, doesn’t mean that we have the problem! Personally I think it’s a badge of honour that we aren’t encouraging poor people to give money they can’t afford to enrichen some of the richest organizations in the world. If people can and want to give, great, but it’s not a check in your favour that churches bully people with threats supposedly from God.

    What do Christians do better than atheists? I don’t know. Very little that I respect, that’s for sure. They’re people like any other except they act less rationally. One look at the so-called saints like Mother Teresa who seemed more concerned with raising funds for herself and her church and in spreading her brand of superstition than in providing decent health care to the poor should tell you what a bad influence it can be. Imagine the good she could have accomplished if she cared as much for people as for her church.

  • justin jm

    This is going to be controversial, but I feel that, for many Christians, morality is simply a matter of obeying their God. Many of us, including me, have heard a believer insist that without a God, they’d go on a rape/murder spree. It isn’t that difficult to find the apologist who defends Biblical genocide, and then turns around and asks us by what means can we atheists be moral?
    I’m not saying that either group is better, but if you don’t believe in a God, you have to spend more time devising a system of morality, and you face demands from society to develop it in the greatest detail, at least when people entertain the possibility of godless morality. After all that effort, you’ve probably improved yourself.

  • Eric

    Speaking from experience, I have seen exactly what justin jim described. I have seen morality defined as your relationship with God, by definition atheists can’t be moral.

    I also agree with the part about secular charities. This past week I donated blood. I don’t have money to spare (college student), but I do have blood to spare so I give it. Even if the Red Cross was a religious organization I would still donate as long as they send it to a hospital without any of that faith mucking it up. I see no reason to have atheist charities when there are good secular charities out there.

    As for the whole community thing; how is forming a community moral if it is based on a falsehood?

  • What do atheists do better? Do you really have to ask?

  • Christians are not better than atheists at any of the things they usually are known for. Thinking they are is a sign of not looking into it. I think Christians and atheists are tied, really, in the aggregate on most every issue except one.

    Christians are, hands down, waaaay better than we are at PR and Outreach.

  • Rocketroach

    Why aren’t the same things associated with atheist kindness?

    Unlike Christianity, which indicates/dictates a moral system (and promises rewards/punishments) to its followers, atheism is characterized by nothing but the rejection of theist’s claims so it’s obvious that little else would derive from it.

    Tying atheism to things like charity would not achieve any practical benefit and be nothing but an empty, shameless PR move.

    If there’s something the world needs less of, it’s people using other people’s misfortune for publicity.

    Charity is not a competition and should come from conscience; if you want to donate or help others there are plenty of secular organizations.

    Don’t fall for cheap emotional rhetoric.

  • Adrian is absolutely right. What’s happening isn’t that atheists aren’t charitable, it’s that the relatively tiny number of atheist _organizations_ aren’t acting as middle-men charities for other worthy causes.

    When I donate to Amnesty Int’l or the ACLU, I don’t put a “Choose Atheism!” sticker on the envelope. When I go out protesting with a local death penalty abolitionist group, I don’t make a speech about how I’m doing it in the name of godlessness. I do it because it’s what my conscience and ethics point to, and there’s no particularly good reason to alienate myself from the Christians and other people of faith when we can be more effective together. I don’t pray with them, but I fight for justice beside them.

    Christians don’t have a lock on charity work. Atheists simply leave religion out of it, just as it should be.

  • Nick

    I think one important point to add to the conversation is that unlike us non-religious folk, many religious people actually feel as though they NEED to contribute money, to ‘please god’ or something along those lines…
    I’m not saying all do this, merely trying to convey that if you are religious, you probably feel some ‘duty’ to donate and help others. Not that atheists don’t feel morally obligated to help out, but ones who are religious usually feel as though they have to help, whether or not they actually want to.
    Is that considered morally caring about others? If you think that you have to do it for your god?
    I don’t think so.
    Not by a long shot.

  • Aj

    I am also skeptical, I think that Hemant’s previous list can provide alternative explanations for these perceptions. Christians are better at: marketing, getting the media to cover them, and spreading disinformation. Religious charity can be wasteful, selective, and vehicles for proselytizing. If I was doing charity work it wouldn’t be because of a lack of belief in deities, and I doubt I would bring it up.

