To Those Who Doubt Their Religion

This post isn’t for confirmed atheists, nor for confirmed theists. It’s not for people who’ve already made up their minds, one way or the other.

No, this post is for the seekers, the in-betweeners, the tormented doubters. It’s for the uncertain agnostics, people who aren’t certain what they believe; it’s for people who feel like they no longer belong in their church, but don’t know of an alternative; and it’s for people who are experiencing a full-blown crisis of faith and don’t know where to turn. If you found this post through a web search, it’s probably for you.

There are countless reasons why you might have come to this point. You may feel rejected or unwelcome at your church or your religious community, perhaps because you hold some views that are different from the orthodoxy. You may feel betrayed by a religious leader who turned out to be a hypocrite, or who abused the trust he was given. Or you may feel disappointed with God himself, perhaps because faith doesn’t offer the comfort you thought it would, or because promised miraculous help didn’t come when you needed it most. You may feel that your prayers aren’t being listened to, that there’s no one on the other end of the line. But however you came to this point, I’m almost certain that you feel like the only one who’s different, the only one who doesn’t fit in.

If you’re one of these people, I have a message for you: Atheism is an option. You don’t have to believe. You don’t need to belong to a religion to lead a fulfilling, moral, and happy life. You can be an atheist, and you don’t need to feel guilty about it. On the contrary, being an atheist can be a positive achievement to celebrate and take pride in.

The second most important thing I want to say to you, the seekers and the doubters, is this: You are not alone. There are others like you. In fact, there are more of us than you probably think. I’ve heard from other people who feel the same way, and nearly every prominent atheist I know can say the same. There are people in the pews and even behind the pulpits who no longer believe, but can’t say so because they don’t want to lose their major source of community, because they fear reprisal, or because they know no other way of making a living. I’d wager it’s more common than people think. Like an iceberg whose depths lie below the surface, the number of visible, outspoken atheists might well be dwarfed by the number of those who are still counted as religious only by default.

I have no doubt that you’ve heard plenty of gloomy and frightening stereotypes about atheists, and I can assure you that they are not true. Atheism is not incompatible with morality, nor does it require hating religious people, nor does it mean a life lacking happiness or meaning. In fact, the journey to atheism can be a wonderful, exhilarating liberation, as many who’ve walked that road can tell. The only thing being an atheist means is that you don’t believe in any gods. In every other respect, you can live your life however you want and be the same person you have always been.

If you’re intrigued by these words, or if you’re merely curious, there are plenty of resources where you can read and learn more, and numerous online communities – such as this one! – where you can participate.

If you choose to take the plunge and become an atheist, I can’t promise that you’ll never face misunderstanding, hatred, or prejudice. In fact, depending on where you live and how open you are about it, it’s likely that you will. But I and many others can testify that, in the long run, being true to yourself is far more satisfying than trying to live a lie. You don’t have to shout your nonbelief to the rooftops, but if you’re doubting your religion, consider atheism. You may find it far more fulfilling and liberating than you expect.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

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  • Warren

    I am a member of a local Baptist Church. I was raised in a Christian home and have been a Baptist all my life. I sing in the choir, have led our praise team, and perform many solos. I am also an atheist.

    I sincerely believed. I remember very clearly believing very strongly that God was out there listening to my prayers. I also clearly remember having all confidence I was going to heaven (which I was also certain existed – I still sometimes find myself tempted to believe in heaven).

    A few years ago, I finally admitted to myself that I did not believe, and that not believing simply made me an “atheist”. I don’t “know” there’s no God, but I know I can’t believe there is one given the current state of the evidence.

    I really wish I knew which others in my church were like me, but haven’t had the courage to ask. I talked to my wife about it about a year ago to find she felt the same way.

    If you don’t believe, you owe it to yourself to admit it to yourself.

  • http://avertyoureye.blogspot.com/ Teleprompter

    This is a beautiful post. As someone who was helped immensely through the writings of “Ebon’s Musings” during his own deconversion, I hope that more people are aided in their moments of doubt, and possibly panic, and comforted during what can be a difficult experience. However, it is worth it – if you are going through this right now – you are not alone.

  • David

    When it comes to atheism, which is, IMHO an intellectual accomplishment to be proud of, narrow, indeed, is the gate and the ways to theism in this society are broad.

  • http://www.waialeale.org MikeK

    Warren doesn’t “know” there is no God — which I think qualifies him more as an agnostic — as me. I certainly can’t prove there’s no God — although a christian, caring god, I’d have to call myself an atheist.

    I realized I wasn’t buying the BS when I was about fourteen or so, when I was a baptized, sunday school attending methodist. I certainly tried to believe but I found all these books on science, etc., a mite more compelling. And as the years pass, christianity just becomes more absurd.

    For example, why claim there only one “G”od when there’s all these gazillian supernatural beings floating around. So God would just be the boss God with all these minor gods (angels, demons, souls, etc.). Anyway why would he be a He (or a She) but wouldn’t God have to be an It. It probably doesn’t have gonads, testosterone, facial hair, and all those things that define a male.

