Listen, I get it, believers. Atheism is super scary. It feels like a threat to your own faith, like a threat to the future of faith. You want to lash out against it, fight its snowballing growth. You don’t want your grandkids to grow up in a world without God, so you feel the need to stand up and take on the fight. An effective fight cannot be fought though, believers, unless you understand what you’re fighting, and boy oh boy, is it apparent you don’t understand atheism.
I’m here to make it easier for you. I’m here to help you understand atheism is one single sentence:
Atheism means we don’t believe in God.
That is it. There is nothing more and nothing less to it.
Some of you seem so entirely confused about this, though. It’s as if you look at that one little sentence above, and see paragraphs. You add your own meaning to it, you apply rules and other beliefs. You equate atheism with evolution, or anger or self-worship. You see no difference between atheism and skepticism, or atheism and science. You think we have no wonder, no mystery and we only trust what we can see.
So, to help you out further, I’m going to address the many things believers say to and about atheists that make you sound like an uneducated, ill-informed buffoon. This will help you, in your fight against atheism, because you will no longer be instantly dismissed as an idiot if you stop saying these few things:
1. Atheists lives are determined by scientific facts and scientific facts only. Not true. Atheism is not defined as, “a lack of belief in God and rigorous adherence to science”. It is just a lack of belief in God. Every atheist has made mistakes after jumping into the unknown. If you meet an atheist who claims to base every decision in life on scientific facts, well then, I urge you to punch him in the neck. My guess would be though, that you would be hard pressed to find one who would say that. Atheists don’t go through compatibility tests when they fall in love. They don’t test each other’s DNA to make sure that mating would have a high probability of producing biologically superior offspring. They accept job offers without knowing for a fact that it’s the right decision. They move to new cities and have babies and jump out of planes and go scuba diving, all with some uncertainty that these things will turn out ok. The difference between a believer and an atheist here, is that an atheist does these things for themselves and the people they care about. They don’t take risks and bet their lives based on what someone they’ve never seen, nor met supposedly wants them to do. We live our best lives for ourselves. Not God.
2. Atheists worship themselves. Wrong again. Atheism begins and ends at the lack of belief in God. I personally, do not worship anything. It seems like an awful lot of wasted time. Humans do not need to worship, and realizing that can be one of the most freeing things in the world. I am sure you know plenty of theists who don’t actually worship either. I’d go so far as to guess that a majority of the world don’t worship anything, religious or not.
3. Atheism is a religion. No, there is one requirement to be an atheist: no belief in god. Religion is an organized set of beliefs tied in with culture and tradition. Atheism requires zero belief, so it cannot be an organized set of beliefs. Atheism is not tied into culture or tradition. As an atheist, my culture and my traditions are completely separate from my lack of belief in God. I have zero traditions or practices, outside of the majority of what I read, that has anything to do with atheism at all. There are plenty of atheists out there who don’t even read atheist texts, or converse with other atheists. There are some who keep it a secret or hide it, there are some who still live an outwardly appearing theist life and adhere to theist tradition more than anything else. Religion and atheism are two completely incompatible things.
4. Atheists hate god or are angry at god. This is probably the silliest thing you can say to an atheist. It’s so completely without sense that it makes a Carlos Castaneda novel look like an encyclopedia. When you say this, you do nothing but insult yourself, your intelligence and your ability to understand the world around you. You. Are. An. Idiot. For the simple fact that one cannot be angry or hateful towards something that does not exist.
5. Atheists are communists. Aside from the fact that communism, socialism and marxism are all just as misunderstood as atheism, due to their many different manifestations throughout history, it has nothing to do with atheism. When Karl Marx said that religion is the opiate of the masses, he was, in my mind, correct. When you’re convinced that all the answers to life are in one book, then you don’t feel the need to expand your knowledge. Your curiosity is satisfied enough to stop looking for answers. Like a drug, it dulls the natural state of curiosity in humans and therefore, stunts progress. Many of the manifestations of these political ideologies, outlawed religious practices for an entirely different reason. They did not outlaw religion, or create a forced atheist state, because they wanted to promote atheism. They did it to eliminate another source of power, namely the church. These examples of communism are more aptly described as fascism. They were hungry for power over people including the power that the church held over them. Atheism, once again, is a lack of belief in God. An atheist can fall anywhere on the political spectrum. There are plenty who embrace the ideologies of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, and there are plenty who would have voted for G.W. Bush.
