What is there about the word "atheist" that makes normally sane people act crazy?

Help! I just got off the phone with my best friend. I started telling her about an event I attended recently. When I mentioned the group's name (which included the word "atheist") it was like I had rung a bell for Pavlov's dog! She immediately went on a rant about how she is "sick of atheists," and how "stupid" they are to be "angry at God."

This shook me up because normally she is a wonderful friend. She is a non-practicing Jew who was raised completely secular. I've been open with her about the full extent of my apostasy, and I've even identified myself as an atheist to her before. Perhaps she didn't believe me? What is there about that word?

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I, and the atheists and non-believers that I discuss these types of things with, don't seem to be angry with life. I am really incensed when adults speak in childish ways, i.e. "I'll pray for you" ... you know the drill. It is time to take responsibility for oneself and not rest on the power of some delusion.  

I really get annoyed when children hear and see their parents act like that. At some point in the lives of those children, they will doubt, question and rebel against their parents. Often, when that happens, many of them have to go to boys' or girls' ranch to get straitened out. I found, when working with these youngsters, it was the parents who needed the ranch.

No, not angry at life, I am angry at immature, irresponsible, untrustworthy parents. After all, what good parent would teach delusions to a child? The tooth fairy, OK; Santa Claus, Ya, that works; the virgin birth, a boy turning water into wine, a man healing the leper, a crucifixion and death, then a resurrection and a flight into heaven, COME ON! THAT GOES TOO FAR. 

Of course it's not possible to be angry with a God whose existence you don't accept, but that is the theistic explanation of atheistical denials. ....

Allen, it's more than a theistic explanation of atheistic denials.

It's projection, and purports to say about others what believers are unable to say about themselves.

Social conditioning. For years, every disaster or gigantic bungle was blamed on minorities, immigrants, and atheists. Now that conservatives are having to ease up on minorities and immigrants, we are the goto scapegoat for everything wrong in the world. Global Warming, Evolution, and even AIDS is all a conspiracy of us godless heathens, or their gods wrath on us. They gotta blame their suffering on somebody, and it damn sure won't be themselves anytime soon.

And, Travis, we need to hold their feet to the fire when they blame others for misery in their lives, when they create their own distress. Telling themselves lies, not being able to solve their lies, they get frustrated. LOOK INWARD, is what they need to hear. 

Why be angry with god? Religion is a construct created in the minds of human beings. There is no god there, nor is there any of the piffle that people believe. Believing has nothing to do with what is real, it is a feeling, a hope, a pretense, a deceit, an aspiration, a yearning that formulates in the gray matter of the brain. What others believe is none of my business, unless it impacts me. 

Being around believers is not very interesting. Magical thinking seems to be the way of children. Mentally healthy, mature, adults have the capacity to think, reason, explore, experiment, and figure things out for themselves. They don't have to kneel down, or hold their hands together to find peace and comfort. Those attributes reside within an individual. 

There are 7,222,308,695 human beings on this Earth and some of them do not believe in magic. I prefer to be with those. 

 

The idea of being angry with a god who does not exist seems impossible to me, but the idea of atheists as rebels seems to have some explanatory power for believers. It provides them with a reason that denigrates atheism as a psychological defect. The other one they use frequently is that atheists want to be free to do things forbidden by God.

It doesn't seem useful to mock or ridicule believers—they simply withdraw into their hard shells. The thing to do is to get them to think seriously about what they believe. A few will find it difficult to go on believing when they realize that it is as you say, magical thinking.

the idea of atheists as rebels seems to have some explanatory power for believers. It provides them with a reason that denigrates atheism as a psychological defect.

Is being a rebel a psychological defect? I think not. I'm a rebel :) 

In a society where most people are religious, many atheists are indeed rebels.

In the case of believer's interpretation of atheist's attitudes, rebel means explicitly rebel against God and his commandments. Since obedience is the principal Christian virtue, rebellion against God must be the principle sin.

Rebelling is not at all a psychological defect. In many circumstances it is a virtue. In modern socieities it might be considered the only moral attitude. I certainly would not call atheists rebels against God since they don't think there is anything to rebel against. Are they rebels in other senses? I think you could say they rebel against the supernatural interpretation of events and against the social restrictions that often accompany religiosity—and often against the barbarities of modern living.

Religious have imperatives to submit, yield to authority, obey, and to sacrifice themselves in imitation of the crucified christ. 

If a person resists these imperatives, they rebel against god and place themselves in burning torment for infinity.

Any rebellious person then becomes doomed. They can be discounted, mocked, trivialized, put-down, and even demonized and the religious feel justified in their judgment.  

Meanwhile, the non-believer hears these judgmental words and wonders where on Earth they learned that? One can be moral without god. One can do good works without god. One can treat others with respect without god. One is born, lives and dies and there is no heaven or hell and certainly no god and no judgment. Where are those deluded folks coming from, putting judgment on another for lack of belief in a construct of the mind?

Love your post Joan.  I'm saving it.

What drives believers crazy is that atheist literally means "No God", and they know what it means, that we have no God belief. Polls have consistently shown in the past ( I don't know about now, since non-belief is on the rise in America [thanks to atheist efforts to spread science and reason]) that atheists are the most hated and mistrusted demographic in the US.

Most Christians believe that atheists, by their non-belief, are worshiping Satan without even knowing it, and that we are the unknowing minions of the Devil. This also applies to Jews and Muslims. They, too, hate atheism and those who subscribe to non-belief. Most believers think that atheism is a belief system, holding the view that atheists believe that there is no God. But atheism is not a belief system, for it is not that we believe there is no God, but rather that we have no God belief at all. There is a subtle difference that theists cannot grasp.

Your friend sounds like she hates atheists with a passion. I don't know how to advise you on that, except to say that whenever opportunity arises, try to innocuously inculcate the principles of correct reason and logic into your friend's mind a little at a time when you can.

Anthony Jordan is exactly correct.

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