You hear it from the radio and television, you hear it from your professional pastor, and you hear it from the smug politician.
Atheists are a threat because they don’t have our morality.
Atheists are a danger because they do not have our given values.
Atheists are a danger to our children. Why? Because Atheists follow Satan!
It is beyond hard to dignify the comparison of Atheism with “Satanism”. Only the most uneducated or blinkered fool would state that a person unwilling to believe in the mythology of any deity must therefore adhere to, or more oddly worship, the notion of that deity’s demons. The idea, if given any thought at all, is beyond ludicrous.
The idea that Atheism is equal to Satanism spits forth not only from an ignorance of the simple definition of a word but comes from something a little more insidious. Many desperate church people choose to associate any conscious, philosophical or ideological position that conflicts with their teachings with the demons of their own doctrine.
Without care for intelligent thought or consideration, the bad pastor equates any dissension with dogma as akin to allying with the demons of their myths. To say no to their belief can only mean to be a servant of that God’s “adversary”. If you are not with us, surely you must be against us! Disagreement is automatically evil!
To many reading this, it may sound like I am overstating. Surely people do not think in such blanket terms!
About three months ago I was the celebrant at a Humanist wedding in South Carolina. As we began the reception the photographer, a very pleasant woman in her early 30s, asked me if, as I was a Humanist, I therefore followed Satan.
She was not a simpleton. She meant no insult. This was a professional college graduate. I sat with her over a glass of very nice champagne and explained to her that not believing was not Satanic.
She was extremely understanding but explained that from childhood she had been told from the pulpit and the blackboard that all those who deny Christ are by definition followers of the devil. It was not something she had concluded but rather a “truth” that had been fed to her repeatedly by her “elders”.
It is the transmission of these false ideas and connections that we have a duty to watch for in our society and in those who commission themselves our teachers and “superiors”. We must teach ourselves and our children to understand that simply because our neighbor or stranger does not agree to follow our own faith or doctrine does not mean they are automatically allied with our spiritual or ideological devils.
It is easy to raise fear and hatred by portraying all who disagree as allies of an enemy. This can be found in myriad pulpits, schoolyards and political debates across the world. It is a position of fear and stupidity.
We owe it to ourselves, as a caring, civilized people to see beyond this dangerous simplicity.
In the next part, I’ll address the myth that being an atheist automatically means hating all religion.