    Another thing Preachers fuzz over is eternity — which has two meanings. They preach that it means forever but the other meaning is timeless. St. Augustine when asked what was going on before God created the Universe said in effect, “Nothing, you dummy. There is no time in heaven! God created time when he created the world.” (Which is not incompatible with the Big Bang Theory incidentally)

    The Catholic Church has defined(since 1869 — but they fuzz over that) that the soul comes into existence at the instant of conception — when they are also inoculated with original sin*. Having clarified 1800 years of confusion, since as many as fifty percent of embryos never see the light of day — being miscarried, etc., just what would the soul of a one week old embryo be. No eyes, no ears, no gray matter, no experience, thoughts, dreams. Does it continue to grow in heaven? Or is heaven populated by billions of embryo souls (along with the old senile ones) with less intellect than your average slug. And what does that say about intelligent design?

    And when I’m old and drooling, soiling myself and can’t find my slippers, would my soul grow younger (Unfortunately, that ain’t that long from now). Or, HEAVEN FORBID, do I stay in the same condition. If so what’s so heavenly about heaven. I pass.

    Is there some christian lurking out there who could clarify things.

    *Mary was immaculately conceived, so apparently God used some sort of cosmic condom to prevent her catching the “original sin” STD which I guess would make “original sin” the original STD.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Ebon:

    Excellent invitation. This should go at the top of your “must read” listing.

  • Warren

    MikeK, just to be clear, I’m exactly as “agnostic” about the biblical God as I am about Zeus, Vishnu, and Santa Claus. NOBODY can know these do not exist, so EVERYONE is agnostic by that definition. If the term describes everyone, then it is meaningless.

    I’m an “atheist” because I do not believe God exists. It isn’t that I don’t know – I don’t, but no one does. It is that I am unable to believe God exists any more than I am able to believe Santa exists, no matter how much I want to believe in either.

  • http://backacrosstheline.blogspot.com/ BamaGal

    Thank you for this post. I’ve been reading here for quite awhile. But this post really spoke to me. I’m in this kinda limbo. Not really knowing what to believe. I wish there was a place I could go for newbie atheists. Most of what I see and read on the net seems to talk above my head.

  • valhar2000

    Atheism is not incompatible with morality[...]

    I would go further, and say that in becoming an atheist you acquire a greater than ever freedom to do what is right; not what some priest tells you is right, but what you know, in your heart, is the right thing to do.

    Of course, religious belief doesn’t have to be an obstacle, but it certainly can be, and is for many people.

  • Kaltro

    “There are countless reasons why you might have come to this point. You may feel rejected or unwelcome at your church or your religious community, perhaps because you hold some views that are different from the orthodoxy.”

    Amusingly enough, I’ve felt this way towards parts of the atheist community for a while now. Even atheists have their orthodoxies, and some more strongly than others. Thanks to the increasing militancy of atheists like yourself I’ve grown more and more agnostic as time goes by.

  • Ambrosia

    Thanks to the increasing militancy of atheists like yourself I’ve grown more and more agnostic as time goes by.

    Please define “militancy”.
    Please provide instances of same in the above post.

  • Siamang

    “Thanks to the increasing militancy of atheists like yourself I’ve grown more and more agnostic as time goes by.”

    Okay, that statement makes no logical sense at all.

    Since agnosticism is a statement about the lack of knowledge of god’s existence, how can the attitude of another person change your knowledge about the existence or non-existence of a third entity.

    “I didn’t know if Scooby-Doo existed or not… but since the anti-cartoonists are so militant, I’ve started to think Scooby is real.”

    I’m agnostic about god, and I’m an atheist wrt holding religious beliefs and practices. I’m an atheist, and at the same time fully agnostic.

    I don’t care how big a dick someone is on either side of the faith divide, unless they have evidence I’m not going to change my epistemilogical position.

  • http://jewmanist.com Rose

    Nicely written. I often wonder how many non believers and doubters are out there afraid or unsure. It’s a good idea to reach out to all those who doubt and those who may be deists deep down but are afraid to admit even that. Honestly, I see the notion of religion itself more harmful than mere god-belief. However, let’s leave the semantics debate aside for now. In any case, it’s good to reach out to those who may already be there and just don’t know it yet.

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    Even atheists have their orthodoxies, and some more strongly than others.

    Yep! But we are a very broad church.

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  • Lunacrous

    Kaltro, if you find Ebon to be “militant,” then I fear that you have a skin several degrees thinner than edible rice paper. Seriously, he is one of the most calm, reasonable, and approachable writers I’ve run across on the internet, atheist or otherwise.

  • Michael

    “Amusingly enough, I’ve felt this way towards parts of the atheist community for a while now. Even atheists have their orthodoxies, and some more strongly than others. Thanks to the increasing militancy of atheists like yourself I’ve grown more and more agnostic as time goes by.”

    Ditto.

  • Ubi Dubium

    Overall a very nice piece, Ebon. The one phrase that concerns me is “take the plunge and become an atheist”. This sounds like someone just woke up one day and decided that they would become an atheist. That just doesn’t seem to describe the experiences I have read from many different people as they describe their loss of faith. Pretty much none of them “decided” to become atheists. They often fought it strenuously, trying to find any shred of anything that would let them cling to their faith. It was more a matter of finally admitting to themselves that their search for truth had led them to atheism.

    I think I’d say “If you choose to take the plunge and admit to yourself that maybe you have already become an atheist… Or “If you are ready to accept that the path you are on may one day lead you to atheism…” Or something like that.

    Thanks to the increasing militancy of atheists like yourself I’ve grown more and more agnostic as time goes by.

