Hemant Mehta on eight years of atheism writing, pro-life atheists, and catching up with Christians

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Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta. Photo by Steve Greiner, courtesy Mehta.

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One of the world's most popular atheist bloggers tells RNS what he’s learned by writing about the nontheist movement for eight years and how it has grown, the challenge of pro-life atheists, and why atheists need to catch up to Christians in charitable giving.

  • Lles Nats

    “Its just one of the ways christians are flat out better than atheists”

    Why “BETTER”? Maybe I am reading too much into it, but the use of better as a term implies a comparison is being made, as if in competition.

    Why can’t the mentality be that christians live their lives, and atheists live theirs?

    And why the strong desire for comprehensive sex education among public schools? Many don’t want public schools to do this, and the atheists have no divine mandate to do so. Public schools are funded by public money, sourced by the taxes of atheists and christians alike. So one cannot claim mandate over the other….unless one is intelectually arrogant.

  • Churches are better at charity because they have the advantage of being a community gathering place for centuries. They already have an infrastructure and common ground to bring people together. The atheist community is only starting to do that.

    Sex education is necessary in public schools because the data shows that when proper sex education isn’t part of the curriculum, teen pregnancy and STDs rates go up. There’s no reason that sex has to be so taboo. It is a normal part of life for everyone. By making it so mysterious and keeping it a secret, we’re doing our young adults a disservice.

    Surely we do respect the rights of Christians or anyone else to live their lives as they see fit, provided they are not trying to force others into living as they do. However, all too often this is the case. The only reason that marriage equality is even an issue is because of theists. The overwhelming majority of opposition to abortion rights is rooted firmly in religious beliefs. That’s why we cannot remain silent.

  • Rob

    Why? Because there’s a lot of fighting. When atheists try to teach science properly, the religious get up in arms. When religious people try to stone an innocent woman to death, atheists get up in arms.

    I see the problem as being with the religious people, and not with the atheists. Not at all. Does this answer your question?

  • Frank

    What a waste…. spending so much time and energy on a losing world view. I guess everyone can choose to be a fool if why want.

  • Frank, are you referring to atheism? How is it a “losing” world view, and why does being an atheist make one a “fool”?

    What other things do you accept as true with zero empirical evidence? The existence of Bigfoot? That maggots are generated by raw meat? That consciousness can exist without a physical brain?

    No? Then why do you claim that your deity exists without any evidence?

  • Shawnie5

    Rome also had community gathering places around the various pagan idol altars, as did most pre-christian civilizations. But only Christianity established charitable giving (independent of tribal ties and without expectation of quid pro quo) as a priority within western culture. As Plato said: “”A poor man who was no longer able to work because of sickness should be left to die.” Republic 3.406d-410a.

    It’s interesting to see nonbelievers from Emperor Julian to 21st century evangelical atheists flamboyantly trying to catch up with Christianity in performance of an obligation which, but for Christianity, would never have been considered an obligation in the first place.

  • Larry

    “But only Christianity established charitable giving (independent of tribal ties and without expectation of quid pro quo) as a priority within western culture.”

    More Christian revisionist nonsense.

    The “Law of Hospitality” is an ancient one common to early cultures possibly predating Judaic versions. Given the dangers of traveling and carrying business with people outside one’s family or tribe, hospitality was a necessary part of culture. One treated travelers well without expectation of reward. One made their bounties available to the public. [Hording grain was counterproductive as well]

    Violating such notions was one of the worst crimes possible.

    Ancient Rome had its version of “welfare” with artificially low priced grain, bread and staples (sometimes even free).

    The story of Sodom and Gommorah is a parable on violating the law of hospitality from subtle means (marked coins) to big ones (gang assaulting angels). Several Greek myths which survive today deal with the same subject (Procrustes and Theseus, Tantalus, Lycaon, Ixion, and a major theme in the Odyssey).

    Evidently you only read Leviticus for figuring out who to point fingers at? There are numerous sections on charitable giving without expectation of quid pro quo. Claiming it derived from Christianity is ridiculous revisionism. Charity, anonymous charity especially is considered one of the most revered acts Jewish people can do for others.

    This is a big difference from Christian forms of charity which try to coerce people into joining their faith or proudly proclaim who are the ones doing the giving.

  • Larry

    Because Christians don’t let other people live their lives. They always want to have a say in what everyone else does. They even want civil laws to reflect their arrogance.

    “And why the strong desire for comprehensive sex education among public schools?”

    It serves a function that has become necessary. The unwillingness of many parents to handle the situation has already created a public health hazard. One that requires being addressed by public government due.

