Evangelical atheist

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Evangelical atheist

Postby spongebob » Wed Nov 30, 2016 9:49 am

I read an interesting post on an atheist forum regarding something we've seen here a few times; a christian has lost his/her faith and struggles to keep his/her marriage together with a spouse that is still strongly religious. In this post I'm borrowing strongly from the post I read, but I'm not going to post any direct quotes; it wouldn't add much to the discussion.

The atheist who lost his faith did the usual, came out to his religious wife who, predictably, had issues with it. They trudged through this discomfort for a couple of years, clashing on occasion, but usually just getting along. Currently they appear to be comfortable with one another and still share most of the same ethical values, which comes as no surprise to me. But the wife did mention that she was glad he was no longer an "evangelical atheist". This struck him oddly and after some discussion he was able to ascertain that she was referring to times when he would debate religion with her and even quote references that supported his case. He reminded her that he never brought up the subject of religion unless she prompted it first and he never demanded that she agree with him. In fact, he was restraining himself most of the time and still keeping this a secret to almost everyone. He had worried that she would leave him because of this but he never wanted that.

Now there are two issues that this raised. One is what christians call "evangelical atheism". To many atheists the bar appears to be exceptionally low, as in just expressing one's lack of belief and respect for religious things. To him (and me), this seems ridiculous. We live in a world awash with religiosity. To go a single day without hearing one religious comment or symbol would require me to be completely separate from society. Yet if an atheist makes a non-religious comment or even replies to a question, that can be construed to be "evangelical". There appears to be a double standard here.

The other issue was even more poignant. Far from being the "family oriented" front that christianity often presents itself to be, this atheist noted that families and church communities often leverage their affiliations to brow beat people into submission. IOW, instead of being supportive and understanding about one's doubts about religion, christians often demand that their family and church members capitulate and cease these offensive thoughts, which is something that any recovering christian knows is simply impossible. I immediately recognized this behavior in my own family and church members. At one point years ago I was accosted by a member of my old church that I had grown up with because he noticed that some of my FB likes were of atheist pages and that I had commented supportive ideas on these pages. So I understand that it's reasonable for him to question my new affiliation, but to downright challenge me on it and express shame and disappointment is a bridge too far.
Man is a credulous animal, and must believe something; in the absence of good grounds for belief, he will be satisfied with bad ones.
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Re: Evangelical atheist

Postby Simplyme » Wed Nov 30, 2016 10:02 am

You can't have an atheist with out a theist first.

Me as an atheist, i'm rejecting someones concept of there being a god.

The subject of a god would have to be brought up first before we can reject it. I can not remember a time that i would bring up my atheism in to a conversation unless the subject of beliefs and gods are being discussed.

You could also apply it to Skepticism(is generally any questioning attitude or doubt towards one or more items of putative knowledge or belief). There has to be something in place first in order for people to be skeptic about it.

So to state someone is an Evangelical(of or according to the teaching of the gospel or the Christian religion) Atheist is rather silly, and changing the definition of the word "evangelical".

My two cents.
I find it rather amusing, when thought of as ignorant or stupid(though I can be on many subjects). Especially by those who believe in a deity up in heaven watching our every move, and rewarding or punishing us after we have expired.
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Re: Evangelical atheist

Postby CL Moderator » Wed Nov 30, 2016 7:22 pm

SimplyMe,

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Re: Evangelical atheist

Postby spongebob » Wed Nov 30, 2016 7:25 pm

Heck, I guess no one can keep it under control for a post in the CL. Does anyone post here anymore?
Man is a credulous animal, and must believe something; in the absence of good grounds for belief, he will be satisfied with bad ones.
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Re: Evangelical atheist

Postby Rian » Wed Nov 30, 2016 7:29 pm

There are only a couple of people who have earned a ban from the CL for repeated violations.