    Kaltro, your comment is interesting, but confusing. I certainly have never seen Ebon as militant. And even if some atheists are noisy and outspoken, how would that make the existence of a god or gods more likely than if we just all sat down and shut up?

  • billf

    Kaltro and Michael,

    If you find yourself becoming more agnostic then you were never “real” atheists anyways.

    Seriously though, you are changing your beliefs based upon the ‘militancy’ and the ‘orthodoxies’ of some atheists? That is just weird to me. Most atheists believe what they (don’t) believe because of a lack of any evidence for a god.

  • http://www.dangerousintersection.org Hank

    Kaltro, Michael

    Do you really allow the strength of your convictions be dictated by the strength of other peoples’? Pretty weak if that’s the case. Why should Ebon’s atheism and his expression of it have any impact at all on your own position on the issue? There’s more than one atheist in the world whose attitude I find disagreeable but it doesn’t stop me from concurring with them on the basics. If your favourite band had a fanbase mostly made up of assholes, would you like the band less?

    And what’s with describing calm, collected Ebon as “militant”? Come on, that’s right out of the creationist paranoia playbook. Seems that your definition of “militant” is as weak as your convictions.

  • Scotlyn

    Thanks Ebon,
    I went through my doubting phase over 20 years ago, and would certainly have appreciated this post, and others like it at the time. Instead, I engaged in a seemingly endless argument with my folks. The argument is over now, mainly because every discussion we have nowadays on the topic of God or religion confirms to me that my decision to leave my faith was the right one – and so I have no big need to argue any more. I’m convinced already. Are arguments mainly about convincing oneself?

    Anyway, my dad recently said to me: “I’m just trying to connect you to eternal life.” And I had a sudden revelation (not of the supernatural kind – just an internal intellectual “bing”) that the term “eternal life” is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. Life is not eternal, and cannot be, because it is about continual change, including both birth and death, growth and decay, one living thing’s decay providing for another’s growth. Whereas eternal things (and certainly the “heavenly” eternity I was taught to believe in) are things in stasis, caught in a forever changeless snapshot. How can that be life, as we know it? It can’t!

    Forgive me if I’m not explaining it as clearly as I saw it in my head, but moments like that continue to confirm to me that the faith framework I left behind is useless, outmoded, and too small and cramped for me to intellectually “grow up” inside of. To step out and look around was a kind of liberation, which I am still thankful for, everyday.

    (And I plan to live til I die)

  • Kaltro

    @Hank:
    What do you mean by ‘the basics’? If you simply mean questioning the existence of the supernatural then I agree. Ebon, however, doesn’t stop there. Sometimes it looks as though Ebon’s ideal atheist is also a progressive Democrat. Perhaps I’m wrong on that, but that’s been my impression.

    Also, dedicating a blog to promoting atheism and discrediting religion seems pretty militant to me. His sophistication as compared to some other atheists doesn’t lessen the militant purpose behind his writing.

    It’s his right, of course, to dedicate a blog to his cause. I’m just saying that his effect on some people is not what he intends.

    @Billf:

    Please try to avoid the No True Scostsman fallacy from now on. As to the evidence, I have yet to find truly convincing evidence for either position. Most arguments on both sides are based on assumptions that I have not been able to confirm or disprove to my own satisfaction. Take the nature of the universe for one. Is the universe eternal, or mortal? Can the question ever be answered meaningfully by humans? Increasingly I think not, and I find it better to be agnostic on the issue. I also disagree with the common position of some atheists that nothing can be learned from the religious of the past and the present. Not everything from our religious past is dark age superstition.

  • Ambrosia

    Oh my. “…dedicating a blog to promoting atheism and discrediting religion seems pretty militant to me.”

    You really should get out more, dear.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    Hello BamaGal,

    I’ve been reading here for quite awhile. But this post really spoke to me. I’m in this kinda limbo. Not really knowing what to believe. I wish there was a place I could go for newbie atheists. Most of what I see and read on the net seems to talk above my head.

    Far be it from me to presume, but I like to think that this place could be a home for newbie atheists. There are plenty of regular commenters here who would, I’m sure, be glad to offer their perspective on any question or worry you have. You’re also welcome to e-mail me if you’d rather ask a question more privately.

  • billf

    Uhh kaltro,

    My “No True Scotsman” statement was meant as sarcasm or humor as evidenced by the next sentence that starts with “Seriously though…”

    And I would have not responded at all if you had simply stated that you were an agnostic. I think that position can be defended quite easily. But no, what you said is: “Thanks to the increasing militancy of atheists like yourself I’ve grown more and more agnostic as time goes by.” I just don’t see the logic in your statement.

  • Wayne Essel

    Please to remember that there is no requirement to be either theist or atheist and that it is OK to be in limbo. “I don’t know” may be the most honest answer possible.

  • Danikajaye

    It was this site that helped me to define myself as an atheist. My mother never christened me because she thought that I should decide for myself what I believed in. So I have been mulling over my thoughts since I was a kid, just sitting back and watching the world at work to see what evidence would present itself. I knew I would never be a Christian because it just didn’t add up for me. Even as a 10 year old the logic seemed circular, the morality appeared skewed and all the followers (particularly my devout cousins) seemed to be riddled with guilt and thoroughly depressed. It also didn’t help that every time I set foot in a church my skin involuntarily started to crawl. I also looked at other religions but the idea of a diety seemed about as likely as the elephant with the quantum wings. All these ideas were just a mess in my head until a few months ago. Reading the various postings here and seeing ideas the same as mine written in such a logical manner helped me to finally eject the last measley religious notions from my mind and define myself as a proud atheist. So thanks to Ebon and all the regular commenters for that!