  • Grimalkin

    I disagree. I think that the vast majority of self-identified Christians don’t do charity work and don’t donate (except maybe at certain times of the year, such as Christmas). I do a great deal of charity work. In fact, my husband supported me for a whole year so that I could devote 100% of my working week helping out a not-for-profit I support. Most atheists I know are also fairly active in the charity sector.

    The only things that might make you right are:

    1) that many charity organization are owned by Christians and deliberately make atheists feel unwelcome. The few atheists I know who don’t do charity work made that decision after either not being able to find secular charities in the sectors they feel strongly about, or decided not to volunteer after having really bad experiences with religion in the charity sector.

    2) that many Christian groups believe that women have to stay in the home. Most people, with no sense of self outside their immediate families, would go bonkers. So these women will often find non-paying “jobs” to do while the kids are in school – hence an increased average of Christians doing charity work. Secular women are, by and large, in the workforce, so they won’t have the same amount of time to give, even if they would be willing.

    As for donating, donations are a generational thing. I work for a not-for-profit and at least 80% of our donor base is retired. It’s notoriously difficult to get younger generations to donate. So if we consider that church-going populations are, on average, older than the general population, it makes sense that they would donate more.

    Not to mention that Christianity makes a big deal out of giving at least 10% of what you earn to the church. A secular organization would never make such a demand. So of course churches will be taking in more money than secular institutions.

  • Larry Huffman

    OK…there is so much wrong with those assumptions:

    There is no way to tell who is and is not an atheist…so I challenge anyone to put real numbers on how atheists donate or work charity.

    We do not have organizations…oh, there are atheist organizations…but most atheists do not join. I don;t…other than forums and such. So, when you have an organization that represents people collecting the money…such as churches…it is very easy to see large contributions from christians. That does not mean that atheists do not give…we just do not all mass up in large organizations to do so collectively.

    And you are saying that we need to learn from them??? Really? What are we to learn…that when you have a strict diety promising you hell if you disobey him who then tells his followers to give, they do?

    Or better yet…that when men who run those churches tell their followers that their god (who promises hell) wants them to give, they will. And they give through those men, who then skim some off the top for “admin costs” and pass on 50 cents or so on the dollar to the needy…AND…often those needy are only christian needy.

    (And i know there are small churches who do a great job of charity unlike the above example, where the men collecting it are just as sincere as those giving…but the amounts that put christians over atheists in statistics comes from the above big churches)

    I know plenty of atheist families who do all they can to help. My family included…but I should not have to state that…and I will not divulge what I give. Charity is not something we should seek praise for, it is our private need to make a difference. I do not need my good deeds tallied. Most people do not.

    And then…what constitutes a charity? What about a local school band…or a collecting jar for a family that has lost it’s home in a fire? There are so many ways people can give, that I believe that you would find that atheists give just as much. Small and local charities who do not take your personal information when you give.

    I am not saying that christians are not charitable…not at all. If you take away donations to their church and the donations their church guilts them into…they are still giving to people in need. That is the point…charity is not a spiritual thing…even though the religious like to claim the corner on it…it is a human thing. It comes from the empathy for others (human and non-human)…whether it be starving children, abused dogs or a school music program…you are not really acting on the spiritual…because the same thing motivates all people regardless of their religion. It is about caring for others. That is true charity…and that goes on all day long every day, everywhere…accross all belief systems. No one tallies it…no one should.

    But…do not think for one minute that if all religion were gone, charity and help would disappear. Truthfully, religion has done it’s part to bring about the need in the first place.

  • Larry Huffman

    Oh…and I forgot to mention that churches also collect so much for themselves from their followers that I think religion may actually take away from what those people would give to those in real need.

  • Regarding charity work…

    Also: Salvation Army.

    Not saying it’s always an excuse to proselytize, but it does happen a lot.

