Respectfulness: Recognising that freedom of speech & thought isn't a reason to dictate what others should/shouldn't believe.
It feels a bit strange making this, because to me 'atheist' isn't really a necessary title - no more so than referring to yourself as a 'non-architect' if your profession isn't in architecture, for example. The name only really exists to distinguish us in our generally-religious society, and I hope that most atheists try to be as respectful as possible to religious people who are non-offensive with their ideas (and vice versa). I feel atheism can be misunderstood sometimes, having witnessed and come up against a lot of stigma about it, so I created this to explain a few things from my personal point of view!
There can be negativity surrounding atheism, and I totally agree that some can be very offensive with their thoughts about religion. As with all strong viewpoints it can be the rudest who are loudest, and perfectly well-meaning religions are also often misrepresented by aggressively outspoken individuals. In a lot of cases it's down to the kind of person they are, rather than what god they do or don't believe in. The most common form of atheism is agnostic atheism, whereby a person does not believe in god(s) but acknowledges they cannot be entirely disproved. We understand that absence of evidence doesn't = evidence of absence. Without meaning to sound rude at all, it's just as difficult to prove there isn't a giant invisible polkadot space octopus floating around that controls our dreams - since if the universe really is infinite, technically nothing can be fully dismissed! I personally don't condone asking believers for 'proof of God' though, because I know their faith is enough for them - they don't need to justify it any other way to others - but that's what you see disrespectful atheists doing. You can also be an agnostic theist: which is to believe in god(s), but also acknowledge they can't truly be proven to exist. Gnostic theists/atheists, on the other hand, assert that they know there is/isn't a god. There is another term that many non-religious people use: apatheism, which is the state of not caring whether or not deities exist because the answer doesn't affect their life as they live it anyway. I'd say that makes me an apatheistic agnostic atheist! c:
Some points about atheism:
Atheism is no more a religion itself than 'not skiing' is a hobby. It isn't a set of beliefs, there is no doctrine, we don't have 'atheist prophets' (in fact a lot of us think people like Richard Dawkins, who just condescendingly insult religion, are prats) and it doesn't define a way of life or thinking. This is why 'atheist' is more of an adjective than a noun (to me anyway) - atheism isn't an organised group of people like religions are.
Atheism ≠ 'anti-religion': even if some atheists are against religion, that's not what defines us.
You don't have to be atheist to be a keen scientist or agree with scientific theories, and doing so doesn't make you atheist. Many people happily accept scientific ideas into a religious world-view, and many scientists are religious! Science and atheism just tend to go hand-in-hand because it provides the alternative explanations which sit better with a non-religious view of our existence: and there's no such thing as 'Religion vs. Science' anyway! The scientific method only tries to find out what we can about the physical universe, it doesn't actively seek to destroy religious ideas.
Atheism (or at least agnosticism) is the most common standpoint among my generation in the UK, so I probably feel more free to speak about it than somebody living in a more religious society. Always bear in mind how different social norms can be!
Some common misconceptions answered:
"Atheists lack morality." We may not follow any doctrine, but as humans we are all generally bestowed with basic common sense and a moral compass. I don't think anybody needs a book or regular sermons to tell them that unkindness, theft and killing are wrong - this seems obvious, but it's incredible how many times I've been called 'immoral' on the basis of my atheism by people who know nothing else about me.
"Atheists are just scared of God." We can't be scared of something we don't believe in. This is the same as accusing a Christian of being afraid of the Norse god Thor, on the basis that they don't have faith he exists.
"Atheists aren't living for anything." Faith isn't all there is to life: separate factors govern our well-being, motivation and happiness. I, like many, just don't personally have a space for religion to fill - and we're no worse-off for that. I'm living for myself, my friendships, and all the wonderful things to experience on Earth!
"Atheists need to be saved/prayed for." This is an opinion some devoted religious people may hold very strongly, and I can see how it's well-meaning - but as it's not at all what we believe, it can feel like you're being condescending or trying to dictate how we should live and think. Please refrain from trying to force an atheist round to your personal views if they make it clear they don't want you to - but if you really want to pray for them because it puts your mind at ease, feel free to do so privately. Telling an atheist "I'll pray for you" can come across as passive aggressive or patronising, even if not intended!
Everybody thinks in a completely individual way, holds their own opinions, and is fulfilled by different things. Our actions as people and the way we treat others define us far better than our beliefs, so judging someone purely on their faith or lack thereof is something I'll never condone. I fully accept that some people feel happiest with faith in their lives: and I wish more people, both atheist and religious, could understand the fact that religious beliefs are deeply personal so should neither be attacked nor imposed upon others.
I personally love seeing people made happy and fulfilled by their religious and spiritual beliefs, even though it's different to what fulfils me
To sum up, I doubt atheists would feel like they needed a voice at all if it weren't for the fact religious extremists sometimes stand in the way of progress and cause discrimination/violence in the name of their god(s), or if we didn't come up against the above kinds of stigma just for not believing in deities. In the broadest sense, all secular-thinking atheists like me really care about is improved knowledge, free-thinking and fairness in the world: you can be religious and want exactly the same of course!!
Thanks if you read all of this, and please feel free to ask questions! This Wiki article has even more info on atheism, and why people choose to be atheist.
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Psst.. remember to check out the rest of my stamp collection; there's guaranteed to be more you like! ♥
I wasn't really sure in the start that I am an atheist but I consider myself as one since I really don't care about religion or believe in God since personality is the important thing that matters to me... I still respect christians and other religions who don't shove religion down towards others face... Thanks for the stamp, I'll use it.