It's pretty quiet all over the forum, and both the CL and the debate forum haven't been used for a while, but it's funny that you just posted here - I was just telling SEG a few days ago that I had a topic I wanted to post here and discuss with him (and anyone else in the CL).
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Re: Evangelical atheist

Postby Rian » Wed Nov 30, 2016 8:25 pm

spongebob wrote:I read an interesting post on an atheist forum regarding something we've seen here a few times; a christian has lost his/her faith and struggles to keep his/her marriage together with a spouse that is still strongly religious. In this post I'm borrowing strongly from the post I read, but I'm not going to post any direct quotes; it wouldn't add much to the discussion.

The atheist who lost his faith did the usual, came out to his religious wife who, predictably, had issues with it. They trudged through this discomfort for a couple of years, clashing on occasion, but usually just getting along. Currently they appear to be comfortable with one another and still share most of the same ethical values, which comes as no surprise to me. But the wife did mention that she was glad he was no longer an "evangelical atheist". This struck him oddly and after some discussion he was able to ascertain that she was referring to times when he would debate religion with her and even quote references that supported his case. He reminded her that he never brought up the subject of religion unless she prompted it first and he never demanded that she agree with him. In fact, he was restraining himself most of the time and still keeping this a secret to almost everyone. He had worried that she would leave him because of this but he never wanted that.

Now there are two issues that this raised. One is what christians call "evangelical atheism". To many atheists the bar appears to be exceptionally low, as in just expressing one's lack of belief and respect for religious things. To him (and me), this seems ridiculous. We live in a world awash with religiosity. To go a single day without hearing one religious comment or symbol would require me to be completely separate from society. Yet if an atheist makes a non-religious comment or even replies to a question, that can be construed to be "evangelical". There appears to be a double standard here.

Personally, I would say an "evangelical" atheist would have to be more than that. It would be bringing up the subject frequently and/or doing so in a mocking, arrogant manner.

The other issue was even more poignant. Far from being the "family oriented" front that christianity often presents itself to be, this atheist noted that families and church communities often leverage their affiliations to brow beat people into submission. IOW, instead of being supportive and understanding about one's doubts about religion, christians often demand that their family and church members capitulate and cease these offensive thoughts, which is something that any recovering christian knows is simply impossible. I immediately recognized this behavior in my own family and church members. At one point years ago I was accosted by a member of my old church that I had grown up with because he noticed that some of my FB likes were of atheist pages and that I had commented supportive ideas on these pages. So I understand that it's reasonable for him to question my new affiliation, but to downright challenge me on it and express shame and disappointment is a bridge too far.
I think challenging someone in response to a post is fine as long as it's done respectfully. Shame is definitely wrong, but some level of personal disappointment should be OK (along the lines of "It means so much to me; I wish it could mean that to you" but not "I'm so disappointed in you for being an immoral heathen!")

Anyway, just my first thoughts on the OP...
"Aurë entuluva! Auta i lómë!" ("Day shall come again! The night is passing!") -- from JRR Tolkien's The Silmarillion

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Re: Evangelical atheist

Postby Simplyme » Wed Nov 30, 2016 8:33 pm

CL Moderator wrote:SimplyMe,

It was probably an accident on your part to post in here, and your post was in line with the standards of the Civility Lounge, but just a reminder that your ban from the Civility Lounge is still in place. If you wish to be considered for reinstatement, please PM one of the moderators. Until then, please do not post in the CL.

Thank you.


It was a mistake........And no I do not want to be considered for reinstatement.
I find it rather amusing, when thought of as ignorant or stupid(though I can be on many subjects). Especially by those who believe in a deity up in heaven watching our every move, and rewarding or punishing us after we have expired.
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Re: Evangelical atheist

Postby spongebob » Wed Nov 30, 2016 9:08 pm

Rian wrote:Personally, I would say an "evangelical" atheist would have to be more than that. It would be bringing up the subject frequently and/or doing so in a mocking, arrogant manner.


