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The Atheist's Guide To


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Key concepts
More about atheism
Notable atheists
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I find your lack of faith disturbing...
Darth Vader choking a skeptic atheist
What this means is covered in much more depth and with significantly less snark in our atheism article.

An atheist is a person who does not believe in any gods.


[edit] The term "atheist"

As atheists don't believe in god(s) -- they have no religion. The term is a word for a negative, and this leads to a few semantic issues.

This confuses the religious because they are used to terms of religious identity being a declaration of allegiance to a view, rather than of separation from. This confusion then leads them to assert that a denial of their religion must be an avowal of another. They then do things like declare the so-called New Atheists as hypocrites for denigrating religion while sticking to an unstated one of their own, or declare that because science has an epistemology and religion has an epistemology, therefore science is just another faith (when religion's problem is that science's epistemology provably works much better than religion's).

A standard response is to note that if atheism is a religion, then "bald" is a hair color, and not collecting stamps is a hobby, not kicking a kitten is a form of animal abuse and so on. Another is to note that if the definition of religion was expanded enough to legitimately include atheism - say, by defining a religion as "any philosophy on life" - then practically everything in the world would be a religion, such as socio-economic policies or views on equality. (British law has come close to finding this in employment discrimination cases.)

As Sam Harris noted in a speech to the Atheist Alliance in 2007:[1]

I think that “atheist” is a term that we do not need, in the same way that we don’t need a word for someone who rejects astrology. We simply do not call people “non-astrologers.” All we need are words like “reason” and “evidence” and “common sense” and “bullshit” to put astrologers in their place, and so it could be with religion.

[edit] Dogma

There are many facets to atheistic dogma! Here are a few choice high water marks:

[edit] Atheists in society

[edit] In Jesusland

In the US, atheists are the least trusted and liked people out of all social groups, possibly because of their cracker-stealing banana fetishes and their superior knowledge[3] of actual religious content. They top the charts when people are asked "who would you least trust to be elected President" or "who would you least want to marry your beautiful, sweet, innocent Christian daughter."[4][5] It probably doesn't help that U.S. is one of the most religious developed countries in the world.[6]

Many have lost jobs and been harassed out of their homes for what is essentially a lack of any belief that could act as motivation to cause harm. Chuck Norris infamously claimed that he would like to tattoo "In God We Trust" on to atheist foreheads before booting them out of Jesusland, possibly to work as slaves in the Mines of Moria (he claims this is a joke, but few people actually laughed). More extreme fundamentalists seem want them outright banned from existence, blogger Andrew Schlafly seriously considered banning them from his website and George H. W. Bush declared "I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God," questioning whether anyone who disbelieves in God should even be allowed to vote (or at least be allowed to vote themselves out of persecution).[7] A creationist group has refined this way of thinking, stating that atheists and other "evolutionists" should be disenfranchised, as anyone who believes the theory of evolution is clearly mentally incompetent.[8]

Six US states have laws on the books that prohibit atheists from holding public office.[9] This despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling -- Torcaso v. Watkins (1961)[10] -- that prohibits discrimination against atheist officeholders.[11] These states are:

If atheism isn't a hanging offence in these places, they probably wish it were. (Ok, maybe not Maryland, but you get the point).

[edit] Europe

In Europe, atheists don't really receive much negative attention. France has an entirely secular culture, with a suitably large proportion of the population declaring "no religion." In Scandinavia, the majority of the population are openly atheist. In the UK, Tony Blair's spin-doctor Alistar Campbell was led to declare that "we don't do god"[12] and Tony himself said that he kept quiet about religion because people would think he was "a nutter". The current deputy Prime Minister is an atheist, while the Prime Minister himself has said that his Church of England faith "comes and goes". Overall, atheists in Europe aren't demonised as they are in America and other countries led by fundamentalists.

[edit] Australia

From 2010 to 2013, Australia had a prime minister, Julia Gillard, who defined herself as an atheist. A lot of Australians despised her for a whole bunch of (potentially legitimate) reasons, but being an atheist wasn't one of them.

[edit] New Zealand

New Zealand hasn't had a religious Prime Minister for over 10 years (and possibly for far longer than that). Politics and religion in New Zealand are mutually exclusive and the religious beliefs of New Zealand leaders is never seriously scrutinized...apart from that one guy.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] Footnotes

  1. "The Problem with Atheism"
  2. As a serious point, this is related to the perception that atheists "Hate God," which can't possibly be the case because atheists disbelieve all gods equally, so what makes you think they'd hate one thing that they don't think exists over another thing that they don't think exists?
  3. Pew Forum - U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey
  4. Scientific American - In Atheists We Distrust
  5. USA Today: Atheists distrusted as much as rapists.
  6. [1]
  7. - Can George Bush, with impunity, state that atheists should not be considered either citizens or patriots?
  8. Should Evolutionists Be Allowed to Vote?
  9. Erbe, Bonnie. "Arkansas, 5 Other States, Ban Atheists from Public Service. Seriously" U.S. News & World Report website, 17 February 2009, accessed 5 December 2009.
  10. Text of ruling at
  11. Waters, David. "Atheist Revival in Arkansas", Washington Post website, 13 February 2009, accessed 5 December 2009.
  12. BBC News - Blending politics and religion
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