Do Atheists deserve respect?

I have been an atheist for roughly 20 years. I made that choice, I do not regret it and I am happy for it. If anyone asks, I admit it openly. My own philosophy has always been “to each his own” and I respect individuals based on their character regardless of religion. However, I do not always get that respect reciprocated when my lack of religion becomes evident. Shock, confusion, hostility, and pity, are just some of the reactions I have witnessed upon the revelation. I have even been called the spawn of Satan. (As if Atheists were Devil worshippers).
Often, some of these individuals will then try to “save my soul”. Apparently, some people equate being an Atheist to mean “undecided”. This of course is not true.
In fact, it shows a complete lack of respect for me. Roughly 20 years since my Atheistic epiphany and not a single moment of doubt. In all those years I have had many people of various religions try to “save” me. For this I am supposed to be grateful for the “concern” I have even read it on the board occasionally about this person or that person is just concerned and wishes to share the love of Jesus. Yet, when I tell people about the joy of living deity free, I often get intolerance and hostile responses.

So let me ask this. As an Atheist, do I forfeit my right to be respected? Why?
And, why do I have to be grateful when someone shows concern over my lack of religion?
How would you like to have me convert you to Atheism? Would you be grateful of my attempt?

I second those experiences, by the way. I have received some strange responses before, usually due to their direct question (and not hearing an acceptable response), which include people shaking their heads in disgust, to flat out denial, “Oh, you are not! Quit saying that!” When when I have persisted, I have seen self-righteous anger, as if I admitted to a horrible crime. I’ve had several people wag their finger at me in silence, as if they are cursing me.

All I know is that according to a former President of these United States, you don’t deserve to be a citizen in this great nation.

While whether the right to be respected might be a debatable point in and of itself, it seems that the right to vote (among other things that comes with citizenship here) might be hard to come by if some people had their way.

Of course you don’t deserve respect. You are different and out of the mainstream. For that you deserve scorn.


Some of you must just live in a completely different world than I do. I believe in God, some of my friends do, some of my friends don’t. I have never witnessed any of them being hostile to each other about the other’s opinions. I have never heard from anyone I know of them being hassled because of their particular beliefs (except for Mormans coming to their doors).

Is all of this alleged scorn you are receiving really as bad as you are making it out to be?

You do know that everyone has different experiences, right?
I find it kind of ignorant that you do not think that how someone portrays their experiences is true. Just because you have never seen something or experienced it, does not mean someone else has not seen it or experienced it.

I’ve never seen a nuclear reactor, but I’m sure someone else has.

I often have a problem respecting people who call themselves “atheist” because so few of them seem to know what it means.

For example, in your own post you capitalize it: “Atheist, Atheism.” You also say “Roughly 20 years since my Atheistic epiphany and not a single moment of doubt.” All this seems like a really weird way to refer to a lack of religion.

Hardcore atheists are so funny to me because they are so passionate about…nothing.

So yeah, ever since I thought I was an atheist but then started thinking about all this stuff, I have had trouble respecting people who call themselves atheist.

Please understand me: I am not attacking you by any means. This could turn into a really good discussion. Also, though I say “so few atheists no what it means to be an atheist,” I don’t mean to imply that I DO.

So what exactly is atheism? How do you maintain it as a lack of belief in God when atheism itself seems to be defined (at least in social terms) by its comparison to religions? And how does a human being, with his or her natural tendency toward spiritual contemplation, express themselves as an atheist without making it sound like a religion?


It’s much worse than you may imagine in some places. In some families it is almost impossible to be an atheist. It is not even a respectable choice available to most people, therefore it is not considered intellectually. A 1999 Gallup poll on the subject indicated that 49% of America would not vote for an atheist.


An atheist doesn’t need to define their non-belief, it is moot. Also, by definiton, everyone is an agnostic. Atheism, to me, is simply is a confident extension of agnosticism which says that “I don’t need faith in, nor hope for a God.” Humanism is another similar way of describing it, which suggests, simply, that humans provide for humans. In other words, I disbelieve in unseen forces as being counter-productive. I especially disbelieve in the idea of one God, which is logically unsound and smacks of a feudal convenience to me. It doesn’t bother me when people believe anything they wish to, it only bothers me when they think it is obvious or logical.


No, I didn’t know that. I never realized that people could have different experiences. You find it ignorant that I do not believe everything everyone tells me. Okay, that makes a lot of sense. By the way, in case you would like to reread what I previously posted, I did not say I don’t believe it has ever happened. I just think that SOME of these stories are made out to be a little worse than they actually are.


People do try to convert others to atheism. People do get converted. I bet some of those people would grateful to those that converted them.

Of course Atheists deserve respect. Sice the the existence of God (or gods) can be neither objectively proven nor disproven, it takes as much faith to not believe in God as it does to believe in him. Since I respect sincere Christians for the strength of their faith, It only makes sense that I respect sincere Atheists when they exhibit faith just as strong. You therefore have my respect.

I have to take exception to this, Mr. Bunnyhurt. According to Webster’s Dictionary an agnostic is one “who claims that [God] is unknown and unknowable.” But what if I myself am 100% sure that there is a God, and I can know Him/Her/It? You may call me deluded, but that is only from your point of view. Either way, I’m not an agnostic.


