Five Misconceptions about Atheists from my Experience – Guest Blog by Brandon Garrick

Blog writer Brandon Garrick with his loving parents Laurie and Chris, celebrating his sister Lillianne’s high school graduation.

As I read my cousin Stan’s recent blog about misconceptions of Muslims in the USA, it made me think about misconceptions I face as an Atheist. (Note from Stan – see my links to my other “misconception” blogs at the end of this post.)

I am by no means comparing the overall negative stigma faced by Muslims to that of atheists. However, as I identify as an atheist, I can often recall past misconceptions I have heard from those around me. Atheism and agnosticism are on the rise, but currently we are still overly misrepresented in many social spectrums. Muslims are much more prevalent than atheists in the world and in the United States. And we atheists often have to defend our philosophy against ridicule from other religions.

Anyway here are my five misconceptions that I have noticed about Atheists.

1. Atheists hate God. This is a misconception that I often hear when I tell people I am an atheist. However the misconception is far from factual; simply because I don’t believe in God or any higher power above the natural world does not mean I hate God. For example I don’t believe in Unicorns, but I don’t hate Unicorns? Though I am not relating the belief in God to Unicorns, I do want to illustrate the difference between not believing in something and hating something.

2. Something happened to you when you were younger. This misconception is outrageous, in the idea that something had to happen for me to think a certain way. Most Atheists originate from formal religion, but that doesn’t mean something had to occur to change their mindset. In addition most individuals are thrown into religion when they are young and unable to challenge anything. I have grown up and developed a new mindset and philosophy, but nothing bad had to happen me. In fact, I have been raised in a supportive and loving family with my parents who have had a wonderful marriage of over 25 years, and an awesome sister and brother.

3. Atheists have no morals. Society and social relationships can teach a individual morals. You can develop morals from family, friends, education, literature, etc. The idea that you only have morals if you are religious is incorrect. I have plenty of strong morals and contribute to my community by often volunteering with organizations such as Special Olympics, the LGBTQ center, and S.P.C.A of Wake County.

4. Atheists are unhappy without God. I have often been told, “I hope you see the light” or “I hope you find God”, as if there is something wrong with me. The misconception of Atheists being unhappy because they don’t have God is incorrect. I am very happy and excited about where my life is going. I am in graduate school and am applying for PhD. programs soon. I am happy from my natural life, and don’t need a spiritual force to make me happy. However for the people who have relationships with a higher power and its gives them happiness, Great!

5. Atheists hate other religions. I don’t hate other religions, and am actually glad that other people believe in something that gives them happiness. I don’t make fun of other religions, nor try to embarrass people of strong faith. However it would be nice for that respect to be reciprocated, and to not be criticized for what I believe or don’t believe.

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See my other “misconception” blogs

Five Misconceptions of Muslims in the USA

Seven Misconceptions or Stereotypes of Hispanic People

Five Common Misconceptions About Gay People

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Guest blogger Brandon Garrick is a Masters of Social Work Candidate at NC State University

Brandon Garrick is my second cousin who I enjoy spending a lot if time with. He recently completed his Bachelor of Sociology at North Carolina State University, and has now entered their Master’s Program of Social Work. He worked full time at North Carolina’s Central Prison as a corrections officer while completing his bachelor’s degree, and has a deep concern about the many social issues facing our nation and the world. He will now be a regular guest blogger discussing these various issues. His first two blogs dealt with the over-incarceration of black Americans

Blog defining the issue.

Blog with 5 suggested solutions.

Diversity, Inclusion and the “Naïve Offender”

It is very easy in today’s complex multi-cultural world to inadvertently offend someone. (graphic from wikiHow)

When I hold a diversity and inclusion workshop with a client, early in the discussion, I ask people to think about where they may be on the “diversity spectrum” when considering this subject. I assert that people generally fall into four categories. Where are you?

Change Agent. These are the leaders on the diversity subject. They are full vocal supporters of diversity and inclusion, and are often the leaders within their organizations on this subject. They may teach workshops, are not afraid to initiate discussions with other leaders and employees, and are adroit at articulating the business case and value of diversity.

Active Supporter. These people “get it.” They understand the value and importance of diversity and inclusion and seek to grow in their knowledge. They take steps in their daily work to assure diversity and inclusion is a component.

Hopefully we can all aspire to be change agents or at least active supporters in terms of diversity and inclusion (photo from

Neutral. These are people who most likely have not given the subject much thought, and simply go along with the flow in their areas. Often, they may not have been educated on this subject.

Deliberate Offender. These are people who can do quite a bit a damage within an organization. They are anti-diversity and often ostracize or criticize diverse groups or constituencies within the enterprise. They may even go as far as to spread false information and fear about others.

But in addition, there is a fifth category where even those of us who are change agents and active supporters may find ourselves from time to time – the naïve offender.

What is a naïve offender? This is a person, who on occasion, unintentionally makes an error or a misstep in terms of some aspect of diversity. Often a person may even have good intentions, but accidentally say something offensive to someone else. Frequently these missteps simply come from a lack of knowledge.

What are some examples of a naïve offender?

• Using a word or phrase that is offensive to the hearer. For example referring to sexual orientation as “sexual preference,” which is used by those people trying to perpetrate that gay people chose to be gay and can change, or an older white man, who calls all younger men “boy” addressing an African-American man as “boy,” which conjures up cultural references to slavery.

• Saying something in jest which can offend certain hearers. Examples could be taking about how you are going to party it up and drink tequila and eat tacos to celebrate Cinqo De Mayo, or making reference to nooses or chains with African Americans.

• Speaking more loudly and raising your voice to someone who does not speak English fluidly. Simply slowing down and avoiding complicated words and idioms would be helpful instead.

• Treating all Hispanics or Asians as collective groups and not appreciate that Latin America and Asia are comprised of dozens of countries with their own distinct culture.

• Unknowingly referring to a transgender person or a gender fluid person by the wrong pronoun.

Even as a diversity trainer, I make mistakes as a naïve offender. I was presenting some material that was 3-4 years old using the terms “hearing-impaired” and “sight-impaired” when those communities now prefer using the words deaf or blind. The word impaired connotes that someone has a fault or is not capable.

What should you do if someone “naively” offends you? I would think that based upon your past relationship with someone and their body language and tone of voice, you can discern if the person is making an honest mistake or is truly belligerent, e.g. a deliberate offender. If you sense the person is a naïve offender, turn it into a learning moment and graciously point out their error. Lashing out at the person or ostracizing them will not be helpful to them, nor your community.

And what are some hints and tips for the naïve offender? How can you continually improve in this area?

• When you make a misstep and realize it, immediately and sincerely apologize.
• When someone points out a diversity mistake that you made, thank them for pointing it out.
• Continue to educate yourself about diverse communities you interact with, especially those you may be less familiar with.
• Think of ways where you can grow more as an active supporter or change agent of diversity and inclusion.

May we all be gracious and continue to grow in building a world where all diversity is fully understood, respected and included.

The below closing graphic illustrates these categories of people in regards to diversity and inclusion, along with another graphic sharing that effective diversity and inclusion training needs to incorporate the mind (business logic), the heart and taking action. Read my other blog about these components of diversity and inclusion training.