Many believers have never spent time talking honestly and openly with an atheist. Especially here in the Bible Belt. One of the most common observations I’ve made since becoming an “open atheist” is that lots of believers honestly have no idea what I believe and what I do not believe. Misconceptions abound. (I’ve been asked if I believe in Satan since I’m an atheist. Really?!)
Among the most common misconceptions is the belief that lots of us are atheists because of the bad things religion has done and continues to do. Certainly, a lot of us are mad. We’re mad at the Pope for saying condoms cause AIDS. We’re mad at the American Theocrats for trying to legislate Christianity and rewrite American history. We’re mad at all the friends and family we lost when we admitted we don’t believe in Jesus.
But that’s not why we’re atheists. Not most of us, anyway.
A surprising number of liberal theists have tried to court my affection over the years. They’ve told me about how much they hate what the Pope is doing. They despise Sarah Palin and Focus on the Family. They apologize for what theists have done to me personally. They assure me that even though we disagree over God’s existence, we are in lock step when it comes to humanitarianism, egalitarianism, women’s rights, etc.
If the conversation ends there, things are usually fine. In fact, I try to end it there in polite company because I know the bad place things will go to if I voice my true feelings. You see, I know something they don’t know: I am not an atheist because religion does bad things. I am an atheist because I believe religion — all religion — is wrong. Factually wrong. Ethically wrong. Completely wrong. And while I give liberal theists high marks for being good people in spite of their religious belief, I do not approve of their religious convictions any more than those of Muslim terrorists or Christian abortion clinic bombers.