  • Ambrosia

    Please to remember that there is no requirement to be either theist or atheist and that it is OK to be in limbo. “I don’t know” may be the most honest answer possible.

    Absolutely. Can anyone prove there aren’t fairies at the bottom of the garden? If god and/or jesus shows up in my living room and turns water to wine, I’m in. Otherwise, not so much.

  • http://anexerciseinfutility.blogspot.com Tommykey

    Having an atheist blog makes on a militant? That’s absurd. If I threw rocks through church windows or keyed cars in church or synagogue parking lots, then I would be a militant atheist.

  • http://www.dangerousintersection.org Hank

    Kaltro

    There’s really only one basic to atheism: that you find the claims of theists reagrding the existence of gods without merit; ergo you do not believe gods exists. Indeed, you CAN not believe it because there’s nothing but hearsay to support it. It’s a single position on one question and it leaves endless space for atheists to disagree about anything & everything else including one’s expression of their views. On that, I still don’t understand how the strength of Ebon’s views undermine your own.

    Still on this militancy thing too, I see. There’s nothing militant about starting a blog to express your views or to examine the views of others. Would I be a “militant collector” if I started a blog to share my die-cast car collection and try to reach other like-minded people? Is a lawyer a “militant” because he seeks to disprove the claims of the prosecution? Am I a “militant musician” because my band has a myspace page and we’re trying to let people know about our work?

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    To describe Ebon as militant is way overstating his position IMHO. But he is evangelical, for which I do not censure him one iota. Living as he does in a country where religion heavily influences the socio-political climate I can understand why he feels the need to balance the rhetoric of the xian right with a positive atheist manifesto. I have said to Ebon privately in the past that perhaps in the U.K and Northern Europe generally some of the evangelical imperative could be lost on potential readers of his book as we seem to exist in a state of religious indifference most of the time. I am sure however that there are many in the U.S and other societies where living openly as an atheist is difficult and challenging and I applaud Ebon for offering this refuge of sanity.

  • Scotlyn

    Steve,
    I would agree that, compared to the US (where my family is from, and where I do spend some time)

    perhaps in the U.K and Northern Europe generally some of the evangelical imperative could be lost on potential readers of his book as we seem to exist in a state of religious indifference most of the time.

    Probably one of the key attractions of establishing myself in Ireland for the past 27 years, after arriving here as a green tourist, was that Ireland in the early 80′s was moving in precisely the opposite direction to the US. Irish people were very obviously (to me as an outsider, anyway) in the process of discarding a religion – if not knocking it down in the street, they were at least giving it a walking stick, helping it find its false teeth, and showing it it’s place in the corner by the fire.

    The US I had left behind, was swiftly abandoning the legacy of the Swinging and all-forgiving 60′s and seeking both political and religious certainties as hard as it could – and it wanted them as muscular and in-your-face as possible. The ascendency of Reagan’s Republicans and of the Moral Majority happened in lockstep, and addressed this need. For me, Ireland in the 80′s was refreshingly arreligious, or heading that way, (despite its reputation) and an excellent place for me to grow into my own apostasy. The recent publication of the Ryan report (re church institutional abuse) is the natural result of the quiet change of hearts and minds that was taking place here already when I arrived.

    This is just by way of agreeing with Steve. It is not culturally difficult to be an atheist everywhere in the world. Right now, in Europe, it’s fairly easy.

    However, it is of interest that if we meet a religious fundamentalist in Europe, nowadays, that person is more likely to be a Muslim than a Christian – and more Europeans are converting to Islam than to Christianity. Personally, as I know far less about the Muslim religion, or about how its children and converts are indoctrinated (compared to the Christian religion, on which I’m an expert), I don’t really know what to do about this. That is to say, I don’t want my children growing up in a society that has started to go the other way again, and seek the certainty of religious fundamentalism with any religion. I’d certainly be interested in hearing from Muslim-reared agnostics, atheists or apostates, though. There do not seem to be many people on this site coming from that background.

  • Scotlyn

    Ebon, forgive if this is slightly off-topic, but there was an atheist website that helped me enormously when I read through its offerings a few years ago – but I cannot find it now. Perhaps someone here would recognise it. Its articles included a very thoughtful personal “journey to atheism” piece, lots of articles on atheist thought and morality, quite a bit on evolution vs creationism, and its author, as I remember, mentioned getting called to serve in Iraq – probably 2003-2005 – as a reason for which to stop posting for awhile. The look of the website was very old-fashioned – a minimum of images and lots of text (which is still the way I prefer them). I never came on the site again, but would like to re-visit if anyone here recognises it, and can point me in its direction. I’m very curious to know if the author survived his service call, and what his subsequent ethical musings on war and atheism might look like.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Also, dedicating a blog to promoting atheism and discrediting religion seems pretty militant to me.

    Lame. Going on a crusade would be militant. Killing a ferw tens of thousands of witches would be militant. Flying a jetliner into a building would be militant. Preventing terminally ill people from travelling internationally to commit euthanasia would be militant. What a sad and debased version of the language you speak.

