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What Evangelicals Think They Know About Atheists

things christians say to atheists

Repost from 2015-2016. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Evangelical Christians have all sorts of ideas about what atheists believe and what kind of people they are. Where do they get these ideas? From Evangelical apologetic’s books, their pastors, evangelists who hold meetings at their churches, their Sunday School teachers, Christian Radio and TV, Fox News, and their fellow Christians.

Most Evangelicals don’t know any atheists. They live in what I call the Evangelical ghetto, a bubble insulated from worldly, godless influences. After all, there are no atheists in their churches — though they might be surprised to learn that there are likely secret atheists sitting near them in church almost every Sunday. Evangelicals tend to surround themselves with people who think and act as they do, so they are rarely exposed to people who hold beliefs different from theirs — and this is common for all tribes, including atheists.

This is the same criticism LGBTQ people have of Evangelicals. Evangelicals rage against the sin of homosexuality, yet they don’t personally know any LGBTQ people.  All they know is what their pastors say, TV preachers say, or what they read in Evangelical apologetics book.

When Evangelicals actually meet and befriend a non-heterosexual, they are often forced to rethink their beliefs. When a face is put on their beliefs, they are forced to deal with the humanity of that person. Often, when Evangelicals become friends with an LGBTQ person, they soften or abandon their beliefs about homosexuals being sinful, wicked, deviant, child-molesters.

So it is with atheists. Evangelicals have little in-person, up-close contact with atheists, and until they do, they will continue to say and believe outlandish and untrue things about atheists.

So what do many Evangelical Christians think they know about atheists?

  • They think atheists are a monolithic group where everyone believes exactly the same thing.
  • They think atheists practice the “religion” of atheism.
  • They think atheists hate the Evangelical God.
  • They think atheists oppose religion of any kind.
  • They think atheists have a secret desire to live immoral lives.
  • They think atheists worship Madalyn Murray O’Hair.
  • They think atheists are ignorant of the Bible and Christianity.
  • They think atheists are out to steal the souls of children.
  • They think atheists are agents of Satan/Lucifer/Beelzebub/Barack Obama.
  • They think atheists revere men such as Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin.
  • They think all atheists are liberals, voted for Barack Obama in 2008/2012, and will vote for Joe Biden in November.
  • They think atheists are out to destroy America and turn it into a godless state.
  • They think all atheists are pro-abortion.

And in every instance, Evangelicals are wrong about what they think they know about atheists. What is atheism?

Atheism is in the broadest sense an absence of belief in the existence of deities. Less broadly, atheism is a rejection of the belief that any deities exist. In an even narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities. Atheism is contrasted with theism, which in its most general form is the belief that at least one deity exists.

From this point, atheists head off in many different directions. Yes, most atheists are likely political liberals, but many atheists are Republican, pro-life, Libertarian, supporters of the right to own guns, and yes, some of them, inexplicably, will vote for Donald Trump.

Are some atheists ignorant of the Bible and Christianity?  Sure, and as an atheist, I am embarrassed when they open their mouths and expose their ignorance. However, many atheists are like I am, raised in the Christian church, taught the Bible from our youth, and we know the Bible inside and out. There are countless college-trained atheists who were once Evangelical pastors. Some, such as I, spent most of their adult life preaching and teaching the Bible, winning souls, and doing the work of the ministry.

As I asked one commenter who suggested that since I was not a Christian and didn’t have the Holy Spirit living inside me, my understanding of the Bible was wrong: does this mean the moment I said, I am an atheist, thirty-five years of intense Bible study and knowledge immediately left my brain? Really?

If Evangelicals really want to understand atheists, they are going to have to set aside their presuppositions and actually get to know real, flesh-and-blood atheists. Most Evangelicals are unwilling to do this. They are closed-minded like former Taylor University professor James Spiegel (who wrote The Making of An Atheist: How Immorality Leads to Unbelief), having made up their mind that atheists are in rebellion against their peculiar version of God and secretly desire to live immoral lives.

Actually getting to know an atheist might force them to rethink their beliefs, and we can’t have any of that. To admit that atheists can be and are kind, loving, thoughtful human beings means that the Evangelical claim that only Jesus makes people loving and kind is not true. To admit that atheists are as moral as they are is to rob the Evangelical God of his power.

Evangelicals cannot stand being “just like everyone else.” They have been told their whole lives that they are unique and special — a new creation in Christ Jesus. To admit that atheists are just like they are is too much to handle, and invalidates the foundation upon which their lives are built.

So Evangelicals continue their attack on atheists, refusing to realize that the atheists they are attacking do not exist and are figments of their imaginations.

Here’s an offer I will make to any Evangelical church/pastor within a two-hour drive from Ney, Ohio. I will gladly, free of charge, come and speak to your church about atheism and answer any questions the congregation might have. I will even bring my beautiful, godless wife of forty-two years with me. If you really want to know and understand what makes an atheist tick, I am ready and willing to be examined. This is not an offer to debate. I do not do debates. This is a genuine offer to educate your congregation about atheism. If you are interested, please contact me (and I will prepare myself for the deluge of invitations that are sure to come).

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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16 Comments

  1. Avatar
    mikespeir

    “They think atheists hate God.”

    I can’t say this often enough: If somebody came up with some real, honest-to-goodness evidence for the existence of God, nobody would be more excited about the prospect than me. Nothing, but nothing, could be half as fascinating as a bona fide deity.

