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  • Writer's pictureCourtney Heard

10 Myths About Atheism

It’s 2021 and most humanoids still don’t truly understand what atheism is, and honestly, I’m not all that surprised considering half the fucking world right now is debating whether or not to save themselves from a potentially fatal virus. I mean, as far as positions on the existence of gods go, atheism has got to be the least complicated as simply a lack of belief, but people just can’t seem to grasp it. It’s as if the more straightforward something is, the more difficult people insist it has to be and refuse to see what it truly is. I get these misconceptions constantly and it’s boring and tiring and I’m over it. Like, I’d honestly rather listen to Ben Shapiro’s spoken-word, censored rendition of WAP for 3 days straight than address these asinine myths yet again, but here we are. Here we fucking go.

Atheism is a belief

A thought experiment if you will. Let’s, for a moment, imagine beliefs were physical objects that we stored in an old milk crate under the stairs, like your VHS collection or maybe your old sports trading cards. In my belief box, there is my faith that I will one day see the Cleveland Browns at the Super Bowl. There’s also the belief that ice cream is overrated and that one of the greatest lyricists of our time is Michael Stipe from R.E.M. Now, in the old belief crate stored under the stairs of a Christian, there would be a belief that Jesus is our saviour, God is real and we’re all headed to either Heaven or Hell depending on whether or not we chose to eat shellfish. If you looked in my belief crate for that belief, you wouldn’t find it. There is no belief in its place. The god belief has never been in my belief box, not even for a brief moment, in all 44 years I’ve been on this earth. There’s no blank spot in my crate where my god belief used to be. My worldview as a lifer atheist has no space for god. That means I have no beliefs one way or another in relation to the existence of gods. I don’t consider god a worthwhile thing to have beliefs about, like faeries or el chupacabra or Suto'vo'qor. When the day comes that I see compelling evidence to consider a god’s existence, that may change, but until then, there are no beliefs regarding the existence of gods in my belief crate under the stairs. My atheism describes a lack of belief. It is nonsensical to assert that this lack of a specific belief is in itself a belief.

All atheists have the same worldview

There is only one common thread in all atheists and that is the lack of belief in any gods. There are some atheists who assert they know there are no gods, and there are others who believe in ghosts and psychics and woo. Some atheists believe you can stir up demons with an Ouija board and others believe you can transcend this “realm” with a fistful of peyote. There are atheists who think this is all a simulation and others still who’ve fallen into Qanon. Atheist conservatives exist at the same time as atheist leftists and atheist centrists. There are atheists who love science and math and nerdy things, and others who are more artsy and whimsical. Some atheists could listen to Wu-Tang for hours while others might prefer to line dance to Billy Ray. While you might be hard-pressed to find an atheist who won’t play air guitar along with Slayer’s South of Heaven, those types of nonbelievers do exist. The point of all this rambling is that the sole, singular, solitary thing we all have in common is that we lack a belief in a god. That one position on one claim is not enough to constitute an entire worldview, so while atheists do indeed have worldviews, atheism itself is not one, and each of us has a worldview that is different from the others.

Atheists claim there is no god

Here’s the thing: there are atheists who do claim to know there is no god, that’s true. What’s not true is that this applies to all atheists. This is a subset of atheists. I don’t belong to this subset. Despite having lived my entire life lacking any belief in deities, I do not claim to know there are zero. In some ways, it’s a technicality: I can’t have this knowledge so I don’t claim to. In other ways, it’s about the absurdity of the claim. If someone calls me up to tell me their arm is made of cauliflower, this claim isn’t something I am then going to assess. I’m not going to weigh the evidence for or against. I will merely dismiss the claim as absurd until I see any evidence that supports it. This is how I feel about the god claim. It’s absurd. The idea doesn’t survive the slightest amount of rational thought, and, though technically I cannot prove there are no gods like I can’t prove the mystery caller’s arm is not made of cauliflower, there is no need for me to assess its truthfulness until I see something that makes me consider there is a possibility the claim is true. Until then, I make no claims about gods, just like I make no claims about Pluto’s south pole smelling like ass. It could. Who knows? Maybe? But until there exists anything at all to suggest one way or the other, I’ll shelve that idea right next to the claim that absorbing sunlight through your butthole prevents the leakage of life force energy.

Atheists hate religious people

The funny thing about this common myth is that it stems from religious people hating those who hold differing views - while not all religious people are like this, the ones who are like this assume that because they hate people with other worldviews, we must also hate people with different worldviews. This just isn’t the case. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are some atheists who do, but most of us don’t. Most of us come from religious families and religious communities and are surrounded by religious folks in every direction. Our brothers and sisters are religious. Our mothers and fathers are religious. While few of my family are religious, my mom and I don’t see eye to eye on our worldviews and I still love her more than life itself. When you assert that atheists hate religious people, all I hear is that you hate people who don’t share your worldview and can’t wrap your mind around others not behaving the same way. Your inability to comprehend my love for people who don’t see things the same way as I do is your shortcoming and has nothing to do with me, though, hun. There are so many religious people that I love and adore and respect and admire. You know who I love so much? My Pagan cousins. I love my Catholic uncle and my Christian grandparents. I love my religious neighbours, religious authors and religious YouTubers. I love religious artists and religious thinkers and religious politicians. I’ve even voted for them and plan to again. Don’t project your inability to love someone with a different set of ideas on me. That’s all you, Churchy McGee.