  • http://uncyclopedia.org/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    If Ebon represents the horror of “militant atheism”, then atheism isn’t doing too bad.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Also, dedicating a blog to promoting atheism and discrediting religion seems pretty militant to me. His sophistication as compared to some other atheists doesn’t lessen the militant purpose behind his writing.

    Hmm. I notice the proliferation of militant Christianity, as evidenced by their multiplying numbers of websites, isn’t pushing you towards atheism. And why is it “militant” to speak one’s mind on an important issue?

  • John

    Can we please stop using the word “militant” to describe people who are speaking publicly, putting ads on buses, and, at their most extreme, filing fucking lawsuits?

    Let’s take PZ Myers at his very worst: he’s used the words “fuck you” on rare occasions, and one time he stuck a nail through someone’s sacred cow wafer. No guns, no force, no coercion, just symbolism and offensive language, and that’s “militant”?

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  • http://evilburnee.co.uk PaulJ

    An atheist is someone who doesn’t believe in a god or gods. A militant atheist is someone who, when asked “Are you an atheist?” replies “Yes.”

    http://www.jesusandmo.net/2009/06/26/aback/

  • velkyn

    ” Is the universe eternal, or mortal? Can the question ever be answered meaningfully by humans? ”

    wow, a lovely god of the gaps argument, kaltro.

  • http://avertyoureye.blogspot.com/ Teleprompter

    I dig ditches for money, because I need to help pay for college.

    Does that make me a militant capitalist?

    I read atheist/skeptic blogs, and occasionally, I bother to write for my own atheist blog. Sometimes, I say “yes” when people ask me if I’m an atheist. Sometimes.

    Echoing several previous comments: one has to blow up a building to be called a militant Christian or Muslim, but to be labeled a militant atheist, apparently all you have to do is exist.

    Here’s a helpful hint for confused theists: coexist =/= not existing or hiding or shutting up or staying silent.

  • Kaltro

    Paul, I’d change that to: “An atheist is someone who doesn’t believe in a god or gods. A militant atheist is someone who tells you he is an atheist and that you should be one too or else you’re a dangerous, superstitious fossil from the dark ages.”

    Thumpalumpacus, it’s militant to insist that your way must be the right way even though a vigorous debate is still going on. You can’t just strut around saying “I won!” That’s why I find both sides of the religious debate unsatisfactory.

  • http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Kaltro “That’s why I find both sides of the religious debate unsatisfactory.”
    Perhaps these delicious, just-out-of-the-oven, homemade cookies would change your mind, hmmm?

  • chancelikely

    “Militant” appears to have wildly different meanings depending on the person the term is being applied to.

    In order to be a militant Muslim, you have to guide planes into buildings or take up arms against the state of Israel.

    In order to be a militant Christian, you have to shoot a doctor who performs abortions. (Bonus irony deafness points if you shoot him while he’s performing his duties as a church usher.)

    In order to be a militant atheist, apparently all it takes is a website.

  • Kaltro

    Modusoperandi, what kind did you make? Do you deliver?

  • http://www.dangerousintersection.org Hank

    Kaltro

    “An atheist is someone who doesn’t believe in a god or gods. A militant atheist is someone who tells you he is an atheist and that you should be one too or else you’re a dangerous, superstitious fossil from the dark ages.”

    By that definition, every single evangelical Christian who’s ever said “I’m a Christian and you should be one too or else you’re a dangerous sinful amoral bastard destined for Hell” is a militant as well. Like the gazillions who’ve said it to me directly, or implied it by knocking on my goddam door very early on a Saturday to insist I’m wrong & doomed if I don’t join them, without even finding out what I believe first. They may be activists, they may be evangelists, they may be offensive, annoying and wasting their frickin’ time, but I wouldn’t call them militant.

    Nowhere have I read Ebon calling people “dangerous superstitious fossils”, let alone insisting that others subscribe to his views! He exposes religious illogic and questions dogma. He explains atheism accurately and hopes his arguments will persuade. He offers a positive version of nonbelief to counter the endless negative attitudes toward nonbelief, especially in the US. Anachronistic, soft-peddling attitudes such as the one you seem to hold. Is what he and others do really so in-your-face & militant, this presenting an opposing viewpoint to established dogma in a public arena? If noone ever openly disagreed with anyone, or did so in such a roundabout and half-assed way as to not present any serious challenge to other peoples’ beliefs, honest discussion would never happen and ideas would never progress. The fact that the bar for offending religious belief in particular is lower than a limbo stick at a luau doesn’t help either: clearly it seems all you have to do to offend some religious people (and some agnostics!) is to not be one of them. If people can’t handle a bit of disagreement over their views, perhaps their views aren’t as ironclad and defensible and inviolable as they’d like to think.

    To conclude:

    Kaltro, are you a militant agnostic for taking atheist writers to task for daring to share their views? By your own weak standard, it certainly seems so.

  • Kaltro

    Hank, I’m not taking anybody to task for sharing their (un)religious views. I’m objecting to the claim that such views are more than theories.

    So far the (un)religious don’t have enough evidence to back up some of their most basic assumptions. Perhaps there will never be enough evidence either way. Whatever the case, I’d rather wait than rush to a conclusion.

  • http://www.dangerousintersection.org Hank

    Kaltro

    “So far the (un)religious don’t have enough evidence to back up some of their most basic assumptions. Perhaps there will never be enough evidence either way. Whatever the case, I’d rather wait than rush to a conclusion.”

