It amazes me how some misconceptions about things like evolution, Biblical scholarship, and so on persist among Christians in spite of repeated debunkings. Part of the problem is that while many Evangelical leaders know better, few try to enlighten their flock and some will even throw a fit when someone like Bart Ehrman starts explaining things to the hoi poloi. (They’ll claim that while the information might be true, it’s irrelevant and teaching it to ordinary believers will just mislead them.)
I don’t want to be guilty of acting this way, so: what misconceptions about science, history, and so on have you encountered frequently among atheists? I’m looking for straightforward matters of fact, not things like “atheists don’t understand the true meaning of Christianity.”
For example: I occasionally have to cringe at meeting an atheist who thinks The Da Vinci Code has some basis in historical fact. A quick debunking: First of all we know that Constantine didn’t order a massive re-write of the Bible. We know this because we have mostly-complete Biblical manuscripts dating from about 200 A.D. on, and while these manuscripts prove that some changes to the Bible were made from 200 A.D. onwards, those changes were fairly limited.
Similarly, while different early Christian groups had different ideas about what sacred writings should be accepted, Origen of Alexandria (who died in 254 A.D.) had a list fairly similar to the one that would eventually be accepted by the Christian church. So the list of books that made it into the Bible wasn’t simply something made up out of nowhere for political reasons in the 4th century.
That’s the only big one that’s coming to mind right now. I suspect that there are probably real misconceptions floating around out there about the Inquisition, witch trials, etc., but some alleged “misconceptions” about them are things no one I’ve ever met believes. (I.e. I’ve seen people trying to whitewash the Church’s treatment of Galileo point out that the Inquisition didn’t torture Galileo, but who ever claimed they did?) So whadaya got?
Edit: Anyone can contribute to the comments–Christian, atheist, Jain, whatever. Also, sources are appreciated if possible.