  • Give me a break. The only reason Christianity has even become so widespread is because of conquest and allowing pagans to keep their traditions if they converted.

    Helping others with the expectation of divine reward for doing so is quite different from doing so because you understand that this is the only life we all get and we should make it as comfortable as possible if we can.

  • Frank

    Whats even more pitiful is a defense of the foolishness.

  • Lles Nats

    Am I still banned?

  • I can only assume by your non-response response that you’re simply offering public introspection.

  • Frank

    Thanks for proving my point.

  • Shawnie5

    Christianity would never have been in any position to carry out any “conquest” of any kind had it not already become widespread through its followers’ reputation for generosity, mercy and integrity.

    And generosity with the expectation of divine reward is not a part of Christian theology. It is a misrepresentation commonly made by outsiders.

  • Shawnie5

    “Ancient Rome had its version of “welfare” with artificially low priced grain, bread and staples (sometimes even free)”

    Sure they did. Ever find out WHY?:

    “Why then do we think that this is sufficient and do not observe how the kindness of Christians to strangers, their care for the burial of their dead, and the sobriety of their lifestyle has done the most to advance their cause? Each of these things, I think, ought really to be practiced by us….I have just been devising a plan by which you will be able to get supplies. For I have ordered that every year throughout all Galatia 30,000 modii of grain and 60,000 pints of wine shall be provided. The fifth part of these I order to be expended on the poor who serve the priests, and the rest must be distributed from me to strangers and beggars. For it is disgraceful when no Jew is a beggar and the impious Galileans [the name given by Julian to Christians] support our poor in addition to their own; everyone is able to see that our coreligionists are in want of aid from us. Teach also those who profess the Greek religion to contribute to such services, and the villages of the Greek religion to offer the first-fruits to the gods. Accustom those of the Greek religion to such benevolence, teaching them that this has been our work from ancient times.” — Emperor Julian, “Letter to Arsacius, ca. AD 360.

    IOW, pretty much the same thing our subject is calling upon modern-day atheists to do. Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.

    “Charity, anonymous charity especially is considered one of the most revered acts Jewish people can do for others.”

    Of course, but once again this is why these values are called “Judeo-Christan,” i.e. originating in Judaism (which was not a missionary faith) but developed and taken to the world at large by Christianity, which WAS a missionary faith.

    And the duty of hospitality is related but not equivalent to the christian concept of charity. Hospitality involved quid pro quo and mutual responsibility.

  • Hemant’s the one who changed my way of thinking about atheists.

  • The Great God Pan

    You used to like atheists, but now you think Christians are just flat out better?

  • Doc Anthony

    Let’s face it. Atheism IS a losing proposition, period. Why? Because it abandons rationality. Their claim that God does not exist, is rationally unsupported and unsupportable.

    At least a person can try to justify a belief in Bigfoot with a number of possibly “apelike” photographs, photographs of unusual footprints, and recorded animal-like sounds of unknown origin.

    In contrast, Atheists can offer NO rational support for atheism. Zero.

    In order to disprove God’s existence, you would need to show that you “have control over all potential avenues of knowing that God exists, and that all of them come up empty.” (hat tip to philosopher Winfried Corduan). But atheists cannot show that. They offer nothing.

    And that’s on top of the fact that, as atheist Hemant Mehta says, “Giving to charity is one of the ways that Christians are just flat-out better than atheists.”

    There just seems to be a lot of big problems with atheism these days. So why not do an upgrade? Abandon the atheism and switch to Jesus Christ, yes?

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  • Larry

    “Of course, but once again this is why these values are called “Judeo-Christan,”

    But you said “But ONLY Christianity established charitable giving (independent of tribal ties and without expectation of quid pro quo) as a priority within western culture.” [empahsis added]

    ONLY Christianity. Not any other faiths, not even the people who were doing it centuries (millennia) of years before Christ’s birth.
    So you are merely revising and backtracking from what was clearly a ridiculous statement. 🙂

    In fact Jewish ideas of charity differ dramatically from Christian ones. They are not even closely related to each other. Christian charity always has strings attached. Usually done as a form of proselytizing.
    There is always a quid pro quo with Christian charity. One receives charitable donation but has to put up with those trying to steer the recipients towards belief in that version of Christ.

    The whole anonymous part which is considered most revered by Judaism is ignored in favor of grand pronouncements as to how Christ’s love is responsible for the betterment of those receiving it.
    Chalking it up to “Judeo-Christian” is insulting to Judaism but typical of revisionist Christians who want to ignore their existence and beliefs.