    What exactly are our basic assumptions? That the Bible can’t be trusted? That’s more than an assumption, you need only compare the Bible to reality & contemporary historical accounts. That God doesn’t exist? That’s not an assumption, it’s an evaluation of the claims of religious people. As I said: they make the claim, the onus is on them to do the backing up. If they can’t back their claims up with anything other than blind faith that their claims are true, they can’t seriously believe others to take it as gospel and they shouldn’t get so bloody offended if someone dares to point out the holes in their story. All we assume, if anything, is that it’s reasonable to provide support for a claim. Religions don’t – they assume their word is good enough.

    Non-belief is not an absolute position either, like you seem to think it is. We’re just as open to being disproven as anyone who’s still on the fence. The fact that we currently view the evidence to support religious claims as non-existent doesn’t mean we’re fundamentalist about it. Too many people put atheism and religion in the same basket, viewing them both as equally dogmatic faith-systems. I fear you may be doing the same thing.

  • http://www.WorldOfPrime.com Yahzi

    An atheist is someone who doesn’t believe in a god or gods. A militant atheist is someone who, when asked “Are you an atheist?” replies “Yes.”
    Worth repeating!

    I was in a parking lot once, and a lady tried to hand me some religious literature. I said, “No thanks, I’m an atheist.”

    She said, “But you can’t be an atheist – you’re too nice.”

    So I smacked her in the head and asked, “There, is that better?”

    OK… I didn’t actually smack her… but I really wanted to.

  • http://uncyclopedia.org/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Kaltro “Modusoperandi, what kind did you make?”
    The good kind.

    “Do you deliver?”
    No. We atheists live in a deliveryless universe. Theists, meanwhile, continue to grapple with the PoD (Problem of Delivery).

  • Kaltro

    Hank, I had in mind issues such as the origins of matter, the age of the universe, and other such things. Most atheists assume that the universe is self-sufficient and can explain itself, and most theists assume that the universe was created. How can either assumption be verified at the present time? Until more evidence comes to light I’m not taking a definite position on it.

    As I’ve said before, I don’t find theistic reasoning any more convincing than atheistic reasoning. Both sides are currently untenable to me.

    Modus, no wonder atheists are a minority if they won’t even deliver. What kind of cruddy service is that? If your cookies are so great you should be delivering them wherever they might be ordered. No tips either with that attitude. Most worrisome is that you won’t even tell me what kind they are. It’s not that hard. Chocolate chip? Oatmeal? What? Or did you make a batch of good ol’ Drain-o cookies?

    I mean, at least theists are attempting delivery. That wins them points for effort if nothing else.

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    I mean, at least theists are attempting delivery. That wins them points for effort if nothing else.

    But theist cookies are of the “banana surprise” variety. What’s the surprise? No banana!

  • http://dangerousintersection.org Hank

    Hey Kaltro

    “Hank, I had in mind issues such as the origins of matter, the age of the universe, and other such things. Most atheists assume that the universe is self-sufficient and can explain itself, and most theists assume that the universe was created. How can either assumption be verified at the present time? Until more evidence comes to light I’m not taking a definite position on it.”

    Kaltro, that’s still not an assumption as such. We don’t just assume the universe can explain itself – it’s just a view based on the evidence thus far. Explanations don’t always come straight away, but scientists are a patient lot (though so are some theists, waiting around two millennia for an absent saviour, bless ‘em). So far, everything we know about the universe (as far as it’s possible to know anything) is based on investigation of the universe as it is, not as we may wish it to be, not as someone’s dogma prescribes and not with the attitude that taking any kind of position is pointless because it may all be some grand illusion (or because we’re hedging our bets – at the Pearly Gates, God might be less angry at an agnostic who’s wrong than at an atheist :)).

    The view that the universe, for example, is 13.7 billion years old (give or take an aeon) is based on the evidence available within the universe itself (really, where else would you have people look?). The view that we’re products of four billion years of evolution is not simply assumed, it’s based on countless pieces of evidence spread across numerous scientific disciplines. Neither can be verified absolutely – nothing can, especially if you’re a postmodernist or a Christian out to (falsely) portray science or atheism as competing religions – but they’re the best explanations possible. In short, as long as humans have been investigating the universe, it has been repeatedly shown to function as if there were no intelligent cause or operator behind it. If there is or was an intelligent cause or operator behind the universe it’s either dead, apathetic, absent or has decided to cover its tracks and make itself utterly invisible (and is perhaps laughing its arse off, watching people kill & oppress & annoy each other in its name).

    On the flip side: the view that the universe and everything in it was completed in six days by a magical being is not supported by anything except a story which just says that it happened that way.

    Who’s making the assumptions here?

  • Jennifer A. Burdoo

    Scotlyn: Was the site perhaps http://www.positiveatheism.org/index.shtml?

  • Scotlyn

    Modus, since you are unable to deliver your reportedly delicious atheistic cookies, and theists keep trying, unconvincingly, to deliver their surprise absense of banana, I guess I’ll just have to bake my own. ;-)

  • CSN

    Kaltro, you seem to have enough sense not to believe in things like 6-day creation or the truth of any ancient books of myths. Once you shed the dogma you’re really only left with “The God of Shadow and Vapor” (a good and relevant article by our resident militant blogger) and given the choice of being agnostic and waiting for “more evidence to come to light” about a non-issue or claiming atheism, which as far as the religious are concerned you are anyway, the choice seems easy.

