Their Curiosity About Atheism Is a Great Start

Be Curious! (Curiosity Rover on Mars!) @MarsCuriosity
Image by Ron Mader, CC BY-SA 2.0

When I was a Christian, I was ignorant about atheism and atheists. I also knew that I was ignorant on these subjects and had no difficulty admitting as much. I could not have provided a coherent definition of atheism. I could not have offered any sense of what atheists were like since I had never met one. The best I would have been able to do is to provide a brief list of things I had heard about atheists. For example, they were Communists who hated America and were working to undermine our way of life. I was beginning to question some of what I had been told, but I didn't have much to offer in correcting the misconceptions about atheists.

I have never blamed Christians for being curious about atheism or about atheists. I still remember what it was like to be ignorant on these subjects and to know that I was ignorant. What does irk me from time to time are the Christians who are as ignorant as I was but who are unaware of it or unwilling to admit it. There is no shame in admitting that one does not know something. I wish more Christians could understand this.

I remained ignorant about atheism and about atheists for years. In fact, I continued to be ignorant even after I realized that I no longer believed in gods. I was an atheist who could not have defined atheism and was reluctant to call myself an atheist. This was because I wasn't sure what it meant and because everything I had ever heard about it was negative). It took me at least a few years and more than a few books to come to terms with the fact that I was an atheist. Since this all took place before the Internet, I expect younger readers are puzzled how this could have been the case. All I can say is that I had no access to information on atheism and that I am glad that times have changed in that respect.

I can still recall what it was like to know that I did not believe in gods but to be unsure what atheism was. I can remember what it was like to have never met an atheist. This allows me to empathize with atheists who are confused about atheism. It is far easier to find information on atheism today. This does not mean that everyone is seeking it out or not facing other obstacles. When I catch myself getting annoyed by atheists who do not understand what atheism means, I'm inclined to steer them in the right direction. I prefer this approach over insulting or shaming them on social media.

It is good that people are curious about atheism. Some are Christians doubting their faith or religious believers who have questions. Others are people who no longer believe in gods but aren't yet sure what to call themselves. Curiosity about atheism is something we should foster and support. When someone expresses curiosity or seeks information, I'd hope they would find more than hostility and insults. In other words, I hope that someone curious about atheism would encounter a good ambassador of atheism.

This 2017 post was revised in 2022 to improve clarity and correct typos.