November 22, 2009

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 my answer below, and I'd be interested to hear yours too.

The brief version of my response 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, 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.
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?