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Atheists say the darnedest things

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Atheists say the darnedest things, don't they? Surely all of us have encountered atheists who embarrass us with their pronouncements. This article will discuss them!

The only qualification to be an atheist is not to believe in a god or gods. This says nothing about coherency, comprehensibility or joined-up thinking skills. Just as Gandhi, for example, was religious but incredibly intelligent, some of the most hardcore atheists (such as Ayn Rand) have also been some of the most batshit crazy in other respects.


Fundie bashing website Fundies Say The Darndest Things catalogues at least one piece of true lunacy due to someone being excessively rationalist and just downright mean.[1] It's quite possibly a reverse Poe. The opening suggests that the writer may not be an atheist himself (or, possibly, isn't a parent himself).

Question: For those of you who are atheist:

You don't believe in "god" or dogma, I think that's pretty well established; but what if your child eventually adopted a form of spirituality or religion?

What would your reaction be and how would you deal with and/ or nurture this?

I would challenge his beliefs as frequently as possible. If he couldn't rationally defend them, our relationship would probably dissolve.

Faith is pretty much the opposite of reason. Becoming religious is pretty much a guarantee that I will no longer be speaking to my child.

If he has a rational foundation for that belief he won't be discarded.

If my child has faith, he is obviously defective, and I will have no use for him.

If I had raised an adult who had baseless fantasies about gods, unicorns, and afterlives, I would not continue a relationship with him, effectively purging my progeny from my life.

Bad arguments against religion[edit]

While there are some good arguments to be made about religion being a form of social control, sometimes a particularly bad argument will catch on, eventually venturing into the realm of conspiracy theories or just plain batshit insanity.

One example is Robert G. Ingersoll (an otherwise intelligent, if polemical atheist) promulgating a particularly poorly-researched and over-general argument for the Jesus myth theory:[2]

Apollo was a sun-god and he fought and conquered the serpent of night. Baldur was a sun-god. He was in love with the Dawn -- a maiden. Chrishna was a sun-god. At his birth the Ganges was thrilled from its source to the sea, and all the trees, the dead as well as the living, burst into leaf and bud and flower. HerculesWikipedia was a sun-god and so was Samson, whose strength was in his hair -- that is to say, in his beams. He was shorn of his strength by Delilah, the shadow -- the darkness. Osiris, Bacchus, and Mithra, Hermes, Buddha, and Quetzalcoatl, Prometheus, Zoroaster, and Perseus, Cadom, Lao-tsze, Fo-hi, Horus and Rameses, were all sun-gods.

All of these gods had gods for fathers and their mothers were virgins. The births of nearly all were announced by stars, celebrated by celestial music, and voices declared that a blessing had come to the poor world. All of these gods were born in humble places -- in caves, under trees, in common inns, and tyrants sought to kill them all when they were babes. All of these sun-gods were born at the winter solstice -- on Christmas. Nearly all were worshiped by "wise men." All of them fasted for forty days -- all of them taught in parables -- all of them wrought miracles -- all met with a violent death, and all rose from the dead.

The history of these gods is the exact history of our Christ.

While there are some vaguely accurate implications here (such as the idea that the "virgin birth" story was not original to Christianity), the point is grossly exaggerated and extended to several figures about which this account is either dead wrong, or else could not possibly be substantiated. Over a century later, the same argument is being repackaged into material like the movie Zeitgeist, which promulgates a particularly bad form of the Jesus myth theory, before turning to heaping helpings of trutherism and International Jewish Conspiracy-style crazy.

Among other bad atheistic rhetoric is the "How could a loving god..." argument. How could a loving god allow x, y, or z? This does rule out loving gods, but not all gods. The deist god, for example, as something of an absentee landlord, is not expected to intervene so this argument can't apply. God might also be a complete dick. It can only be legitimately used against either specific god claims which assert or imply a 'loving god', or when discussing what is known in philosophy as the 'standard model' of god.

Subject matter[edit]

There are some things that have been said by atheists, but nevertheless have nothing to do with atheism. Whether these could count in a list of "atheists say the darnedest things" is controversial, because similar lists could be compiled under the title of "men with moustaches say the darnedest things" - unambiguously attributing the motive to atheism is difficult.


  • Do you ask if it's ever proper to help another man? ... Yes — if such is your own desire based on your own selfish pleasure.- Ayn Rand
  • We would not let our enemies have guns. Why should we let them have ideas?- Joseph Stalin
  • The Marxist outlook ... represents the most consistent and systematic application of the scientific outlook and method.- Bob Avakian
  • If civilization had been left in female hands, we would still be living in grass huts.- Camille Paglia
  • I am inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa [because] all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours—whereas all the testing says not really.- James D. Watson
  • A beast they wrought, in semi-human figure, / Filled it with vice, and called the thing a Nigger.- H.P. Lovecraft
  • It's electrical- tmtoulouse


In line with atheism being a lack of belief, and a negative proposition, it's often difficult to find wall-banging quotes by atheists about atheism or due to atheism. Sure, some stupid things have been said by atheists and have been outlined above, but that can be said of religious believers who say crazy things that are not about their religion. The issue with fundamentalists of most stripes, compared to atheists, is that the dogma that they follow pervades their lives as an active and positive belief. Therefore many issues discussed are actively informed by their religion; the same cannot be said of those lacking a dogmatic belief. Comments regarding homosexuality, abortion, birth control and so on can be counted in Fundies Say the Darndest Things quite easily, as it can be traced to what their religion tells them to think. More secular and humanist beliefs tend not to prescribe thoughts and actions — where they do, they remain very generalised — so it becomes more difficult to properly attribute comments, positive or negative, to a lack of religion.

Atheists are not immune to being taken in by perfectly secular woo, but wall-banging comments about alternative medicines, New Age philosophies or the singularitarian nerd rapture may have little or nothing to do with atheism, as such—since religious and spiritual people sometimes fall for that kind of thing too. As a result, the range of subjects available for atheists to say "darnedest things" about is severely limited. Even when it can be shown that atheism may be the subject of the "darnedest" quote, it is still possible that while the individual may be an atheist, the quote may not have its origins in atheism. Instead, it could be due the misapplication of rationalism (such as with appallingly bad arguments) or due to an anti-religious bias (although this probably still counts), both of which are positive beliefs that mandate certain attitudes.

See also[edit]