10 More Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Atheism

Herb Silverman (President, Secular Coalition o...
Herb Silverman (President, Secular Coalition of America) AAC02 (Photo credit: Marty Stone)

Herb Silverman's recent post at FaithStreet presented religious believers with 10 things he wishes everyone knew about atheism (update: link no longer available). It was an excellent list, and I found myself agreeing with every item on his list. I too wish that more religious believers knew these things about atheism. We probably wouldn't see so much bigotry directed at atheists if religious people had accurate information.

By limiting himself to 10 items, Silverman was bound to leave a few things off. I thought it might be fun to challenge myself to see if I could come up with another 10 I'd like to add to the mix. So here are 10 more things I wish everyone knew about atheism:

  1. Atheism is not new. We may be hearing more about atheism in the popular news media these days than we have in the last 20 or 30 years, but atheism has been around as long as humans have believed in gods.
  2. Many atheists were once religious believers. It is rare to find someone who is an atheist solely because he or she has never heard of your particular religious beliefs. More commonly, one finds that atheists are already quite familiar with your religious tradition.
  3. You have far more in common with atheists that you realize. You already know what it is like to be an atheist with regard to many of the gods humans have worshipped over the ages. We do not worship any of these gods either. We simply add your preferred god to the list of gods we do not worship.
  4. Atheists are not interested in replacing religion with something else. Atheism is not a religion, philosophy, or worldview; it is merely the lack of belief in gods. Atheists are not secretly plotting to replace religion with some alternative system.
  5. You probably already know some people who are atheists. The odds are very good that at least one person with whom you regularly come in contact in your everyday life is an atheist. Many atheists keep their thoughts on religion to themselves for fear of discrimination and bigotry. Just because nobody in your life may have told you that they are an atheist does not mean that they are not.
  6. Atheists can be found throughout the political spectrum. Atheism is not a liberal phenomenon; there are politically conservative atheists, libertarian atheists, and other atheists who could not reasonably be described as liberal.
  7. To understand atheists, it is helpful to consider the long history of discrimination and bigotry atheists have faced. Most atheists are aware of this history, and many are interested in seeing in recede into the background. But even today, there are a handful of states in the U.S. where atheists are legally prohibited from holding public office. And even today, political candidates frequently score points by publicly bashing atheism and secularism.
  8. Atheists are not interested in banning your religious books. Many atheists are atheists because they took the time to read books like the Christian bible. We have little incentive to want to deprive others of this opportunity.
  9. Atheists experience the feelings of awe, wonder, and transcendence you sometimes label spirituality. Many atheists report that they experience such feelings in the presence of nature, art, music, and other natural phenomena. In fact, atheists' awareness that this life is all we have can make their time here even more precious.
  10. Most atheists recognize that most religious believers are good people. Most atheists have religious believers in their families and among their friends. They see plenty of great examples of religious believers who are genuinely good people.

I applaud Herb Silverman's efforts to raise awareness about atheism and to provide religious believers with accurate information about atheism and atheists. He provides a great model in this regard for those of us who would like to see significant reductions in the bigotry aimed at atheists.