    You also ignored the whole ancient Law of Hospitality, which predates even “Judeo” in alleged Judeo-Christian ethics (even though Judaism and Christianity do not agree on what that means).

    You made an offhand, ignorant statement by saying it is somehow different. Yes it is different. The Law of Hospitality was much more beneficial than Christian charity and was not used as a tool to coerce belief.

  • Larry

    Christianity sold itself out by Constantine and that reputation you talked about never recovered. From there on, it was spread by force. Just like Islam.

  • Larry

    Because living like the Taliban is so pleasurable. 🙂

  • Shawnie5

    Learn to read, Larry. I said ONLY because, again, as an insular rather than missionary faith Judaism’s concepts of charity did not carry over to surrounding cultures, any more than did their opposition to infanticide. It was Christianity that took it to the world.

    The custom of hospitality most certainly IS different from charity. It arose in a time and place when, quite obviously, travel was slow and difficult and numerous inns, restaurants and rest stops did not exist. People extended hospitality to travelers in the expectation that similar hospitality would be shown to them when needed. Appropriate behaviors were expected of guests, as well. Read the Odyssey to find out what disrespectful, unworthy guests might expect. On the other hand…”But I say to you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use and persecute you.”

    And of course, any duty of hospitality toward traveling strangers would have nothing to do with the plight of Plato’s poor man unable to work, or widows without means of support, or unwanted children, or plague victims who were allowed to die in the streets until the early Christians introduced the novel concept of (gasp!) nursing them. Your “beneficial” ancient world had a great many holes in it, my friend. Pity you can’t go back and sample its brutality for yourself.

    “Christian charity always has strings attached. Usually done as a form of proselytizing. There is always a quid pro quo with Christian charity.”

    Don’t be so gullible, Larry. Get out more and learn something about the real people you are trying to pigeonhole, and quit swallowing atheist propaganda and stereotypes. I’ve helped run a local food pantry for a number of years…do you REALLY believe we require those we assist to listen to a spiel? LOL!

    BTW, as far as “revisionism” goes, I’m afraid it’s you who is the revisionist here. More educated and level-headed atheists with no ideological ax to grind are quite aware of where the west’s concern for charity and human dignity come from, even if they do not accept the theology behind it.

  • larry

    Shawnie, you made a patently incorrect statement about Christian charity as being uniquely beneficial and now you just continue to make bad ignorant excuses to cover up.

    You are just digging the hole deeper and deeper with excuse heaped upon excuse. Somehow Judaism is of no consequence or impact, yet its scriptures and philosophy underpins Christianity (when it is convenient to acknowledge it).

    “Only Christianity” is now “judeo christian”. Big difference in those terms. Just keep moving those goalposts. 🙂

  • Shawnie5

    Never mind, Larry. You didn’t grasp my original post and you’re still floundering. Perhaps Twitter would be better suited to your reading comprehension skills.

    BTW, I’m flattered by your extremely persistent attentions but I’m taken, ‘kay?

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  • Aaron

    “Atheists can offer NO rational support for atheism. Zero.”

    I occasionally here this line, and it baffles me that people still use it.

    Rational support – no supernatural phenomenon has never been observed. In fact, the preponderence of previously thought-to-be-supernatural events have come to have very natural scientific explanations behind them. As such, the rationality follows that there is no supernatural. If there are supernatural elements or deities in the world, then they surely are not apparent to our ability to observe the universe and therefore must be assumed to not exist. Henceforth: Atheism.

    It also baffles me that you attempt to use this “you can’t disprove that it exists therefore it COULD exist” type of mentality.
    The idea that at least bigfoot believers can point to a fuzzy picture misses the point. Bigfoot believers and deity believers all need to prove the existence of something.

    Atheists don’t need to prove anything. There is no requirement to prove a negative. Atheists make no claims that don’t align with science. Theists do.
    Atheists are fine with saying “we simply don’t know… maybe one day we will” (Just like we’ve discovered an immense amount about the universe in the last 100 years that we didn’t know before)
    Theists need to insert what equates to ‘magic’ to answer the unknown or the unobservable.
    Doc Anthony, you seem to think that these substitutions of reality equate to “offering something”.

    So, while atheism doesn’t need to prove a negative… There IS a requirement to provide extraordinary evidence for extraordinary claims (such as the types of claims made by theists)…. and when it comes to the supernatural world of irrational religious belief, I’d even settle for less-than-extraordinary evidence…. but that doesn’t exist. There’s more evidence for bigfoot than there is for anything supernatural… and yes, that includes evidence for the deificiation of Jesus Christ.