I Am An Atheist Because...


Why are you an atheist? When someone learns of your atheism for the first time, I think it makes sense to expect that the why question will soon follow. It is a fair question, especially for those of us who live in areas that are especially hostile to atheists. The thing is, this question can catch one off guard because providing a complete answer can be a lengthy exercise. I'll give you the extra short version of one of my more commonly used answers below, and I'd be interested to hear yours too.

The brief version of one of my more common responses would be something like the following:

I am an atheist because I find the existence of gods to be so implausible that it makes more sense to me to assume that no such beings exist.

In elaborating my response more fully in response to additional questions, I would try to address the following points because it has been my experience that many people are confused about some of them:

  • Being an atheist simply means that I do not believe that any gods exist.
  • When I say I am an atheist, that does not mean that I am 100% certain that no gods could ever exist; it just means that I do not happen to believe that any do exist.
  • I am an atheist for the same reasons that you don't believe in other gods: there is no evidence that they exist, and you recognize that it would be nuts to believe in something so far-fetched without compelling evidence.

But why not just go directly to #3 and have the initial response focus on the lack of evidence? I do this sometimes. In my experience, this confuses many of the local evangelical fundamentalist Christians who are the ones asking me this question in the first place. You see, they have convinced themselves that there is ample evidence that their preferred god exists. If we start here and I emphasize this at the beginning, things seem to derail far more quickly. I don't think there's anything wrong with giving this response; it is really just a matter of preference.

I recognize that it can be tiresome to constantly have to teach others about atheism. I suppose you can blame the religious for all the misconceptions and stereotypes, but that is not going to absolve any of us of the responsibility to inform others. Perhaps we should embrace a role as ambassadors of atheism.

How about you? How do you typically complete the "I am an atheist because" stem when it comes up?