  • I agree with Aj’s comment. I recently read “Shopping For God: How Christianity Went from In Your Heart to In Your Face” and it was an amazing book about church marketing.

    I think, too, that the charity/giving money is part and parcel of a person’s particular faith. Bottom line winds up being, do you do it because it’s needed, or because it’s expected of you? Either answer nets the same result for the people being helped but I think the motivation matters too.

  • Country music.

    But WE sure as hell aren’t touching that field.

  • devora

    Man, drop this topic! Read a Dawkins/Hitchens/Harris/Erhman book and get w/ it: us non-believers are doing far less harm than any Christian. After that, we give a gang of dough, put in hours at soup kitchens, and think skeptically while doing it. We don’t check for your Religion Card at the door.

    Give it a rest; this is a non-topic and I don’t know of one thing we can learn from Christians, not one.

  • Adrian

    Just expanding on a point that others have raised…

    What’s the difference between a Christian charity and a secular one?

    The explicitly Christian one donates proportionately less time and money to helping the lives of others and instead spends it proselytizing. Some may spend relatively little this way, others spend virtually all. Some “charitable” missions direct millions to the church leaders to provide planes, multi-thousand dollar per night hotels and other luxuries. Even Mother Teresa gave virtually nothing to the poor but instead directed the money to the church and proselytizing missions. You went to a poor community to help them find food, water and shelter? Great! Help educate them? Good stuff? You went in order to spread the word of God and save their souls? Stuff it, the only people getting any reward are the missionaries, the needs of the communities are secondary.

    That’s why I think that churches should lose any special tax exempt status. If they really do the charitable work that they claim then they should have no problem getting charitable status and remain tax exempt. If they exist to serve their own needs and to glorify the church leaders then they can render unto Caesar like the rest of us. It seems that Christians want to say their church tithings count as charity when they know that their churches doesn’t fulfil the simple requirements to actually be a charity.

    I’ll count “church donations” as a valued, moral decision when they count donations to a sports bar for beer, nachos and a UFC match.

  • I am co-founder of a non-profit atheist group, and we collect money from members for our various activities. Recently I was looking at a list of local non-profit (meaning churches) organizations, and what they collect for comparison.

    The typical aging church on the corner, needing paint and some landscaping, averages $1500 per parishioner per year. Mid-level churches (not mega-churches) collect $1.5 to 2 million per year. A mega-church in my area — $15-20 million per year.

    Our atheist group collected under $500 for 2008. And we worked our butts off to get that.

    From this it is easy to see why religion in the US has so much influence, while atheists are forced to sue for every scrap of respect. In fact, the latest figure I read was $6 billion spent on new church construction in the US each year.

    Since we can’t match the $$, I encourage all atheists to give blood if possible. Credit the donation to your local secular organization. And on the National Day of Prayer (or Reason), put together a blood drive in the name of your local atheist organization. Have a banner made, and display it in the donation area.

  • Outside of direct efforts arising out of their church, are Christians more charitable?

    (I don’t know one way or the other, and I am prepared to believe that they might be.)

    The reason I ask is there are two confounding factors in a church setting.

    Number 1: in some versions of Christian beliefs (and certainly in many believers) is the feeling that good works get you into heaven. If you’re doing good in order to get into heaven, that’s not charity, it’s a trade.

    Number 2: churches provide a great deal of peer-group pressure. That’s coercion.

    Atheist groups can’t offer confounder #1 (nor should they!). And many atheists would call #2 unconscionable.

    Outside of those influences, I believe some Christians are still heartily charitable – but so are many atheists; is the actually-charitable-for-its-own-sake difference so great between the two groups? Has anyone attempted to measure uncoerced and unbought charity?

  • Autumnal Harvest

    This largely echoes the points that others have made, but. . . I volunteer at secular charities, and give money to secular non-profits. I don’t donate any money or time and label it as “atheist donations,” because I don’t see any reason to. If I heard of an atheist-promoting version of, for example, Doctors Without Borders, I wouldn’t give any money to them, because I wouldn’t see any good reason to connect atheism and medical care.