    • Avatar
      dale M

      Mikespeir …. We wouldn’t recognize it. Our definitions of “Atheism/ Theism” are too antiquated. The evidence would be too circumstantial but possibly cumulative instead. These discoveries would be part of that ;

      There are other solar systems. Our system is not alone/ unique to our star.
      There are other forms of life out there. Our world is not alone/ unique to Life.
      There are other Earth like planets out there. Earth and advanced multi-cellular Life forms are not unique to Earth.
      There are primitive technological civilizations near our level of advancement out there. Solar systems are inhabited out there.
      There is archaeological extra-solar evidence of civilizations 100s of thousands or millions of years older but on our level of advancement (fossil civilizations that we would be able to comprehend) indicating (if it survived) a galactic entity (far beyond our comprehension). All pretense inherent in religion has been swept away.
      GOD (inter-Galactic Organized Deities) is a huge step far beyond our comprehension but, circumstantial evidence would surely indicate that we were heading there……. Hope and reason blooms eternal …..

  2. Avatar
    Angiep

    I followed the link to James Spiegel. How insulting for him to accuse atheists of wanting an excuse to be immoral evil-doers. I would challenge him to find ONE aspect of my life that is less moral as compared to any fundamental christian’s. (I do not consider such things as using swear words to be a matter of morality. I mean things that do matter, like how I treat people.)

  3. Avatar
    Aram McLean

    Not to mention the ones who believe in the Rapture honestly believe the worlds will descend into lawless chaos without their stabilizing presence. As far as I’m concerned, the Rapture can’t happen soon enough.

  4. Avatar
    northierthanthou

    I’ve known evangelicals that don’t fall into these habits, but I think the apologetics industry feeds off these terrible mischaracterizations. We’re just characters (villains) in stories to some fo these people, and their profits rely on their ability to fit us into conventional narrative themes.

  5. Avatar
    Ami

    It’s fear.

    As a Christian, I was taught to fear everything and everyone who wasn’t like us.
    To ‘turn and flee’ because anyone who didn’t believe our way was probably demon possessed and/or trying to influence us to ::snort:: the dark side.

    My homeschooled kids were attending classes with other homeschoolers and I was talking to one of the other moms outside while waiting for our kids to come out. She started in with the what church do you go to and what curriculum do you use and I said, “Oh, we’re unschooling atheists.”

    She burst out with, “I bind you Satan in the name of Jesus Christ” and actually RAN AWAY from me.

    Guess a fat 40-something housewife who didn’t believe in her god was pretty scary.

    She was so afraid of me that she took her kids out of the classes, not wanting them to be around the offspring of unbelievers.

    Anyone who claims to have faith and is so weak in their beliefs that they actually run away needs more help than I am able to offer. 🙂

  6. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    “You’re an atheist? Unbelievable!” 😉

    Pretty much all of the assumptions you’ve listed are the same ones evangelicals (and, to be fair, lots of other people) have about LGBT people. I have to admit that I have fun when someone says, “Really? You used to be a dude?”

    • Avatar
      Sage

      Very true MJ. Being non-binary I experience this as well. Today at gas station, as I,walked,in, a man said to me “ma’am, would you care to donate to the children’s fund of blank church?”, to which I responded no thank you, and moved on only to hear him say “have a blessed day sir.” I ignored it, because I know I confuse most people. Then on the way out, he is still there. I lock eyes and smile under my flowery face mask, because I see he has that look on his face…that ‘so you used to be a dude…are a dude..are a…whatever….’ look. Then he said to me “ god bless you sir.” He couldn’t just leave the sir off. I guess my “immorality” needed a small god led correction.

  7. Avatar
    Yulya Sevelova

    Regarding the list of things Fundies through at atheists, it’s not JUST atheists who are hit with these slogans. If a person in church is going through a bad time, like sick kids or parents, lost jobs, deaths, or the overwhelming needs of disabled children and they need a break– they will usually be browbeaten by those same comments. Sloganeering, buzzwords, I saw it all while going to church. Unless you are wealthy and powerful, then they fawn over you.

  8. Avatar
    dale M

    Just for fun (to answer those 10 posted condescending phrases) because we all hear them … don’t we ?!?

    Lot of good that did ….
    Actually, I’m still waiting for Santa Claus ….
    True. I was never nailed to a cross
    Already read “Origin of the Species”
    So I should kill you now ?!?
    Darwin does too OR Zeus doesn’t love me
    No. I want money and happiness!!!
    The fool in his mind says there is no evolution
    Already went through my religious phase. You haven’t done that yet ??
    I’m not fooled by the Bible. Once burned. Twice shy.

  9. Avatar
    nowamfoundatlast

    hate god? why would any thinking person hate a god that kills everyone including infants and children just because? why would they hate a god that says kill all toddlers to hide one toddler from herod? why woulda ny thinking person hate a god that advocate rape as a bethrothal? that requires women to be mute? that says the israelites should kill any other ites? just because? when he does nothing to stop a genocide of his chosen people as in wwii? why is letting christians die from a virus now? a loving caring god sure lets a lot of evil go on

  10. Avatar
    dale M

    So. The Electoral College can overrule a voting democracy, even if the Democrats won the popular vote by a landslide of 10 million votes ?!? I didn’t realize that. Trump finally found a way out ! But both Houses would probably fall to the Dems which would effectively neutralize Trump and the U.S.A. politically for another 4 years. Maybe the U.S. needs a reboot ? Along with Evangelicalism ?

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