No Sacred Cows

Atheism, unlike religion, has no sacred cows. There is nothing that someone can do which can cause especial offense to atheists beyond the mere desire to offend. There are no gods to blaspheme, no prophets to mock, no dogmas to ridicule, no scriptures to desecrate, no temples to profane, no sacred objects to defile and no rituals to parody. This is certainly not to say that you cannot offend atheists, only that we don't set ourselves up for offense by treating something or someone as inviolable. You never see an angry atheist mob form in response to a cartoon caricature, an obscene sculpture, an incisive documentary, or the publication of a controversial book. We might well feel upset over any of these but only because they misrepresent our position and not simply because someone had the audacity to portray it differently from ourselves. Even then, our response is far more measured than that of most believers.

Muslims in particular are known for the extreme amount of offense they claim and for their verbally and physically violent reactions thereto, but Christians aren't immune to emotional reactions to alleged blasphemy. Although they very thankfully almost never threaten real violence, we have all probably heard believers threaten and even wish others hellfire for even questioning their faith. It's difficult to appreciate just how violent this response is unless you realize that these people actually believe that hell exists and that they want you to suffer unspeakable torment there for all eternity! Perhaps even more remarkable is that the majority of Christians only condemn the desire to see others in hell and not the threat itself, which is an integral part of the gospel message. (Most people think the message is love and forgiveness whereas it's actually, “Believe or fry!”) Even if an atheist dismisses all believers as fools, that doesn't even begin to compare with what the average believer thinks about atheists. And atheists certainly don't express the same level of emotion when someone insults their beliefs.

It's not surprising there is no reaction when you believe that blasphemy is a victimless crime.


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