  • I agree with most of these points especially with regard to secular charities like the Red Cross and giving blood. There is one very important thing that we can learn from the religious though. We can learn what motivates the religious person, why they need gods to make them happy, how they use their beliefs to gain peace. We can learn how they use a shared faith to build a community and we can try really hard to understand them.

    Religious people aren’t the enemy. Setting them up as the enemy will only work against we free thinkers. We are woefully outnumbered, they are better organised than we are and they have bigger hats. Rather than set ourselves up as the enemies of faith we could benefit from integrating with faith organisations and sharing our views. That will help to dispel the ridiculous myths about us (we cook our babies, we don’t eat them raw) and allow others to see that religion is one choice in many rather than the only one.

  • Lidwina

    What do Christians do better?

    Paedophile priests
    Fat old men in frocks and Prada shoes

  • Tim Bob

    There’s one thing that the church and it’s followers have that we do not as atheists. Thats a medium to give. We don’t have a weekly meeting place. We don’t get togther and talk about things in person.. I don’t have money to give to charity, but im a good person and go out of my way to assist people when they need it. Everyone i associate with knows that they can come to me if they have a problem and ill offer solutions. I always try to let them do it on their own because i think its more rewarding and gives them the belief that they can control and fix things next time, but im always availabel abd they know it. getting back to the point. we have no “schedule” we dont get up everysunday looking for an organization to give to. Churchs give more because it’s there. it confronts them once a week and gives them the opportunity to hand over cash and walk away “knowing” that it will be put to some use. I guess it boils down to organization and ease. When someone gives on their own without any medium they normally have to do a lot of research and work on their own part to determine how to give how much to give and deciding wether or not to “trust” that it’s going to good use. Simply calling yourself an atheist doesn’t give you any kind of organization. I think if that’s where the atheist community would like to go then we need structure and unless some of us (sit down and say hey just because we dont believe in anything doesnt mean we cant get together and talk about issues in the real world and come to an agreement on how to charity those problems away) it’ll never happen.

  • Lynn

    What do atheists do better than Christians?




    Love (in the “philia” and “agape” sense, and maybe even the “eros” sense, too, because there’s no woo-woo fertility cult/dirty/bad/sinful/wife-must-submit weirdness to it)

    Actually, I’ve come to realize that most atheists do all the stuff Christians are supposed to do much better than the actual Christians.

  • Lynn

    Religious people aren’t the enemy.

    Hmmm…I think I’d rephrase this as faithful people aren’t the enemy, but religious people are. The desire to belong to the group, to please the group (and in this case, “the group” is a religious one) has caused more evil in this world than any one single person you can name.

    People who have faith in a god or a higher power don’t worry me, nor, surprisingly, do hardcore religious wingnuts. It’s all the little sheep, the blind, mindless little followers who are afraid to criticize leadership because they’ll fall out of favor with the group who scare the crap out of me.

    I know it’s bad form to use Hitler analogies, but the truth is Hitler was a loon and by himself would have been written off and ignored. It was the people who knew what he was doing was crazy and wrong and insane but who went along anyway who caused the greatest evil.

  • Luther Weeks

    Palin’s earnings: $166,080 in 2007. Charitable donations: $3,325

    Biden has donated a total of $3,690 to charities since 1998.

    Yup those religious folks just donate, donate, donate.

  • jet

    I am very dismayed at the response this post is getting. If this is an accurate sample of the atheist community, than I’m ashamed to be associated with such arrogant jerks….
    Luckily this isn’t a sampling. But what I’ve read so far has really upset me. I think it’s arrogant to think that we can’t learn anything from Christians. Us atheists hate being stereo typed. Why do we keep doing the same thing to believers? Not every Christian spends all day hating gays and proselytizing. Not every Christian charitable work uses it as an excuse to spread their word. When I was a good little Lutheran, we did lots of charity where we didn’t even mention we were from a church.
    At least now I know why the charitable works committee for MN Atheists is failing.

  • Lost Left Coaster

    Yeah, I get a little uncomfortable around the stereotypes and broad generalizations flying around too. Especially since I’ve been an atheist ever since I was old enough to think, but I’ve had a variety of associations/friendships/relationships with deeply religious people over the years, and I have found that they don’t breathe fire nor are they evil.

