What a Believer Should Know About an Atheist - Me

Since my wife and I moved here in 2009, we’ve been visited by Jehovah’s Witnesses and other religious representatives on multiple occasions.  On three of those incidences, I engaged my visitors and responded to statements or questions made by them regarding both religion and atheism.  While I will admit having no interest in actually inviting them into my home for a protracted conversation, there are certain things I wish they would learn and understand about me as an individual atheist and about atheism in general, presuming of course that they are willing to listen and acknowledge a point of view as radically different from theirs as this is.  If I were I to address a believer or believers on this matter, among those things I would mention are:

  • I am indeed an atheist.  Atheists are not a figment of some person’s imagination.  I am not a straw man to be stereotyped or minimized, nor is this position something I arrived at lightly or cavalierly.  To me, atheism is a conclusion I arrived at, with care, thought and much deliberation.  I am at least as firm in my atheism as you are in your belief.
  • I am not a fool.  Yes, I know Psalm 14:1.  I do not think of myself as a fool and attempting to characterize me or my fellows en masse as such does you no compliments.  Please cease and desist.
  • The bible is just another book to me.  It is not “holy” or “sacred” or the supposedly revealed word of god.  It is just a book and, based on my reading and analysis, a badly flawed one.  It has its value as literature, but for morality and other life lessons, I find it sorely lacking and will not base my life on its teachings.
  • I am not mad at god.  From my point of view, there is no god to be mad at.  If I am angry about anything, it is at the vain and useless efforts to cause me to believe and those aimed at gaining governmental favoritism for a given belief.
  • I do not want to believe; I want to know.  These are the words of Carl Sagan, and I agree with them wholeheartedly.  I have no interest in faith without substantiation.  Pigs in pokes hold no attraction for me.  Evidence talks; bullshit walks … and the opposite of skeptical is gullible.
  • Faith deserves no respect.  This is a corollary to the above point.  Belief without basis makes a virtue of naïveté, of accepting a premise without concrete demonstration.  Blind faith is a dangerous practice to me, one more reason why I don’t indulge in it.
  • I do not know it all, nor does anyone else.  Mankind has learned a great deal since the discipline of science has been pressed into its service.  It is a tool which has yielded an enormous amount of understanding of the reality we live in, but it has by no means revealed it all.  Not knowing is not a weakness; it is an inspiration to learn more and to grow from that learning.  Science as a means of learning is nowhere near so arrogant as presuming to know it all as a matter of course.
  • Freedom OF religion implies freedom FROM religion.  If someone wishes to practice some form of faith, they should not have to endure coercion from any other faith, particularly since there is no mechanism of proving any faith-based belief systems.  This principle extends to those who have no belief of any kind.  Proselytism is an intrusive process which disrespects this principle and those on whom it is practiced.
  • I am not a threat to you so long as you are not a threat to me.  Allow me to live my life without being molested and without attempting to coerce the government to side with your belief and everything is fine.  Any endeavor to convert me or jawbone the government to supporting your belief system will be met with fierce and determined opposition.
  • I am an INDIVIDUAL, even as you are.  I am not a stereotype to be dismissed, categorized or vilified.  I live, love and participate in the world in a thousand different ways, much the same as you do.  I simply do it without a belief in any form of deity, and for the large portion, I do it successfully.  I am willing to respect you as individuals, even if I don’t respect your belief, and I deserve the same respect in return.  If there is to be any form of meeting of the minds, that much as preamble is mandatory.

Kindly note, if I’m using first-person, singular above, it is because I speak for myself and do not presume to speak for other atheists.  Though some may agree with much or all of what I say here, some may not, and I will not presume otherwise.

I suppose there are numerous other things I would like believers to know about me and/or us, though if I were to enumerate them all, this would become less a tract than a novel.  The above constitute some essentials that I would want to convey.  This is an exercise which has been entertained in the past and doubtless will be again in the future.  Regardless, if you have an additional point or points you would like to suggest, please present them here.

Atheists have been misrepresented long enough.  This is an opportunity and means to correct that.

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Comment by Daniel W on October 7, 2013 at 8:38am

Loren, very thoughtful and very well said.  Thank you for such a clear description of your thoughts.


By coincidence, yesterday I viewed Hemant Mehta's "15 things never to say to an atheist" which id different but addresses some similar issues.  Copied here for reference.




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