Guest essay by Deborah Markus
Please stop hedging when you mention our lack of belief. Atheists are atheists. We're not "self-described," nor do we "claim" to be atheists. You don't want us to start saying things like, "This is my friend, Julie. She calls herself a Christian," do you? Then man up, brace yourself, and use the a-word all by itself. Practice in front of the mirror if you need to. You'll know you have the proper calm, factual tone when the glass doesn't shatter.
Please stop capitalizing the word "atheist." Unless it comes at the beginning of the sentence, you're just wasting ink. We know you're probably trying to be polite, but it doesn't work that way. There is no guy named Athe.
Some of you keep insisting that we're angry at your god. And then you laugh at us for being so silly – being angry at someone we don't even believe in. Well, you're right. That would be pretty darned silly. That's why we don't do it. Are you annoyed at Zeus? Do you have a grudge against the faerie folk? Of course not. It's the same for us – how could we feel anger or hatred toward a non-existent being? (Some of his followers cheese us off, but that's another story.)
Stop saying that deep down inside, we really do believe in your deity. Belief in the kind of guy who can create an entire universe with the force of a few well-turned phrases is not the sort of secret that fits neatly into a back pocket, as it were. If we thought this fellow was real, we'd be the first to know. And people don't tend to keep that particular nugget of information to themselves. Ever notice that?
Please understand that "You're such a nice person! I can't believe you're an atheist!" is not a compliment. More importantly, please understand that we understand that. Believe me, every single one of us has considered replying, "And you're so smart – I can't believe you're a Christian!" How about we all agree to not go there?
The only thing all occupants of foxholes have in common is access to weapons and a willingness to fight. It might be the better part of wisdom not to provoke them by insisting that you know more about their beliefs or lack thereof than they do.
How can our lives have any purpose without God? One word: chocolate.
It's sweet of you to worry about us, really it is. But it's not terribly helpful to tell us that we should go ahead and believe in your particular faith "just in case." Just in case what? In case a deity who can't distinguish heartfelt faith from apple-polishing affectation happens to be running the show?
Let's make a deal: we promise to stop asking that stupid question about whether God can make a rock so big he can't lift it. In exchange, please stop saying, "Well, God doesn't believe in atheists!" and then laughing like Shakespeare came back to life just long enough to write one last comedy.
Please quit asking us how or why we "turned our backs" on God. The whole point of being an atheist is that we don't see any reason to think we did any such thing.
Anyone who was born in an English-speaking country and is more than two minutes old has heard about God and Jesus. It's annoying when you assume that atheists just haven't heard enough about them, and that's why we're still atheists. Many of us have done extensive research on the subject of religion. Many of us credit our atheism to exactly that.
Please stop telling your atheist acquaintances that you'll miss us when you get to heaven. No, you won't. If you turn out to be right, you'll be in heaven – the place where, by definition, people don't feel sad. And if we're right – well, guess who won't be feeling much of anything?
If you've ever said, "You can't prove there isn't a God" – first of all, congratulations. You're officially four years old. Second, we never said we could. But until you can show some serious proof that there is one, we see no reason to believe. There's nothing wrong with taking a leap of faith, provided you acknowledge that's what you're doing. Atheists simply prefer other forms of exercise.
Stop asking us how we can be moral without God. It's simple. We're awake, and we're not idiots. That's all it takes to figure out that sharing the planet with so many other people is a lot more pleasant when we also share some basic ideas about acceptable behavior. I don't like being stabbed; therefore I support laws against stabbing and promise not to stab anyone myself, no matter how much I may feel like doing so. See how easy?
So far as being a Christian is concerned, you're either a member of a persecuted minority, or part of a solid majority. Figure out which one of those is the case, and then live with it. You don't get to switch back and forth depending on whether you think you can smother dissent better at any given moment by either whining that everybody's always being mean to you, or bellowing that this is your house and you make the rules.
Speaking of persecuted minorities: Christianity used to be one. Did you fight your way to freedom of faith just so you could treat nonbelievers the same way they used to treat you?
Deborah Markus is very talented at bitter writing (see her Bitter Homeschooler's Wish List). She was editor and head screamer of Secular Homeschooling Magazine, and is now this close to finishing her young-adult novel, How to Write a Mutant Bestseller.
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