    All that aside, having lived and worked overseas for a couple of years in a very poor country, I can say that one thing religious groups do better is organize themselves to go work in the poorest areas of the world. Some missionaries go just to spread their gospel, and I don’t think that is particularly helpful in the face of abject poverty. But I met plenty when I was abroad that were putting their money where there mouth was, and just working hard to help people out, and they were motivated by their religious convictions. Good for them, I say. Because I have been to some corners of this planet where literally there were no other foreigners trying to help out.

    In fact, the project I was working on when I was abroad was developed by missionaries. I was, of course, working for a secular, governmental project, but we implemented this project developed by missionaries that had been living in that country for decades.

  • Tim Bob

    i think those of us that are actually commenting and thinking about the question seem to be coming to the same conclusion and that’s organization. we don’t organize because the vast majority of us think its hiporitical. This topic came up actually among a group of friends at a pizza joint, and one response was ” what the hell are we gonna do form a group get together and proclaim our non belief?” Organization doesnt have to from around a belief how bout just an idea. an idea that we as a community of rational thinkers CAN meet up once a week and discuss things that matter and pass ideas on that can help our situation as well as ideas that can help others. does a church need a religion. can’t a church just be a group of people w a common non belief? ORGANIZE, the problem i see here is that we’d rather sit around talk a bunch of crap and throw stupid reasons around about whats wrong w the things christians do better than we do. The point of this i think is for us to see that they do things better in certain areas, focus on them and become more efficient on how WE do things. Or to bring to light that, believers don’t do everything backwards. quit being so damn closed minded. just because they believe in utter nonsense doesnt make their charitable contributions worthless.

  • Lynn

    Yes, but there’s nothing to organize around.

    I guess I just don’t see the problem here. Organizations have lots and lots of flaws, too, so there’s not necessarily anything better about donating to or through an organized body than there is donating directly as an individual to either another individual or a small, specific group, or something broader such as the Red Cross.

    Many Christian charitable organizations don’t get very high ratings when it comes to where the actual money goes. Sometimes the money is funneled into funding things givers don’t even know about. Sometimes, the donations are outright stolen.

    Atheists organize, too, just not as atheists. They organize as political people, as community people, etc. A Christian may choose to donate regularly to a Christian charity and an atheist may donate to a secular one.

    This conversation doesn’t seem much like one about the pros and cons of religious organization but about atheist indentity. It sounds, to me, like some atheists want some kind of group recognition, or group identity, which is fine, but since the only thing that binds one atheist to another is the lack of belief in a deity or deities, it’s hard for most atheists to get excited about an atheist organization.

    Religious people organize and gather around a shared, central belief, and it’s a belief that usually fosters shared belief in other areas — social issues, politics, etc.

    With atheists, not so much.

    I can be an atheist who is actually pretty conservative on some issues while another atheist can be at the opposite end of the continuum on the same issues. Outside the fact we don’t believe in a god, we may have nothing in common.

    I don’t like groups, personally, and I don’t seek to validate my identity through a group. Doesn’t mean I don’t give to various charities or to local events. Just means my donation doesn’t get totted up with all the other “atheist” donations so we can all toot our own horn about what big givers we are.

  • Lynn, you could equally say that Republicans aren’t the enemy only republican voters (substitute Democrats if you like). Groups take on characteristics beyond their membership. I’m sure there were some absolutely lovely people who happened to be members of the Nazi party (I know, Godwin’s Law) but the group enabled some of the worst atrocities in human history.

    The “in” group is supported while the “out” group is spurned, sometimes hated and attacked. If atheists (not even a group) consistently label ourselves as being in the “out” group and support our own exclusion by refusing to work with or help Christians then we will never be able to demonstrate that we are not as different as they imagine.

    As an atheist the idea of being a martyr is particularly unsettling. I’d much rather find out what they believe and support those areas that coincide with my own beliefs. Where they do things better than me I can learn from them and where I am better they can learn from me. If we both sit on opposite sides of a great wall and throw insults at one another then I’ll only ever learn new insults. I’m of an age where that is no longer entertaining. Even poo jokes are getting old.

