March 30, 2020

Fact-Checking Claims About Atheists

fact checking

Misinformation and propaganda have become so prevalent in the modern political scene that fact-checking has emerged as an indispensable tool. If atheism continues to become increasingly visible and if atheists become even more assertive about achieving equality, I predict that we will see a greater need for fact-checking on atheism, church-state issues, and other domains in which our community has expertise.

One of the most common misconceptions about atheists is that we are immoral creatures without any basis for morality. This claim is made primarily as a defense of the indefensible superstitions collectively referred to as "faith," but it is important to understand that it contributes more to the demonization of atheists than any other misconception. Perhaps fact-checking could be especially helpful here.

Just how would we fact check a claim about the immorality of atheists? Actually, it isn't as difficult as it may initially appear. All we need to do is develop a list of testable predictions that would be supported if the claim was true. We could examine the frequency and type of crimes committed in various regions known to differ in religiosity. We could survey atheists and religious people. We could examine incarceration rates. You get the idea.

The good news, as I suspect you already know, is that these methods has already been utilized. Many of the predictions we'd make have already been tested, and the results are quite clear. There is no factual basis for the claims that atheists are immoral or that rates of immoral behavior (as defined by religious believers) are any higher among atheists than among religious persons, and so on. The facts are on our side.

What might be helpful at this point would be for us to develop a series of concise but well researched and scientifically based responses to many of the claims made against us. Through more effective dissemination of this material, we'd be in a better position to make our case.

Some of my favorite sites for political fact-checking include:

It would be great to have resources like this for atheism and closely related topics. If some enterprising young atheist out there is interested in developing a new website, this sort of thing could be one idea that would seem to fill a void.

An early version of this post appeared on Atheist Revolution in 2010. It was revised in 2020 to fix broken links and improve clarity.