This page includes quotations and comments about atheism and atheists. I will sometimes discuss these quotes in my blog, Theists & Atheists: Communication & Common Ground. I’ll add new quotes occasionally. I am also collecting quotes about theism, which are posted on https://theistsandatheists.wordpress.com/quotes-about-theism/. Later on I will add a page about agnosticism.
If you’d like to “nominate” quotes of up to 100 words about theism, atheism, or agnosticism, please include the author you are quoting, the source, and the page number. Thanks.
My goal is to help people understand and communicate with each other even though they disagree about God. Obviously, if people think of atheists as sick, twisted, immoral individuals, it will be impossible to bridge the chasm between believers and unbelievers. I will therefore need to counterbalance stigma and prejudice by defending the legitimacy of disbelief. I am not trying to prove that atheism is correct or that theism is correct. I am only trying to show that good people can believe either way.
Some of the following passages are from Bridging the God Gap: Finding Common Ground Among Believers, Atheists and Agnostics.
In 2006 a study compared atheists with other frequently-criticized groups, finding “that Americans rate atheists below Muslims, recent immigrants, gays and lesbians and other minority groups in ‘sharing their vision of American society.’” They are “seen as a threat to the American way of life . . . .” To top it all off, “Atheists are also the minority group most Americans are least willing to allow their children to marry” (Penny Edgell, Joseph Gerteis, and Douglas Hartmann, American Sociological Review, April, 2006, p. 212).
“Americans construct the atheist as the symbolic representation of one who rejects the basis for moral solidarity and cultural membership in American society altogether” (Ibid., p. 230).
“The claim that atheists are somehow likely to be immoral or dishonest has long been disproven by systematic studies. In studies that looked at readiness to help or honesty, it was atheists that distinguished themselves, not the religious . . . .” He also notes that “ever since the field of criminology got started . . . the fact that the unaffiliated and the nonreligious had the lowest crime rates has been noted . . .” (Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, The Cambridge Companion to Atheism, ed. Michael Martin, p. 306).
Daniel Dennett has found no indication that those who do not believe in divine reward and punishment “are more likely to kill, rape, rob, or break their promises than people who do.” Dennett notes that American prisons include Christians, Jews, Muslims, and the non-religious, “represented about as they are in the general population.” He even cites evidence that unbelievers “have the lowest divorce rate in the United States, and born-again Christians the highest” (Dennett, Breaking the Spell, pp. 279-80).
Varieties of atheism
Many writers seem to assume that all atheists are little clones of Richard Dawkins. Dawkins’ style of atheism is one legitimate approach, but there are surely as many ways of being an atheist as there are of being a theist. Here are some examples that don’t fit popular stereotypes:
“I am an atheist. I do not believe in God. Never did. But there is more. I also love God. I am an atheist who loves God . . . the word God serves as a symbol, a focus for the thoughts, feelings, and intuitions that go into our intimate, inward relation with the whole of reality, both known and unknown, seen and unseen” (Alexie Crane, cited by Tom Owen-Towle, Wrestling With God, p. 29). Crane has stated in personal correspondence that he is also comfortable describing himself as a pantheist.
“Although it’s not part of the usual definition of atheism, I believe all our actions, words, and thoughts affect the structure of the universe. Our effect may be vanishingly small, but when many people act or think in unison, the effect is multiplied many times” (Henry Stone, cited by Tom Owen-Towle, Wrestling With God, p. 148).
The Rev. Tom Owen-Towle’s listing of categories of unbelief includes “cheerful atheists” who “live confidently and comfortably atheos – without but not against the notion of deity. They harbor no belief rather than disbelief. They are more accurately termed nontheists than atheists. In any case, these seekers are essentially at peace, both spiritually and socially, living void of metaphysical reference” (Wrestling With God, p. 30).
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