  • Tim Bob

    I don’t like groups, personally, and I don’t seek to validate my identity through a group. Why does this always come up, it pisses me off. noone’s trying to validate their identity. There is a lack however of a community among atheists. Every other damn group or gathering has such a community and it is fullfilling. It’s nice to know that other people are frustrated by things that frustrate you, it’s nice to know youre not the only screaming and yet quiet voice in a croud. We can sit here and have nice little quiet blog chat sessions forever and gripe and complain about oh them crazy christians did it again, silly little islam doin weird crap today… i’m sorry, but one person isnt going to make a difference and im sick of hearing everyone bicth about it when all we need to do is ORGANIZE people are concerned that everyones voice is louder than an atheists so you say well lets get together form a group strength in numbers.. oh well i dont need to validate myself, i have nothing to prove, no you dont neither do i, but it pisses me off that everyone consistently lays down. I think the biggest problem with atheists as a whole is that the majority of us are Elitist egotistical closed minded assholes. If you want to make changes for a secular world than im sorry but youre going to have to unite as a secular group. So yes, you might have to confirm your identity, you might actually have to put it out there in peoples faces, but what you don’t have to do is demean them you dont have to embarrass them you dont have to negate the good things they do. You may not want to join a group to validate yourself but i see a lot of $h!t talking to validate yourself <—- not focused on Lynn it goes for all of us.

  • Tim Bob

    Hoverfrog, Im sorry but poop is ALWAYS funny

  • Lynn

    If atheists (not even a group) consistently label ourselves as being in the “out” group and support our own exclusion by refusing to work with or help Christians then we will never be able to demonstrate that we are not as different as they imagine.

    Well, that only supports my aversion to group mentality.

    This “what to Xtians have that we don’t” question always pops up among atheists, and I always think it’s, well, sort of silly. As individuals, Christians and atheists aren’t really different — there are Christian jerks and atheist jerks and there are Christians who are decent and atheists who are decent.

    The biggest thing outside belief or non-belief in a deity that differentiates the religious (as opposed to the faithful) from atheists is the whole group thing — the organization and the creeds and the doctrine and the dogma and the rules and the rewards and punishments.

    Why would anyone who called themselves a free thinker want to emulate that sort of group?

    And, should some sort of recognized Atheist Group be formed, why should we believe it wouldn’t fall into the same corruptions any other organized group does?

  • Lynn

    There is a lack however of a community among atheists. Every other damn group or gathering has such a community and it is fullfilling. It’s nice to know that other people are frustrated by things that frustrate you…

    Yes, but other atheists aren’t necessarily frustrated by the things that frustrate you. Hence, no real “community”.

    There are plenty of ways to form community that are more rewarding than forming one around a lack of belief in something.

    But, again, I’m not a joiner by nature, so maybe that’s just me.

  • Alex

    Hamas also give more visibly to charity.

    Do we have lessons to learn from them?

  • Tim Bob

    When stemcell research is banned because of religous intermingling, does that not upset you? When religous groupd try to force creationism into curriculum, does that not upset you? When you live in a country that decides religion is a “qualifier” to move into the white house? vaccines for disease are shunned due to religous belief? “abstinance” in place of knowledge? relious groups claiming to be tax exempt? Crimes commited in the name of a deity? “thank heaven” on your 711 receipts? Church billboards on public land telling you, youre going to burn in hell? there are pleanty of issues for “non-believers” to gather for. These are things that are accepted by the majority of believers, that frustrate almost every one of us atheists. I’m in the military and work a part timer just to break even i dont exactly have the time to confront all of these issues on my own, but i DO have a few hours a day a week that if speant at a weekly meeting or gathering with a group of peers together could accomplish something in pursuading the masses. But when confronted with the same “we have nothing to gather for” just turns to a feeling of dispair. There are plenty of ways to form community that are more rewarding than forming one around a lack of belief in something. <— truth, but how do you form a community with common goals if you have completely different points of view? if the structure youre standing on to form that community isn’t shared it will crumble. That underlying structure is a strong non-belief. a lot of us say well a non-belief is nothing, well i think you’re wrong. A non-belief however silly it sounds is not an absence, it’s stronger than nothing. it’s like matter, matter can’t exist without an opposite I.E. Anti matter.. non- belief exists as an opposite it’s not an emptiness if it was “nothing” we wouldnt really be blogging here would we?

