Ha! I’ve heard it many times. People telling me what I believe, just because I told them I was an atheist. “You believe nothing came from nothing.” “You believe we came from monkeys.” “You believe there is no real morality.” “You believe life is just worthless.” Wow! I didn’t realize I believed that, thanks for sharing! SMH.
I’ve talked religion with lots of Christians and a bunch of Muslims. Even though we have access to their religious texts, and can cite them directly, I still don’t assume I know what the particular Christian or Muslim I’m talking to believes in. And they’ve chosen a team! But let’s face it, saying you’re a “Christian” is such a suitcase term that it’s already pretty useless. There are something like 30,000 denominations of Christians, which is more denominations than there are SENTENCES in the bible. As a group, they disagree on nearly every single facet of the religion. Hell, I met a Catholic a few years back that believes that Mary was raped by a Roman soldier, which is why Jesus had more European features. That statement is so packed with baggage I could devote an entire blog to it.
But back to what atheists believe. We don’t define ourselves for what we don’t believe in. Even though I’m an atheist blogger, and my blog name includes “atheist”, it still doesn’t define me or my beliefs. What defines me is what I DO believe.
For example, I believe that societies that invest in science and technology get ahead. They are healthier and wealthier than societies that don’t invest in science and technology. They become world leaders. I also believe that the way countries become interested in science and technology is through good science education. I believe that a scientifically literate population funds science and technology research. I also believe that basic science education makes us critical thinkers and less gullible. I therefore believe that intentionally teaching junk science is detrimental to our future as a healthy and wealthy country. I believe religion is by far the leading proponent of junk science, and is absolutely behind efforts to push this junk science in the classroom. Based on these beliefs, I therefore conclude that religion is anathema to a better future. This drives my energy to blog.
So my energy is not at all driven by what I don’t believe. It’s driven by what I believe. And not all atheists believe what I believe, or conclude what I conclude, so they are driven by some other belief. Maybe they believe aliens visited Earth. Yes, there are atheists that believe that. Not believing in god doesn’t automatically rule out other beliefs. Atheists are Republican, Democrats, Independents, Communists, Libertarians, and Socialists. Yes, I’ve met them all. So obviously, our position of disbelief on a single issue doesn’t inform our beliefs or actions.
So, while I’ve spent almost 450 words explaining why you probably don’t know what atheists believe, I think it’s realistic to mention that many atheists do share some common beliefs, and that is because of a shared experience. You see, many of us grew up in religious homes or communities, and were therefore religious ourselves. Somewhere along the way, we lost our faith. Loosing your faith is not usually a light undertaking, and therefore we often spent a lot of time examining the faith. We read the texts, and read the doctrines. We examined arguments for and against the faith. We had to become more familiar with logic and evidence, and other world religions as well. And in the end, we couldn’t believe anymore.
This process of discovery and examination for some is what develops many of the characteristics that religious people think all atheists hold. For example, without a god to poof the world into existence, we are free to examine evolution and it’s merits. Not all, but many atheists accept the theory of evolution and the big bang as true. By really digging in to the religious texts, many atheist realize that what they were told was in the bible doesn’t match up with what is in the bible. Not all, but many atheists know more about the bible than the religious, and recoil at the brutal, misogynistic, petty, genocidal character that is supposedly the moral arbitrator for the world.
So yeah, there may be some generalizations about atheists that are more likely. And I get that. But don’t tell me what I believe. Instead of “opening your heart” in a self-serving, patronizing manner, try opening your mind.
The Spartan Atheist