Prior to 313 C.E., the dominate religious thought was there were many gods who were regional and/or specific to an area. Some god took care of the sea, another the sky and another was for farmers. The advent of Christianity meant that there was a group of people who did not believe in the existence of these gods. As Roberta Bondi says in her book To Pray and To Love:
They did not acknowledge the existence of the gods who watched over the lives of individuals, cities, and empires with eyes quick to be angered by human disrespect. Christians recognized only one God, while they believed the gods of their pagan neighbors were merely demons masquerading as divinities.
The irony should be obvious: Christians who fear and demonize the current incarnation of "atheist" (or any other religious system we consider as "less than") ought to recall our own past. Or to echo scripture:
- "You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt." (Ex 22:21)
- "You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt." (Deut. 10:19)
- "The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God." (Lv. 19:34)