How about an atheist who actively promotes atheism or regularly (without provocation) questions the validity of religion? Reverse these traits and they are common of evangelical christians, right? I think the real point he was making is that there appears to be a high degree of sensitivity among many christians. They don't like having their religion criticized and they bristle whenever subject matters that they object to are openly discussed. But this is how we atheists have to live every day. Christians pray openly, praise god openly, wear all sorts of religious symbols. This is the world we live in, but if we show the least amount of disdain for religion we get branded "evangelical", as if that's even a bad thing.

I think challenging someone in response to a post is fine as long as it's done respectfully. Shame is definitely wrong, but some level of personal disappointment should be OK (along the lines of "It means so much to me; I wish it could mean that to you" but not "I'm so disappointed in you for being an immoral heathen!")

Anyway, just my first thoughts on the OP...


I can certainly understand why people do it and I can understand where they are coming from. I was one of them, so I get that they see it as one big family. But I believe that's part of the whole fantasy. That closeness has its limits, as in when someone has doubts. The way we get treated is not like you would treat a family member who came home with a bad injury or even a kid who made a really bad mistake; it's more like we committed treason. My complaint is that christians often don't appear to understand what an atheist is going through and they really don't appear to want to understand either. They just want us to stop.
Man is a credulous animal, and must believe something; in the absence of good grounds for belief, he will be satisfied with bad ones.
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Re: Evangelical atheist

Postby searchengineguy » Thu Dec 01, 2016 6:16 am

Rian wrote:There are only a couple of people who have earned a ban from the CL for repeated violations.

It's pretty quiet all over the forum, and both the CL and the debate forum haven't been used for a while, but it's funny that you just posted here - I was just telling SEG a few days ago that I had a topic I wanted to post here and discuss with him (and anyone else in the CL).

Hi Rian,
go ahead and post when you are ready, I've got the time now to answer.
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Re: Evangelical atheist

Postby Rian » Thu Dec 01, 2016 6:09 pm

OK, great - I started it off here - thanks!
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Re: Evangelical atheist

Postby searchengineguy » Sat Dec 03, 2016 12:18 am

spongebob wrote:So I understand that it's reasonable for him to question my new affiliation, but to downright challenge me on it and express shame and disappointment is a bridge too far.

I agree. This is the first time I've heard of the term evangelical atheist, it's usually militant atheist, which is just as silly. The closest I've seen doing that type of thing is that atheist guy interviewing Christian uni students. Alabama must be tough to live in as an atheist!
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Re: Evangelical atheist

Postby spongebob » Mon Dec 05, 2016 12:44 pm

searchengineguy wrote:I agree. This is the first time I've heard of the term evangelical atheist, it's usually militant atheist, which is just as silly. The closest I've seen doing that type of thing is that atheist guy interviewing Christian uni students. Alabama must be tough to live in as an atheist!


Same for me, though I wouldn't say it's a silly concept. Some atheists are quite aggressive with their approach to conversion. I don't know any of these personally, but I've certainly been exposed to them through media. I'm not evangelical myself and see no real need for it, but I am quite happy to promote atheism to anyone who is interested.

And yes, Alabama is EXTREMELY Christian oriented, as is the majority of the South. I've had a wide range of responses when my religious affiliation becomes known, including being verbally accosted a few times by absolute strangers. People who know me don't think much about my atheism because, well, they know me and they know how completely non-threatening I am. The crazy truth is that I can comfortably cozy up to people in any kind of setting, religious or not. I just ask for the same level of respect that they do. It's just too bad that so many Christians have this irrational fear of something they don't understand.
Man is a credulous animal, and must believe something; in the absence of good grounds for belief, he will be satisfied with bad ones.
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Re: Evangelical atheist

Postby searchengineguy » Wed Dec 07, 2016 6:16 am

spongebob wrote:And yes, Alabama is EXTREMELY Christian oriented, as is the majority of the South. I've had a wide range of responses when my religious affiliation becomes known, including being verbally accosted a few times by absolute strangers. People who know me don't think much about my atheism because, well, they know me and they know how completely non-threatening I am. The crazy truth is that I can comfortably cozy up to people in any kind of setting, religious or not. I just ask for the same level of respect that they do. It's just too bad that so many Christians have this irrational fear of something they don't understand.

