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Do You Fear Atheists? November 21, 2009

Posted by jetson in Personal.
Tags: , , , , ,

What does the term “atheist” mean to you? Does it conjure up a specific image, or definition? Have you ever investigated the term objectively? Since I have attached the term to myself, I have heard all sorts of definitions and descriptions, as well as hatred and fear of the term, and anyone who calls themselves atheist. This is a major problem.

My family, as well as some of my closest friends know very well that I do not believe in any gods, including God of The Bible – even though I was raised and indoctrinated into Roman Catholicism. I say indoctrinated simply because I had NO choice in the matter as a young boy. While growing up, I had enough doubt that I never took religion very seriously. Neither did my parents as far as I could tell. But today, I use the term atheist, and even within my own family, I can tell there are some serious misconceptions about what the term actually means. Brace yourself for this completely objective definition of the term: a disbelief in a god or gods.

Surprised? Many people, given this simple definition, are still concerned simply because society has granted religion and its gods a very special privilege over thousands of years. This privilege is not well warranted however, if you consider what has happened in the last 100 years. Even well before serious scientific discoveries, religion provided the “answers” to everything. It was granted immunity to any investigation into its claims. It stood alone as a sole authority on anything it wanted to claim absolute knowledge of, and anyone who disagreed was considered either immoral, or blasphemous.

A disbelief in a god or gods say’s almost nothing about the person who holds this view. If I were able to say that anyone who holds a Christian view is stupid, or immoral, then I would quickly be labeled as completely ignorant, a liar, and probably some form of hateful bigot. And that would be correct! So it goes that if someone has a disbelief in a god or gods, that person may be one of the kindest, most trustworthy people you ever meet. Even if it turns out that there is a real god out there, there will be people who don’t believe. That would only make them ignorant, or incapable of accepting a fact. It would not make them a bad person.

So why are atheists, people who don’t believe in a god or gods, considered to be one of the least admired “groups” in the world? Because the most popular religions have decreed, on their own, that those who do not believe are somehow bad, or destined to hell, or an infidel worthy of killing in extreme cases. Unfortunately, this consideration of non-believers is completely without any supporting facts.

There is absolutely no evidence anywhere that would support an assertion that non-belief in a god or gods makes someone bad. There is not even evidence that a believer is inherently better, simply because he believes. The dichotomy between belief in a god, and disbelief is simply a matter of what the person thinks is true or not. A person takes in the information provided regarding the Christian god, for example, and then decides on their own whether the god is real or not. Many people just cannot accept the evidence, or the writings, or any of the arguments in support of a god. When an atheist gets into a debate with a Christian, the only good outcome will be that they remain friendly with each other, and agree to disagree.

I am living proof that atheists are not bad people, and there are literally millions more just like me. There is NOTHING at all to fear about atheists. They are simply people; people who have no more power or influence over anyone else than any other group. We do not hate, we do not incite violence, we do not commit immoral acts, nor do we condone illegal behavior. We don’t “worship” science, or scientists. We do not all agree with each other on everything. We are not a cult. We don’t hate Christmas. We are not any more or less sinful than a Christian. We have no agenda outside of speaking out against any and all forms of religious based laws placed on us as citizens of the United States.

I have many friends and colleagues that I care about and respect. I have not shared my disbelief with all of them simply because there really is no reason to. I don’t have many friends and colleagues who tell me about their religious beliefs, so I offer the same level of respect by keeping my non-belief to myself. However, I have felt compelled to share my atheism with some of my closest friends because I feel like I would be lying about who I am. This is purely a matter of how close I am with someone though.

I believe that if my friends and colleagues were to write a few sentences about me as a person, there would be almost no evidence about my religious beliefs, or lack thereof (with the exception of a few who know exactly how I feel.) Those few might mention my disbelief, but I doubt they could make any claim that would show me as a bad person, or somehow less moral than a believer. I have close Christian friends who might go as far as to say that I am lost, and that I will eventually find my way back to God.

To be sure, atheists are in an uphill battle, much like blacks who used to be considered “less human” than whites, and much like gays, who are still considered to be immoral, bad, or confused about their sexuality (although gays have made awesome progress.) Atheists have to continue speaking out against religious bigotry (from extremists.) They have to continue to speak out against the idea that they are not good people, as well as speak out against religious oppression through laws that are not purely secular.

I can tolerate all sorts of cultural rituals and habits that society drags along through tradition. Most of it doesn’t bother me so much that I feel I need to act. But looking at the United States for example, we still have a very long way to go if we are to maintain the freedom of religion that our country was founded upon. Even if the majority of the people are religious, they do not hold a special right to impart that religion on the rest of us. No one has that right, and our founding fathers gave no such special status to any religion – no matter how popular.

Don’t be afraid if someone doesn’t believe. Just state your opinion, why you believe, and respect the opposite opinion from an atheist. Help spread the word that atheists are sitting in the next cubicle, they are sitting in the next foxhole, and they are walking past you in the streets, serving your meal at a restaurant, and depositing your paycheck into your bank account. They number in the multi-millions, and they do not seek to destroy everything you believe in. They simply want to be a part of the human society that allows freedom of thoughts, beliefs, and the freedom to disagree. That’s what we all want, isn’t it?



1. aforcier - November 21, 2009

just to let you know… you’re not alone out there.

i, who for decades now, has concluded that no gods exist above the sky always feel at odd with the word “atheist”. i am a non-believer… but feel that being called an “atheist” carries a certain burden. (it has so much negativity and fear attach to it) – it reminds me of having a sign attach to my back that reads: kick me.

i think for a non-believer to be called an atheist is the equivalent to a believer being called an “inquisitionist”.

i see myself as a human being. simply a human being.

that there is no santa, no god, no fairies… has nothing to do with my character. that i am human has.


jetson - November 22, 2009

I understand your concerns about the term atheist. It does not feel good to know that the term brings so much negativity that even discussions can be derailed before they start. There is great debate and discussion within atheist communities about this issue and whether the term should even be used.

I’m not sure where I stand, but I do think it is important to stand. As well, I want to be sure that I am understood, and the term atheist will trigger something in most people. That may not be a great thing in come cases, but it bothers me less over time.

Sam Harris has a great video on YouTube where he talks about misconceptions of the term.

2. aforcier - November 22, 2009

I can live with it too. – To me atheism seems to indicate a philosophy. A point of reference that has an end in itself. Yet, its only end is to state that there is no god. When crossing the wall (we are for a moment an atheist) then we move on into life.

This passage should evoke an awakening. With full sunlight.

(I have responded to some of your comments on my page:)


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