I would certainly never claim that Faith in any form is obvious or logical. Neither Atheism nor Religion is either one, in my opinion. People who claim otherwise have not thought about it enough.

You are absolutely correct. If I had my choice this would not be an issue and I would go about living my life in peace. Unfortunately, I am sometimes put on a defensive when encountering someone who seems to think that I need to listen to the words of his or her religion. I try to walk away from most such encounters but it is not always easy. I had a particularly bad time in one of my college years when I was constantly harassed and stalked by a group of southern Baptists. I must have been a “project” for them that year and it didn’t help that one of them happened to be my dorm roommate. They intercepted me wherever I went; they left booklets and notes and kept telling me to repent. Repent from what? If you’ve ever been stalked, intercepted, yelled at by a group of southern Baptists for an entire year, you tend to become a passionate hardcore Atheist.

One does not “practice” Atheism. One just is an Atheist.
The reason Atheism is being compared to other religions is simply because we are often put in a position where we have no other option, as I have illustrated above.

If this were to happen, the US could no longer be considered a “great nation”.

What do you think of these stories, TexasSpur?

Deep In The Bible Belt – One Atheist Professor’s Experience"
Lisa Herdahl’s Struggle for Religious Liberty in Pontotoc County, Mississippi

Could you see a community of atheists or Pagans attackinga Christian as these folks get attacked?

Satan, you’re bleeding together two unrelated threads here. Spare Texas your wrath.


I am not denying that any of this occurs. I am more doubting the validity of the common person’s claims that it happens all the time in such a horrible way.

I guess I need to explain myself a little better. I will use an analogy. Let’s say you are talking with a group of people about homeless people downtown. Everyone chimes in about how everytime they walk from the parking lot to the store they are constantly bombarded by homeless people who will not leave them alone. They say these bums badger and get in their face and beg for money. Then after they refuse to give them money they are yelled at while they are walking away. Well, sure stuff like that happens every once in a while, but in reality a guy with a sign that says, “Hungry, please spare change” is not really bothering them to as big of a degree as the people claim.

So, for instance, in this thread, if NiceGuyJack is really being “stalked” and “harassed” for an entire year, he probably would have tried doing something about it rather than just complaining about it on a message board.

Well, now, this is interesting. Would you care to enlighten us, then, as to what “atheist” in fact means?

It was a college year. So it was not quite a full year. And I did do something. I complained to my RA and RHA. Nothing happened.
The arguments I had with my roommate started turning really nasty. It didn’t matter how often I told him that I did not believe in the Devil. This was apparently a concept he could never grasp, because he always dismissed it and kept assuming that Atheism = Satanism. He didn’t even respect me enough to try to understand what an Atheist was. Meanwhile I was supposed to listen to his crap. In the end I just flowed with it. I acknowledged that yes he was quite right; I was indeed the spawn of hell. The dorm split us up half way through the semester. Interestingly, it was my roommate who got his move granted for “spiritual” reasons.
Still, it didn’t stop him and his friends from hassling me around campus.

Anyway, that’s my story, and it happened many years ago. Since then, I still get conversion attempts, although never as bad as that time. Believe me, I can handle myself and you will note that the OP contains a fair question, which I think is worthy of a debate. I certainly don’t think I was complaining.



Well, again, I am not trying to necessarily call you a liar. It may appear that way from the way I referenced you, but believe me I am not. I just think that your experience should be chalked up as a crazy person harassing you rather than evil Christians.

As far as the OP containing a fair question? Clearly it was a loaded question. I feel that the way it was prefaced and worded were done in a way so that others would share experiences rather than debate the merits of whether atheists should be respected.

For instance, what if I put this out as an OP:

I am a white man. One day when I was travelling the subway in New York City, I accidently got off in Harlem. When I was innocently trying to find my way back to a better part of town, I heard a crazy black man shouting on a megaphone. He was yelling about how whitey was the devil and how whitey invented crack cocaine to keep the blacks down. Then he yelled in my direction, “there is the devil right there! We need to kill whitey for oppressing us!”

My question: Are white people really the devil?
If a black person tries to kill me, should I let him?
If he claims he is cleansing the earth should I be grateful?
Okay, maybe not the best example, but I don’t think if something like that happened to me that I would formulate an entire view of blacks as being crazy people who want to kill me.

In that particular experience, which was not mentioned in the OP, it was actually a group of baptists. And that was certainly on the extreme side.

Not a good example at all. I have had booklets handed to me by secular people, because they are being concerned. Or comments made indicating that I had lost faith because of some terrible event in my life, which is not at all why I am an Atheist. I remember once, I was asked by a Jewish girl what my religion was, I answered I had none. Her response was, “How sad.” Sad? For whom? She just assumed, and to me that shows a lack of respect.

Obviously, I am not blaming every one with religion. As I mentioned in the OP, I respect people based on their character regardless of their religion. You mentioned previously that your friends never behaved that way. Well my friends don’t either. The point I was making though, is that even on a secular level atheists are disrespected at times.