  • Scotlyn

    Jennifer, thanks, I just checked the link and it is very good. But I searched “Iraq” on the site, and got no references to the author himself signing up to serve, which is what I remember from the site I’m looking for. However, the general tone and type of articles are very, very similar. Take care, and thanks for the tip!

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    Scotlyn: You may be thinking of Mark Vuletic.

  • Scotlyn

    Ebon, thanks – that is the one – although the current look is a lot more swish than it used to be. For a good long while, Mark was my “home for newbie atheists” and his was the first, and still among the most thoughtful, descriptions of the journey to atheism that I’ve read.

    I have to say, you certainly provide a comfy place to hang out for an “oldie atheist” – (although, as a matter of semantics, I still prefer the term “godless” – since that implies god simply isn’t there – where “atheist” still seems to place the emphasis on what I believe, or don’t.)

  • http://blog.monkeymetal.com Josh Zytkiewicz

    @Scotlyn

    While on the one hand individuals do die, and do not have eternal life, there is eternal life in each of us in our genes. You, I, and everyone else on this planet share most of the same genes. When we have children our genes get passed on for one more generation.

    In fact there is evidence that certain parts of our genetic makeup have remained unchanged for over 400 million years. That we share certain genes with almost every living creature on this planet.
    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2004/05/08/GENES.TMP&type=science

    To me that IS eternal life.

  • Kaltro

    Hank, if persons in the past hadn’t assumed the universe was at least to some extent rational and intelligible what reason would there be to investigate it? There’s no point in investigating if you think the universe is just a chaotic and random jumble of nonsense. The assumption of intelligibility precedes any investigation.

    Historically, it can be argued that this assumption grew out of the theistic idea that a god had created the universe in an ordered and rational manner that was worthy of investigation and understanding.

    Nowadays atheists keep the assumption of intelligibility but discard the religious roots it came from. I’m sure some will vehemently deny the religious roots altogether.

    Also, your bit about believing the world was created in six days is simplistic. Christian opinion on the topic varies wildly. Catholic thought in particular is very open to new scientific discoveries, and arguably has been since its early days.

  • Erika

    Kaltro, I believe that scientists (whether atheist or not) keep the assumption of intelligibility of the universe because it is what empirically seems to work, not because of some some pie in the sky assumption that the universe is “rational” in any sense of the word that implies intention on the part of the universe or some entity that created the universe.

    I believe that the universe can be analyzed rationally because when I observe it and make predictions based on those observations, my predictions are often right. The only assumption here, and I will freely admit that it is an assumption, is that what worked in the past (observations providing a reliable basis for predictions) will continue to work in the future.

  • Pi Guy

    Catholic thought in particular is very open to new scientific discoveries, and arguably has been since its early days.

    Have you ever heard of Galileo Galilei? How about Giordano Bruno? How about the current Pope who overtly denies the effectiveness of condom use despite mountains of research to the contrary?

    You will find that more than a few atheists, militant (whatever the heck that means) or otherwise, are quick to point out – with evidence to back their claim – that the Catholic church has, in fact, demonstrated that they are most untolerant of anyone or anything that undermines their ancient, static, controlling message. They had this broad, all-encompassing category of crimes against the church called ‘heresy’ which essentially meant “No new thinking allowed”. Science, by that definition, will always be heretical.

    For some, like me, learning more about the atrocities of the church and their behavior toward any discoveries of how the real world behaves that conflict with the word of their god was one of the earliest and most powerful motivations for moving away from the church.

    BTW: Probably no surprise to you that I vehemently deny the religious roots altogether.

  • CSN

    Kaltro,

    Whether or not there are religious roots to approaching the world rationally (and the theory that the human mind evolved to think rationally because *it works* seems entirely more likely) is irrelevant. The religious roots of an idea that has since shed its religious origin do not devalue the idea nor indebt it to its origin any more than a piece of art created for religious reasons becomes worthless or beyond understanding to the irreligious.

    The idea that religious communities are welcoming to new scientific ideas is laughable, (until they’ve existed long enough to be both utterly undeniable and shoehorned into the ideology, that is.)

    Feel free to try and demonstrate the religious invention of rational thought and the religious communities’ warm acceptance of scientific revolutions.

  • Scotlyn

    @ Josh (#60). You make an interesting point- presumably answering mine in #21, and I accept that atoms are about as eternal as anything in life, and that DNA patterns are (almost) as old as anything living, and such patterns will surely persist, if not for eternity, then for a very long time after my death and yours.

    However, in the context of the conversation I referred to, my dad, along with most other Christians very clearly understands “eternal life” to refer to the eternal persistence of the consciousness aka “I”. Nothing in the guaranteed persistence of the atoms and molecules that are currently contained within the boundary of my skin, nor in the fact that my DNA, shared with so many other beings on the planet, has also found two direct vessels of transmission in the form of my sons, corresponds in any way with the notion that “I”, the awareness that exists behind my eyes, can “live” for all “eternity.” But this is the religious promise that my dad considers me to be cavalierly foregoing.