I think I would find myself in trouble quite a lot if I lived there, I couldn't keep it to myself. I reckon I would move out if I could. It sounds like Alabama would be like Afghanistan to me on a much lesser scale if it's like that all the time.

It's nearly the opposite here. I live 5 mins from HillSong Church headquarters and they call my district the Bible Belt of Australia. They don't cause much trouble except to take up frigging car parks in the shopping centre. Most of my mates and family are atheists. We find the Christians keep to themselves, but most of my friends think they are a little strange. Churches are rapidly emptying, but the politicians still pander to them. We had an atheist Prime Minister with Julia Gillard, but she mainly hid her views. Oh, and no-one I know owns any guns, thank God!
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Re: Evangelical atheist

Postby Rian » Thu Dec 08, 2016 9:02 pm

spongebob wrote:
Rian wrote:Personally, I would say an "evangelical" atheist would have to be more than that. It would be bringing up the subject frequently and/or doing so in a mocking, arrogant manner.


How about an atheist who actively promotes atheism or regularly (without provocation) questions the validity of religion? Reverse these traits and they are common of evangelical christians, right?

You mean you think evangelical Christians actively promote Christianity and regularly (without provocation) question the validity of atheism? I don't think I do, but I'm not sure how you would classify me. Also, I don't know what you mean by promote; do you just mean things like wearing a cross?

Also, as I'm thinking over what you're saying, I think the simple fact that Christians are a majority in the US comes into play, and an atheist might read some things as "promoting" that are just merely "enjoying". What do you think of that? Anyway, interesting thoughts, and I appreciate you sharing your POV.

I think the real point he was making is that there appears to be a high degree of sensitivity among many christians. They don't like having their religion criticized ...

I think it depends on how it's criticized. I wouldn't think that the majority of Christians would mind a respectful questioning/criticizing. I think they would mind the not-uncommon mindless variety of criticism that consists of, basically, "Yur stooopid if yur a Christian!"

I think you are a thoughtful, respectful atheist, Sponge - do you find many Christians reacting violently to what you say?

...and they bristle whenever subject matters that they object to are openly discussed.

Again, I would think it would depend on HOW they are discussed, but I'm definitely in a more liberal part of the country than you are (Arizona/California). In fact, it's pretty much the opposite here - when my daughter was in high school, if people found out she was a Christian, she would get insulted.

But this is how we atheists have to live every day. Christians pray openly, praise god openly, wear all sorts of religious symbols. This is the world we live in, but if we show the least amount of disdain for religion we get branded "evangelical", as if that's even a bad thing.

I think you can disagree without showing "disdain", though. Wouldn't anyone get upset if something that is important to them is treated with disdain?

Spongebob wrote:I can certainly understand why people do it and I can understand where they are coming from. I was one of them, so I get that they see it as one big family. But I believe that's part of the whole fantasy. That closeness has its limits, as in when someone has doubts. The way we get treated is not like you would treat a family member who came home with a bad injury or even a kid who made a really bad mistake; it's more like we committed treason. My complaint is that christians often don't appear to understand what an atheist is going through and they really don't appear to want to understand either. They just want us to stop.

My family is mostly Christian, but we've had 2 Jews marry into the family (low level of observance Jews) and we all get along well. Yes, it would be more comfortable if everyone believed exactly the same, but we don't, and comfort isn't the most important thing, anyway, so we all just love and respect each other anyway and learn from each other.
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Re: Evangelical atheist

Postby spongebob » Fri Dec 09, 2016 8:32 pm

Rian wrote:You mean you think evangelical Christians actively promote Christianity and regularly (without provocation) question the validity of atheism? I don't think I do, but I'm not sure how you would classify me. Also, I don't know what you mean by promote; do you just mean things like wearing a cross?


