Respectfulness: Recognising that freedom of speech isn't a reason to dictate what others should/shouldn't believe.
It's with a sort of irony that I make this stamp, because to me 'atheist' isn't a necessary title - no more so than referring to yourself as a 'non-architect' if your profession is not architecture, for example. The name is only really there to distinguish us in religious society, and I'd hope that atheists generally try to be as respectful as possible to those of religion who are non-offensive with their ideas (and vice versa, of course). I feel atheism can be quite misunderstood sometimes, having witnessed and come up against a lot of stigma about it, so I created this to explain some things - and I don't mind if there is discussion in the comments!
There are often negative connotations surrounding atheism, and I readily agree that some can be offensive when asserting their thoughts about religious ideas they find improbable or disagree with. As with all strong viewpoints it can be the rudest who are the loudest, and perfectly well-meaning religions are also often misrepresented by aggressively outspoken individuals. This is not representative of the whole communities: in a lot of cases it's down to the kind of person they are, rather than what they do or don't believe. 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 due to the supernatural nature of their assertion. Without meaning to sound rude at all, it is just as difficult to prove there isn't a giant, invisible, polkadot space octopus floating around that controls our dreams; if the universe is infinite, which some think, literally anything is theoretically possible. I personally don't condone or take part in asking believers for 'proof of God', because I know their faith is enough for them and they don't need to justify it any other way for the sake of others! 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 I'm an apatheistic agnostic atheist, personally! c:
Some points about atheism:
Atheism is no more an ideology or religion itself than 'not skiing' is a hobby. It isn't a set of beliefs, there is no doctrine to follow, we don't have 'atheist prophets' (in fact a lot of us think people like Richard Dawkins, who just constantly and pompously insult religion, are prats) and it doesn't define a way of life or thinking. This is also why 'atheist' is not a capitalised proper noun, and we're not even really intending to be a 'group'; the only similarity by definition is our lack of belief in god(s).
Atheism ≠ 'anti-religion'; even if some atheists are against religion, it is 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 critical way of thinking: and there is no such thing as 'Religion vs. Science' anyway. The scientific method is only trying 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 certainly feel no gap in my life, there is nowhere for religion to fit within my world view - and I'm no worse-off for that.
"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 wish to pray for them because it puts your mind at ease, do 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 understand and accept that some people feel happiest when they feed a faith in their lives: and I wish more people, both atheist and religious, could come to terms with the fact that religious beliefs are deeply personal so should neither be attacked nor imposed upon others.
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 in "the name of God", or if we didn't come up against the above kinds of stigma. In the broadest sense, all secular-thinking atheists really care about is improved knowledge, free-thinking and fairness in the world; you can be religious and want exactly the same, of course!
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Psst.. remember to check out the rest of my stamp collection; there's guaranteed to be more you like! ♥
I went to a Roman Catholic school, and some of the teachers there would act like admitting to being an atheist was one step away from admitting to being Satan :\ I live in the UK, but I come from a small town, where most people were pretty religious.
Religion was just never something that really made sense to me, even as a kid; most of the time it didn't even occur to me to think about whether or not some form of higher being existed, but if the point was brought up, especially in religious education at school, all I could ever think was 'but if they even exist, why would they care what we do?'. For some reason a lot of the people around me for most of my life seemed to have difficulty understanding that atheism isn't actually a belief of any sort really, but simply a lack of belief in a deity. One of the most frequent questions I've been asked is 'if you don't believe in god, what do you believe in?' Which is possible one of the most irritating questions ever. Most of the time it was just easier to not even mention atheism.
The more people that read the artists comment for this stamp, the better
Yep, there are absolutely loads! c: Several global polls/studies have estimated that up to 13% of people are atheist, with even more saying they are 'non-religious' (which has a lot of overlap with broad atheism)! The figure for the USA is only 4% though - it's 17% in the UK where I live and an amazing 32% in France.
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