  • Lynn

    Perfect example.

    I’m completely against embryonic stem cell research. See? There you go.

    but how do you form a community with common goals if you have completely different points of view? if the structure youre standing on to form that community isn’t shared it will crumble.

    All atheists don’t necessarily have common goals. A non-belief is nothing.

    However, the influence organized religion has had and continues to have on government policy does bother me, but I know that it also bothers many people of faith — so that alone, while certainly a worthy cause, isn’t necessarily an atheist cause.

    The little things, such as a private business owner printing out a fairly innocuous religious message on his receipts, doesn’t bother me. I am old enough to have learned to choose my battles. I don’t mind genuine, heartfelt good wishes. I know the difference between those who would pray for me out of sincerity and those who fling “I’ll pray for you!” at me as the big ol’ Christian “F-u”.

    Group mentality just furthers the us v. them mentality — the hunkering down, the oneupmanship, the my-this-can-beat-up-your-that mentality.

    Ensconcing ourselves in groups doesn’t lead to understanding. It fosters divisiveness. There’s safety in groups. It takes a lot more guts to stand up as an indivudual and point out the injustices in this world. It’s not that we don’t have enough groups doing this — the “world”, actually is merely a collection of this group and that group all fightin’ for turf. It’s that we don’t have enough people who are willing to break free from the group and stand up on their own.

    Which, btw, is quite Christian thinking, for all the Christians out there — Christ didn’t get himself a big ol’ group and challenge the Romans or the Pharisees. He met people as one individual to another, changing hearts and minds (I know, I know…I kinda cringed when I wrote it…) one person at a time.

    That’s how real revolution happens.

    You don’t stop gay-bashing by having Gay Pride parades in SF and NYC. Gay-bashing ends when enough of the haters realize the guy next door who helped them shovel out last winter, or the lady down the street who stood with their scared kid the day you were way late to pick them up at school were gay. It’s a slow process, but it’ll happen when all the big groups stop rattling sabers at each other and scoring points off each other.

  • Tim Bob

    Mybe things just piss me off because im young, because i don’t believe being good hearted IS enough. I know what you mean about “the guy next door bein a big ‘ol gay” I’m extremely arguementative, i’m angry I let things get to me those are my flws, i know that. I live in a predominately “baptist” zone it’s everywhere i’m provoked on a daily basis, but iwth the moajority of people around me being compliant, it catches them off guard. I like it when they come to my door every sunday and invite me to go to church and they step away from my door backpedaling like theyre going to get mauled if they turn their back. They’re so full of themselves are so self righteous and arrogant about it, it makes me feel great knowing that i’ve totally ruined their day. If they come to my door and try to preach to me about being damned to all eternity they WILL leave my door with a OMG “WTF was that” If i make it uncomfortable for them to knock on my door and my neigbors doors then i feel better. I feel like being an asshole because of the things they say and do TO ME, and if i make them feel opposed and they feel that hey this group might have some strength then good. <— and there’s my supid young mind. there’s where i do the wrong thing, maybe that makes me an aweful spokesperson. I admit i have a total lack in direction because I’m Angry and upset at the things they do. I WOULD benefit greatly from a group. Something organized and focused. Maybe im just a handful. but there is a need. I need it. i dont care if that’s self centered or not, I NEED a group I need to know there are other people totally pissed off and antagonistic, but i need it for direction..

  • Tim Bob

    on a total side note, i just got my mandatory yearly flu shot and i officially feel like garbage ugh

  • Lynn said:

    Why would anyone who called themselves a free thinker want to emulate that sort of group?