I don't think this, I absolutely know it. It's built into the religion; it's expected of the members. Not talking about all Christian religions, but the evangelical one's for sure. And by promoting, I mean actively recruiting by any number of activities, such as cold calling non-members, "witnessing" to non-members, inviting non-members to church, handing out tracts, preaching in a public place, just to name a few, oh and passing religious based laws as well. I don't consider wearing religious icons to be a promotion of your beliefs, but rather a display of them, which is not the same thing. When you ask if Christians question atheism without provocation, that's kind of a difficult question to answer. I assume by "provocation" you mean an atheist directly questioning them on something. There are plenty of cases where Christians leaders will publicly bash atheism or a lack of Christian values and blame some of the problems of society on these things as well as cry oppression, even blame natural disasters on us. I consider these things almost completely unprovoked. Often times the people doing this aren't the most credible Christian leaders, but that doesn't mean they don't have a lot of influence. Mike Huckabee is this type of christian leader, blindly blaming atheists for very complex social problems like mass shootings. But what would constitute "provocation"? I'm not sure what that would be.

I'm not sure where you would fall on the Christian spectrum, Rian. You have not done any proselytizing on this forum that I'm aware of. But then you might engage in this on your own time outside the forum.

Also, as I'm thinking over what you're saying, I think the simple fact that Christians are a majority in the US comes into play, and an atheist might read some things as "promoting" that are just merely "enjoying". What do you think of that? Anyway, interesting thoughts, and I appreciate you sharing your POV.


No, I can tell the difference because I was a Christian long before I was an atheist. I know proselytizing when I see it and atheists generally include this in the equation. In my church, we were expected to share our faith with people outside the church on a daily basis. Some would go so far as to say that to not do this is an indication of a lack of faith in god, i.e., you're not really a Christian (yikes!). I'm curious what your thoughts on that might be. I think when christians congregate together for revivals, prayer meetings and so forth, I don't have any problem with that; that's not proselytizing. But there are regular advertisements on television in my area, inviting people to particular churches. This is a good example of proselytizing. There are numerous billboards. Here's an example:http://media1.fdncms.com/portmerc/imager/u/large/17756422/1458078066-img_2239.jpg. A clear example of proselytizing.

But don't get me wrong here; I think it's fine to share your beliefs with someone so long as there appears to be genuine interest. This is what humans do; we talk to one another about whatever we find valuable. What I don't think is fine is to expect those beliefs to be unconditionally accepted as valid and true and to be offended when they are rejected or challenged. Christians in the South are conditioned to feel entitled to their beliefs being accepted while simultaneously (paradoxically) being told that they are exceptional and different from other people. If they are so exceptional and so different, why should their beliefs be held in such high regard, right? I certainly don't feel exceptional; I feel like an outsider most of the time.

I think it depends on how it's criticized. I wouldn't think that the majority of Christians would mind a respectful questioning/criticizing. I think they would mind the not-uncommon mindless variety of criticism that consists of, basically, "Yur stooopid if yur a Christian!"


That's not a real criticism at all and it is safe to ignore. Most christians I know would just ignore that. Anyone who claims that is a valid criticism is the stooopid one. I hardly ever approach someone with disrespect unless they really deserve it. I have enough experience to know that such an approach never gets you a genuine conversation.

I think you are a thoughtful, respectful atheist, Sponge - do you find many Christians reacting violently to what you say?


