It Doesn’t Matter How Often You Repeat These Things, They Are Simply Not True
I’ve probably mentioned this a few dozen times before, but I’ve been an atheist for every second of my life. Some of you have doled out some head-inflating compliments telling me that I look like I am in my mid-twenties, but the reality is, I’ll be 38 next month which makes as many years of straight-up, unadulterated atheism. I am an atheist relic, a godless oldtimer, a pasty, old, hellbound fart. I have revelled in godlessness longer than most of you have been potty trained.
I know what it means to be an atheist. I have never, ever not been one.
So, it is with great irritation that I must field ignorant comments from religious users who find me on social media and insist they know better than I do what being an atheist is all about. Some of them are honest misconceptions. Others refuse to hear the truth, and most are trolls just trying to get a reaction.
Here are some of the lowlights of these conversations:
Atheism is a religion:
I usually counter this one with, “What do you call someone with no religion, then?” and if they say anything other than atheist, such as irreligious, I simply reply with, “Well, then I am irreligious, according to your definition. By mine, that’s what atheism means.”
If they still refuse to hear that, you’ve caught yourself a troll and ought to hit mute.
Atheism, as we all know, is the complete opposite of religion. The definition from the Oxford English Dictionary states:
1. The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods 2. A particular system of faith and worship 3. A pursuit or interest followed with great devotion
And the definition for atheism:
Disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods
Right off the bat, the very definition of atheism cancels out the first definition of religion. Atheism cannot be the belief in and worship of a god if by definition we do not believe in any gods.
The second definition, A particular system of faith and worship, is not applicable either, because atheists rarely profess a faith or worship anything. Even if a select few do, it is not a system under which all atheists operate. Atheism is one answer to one question, not a system.
The third definition of atheism from the Oxford English Dictionary, A pursuit or interest followed with great devotion, does not apply to atheism because many, if not most, atheists are just godless. They don’t talk about it. They don’t write about it. Some don’t even share it with anyone else. While many of us do talk about it, at length, and it is in pursuit of something, in order for atheism to fall under this definition of religion, all atheists – to be considered an atheist – would have to be involved in this pursuit. We simply are not. Atheism requires no action, no pursuit, no interest. It’s simply a lack of belief in gods.
Atheists hate God:
As an atheist, I hate God about as much as I hate the glittering, pink unicorn named Steve that eats the berries off my strawberry plants every June. Which is to say: I don’t. If an atheist tells you they do, they are not an atheist. Atheism’s sole requirement is to not believe in a god, so how can an atheist hate one? We reject the claim that a god exists. We are critical of religious ideas. Hating god, though, that’s something only a theist could do.
Atheists just want to sin:
Quite the opposite. Atheists are ready to take personal responsibility for their actions. There is no confession booth for an atheist to visit to absolve his sins. There is no deathbed repentance available to the atheist. We can’t blame our actions on a higher power or ask a man in the sky for forgiveness. We have to live with our actions until the day we die.
Further, atheists don’t often believe in the concept of sin. Sin, as it is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary, is:
An immoral act considered to be a transgression against divine law
Since atheists, by definition, do not believe in a divine creator, they generally struggle with believing in divine law. This makes transgressions against said law rather difficult, wouldn’t you agree?
If by “sin” you mean “act in an immoral way”, well that depends on your definition of moral and which atheist you’re talking to. Since there is no doctrine outlining the expected behaviour of an atheist, we make our own decisions regarding how to behave. Generally speaking, we base these decisions on the expected consequences of our actions. If the consequences are viewed as negative to ourselves or others, it’s not a good idea. If the consequences are nonexistent or good, then the action shouldn’t be considered immoral.
It works in much the same way it would if someone asked you to grab a fork and shove it in an electrical outlet. You know that if you do it, you’ll suffer tremendous pain. To you, the consequences are not worth the action. So, you refuse. Well, unless you’re Steve-o.
We are not perfect, though. Being human, sometimes an atheist will make poor judgment calls, just like any other type of person. The difference here is that we must live with it, while the religious can wash it away with confession, repentance or just a couple of Hail Marys.
An atheist is someone who thinks that God does not exist:
No, an atheist is someone who does not believe in God because evidence of said deity is unconvincing. An atheist is also someone who, if presented with irrefutable evidence that God exists, would accept his existence as a fact. Asserting there is no God and not believing in one until he can be proven, are two very different things.
All atheists worship Dawkins or Harris or Krauss or [insert famous atheist here]:
While some atheists do seem to want to shove their noses up the asses of some outspoken atheists, the vast majority of atheists I’ve met appreciate Dawkins, Harris and the like as great minds on the topic of religion. Appreciation, and even looking up to people for their accomplishments and their way with words, is not tantamount to worship. Many of the atheists I’ve had the pleasure of conversing with are not afraid to challenge Richard Dawkins on some of his ideas they don’t agree with. The same goes for Sam Harris, Lawrence Krauss, Daniel Dennett, Matt Dillahunty, etc etc.
Here is a perfect example of one atheist taking up a debate with Matt Dillahunty:
If appreciating one’s body of work, even being a massive fan (kinda like how I am with Anthony Bourdain), is worship, then most religious people worship many, many more beings than God.
Atheists believe science can explain everything:
Oh, to the contrary. It is the theist who believes everything has already been explained. If scientists or atheists believed that science can already explain everything, then what point would there be to science continuing to stick around? Why would scientists continue to study the natural world, if everything had already been explained? No, we don’t believe science can explain everything. We do, however, believe that science has the potential to explain all naturally occurring phenomena. Well, most of us do. If you recall, the only requirement to being an atheist is a lack of belief in a God, so technically speaking, you could find an atheist out there who thinks all science is useless.
Atheists believe something can come from nothing:
Referring, of course, to what came before the Big Bang. What atheists believe, instead, is that we don’t fully know what was there before the Big Bang. The idea of nothingness has not been ruled out, but nothing is known for certain. The truth here is that most atheists and scientists alike, are more likely to say they don’t know what that first something came from and until we have evidence to sufficiently offer an explanation, we aren’t going to live as though it’s already been explained.
Atheists want there to be no God: Not true. In fact, there are plenty of atheists out there who actively wish they could believe in the concept of a God:
Some atheists miss the comfort of ignorance. Some atheists resent having been lied to their whole lives and wish they could go back to not knowing. Some atheists even try to believe in God again.
Atheists choose atheism:
Atheism is a realization. Suggesting it is a choice is like suggesting that knowing 2+2=4 is a choice. We can’t choose it. It is caused by doubt, skepticism, research and knowledge.
I have to admit, writing this was tedious because these are things I have to explain on a daily basis.I really don’t understand why so many religious people go on the attack without first knowing more about who they are about to criticize. It seems self-defeating, but then, so does belief in God.
Did I miss anything? What else do you find atheists have to explain constantly? Let me know in the comments.