    I didn’t say we should emulate them. Only that we should join them where our interests coincide. So what if a charity working to combat illiteracy (for example) is religiously based, they still have my support. I’m not going to refuse to help because “they” think that their God wants people to read. I happen to think that reading is something to be encouraged.

    Equally my local Tory MP supported the literary week in my home town. Although I can’t stand the man and completely disagree with many of his policies I was still happy to support the idea and the work being done.

    It’s not about making us and them stand out as different but of integrating together in those shared interests that we have. You alread said that though. 🙂

    Incidentally the religious group thing is one reason why I really hate those “interfaith” councils, workshops, and missions. They might well be including different religions in their plans but they’re really just ganging up to exclude people with no religion or no faith.

  • Tim Bob

    Lynn- there’s one thing “embryos” aren’t the only source of stemcells. i say if you’re going to abort a fetus you may as well use it for something. Pro choice is another thing i believe. I’m sorry but if a woman is raped she has every right in the world to an abortion. The big problem here is that, religous groups want all stemcell research to come to a halt. Noones telling them or anyone else that there are other ways to retrieve stemcells.. idk i think im way off topic now.

    1) Religions are better at dividing societies.

    2) they’re better at being assholes in a tactful manner.

    3) Theyre better at getting people to talk about them than we are.

    4) theyre better salesman

    5) they’re better at sounding right when theyre wrong.

    6) Theyre better at justifying things.

    7) They’re better at covering things up and sweeping them under the rug.

    8 ) They’re better at choosing how to approach battles politically and socially.

    9) they have a big shield to hide behind.

    10) They have a more appealing symbol, than he atheist “A” <— which i won’t wear because it looks too much like the Anarchy sign.

    11) they make me bitter!

  • If I were to make up some statistics, I’d say that on average, atheists (particularly those in the atheist movement) are: more educated, more geeky, more politically conscious. However, I would argue that these are self-selective; the atheist movement is primarily an intellectual one.

    Christians are better at charity. This could be because “Christian charity” makes sense, while “atheist charity” seems as pointless as “Christian wrestling”. Seriously, atheist organizations are not primarily about charity, nor should they be. The only reason for there to be an explicitly atheist charity is to tap into the atheist’s sense of competition against Christians or to play on the fears that religiously affiliated charities will proselytize.

    And Christians are better at forming communities. Atheists, collectively, seem to have an aversion to anything remotely like religion; this includes communities. All commenters who said that atheist communities are pointless, you are hypocrites. Okay, I didn’t mean it to sound so harsh 🙂 . But seriously, if you comment and participate in this here blog (as opposed to just lurking), you already know what an atheist community is like (or could be like). You already know what the advantages are; indeed, you have already made use of those advantages.

  • QrazyQat

    Christian charity, ie. work for free vs. secular charity, ie. work for free. Besides the examples above, let’s ask which has done more good: all of Pat Robertson’s “charity”, or most any random atheist, or just secular, scientist. Pull old Darwin out of the hat for instance; his work put us on the path to learn how to cure many diseases, just to name one practical benefit of evolutionary theory.

    These claims of religious charity are fundamentally marred by several factors. For instance, while Habitat for Humanity was started by a religious person, many secular and atheist people donate both time and money — yet here religion gets all the credit. Same for many “religious” charities. Then there’s the “charity” of giving money to harangue people worldwide about joining a religion — where’s the acual charity angle in that? Essentially what these claims do is redefine charity as only coming from religious sources and then saying that this proves that religious people do charity better.

    One thing that religious people definitely do better, and far more often and louder, is toot their own horn.

  • NobaDee

    Here is a ration question. What does it matter who does what better?

    If you feel insecure about your beliefs then do something about.

    I do not see a shred of relevance in debating whether one person is better than another based of their personal beliefs. Humanity has the capacity to do good and evil regardless of if God is on their mind or not. Most of these comments suggest atheists are incapable of genocide; well, Joseph Stalin was an atheist and his empire cast a shadow over Hitlers reign of terror.

    The only logical assumption this thread could rationally conclude is that some people have a starving ego to feed.

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