“As you know we atheists are a happy lot, we’re deeply moral but we don’t have a mountain of artificial guilt. We do feel guilty about our misdeeds but we don’t consider them sins. Well how about you then? Might you been an atheist?”
– Daniel Dennett in a speech titled “How to tell you’re an atheist”
By: Joshua Mobley
If you are reading this and you don’t consider yourself a religious person, there is a chance you are probably an atheist. Even if you say “well I’m an agnostic, I don’t know if there is a god or not” you’re still probably an atheist, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Whether you subscribe to the label it does not matter, in the same way you might not subscribe to the label “aleprechaunist” if you don’t believe in leprechauns. The easiest way to tell if you are an atheist is to ask yourself if you actually believe in a supernatural god. Wanting to believe is entirely different from actually believing it. You might be an atheist if you often question religious claims, or have always been skeptical of the existence of god. You might be an atheist even if you think the existence of a god is more unlikely than true. Yes, In fact you may very well be an atheist, and it’s ok to admit; it’s ok use the label with pride.
The problem with letting people know that you are an atheist is that you are immediately put into a box, the American zeitgeist has convinced people you are a sad, devil worshiping internet troll with no life who seeks to ruin everyone’s fun and antagonizes religious people. This is of course not true; atheists don’t believe in Satan so they obviously don’t worship him (other then the Church of Satan which is a special case), the internet troll atheists are about as prevalent as religious ones, and almost every atheist (or admitted atheist) I know or have ever interacted with is a well rounded person who doesn’t antagonize or hate others based on their beliefs. Nevertheless there is still this idea that atheists are bad people, and that somehow saying you are religious automatically gives you an edge.
It doesn’t help when former President George Bush senior said in an interview in 1987 “I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.” Bush forgot that the term “under god” didn’t actually appear on American money and in our pledge of allegiance until the red scare of the 1950s. America was indeed, founded by people trying to escape religious persecution. Europe in the 18th century was a place of state mandated religions, people were persecuted for not following the status quo, and in many countries today that is still the case. Many of our founding fathers are also suspected of being atheists. Thomas Jefferson, considered to be the author of the declaration of independence, wrote in 1823 in a letter to John Adams “The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as His father, in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.” So the idea that America was a place founded by Christians for Christians is wholly untrue. America is made up of many people from different belief systems, backgrounds and origins, and none of them take legal or societal preference over the other.
Atheists are not generally aggressive about our beliefs (or lack thereof), and for the most part do not care what beliefs others hold, as long as you don’t harm anyone. For example, an atheist is probably not bothered much by the Christian who attends church every Sunday, does work for the community and doesn’t proselytize. However and atheist is more likely to be very vocal about the neglect of sick children, a practice Christian Scientists condone as they believe sickness and disease are an illusion conjured by Satan. This is a belief an atheist might have a problem with, because it endangers the well being of others. Atheists are also more likely to oppose things like creationism taught in public school systems, or telling small children that they might go to hell. These are not a requirement as atheism is not a religion, or even a belief system, it’s simply the acknowledgment that you disbelief in the existence of an all powerful being called god.
There is no shame in admitting you are an atheist. Unless you come from a deeply religious family and could face severe consequences for coming out, I would urge anyone who agrees with this article to come out and admit “I am an atheist”. The more people admit their disbelief, the more likely it is to become a norm, and not a taboo in our highly religious culture.
My name is Joshua Mobley and I am an atheist.
The everyday atheist is a column about religion and positive atheism written by Joshua Mobley.