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  • Writer's pictureCourtney Heard

Is Atheism A Choice?

I am completely dumbfounded right now. Yesterday, I asked you brilliant jerks whether or not you thought atheism was a choice and the overwhelming majority of you said yes.


Say what?

Based on some of your responses, I think the question may have been misunderstood. Some of you, I think, heard the question as, “Is identifying as an atheist a choice?” and of course, the answer to that yes. The actual question I asked, though, is if atheism is a choice or not. Whether you’re an in-the-closet atheist, loud-and-proud atheist or it just never comes up, is not relevant here. Atheism is the lack of belief in a god – is this lack of belief in a god a choice? That was my question.

With that clarified, I think I need to address some of your more unexpected answers. Please keep in mind, just because I disagree with some of you, doesn’t mean I don’t still love you like the magnificent fuckers you are.

The question was not about choosing to follow the crowd despite what you truly believe. The question was about what you truly believe regardless of your outward behaviour. An atheist is still an atheist even if he’s faking being a believer. Of course, you can choose to fake belief, but can you choose to actually believe, regardless of outward appearances?

I know I certainly could not choose a belief in god. I could try. I could choose to immerse myself in Christian culture and absorb what evangelists and apologists are saying as fast as my mind will let me, but whether or not I am convinced a god exists, would not be a choice any more than choosing to believe in unicorns is a choice. There is a vast difference between choosing to seek out information that could potentially change my mind, and choosing to believe. If belief were a choice, we could change it without any outward stimuli, evidence or convincing arguments.

@godless_mom When you are threatened by another religious groups to convert or die, I guess it's not a good choice but still a choice — Dr. Steven Stoller (@theagingathlete) March 11, 2016

If you’re threatened to convert or die, and you choose to convert to save your hide, this doesn’t make you a believer. You haven’t chosen to believe here, you’ve simply chosen to fake it. Deep down inside, you still don’t believe and you are still an atheist – the only difference is that you’re hiding it.

That’s not a choice to stop believing, though. It’s only the choice to accept facts and listen to reason. Whether or not those facts and that reason convinces you is out of your control. Choosing to believe something is very, very different from choosing to explore reality more honestly.

How can you choose only one side of the coin but not the other? That’s not a choice. Choice is being able to choose either/or.

Is it? I was born an atheist, raised by atheists, and didn’t believe a day in my life. I didn’t have time before I was born to practice logic and reason, but sure as shit, the second I was born I was not a believer and it’s never changed. I value logic and reason as an adult, of course, but it was not required for my lack of belief.

I could not choose to believe in the myths of any religion, even if I was paid billions of dollars and my life depended on it. I could certainly fake it, sure, but I couldn’t choose to actually believe.

Nor could I, but fooling yourself still implies that some part of you does not believe it fully. So, you’re still an atheist, even if you’re fooling yourself that you’re not. The choice to fool one’s self is not the choice to believe in god.


I am completely dumbfounded that so many of you are asserting you could choose to believe in a god, freely, with no outward stimuli. I’m so shocked that so many of you imply you do not need to be convinced to believe in something before you believe it, and that you could just simply choose to believe it instead. I know that no matter how hard I tried, I could not choose to believe in god any more than I could choose to believe my Dad is Asian. I am just beyond shocked that it’s different for so many of you.

Thanks to everyone who participated in this question, you definitely gave me some food for thought!

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