I certainly appreciate that, Rian. I put a tremendous amount of thought into everything I say here. I wouldn't say I find "many" Christians that react violently. For the most part, I don't don't speak out about atheism much, but whenever I do, the reactions I get vary from curiosity to denial to terror; occasionally I'm surprised with a "me too". One person rejected that I was in fact an atheist. He said I might be agnostic, but not an atheist. Essentially, he didn't believe me when I said I don't believe in any sort of god. Others express concern and ask to pray for me. But a few times, I experienced verbal abuse and aggression. I don't blame these people because I know that they've been conditioned to fear people like me. It's sad is what it is. I've had a few close friends who are devout christians and know about my atheism but don't judge me or try to convert me because they know "me". My sister is a very devout christian and she tolerates my atheism but would love nothing more than to re-convert me. But again, she knows me and knows that I'm about as threatening as a pet store bunny (not the Monty-Python style bunny).

Again, I would think it would depend on HOW they are discussed, but I'm definitely in a more liberal part of the country than you are (Arizona/California). In fact, it's pretty much the opposite here - when my daughter was in high school, if people found out she was a Christian, she would get insulted.


I don't find that to be so surprising in that part of the country. School children will use a lot of things to bully one another and if being a christian is not considered cool, then that could easily be one of them. That's certainly not the case where I live; just the opposite. I would wager that if you pick just about any high school in the deep south, 98% would profess to be christian and no one would be bullied for it. But anyone claiming to be an atheist would stand a decent change of getting bullied for such an admission. Which is bizarre to me because aren't christians supposed to be winning us over? But discussing subjects like abortion, drug use, sex, homosexuality, transsexualism, atheism, Liberalism, these topics make many christians uncomfortable and some would react very negatively, meaning they would walk away from such a conversation. 50 years ago, discussing rock and roll would make them uncomfortable. 30 years ago, mixed race marriage would send them running for the hills.

I think you can disagree without showing "disdain", though. Wouldn't anyone get upset if something that is important to them is treated with disdain?


Yes, you can and that's not my intent usually. But this is kind of the point. I collect comics books, have so for almost 40 years, and I'm very passionate about it. I'm open about it and talk about it like it's a normal thing even though I know it's not. Sometimes I'm sure adults think I'm immature. If they want to say so, I'm fine with that. I will just smile and say, yeah, I'm nuts about comics and secretly I'll be thinking that I don't care what you think about it. But I won't be offended because comics is "my" thing, not yours. That is the appropriate way to deal with such criticism. Christians often feel offended, express this and expect you to feel ashamed at having offended their religious sensibilities because such a thing is not acceptable. IOW, they feel that their religion is off limits to any sort of criticism. Yet they aren't evenhanded about it. If someone expresses a belief in Scientology, a Christian won't hesitate to say that's just a cult and should be avoided, but that same person will bristle if I say I think christianity is a cult and should be avoided. Seems like a double standard to me. But please don't misinterpret me; I'm happy to coexist with christianity 99% of the time. I'm not bothered by the vast majority of it and even enjoy a certain portion of it myself. It's more about the attitude of entitlement that bothers me. Maybe because the culture is different here in the south, this may not make much sense. I'm very familiar with less religious cultures and frankly I love being there; there's so much less pressure. If you have never experienced a culture like the deep south, it's very hard to convey what it's like.

My family is mostly Christian, but we've had 2 Jews marry into the family (low level of observance Jews) and we all get along well. Yes, it would be more comfortable if everyone believed exactly the same, but we don't, and comfort isn't the most important thing, anyway, so we all just love and respect each other anyway and learn from each other.


That is the way it should work but it usually doesn't in many places. You need a couple of Buddhists and atheists in the mix as well to make it really interesting. I think if everyone had more of a sense of humor about religious beliefs, we would all get along better. But unfortunately, that's precisely the thing that religion discourages in itself; it's deathly serious by it's very nature. So, I've been out of christianity long enough now that I can view it as evenly as I do Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Taoism...and so on. They are all the same to me, equally curious creations of mankind.
Man is a credulous animal, and must believe something; in the absence of good grounds for belief, he will be satisfied with bad ones.
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