I see this question asked by religious folk frequently. I do disagree with some of the harsher anti-religious sentiments, at least as far as tone is concerned, but I understand exactly where those attitudes come from. Christians (speaking from the USA) have a harder time seeing the hold their religion has on our society and the actual harm it can do. When they are faced with the topic of crimes and abuses committed by other Christians, I commonly hear that the perpetrators were not "true Christians."

What is a true Christian? If a person, even if they are a criminal or an abuser (or, heck, just a run-of-the-mill wacko), professes belief in Jesus as the son of God and the savior of humanity, and accepts the Bible, then are they not a Christian? The same people who are quick to point out that others are not true Christians are, more often than not, just as quick to point out the beliefs of other wrongdoers - Muslims and so-called "Satanists," for example. All people are capable of committing crimes, regardless of belief, but those who commit them in the name of their religion should not be ignored or brushed off as "not true believers." Just as it provides light and hope to some, there is a dark side to religion that people should acknowledge, too.

So back to the question of why atheists are so "toxic." When religious people lurk in atheist groups and spaces, it can certainly seem that way to them. But we speak so harshly because these areas are some of the only places that we CAN. Some among us have been hurt and abused by religion and religious people. Many see the religious attempting, at the expense of other people, to impose their standards of morality on others through law and social norms. Why are we told we need to "respect the beliefs of others" when ours are denigrated?

These areas are for us to freely vent our frustrations, as well as share our experiences with others of like mind. Atheists should not have to be polite about religion even in a space made for themselves. Certainly people should be able to freely believe what they like in their homes and in their hearts, but that doesn't mean religion should be free from criticism, and it doesn't mean religion is 100% good all the time. Nothing is.

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Comment by Michael Penn on February 25, 2017 at 1:02pm

I agree with Gwen for saying it well and also plain and simple.

My religious friend of teenage years was talking with me just this morning. He doesn't get it on public schools and no bibles or teaching of religion. I explain it and he still doesn't get it. He says that if I go to Mexico to live I will have to learn the language. In effect he is saying others that come here will have to do the same and also learn our religion. He thinks that religion is Christianity but it "should be taught in a plain and simple form that ignores doctrine." OK, what about all the other religions and holy books? Do we teach that too? He's backing himself into a corner here saying that we live in small communities and small towns. His message is like "our way or the highway" and he doesn't see how wrong this is.

In my friend's mind I am the toxic atheist. He knows this because I could just pray and get back with Jesus any time. He doesn't understand that to do so I would be talking to myself again.

This would all be funny if it wasn't so damned sad.

Comment by Jennifer W on February 25, 2017 at 8:39am
Toxic to their POV, yes. I dunno about you guys, but, I hold myself accountable to my philosophy and beliefs.
Comment by Loren Miller on February 25, 2017 at 6:51am

I suspect that it's less that we're "toxic" than that we have the unmitigated nerve NOT to hold the same beliefs and stances about reality that they do.  Many believers live in a bubble populated by only OTHER believers.  They reinforce and reassure each other, and when someone enters their world with a radically different point of view, the cognitive dissonance can be pretty distressing.  "No, the earth isn't 6,000 years old; it's 4.5 billion;" "Yes, I have read the bible and I find it to be badly flawed and self-contradictory," and finally: "I don't believe in any god because there is no god in evidence."  And this is long before any arguments get started.

What's even worse is that those of us who have thought this through and came to the conclusion that gods are fantasy assert our position assuredly and with calm confidence.  Such an attitude will be problematic to those whose faith is something less than rock solid.  The real toxicity though may be in that we rattle the cage of their entire paradigm, the false reassurance they've gotten from their pastors and preachers and priests that they have all the answers and all the answers are "GOD."

Believers have been indoctrinated and/or seduced into a supposedly pretty unreality.  It should be no surprise that, when confronted with the genuine article, their reaction is untoward.

Comment by Teagraves on February 25, 2017 at 3:37am

Joan, great points. Our world and our universe are so amazing on their own, without the need for any divine explanations.

BenGee, Daniel, I agree, I don't think venting or blowing off steam is toxic. Some people just see it that way when they venture into atheist webspaces. But it's important that we share these thoughts and feelings!

Comment by Joan Denoo on February 25, 2017 at 1:20am

Superstitions, imposed on me by "true believers", beliefs that others assume I share, faith in things based on ancient stories told by goat herders and repeated, re-written, and reconstructed as if they are fact, make no sense to me. As I get older, religion loses any of the interest I once had in it. I recognize the difference between fact and fiction; facts about nature and natural processes hold my attention as fiction never has. I can make up stories that do not satisfy my inner being as when I stand in awe learning about geologic history and structures. I am filled with a sense of wonder as I witness the processes of cell division and differentiation. I feel connected by space and time to Earth as I gaze into the night sky, seeing stars and planets and the moon and constellations that my ancestors observed generations ago. 

I know I will never see my loved ones who died; I have precious memories of them that I charish. 

"Why Are Atheists So Toxic? Perhaps the question should be why are religious so rude and crude? Why do believers make assumptions about me that offend me? Why do the faithful impose their values and ethics on me as if they are entitled to judge me?  

Comment by Gary S on February 24, 2017 at 10:51pm

I think it is because we us those darn logic, reasoning and critical thinking things.

Comment by BenGee on February 24, 2017 at 10:31pm

I quite agree with Gwen

Comment by Gwen on February 24, 2017 at 10:29pm
I think it's cuz we dont like to hear bullshit so our tolerance for it is low. Most people don't like being called out of their bullshit in general.
Comment by BenGee on February 24, 2017 at 10:23pm

I don't think venting frustration is toxic. Nor should it be, its healthy and important to get things out there sometimes. however your analysis is sound, and I get why you picked the title. Christians have the "no true christian" fallacy written right into their holy book. "You will know them by their works." or something like that, its in the bible and I don't feel like looking up the exact verse. Because it's in the bible its impossible for christians to look objectively at other christians who do bad things. Just throwing that out there.

Comment by Daniel W on February 24, 2017 at 8:36pm

Im not toxic at all.  I try to be nice to people.  Mostly I follow the boy scout code, including reverence, although my reverence is for awesome things in nature, and monumental ruins, and certain points in life like being around someone at end of life, and for my dog.  I can say negative things about mean people, and some christians, muslims, jews, hindus, and buddhists can be as mean or meaner than some atheists, and some use their religion to justify that.

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