Atheists are angry

Just like it’s silly for me to say religious people all love the grifter Peter Popoff, it’s goofy as fuck to insist all atheists are angry. Indeed there are atheists who are angry and they have every right to be. In recovering from religion, one might realize how one has been victimized and that can cause a great deal of anger. However, there are also atheists like me who have never believed and don’t harbour any anger towards a previous belief system we held. Though many things have made me angry about religion, like the kidnapping, murder and discarding of human children in mass graves by the Catholic church at residential schools, I don’t consider myself an angry person, inherently. I am happy most days and most of the atheists I know are the same. It comes down to getting to know people. Treating each human being as a unique individual despite falling under the “atheist” label. If you find that someone is, indeed, angry, it’s about finding out why they might seem angry, empathizing with them, hearing them out. This is how secular morality works. Do you really want us to think your religious morality has room for sweeping generalizations of groups of people? I mean, I’m fine with that. It’s irrefutable proof secular morality is superior, but I just thought you might want to reconsider how that makes your morality look.

Atheists have been traumatized by religion

I mean, sure, there are plenty of atheists who suffer from religious trauma syndrome, but trauma alone doesn’t make someone dismiss their worldview. You can’t force yourself to stop believing because something bad happened. You have to become unconvinced. What is more likely, and what I have heard from so many who do suffer from religious trauma syndrome is that the trauma triggered deeper exploration. It didn’t cause disbelief itself. Even then, this applies to a small number of atheists and completely ignores the atheists like me, who have no personal experiences with religion, good or bad. By saying this, you’re not just dismissing people like me and ignoring our existence, but you’re also poo-pooing the trauma that some people, believers included, have experienced as a result of their religion. This isn’t kind. This isn’t compassionate. This isn’t the way someone who wants us to believe their morality is superior ought to behave. Each atheist came to identify as an atheist on a different path. Get to know us. Try being nice. Prove to us that your morality is something to be admired.

Atheists want to end religion

Something you have to be able to accept about atheists is that a lot of us arrived at our position on gods through rational thought. Though some of us don’t, many of us value facts, evidence and reality. Wiping religion off this earth is none of those things. It’s not something that could happen anywhere near our lifetimes and is a silly thing to wish for. I’m sure you could find one or two of us who think they’re working to rid the world of faith, but they are few and far between. What most atheist activists are advocating for is the separation of church and state, the freedom to be an atheist without discrimination anywhere in the world and the ability to go about our days without being accosted by believers trying to shove their ideas down our throats. That’s all most of us want and we don’t think it’s too much to ask. Maybe some of us are looking for a religious trauma syndrome support group, too. Have your religion, just don’t force it on us, k?

Atheists want to take your right to practice your religion away

Again, I think this is a little bit about projection. You don’t like the existence of atheists. You come knocking at our doors trying to convert us. You lobby to have our laws reflect your beliefs, forcing all of us to abide by them. You are the ones who want to take our right to be atheists away and because you are this way, you assume we must also be this way. We are not. Practice your religion as much as you want, but as soon as it steps on my rights, my privacy, my ability to raise my kids as I see fit, then you have to stop. That means taking religion out of politics. It means no religion in public schools. It means stop, the fuck, knocking on my door for the love of all things good. Then go to your church and speak in as many tongues as you like. I don’t care.

Atheists are obsessed with religion

I’m gonna go ahead and give you the fact that there are some atheist activists out there who are obsessed with religion, for sure. But something you can’t know is how many atheists there are in the world who haven’t even told anyone they’re atheists. There are godless folks who never say it out loud, and others who maybe have once or twice. You also have to keep in mind that when you come across a vocal atheist on the internet like me, that they have a whole other life off the internet. Speaking only for me, I pop in and out of Twitter much of my workday, but in total, I would say I’m on Twitter maybe half an hour a day. I barely spend a minute on other platforms. Some days, I write posts like this and it can take anywhere from an hour to three. Outside of that, I’m working, raising my babies, taking care of my dog, swimming, hiking, cleaning my house or watering my plants. I’m also watching television with my husband or renovating parts of our home. Sometimes we’re out for date night or sitting on the lakeshore enjoying the view. I love to read books that have nothing to do with religion and religion barely comes up in my day-to-day life offline. So, while I am sure there are some atheists who are obsessed, I am not one of them and that leads me to believe there are more like me. Especially considering there are plenty who rarely talk about religion ever.

Atheists are always trying to debate

Fuck I hate this. The image of the edgelord atheist in a fedora, wearing a shirt that says, “I’m an atheist. Debate me.” This makes less sense than Marjorie Taylor Greene at a science fair. I hate debating religion. Again, it comes down to the fact that I have never been religious and for me, the claim that a god exists is as valid a topic for debate as which language mermaids speak. It’s sheer absurdity. I don’t know the Bible and asking me to debate you on it makes as much sense as asking me to debate you on the moral implications of Dr. Seuss’ opus, Green Eggs and Ham. I don’t want to debate asinine assertions. I’m not a debating atheist and I wish people would stop assuming that I want to debate my position on god’s existence just because I’m an outspoken atheist. I don’t. I won’t debate absurdities.

Listen, I don’t expect this post to end the mischaracterization of atheists any time soon, but these myths are less coherent than Tucker Carlson’s understanding of vaccines. If you want to come off as smart, or you want people to believe you have a superior morality, drop these myths and find new ways to make your point.

Which myths about atheism did I miss? Let me know in the comments!

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