6. Atheists should not talk so much about something they don’t believe in. First of all, not all atheists do. There are plenty around you right now, who you may not even know are atheist. Some atheists feel the need to speak out and that happens for many different reasons. It could be because they feel strongly that the influence that religion has on policy in many of the world’s countries is dangerous. It could also be because the atheist feels that a world that has so much blind faith is stunting our progress as far as science and knowledge is concerned. An atheist may be outspoken against religion because of the many instances in which human rights are being violated in the name of it. An outspoken atheist may also wish that everyone feels that same freeing liberation we all felt the moment we first said out loud, “I’m an atheist”. There are plenty of reasons to speak out about something you disagree with. History is full of moments in time when people stood up against something they saw as legitimately wrong or dangerous. We are no different, and we most certainly will not shut up.
7. Atheists only believe that which we can see. Not even remotely. First, what you might be meaning to say, is that atheists don’t believe in anything there is no evidence for. Evidence is not just seeing. Evidence is detected or demonstrated in some way. But we still don’t limit what we believe to that which has evidence. Atheists simply don’t devote their lives to something there is no evidence for. For instance, I believe my ancestors are who I’ve been told they are based solely on the testimony of others and historical documents. I feel no need to get my DNA tested against every one of those people I’ve been told is my ancestor. Why? Because my life does not change whether I believe it or not. To take the same leap for something that demands you live a certain way until the day you die, is a bit more absurd. Especially when it demands you look down upon certain totally normal types of human behaviour, you set limits on who is allowed to love whom, and you force your children to fear eternal damnation. If you want me to do those things, you better fucking provide evidence for why.
8. Atheists are evolutionists. Nope. I would venture to guess, based on zero data, that most atheists accept evolution as fact (because it is). But evolutionism is an obsolete word. With the evidence that exists for evolution, to say you don’t believe it, makes you willfully ignorant. Evolutionism is as necessary as gravityism or photosynthesism, in that evolution is proven fact – it doesn’t need a movement around it to make it true. Saying you’re a scientist or that you’ve been educated enables us to deduce that you accept evolution as fact.
9. Atheism is the same as skepticism. While it’s true that atheists tend to be skeptics, they are not one and the same. In fact, one generally leads to the other. Skepticism can be loosely defined as a doubtful approach to knowledge. Atheism generally starts as skepticism, but so does the lack of belief in psychics or alien abductions or bigfoot. Skepticism is not restricted to a claim of God. Atheism is. Atheism is also a direct rejection of that claim, and not merely just doubt.
Jean-Luc don’t wanna hear it no more.
10. Atheists see no wonder and mystery in our world. A atheist’s worldview is bleak and cold. To the contrary. Atheists, first of all, do not all share the same worldview. We simply share one thing in common: lack of belief in God. But with that said, if you can actually sit through a class on space or the television show Cosmos and still look me straight in the eye and say there is no wonder and no mystery in our world without God, then you simply were not paying attention. In fact, I would go so far as to say an atheist finds much more wonder and mystery in the world because an atheist would never submit to seeking answers about our world solely from one book. A theist’s wonder and mystery stems from a sole publication that claims to have the answers to everything. An atheist’s wonder and mystery comes from the reality that we do not know everything, and that searching and exploring will lead us to not just to more knowledge, but more questions and more mysteries as well. For me, personally, I truly hope our world ends up a little like Star Trek: The Next Generation. Now, before you scoff at me and call me a hopeless trekkie, you must understand that Earth in that show is a peaceful place, with no countries, no war, no starvation or poverty. All of its inhabitants are well fed, educated, employed and many of them have the opportunity to explore space. They want for nothing and their only focus is bettering the human species and a deep respect for all creatures, races, and other worlds. If hoping for that makes me a silly nerd, then so be it, but up against the theist’s hope for the end of days, or the second coming, I’d let Captain Picard lead me about anywhere. Your doomsday outlook is the bleak and cold one. Mine is cheerful and bright.
So, there you have it. If you want to be taken seriously, both amongst atheists and respectful theists (there are plenty, and I appreciate you very much), avoid saying these things. But if you insist on saying them, you can be sure of two things: 1. you will be called on it, and sometimes we are not nice about it, and 2. You look like an uneducated idiot.