Atheists don’t worship Satan, and neither do most Satanists!

In Internet slang, a troll is “ a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion, often for their own amusement.”

In reality, I find the definition to be a little bit more broad than that. I would say a “troll” is someone who sows discord by upsetting people by advocating for inflammatory positions with the deliberate intent of provoking an emotional response, even though the the troll does not actually believe in the position for which he’s advocating.

FSMAtheists on and off the Internet employ the tactic of trolling with gleeful regularity. Late last month, atheists in the Netherlands  succeeded in convincing the government to officially recognize the “Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.” Followers of that religion are known as “Pastafarians.”

I neither know nor care who first coined the concept of a Flying Spaghetti Monster. It’s basically a God-parody. The idea is, expecting atheists to disprove God is like expecting Christians to disprove the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Or disprove the claim that there’s a teapot orbiting the sun somewhere between Earth and Mars.

It’s silliness. No one actually believes in the Flying Spaghetti Monster or in Russell’s Teapot. It’s not because anyone has disproved either of them. It’s because the claim is inherently ridiculous. Some atheists feel the same about the God hypothesis. We’re expected to believe that the universe, with all its complexity, was created by an omnipotent, omniscient being who would, of necessity, be more complicated than the universe, be invisible, be timeless, and be deeply, deeply concerned about our sexual activity. And the burden is on us to disprove such a being?

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The problem isn’t public religion, it’s public religion

Part of an occasional series addressing popular misconceptions about atheism. For more in the series, click here.

I don’t have a problem with public displays of religion, but I have a big problem with public displays of religion.

I came up with that line a couple of years ago, and I love using it. It sounds self-contradictory, but it’s really not. It’s all about how we define words. In this case, the word in question is “public.”

God OK

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Hermand Mehta, aka “The Friendly Atheist,” had a terrific article last week illustrating what I mean when I say the problem isn’t public religion, it’s public religion. It seems Christians (it’s mostly Christians in the USA who do this) think that atheists want religion to be unseen in public. They misunderstand the objection atheists have to public displays of religion.

In Pittsburg, Kansas, a local post office put up a “God Bless America” sign on its property. Atheists objected, and the sign was removed. But what happened next? A local business printed up 1,200 “God Bless America” signs and had people put them up on their property to spite the atheists who had it taken down from the post office.

And how did atheists respond to this?

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Why atheists care if you pray (spoiler alert: we don’t)

Part of an occasional series addressing popular misconceptions about atheism. For more in the series, click here.

You may have seen this meme when it originally circulated a year or two ago. It popped up on my Facebook feed, and I remember leaving a simple comment: We don’t.

Dear AtheistI can’t speak for all atheists. No one can. But I can speak for myself, so here goes: I don’t care who prays or where. I don’t care if you pray first thing when you wake up, last thing before you go to sleep, before each meal, after each meal, three times a day while facing Mecca, nine times a day while counting beads, twice a day while brushing your teeth, or 20 times a day while clipping your fingernails and toenails. I do not care if you pray at home, in your car, at your job, at school, on line at the post office, in a park, behind your desk, in court, on the street or at a sports stadium.

I care about your attempt to get our government to acknowledge, support and promote your God by imposing prayer on me and my children.

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It takes no faith to be an atheist

Part of an occasional series addressing popular misconceptions about atheism. You can access this and future articles by clicking on the “Atheists wish Christians knew” tag above this post’s headline.

Atheism is an absence of faith. It is not “faith” itself.

Spend any time on Twitter or on Quora, and you’re sure to find examples of believers who try to equate atheism with religion in one regard: both, they say, require faith.

FaithThis is not true. Atheism does not require faith. Similarly, having nothing to drink does not require a glass and being bald does not require a hairbrush.

What’s happening here is, everyone believes something. But “faith” and “believing,” in the English language, have distinct definitions. And when someone says “atheism requires faith,” they’re really confusing those definitions.

In common usage, believing means “accepting something as true or valid.” Faith, on the other hand, means “accepting something as true with or without conclusive proof of its veracity.”

These are my definitions, so if you want to quibble over them to iron them out, be my guest.

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You are more moral than God

Atheists are often asked, or answer without being asked, what they wished Christians and other theists knew about them. People have a lot of misconceptions about atheists for a number of reasons, most having to do with failing to understand what atheism is and is not. And it’s not just theists who have this misconception. Self-described agnostics are known to make the same mistakes, and even many atheists fail to distinguish between atheism itself and the accouterments that often (but not always) accompany it. But usually, it’s believers making these presumptions.

This post is the first in an occasional series addressing these popular misconceptions. You can access it and future articles by clicking on the “Atheists wish Christians knew” tag above this post’s headline.

I wish believers knew that atheists have a moral compass, and it’s not that different from theirs.

ClarkeBelievers tend to think that moral values are “objective,” and that they cannot be objective unless there is a God to declare them. For example, William Lane Craig says, “… if God exists, then the objectivity of moral values, moral duties, and moral accountability is secured, but … in the absence of God, that is, if God does not exist, then morality is just a human convention, that is to say, morality is wholly subjective and non-binding.”

He goes on: “… if God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist. Thus, we cannot truly be good without God.”

Timid atheists are too quick to concede the existence of objective moral values because it allows dishonest analysts to argue that we do not believe in right and wrong. In reality, moral values are not objective. They are values. Values are judgments by definition, and therefore are not objective. But that doesn’t mean they are baseless!

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