How to respond to religious ignorance

Someone posted this on Reddit/r/atheism (for those of you unaware of the existence of this site, go there immediately), and I thought I might take a few seconds to respond to his request:

I went to a Catholic high school and kept the fact that I was atheist a secret most of the time because I wanted to avoid any religion debates. My closer friends knew and didn’t care but mentioned it once when we were eating lunch with some other of our class mates. The response I immediately received from one of the guys was basically “How stupid are you? You’re atheist? Why don’t you go home right now and kill yourself. You already have nothing to live for.” I did not know how to respond and I let him just ramble on. I never tried to defend myself and I regret not saying anything. I still don’t know how I’m supposed to respond to another “Go kill yourself” type statement. I’ve always struggled with depression and I honestly don’t know why I shouldn’t kill myself. Does anyone have a reasonable response to say to that kind of person if that were to ever happen again? This happened a few years ago, I’m in university now and probably won’t ever encounter that kind of person again but it still makes me nervous thinking about it.

What’s a good way to respond to a religious person telling you to kill yourself because you are atheist?

My first instinct would have been to tell him to go fuck himself, but it seems as though you might be a bit more sensitive than me, so that probably wouldn’t have worked out.

I’m constantly surprised by how cold and callous Christians can be in regards to the wellbeing of others (despite their assertion they are somehow morally superior). Sure, I’ve made fun of plenty of religious people in my day, but I certainly wouldn’t tell anyone to take their own lives for what they believed or didn’t believe. I would have lambasted this ignorant bastard for making light of what is still a huge problem with today’s teenagers. Suicide is no fucking joke. Too many talented, promising and sensitive young men (for it’s still mostly men) extricate themselves from this adventure we call life before they fully bloom.

I would have also asked him how his belief in fairy tales makes him an “expert” on the subject of “purpose”. No doubt he’s young, not terribly educated, and completely unaware of the world beyond his tiny purview. Has he even bothered to find out the majority of the world does not believe what he does, or lives how he lives?

When you’re young and inexperienced, it’s easy to have tunnel vision. You feel depressed and admittedly have perhaps seriously contemplated suicide. That’s not unusual as the chemistry of your brain is undergoing some radical changes. Atheists don’t have any sanctions against taking one’s own life, but I think the realization we only get one kick at the can should inspire all of us to live it to its fullest. Remember life is about having new experiences, and sharing those with people who care about you, and because you don’t live in a world controlled by religious dogma, you really can explore it in any way you deem fit.

Perhaps the real lesson here is there’s nothing you can really say to ignoramuses that will make them change their minds, but why would you want to? I feel sorry for anyone who thinks believing in magic is the best way to appreciate the beauty of this incredible Universe we live in.

Comments (11)

  • avatar

    Richard

    It all boils down to: “Are you happy?” Regardless of your beliefs, if you aren’t happy and you don’t have hope that the future will bring happiness, then you might as well, as far as I’m concerned. If you are religious you get the added bonus of the fact that you might go to heaven and be happy there, and if you’re an atheist you get the bonus of knowing you have nothing to fear in death. I’m not very happy, so I contemplate it, but it doesn’t have much to do with the fact that there is no god.

  • avatar

    Arynn

    There is no prescribed purpose in atheism. You have to go and find purpose on your own. This means atheists have to be *actively* good. You can’t just sit around wishing for nice things to happen to others.

    Killing yourself is not only stupid, it’s lazy and selfish. Use the time you would spend pouting about how meaningless your existence is by making your existence meaningful. Volunteer: do it a lot. Do it so much you know for a fact that the world is a better place becuase you live in it.

    While your busy making shit around you better you may snidley remark to the religious, “Hands that help are better than lips that pray.”

  • avatar

    articulett

    Why would I kill myself when this is the only life I have? I would think that dying would be something a Christian would be eager to do since they believe it’s the ticket to “happily ever after,” right? At the very least, one would think they’d be engaging in high risk behavior (sky diving– not wearing seat belts) so that they can get to the happy-land in the sky before they sin enough to warrant hell. Why not start eternity early before so you don’t have to go through all that aging stuff? The 9-11 hijackers did. (As I recall, none of the recordings from the Christian passengers on the plane showed any of them eager to meet the beloved “maker” they claim to believe in… nor did their “maker” show any evidence that he was listening to their prayers).

    All non-human animals are atheists, and I don’t see any of them committing suicide. The logic of this “why don’t you kill yourself?” question makes no sense. Maybe the theist is afraid they would want to kill themselves if they ever lost their faith– because that’s what their indoctrinators have told them.

    So what do theists imagine their “purpose” is and how does it enhance life?

  • avatar

    ManBearPig

    Arynn, I think suicide is okay in extreme cases, such as those when euthenasia is used to ease someone’s pain and suffering.

    And also, being atheist is one of the most enjoyable parts of who I am. The world looks so much more beautiful through scientific eyes.
    Christians think we’re envious of their POV on life, but if they walked in our shoes, they’d appreciate life for what it is. One life to do whatever the fuck you want to do and enjoy it.

  • avatar

    Jacob Fortin

    I just find that the idea of God is one based on servileness and slavish devotion. Fuck that noise.

  • avatar

    Thrutch

    Firstly, you can fire the question straight back at the religious bigot who framed it, because suicide (like pedophilia) is never condemned in the bible.

    Second, there is far more reason for an atheist to live because we only live for the time we have and any diminution of that is a massive loss.

    I am a depressive myself and have contemplated suicide; my ways of subverting that urge are my own (chance of failure, certainty of extreme pain etc.) and I find that atheism supports my efforts at defeating my “black dog”.

  • avatar

    Joy-Lyn Gulley

    “Why don’t you kill yourself since you don’t believe in anything?”

    I’d simply reply with, “I’m sorry to hear that your beliefs are all you have to live for, since obviously you’d kill yourself without yours. Fortunately for me, I’ve found more than enough worth and value in my life, that I have no wish to do something so lazy and selfish.”

  • avatar

    ben

    “You don’t believe in God? Go home an kill yourself!” What? Seems to me that would be the response the atheist kid ought to give to the believer. Why the hell should the believer continuing living since the real prize is when you die? Can’t commit suicide? Gawd! God finds every to punish you with life before you can get your real reward. The religious claim life is precious to them…..yet can’t wait for the end….what a sick death cult.

  • avatar

    Matt H.

    yeah, they can fuck off. r/atheism ftw!

  • avatar

    Moxie

    You could take the perspective of pity on someone like this guy. For him to lash out like that means he has to be one scared and fragile dude

  • avatar

    Kyle Rivest

    I’m failry certain that when I was in high school, had one of my Christian class mates said something similar to me, I’d claim that I found purpose in commiting filthy sex acts with their mother, and then go on to describe such acts in graphic and explicit detail.

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