    But since that “I” – despite my strong sensation that it is a single unified thing – is a moveable, changeable feast, which part is supposed to exist throughout eternity? – my exuberant, ignorant, gland-driven, fast-paced, exciting youth? my creaky, sensible, slow, measured old age (should I live that long)? The unfulfilled wanting of spurned yearning? The discovery and wonder of requited love? The xxx-ness of making love? The pain and exhilaration of childbirth? The uncertainty of doubt? The ache of separation as children find their own way and grow up on you? The fear of the increasing unreliability of body and mind? In all of the daily chaos, and the slower changes that are only manifest over the years, the gain and loss of different abilities, knowledge, experience, where is the essential “I” that is supposed to even want to be in existence forever? The only way I can picture it is to freezeframe a single snapshot, and call it “I” – but then, whatever its prolonged existence would amount to, it would in no way resemble what I call “life” – ever-changing, ever-chaotic…

    As I said – I intend to live til I die, and then die with gratitude, making an end for myself, and a space for another conscious complicated collection of atoms and DNA to take my place.

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    Scotlyn -

    But since that “I” – despite my strong sensation that it is a single unified thing – is a moveable, changeable feast, which part is supposed to exist throughout eternity? – my exuberant, ignorant, gland-driven, fast-paced, exciting youth? my creaky, sensible, slow, measured old age (should I live that long)? The unfulfilled wanting of spurned yearning? The discovery and wonder of requited love? The xxx-ness of making love? The pain and exhilaration of childbirth? The uncertainty of doubt? The ache of separation as children find their own way and grow up on you? The fear of the increasing unreliability of body and mind? In all of the daily chaos, and the slower changes that are only manifest over the years, the gain and loss of different abilities, knowledge, experience, where is the essential “I” that is supposed to even want to be in existence forever?

    This is beautiful. I find myself tonight, not unexpectedly, having to consider writing a eulogy for my father. I may well paraphrase (if not outright plagiarise) some of this.

  • Scotlyn

    Feel free, Steve. I’m very sorry for your loss. “Honour thy father” in whatever way seems right to you.

  • Tony

    Thank you,

    it is increasingly becoming true that I’m a doubter. In some ways, I do have a bit of fear when it comes time to telling my folks that I have doubts about everything that Christianity has lead us to believe. However, I can’t deny myself and rational thought. For the longest time, I’ve had this dread that maybe this religion is a hoax. That we are completely misinterpreting everything. You know, its the worst case of playing Telephone ever. Now, it’s more serious. It’s the fact that Christianity has blood on its hands. It’s the religious wars. We’ve seen Muslim extremists and know what religious franatics are capable of…all to please their god. Which is total BS, because all religions are supposed to condemn the murdering of others.

    Right now, I feel that everyone should think, not believe, however they want without being condemned for it. If they want to think there is a god and if that makes them happy…then its okay. However, don’t think your better then anyone or push it on anyone else. We have alot of issues and we should use common sense, not religious doctrines and dogmas, but I guess that’s wishful thinking. If there is anything everyone has in common and something we should be showing respect for, is this planet…in any instant, it could show its fury and wipe us out.

  • http://christophervalin.wordpress.com Christopher Valin

    Ebon, thanks so much for this great article. I wish I had read somthing like it twenty years ago. As it is, I spent years calling myself an agnostic without realizing that I was really an atheist (and, perhaps, had a little bit of trouble shedding that last bit of Catholic brainwashing from childhood).

    Kaltro, while I totally disagree with you, I admire you for trying to hold your own against practically everyone else in this comment section. It seems to me that people are getting too caught up in labels, and that what you’re really attempting to avoid is being identified with what some perceive as a militant atheist movement. Having been on the receiving end of Christian hostility in the past myself, I can understand that. But it still doesn’t change the fact that most people would consider someone who doesn’t believe in gods an atheist. Questioning the rest of the universe, to me anyway, is a different matter.

    I know from personal experience that there is a certain safety in calling oneself “agnostic.” Most Christians (and other religious people) still tolerate you because they consider you a “free agent” and believe they can eventually win you over to their team. But, once you call yourself an atheist, you become one of the “bad guys” (at least in most parts of America), and often face many more problems.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    I’m sorry to hear about your father, Steve. That comment by Scotlyn was wonderful, and I certainly think it would be a fitting part of a humanist memorial service.

    Also, I have a note on this whole “militancy” thing:

    Back in January, I wrote an essay titled “Enemy of Faith“. In that post, I said, as I’ve always maintained, that I am in favor of freedom of conscience. I completely support the right of people to live their lives however they choose, so long as those choices cause no harm to others. If your faith meets that criteria, then I’m not your enemy.

    However, respecting people’s choices is not incompatible with speaking your mind and trying to persuade others. Just because I respect your right to live your life as you wish, that doesn’t mean I can’t express my own views, or even that I can’t point out ways in which I feel my worldview is superior. If that alone is “militant,” then the definition of “militant” is stretched beyond plausibility.

    I’ve said it countless times, but it bears repeating: At this very moment, there are millions of religious believers who want to kill those who believe differently, who want to conquer civil government and use it to enforce their faith, who are willing to bomb, maim, oppress and torture in the service of God. The most “militant” thing that any atheist has done is write books. No rational person can believe for a moment that there’s any kind of moral equivalency here.

  • Chet

    Also, dedicating a blog to promoting atheism and discrediting religion seems pretty militant to me.

    That’s quite a bit of definition-creep if the new meaning of the word “militant” means “wanting to talk about it.”

    But, frankly, Kalto, we all know how this works: Ebon is an atheist, and his lips are moving; ergo, he’s a “militant.” The only non-militant atheists to people like you are the invisible, silent ones.

  • Chet

    humpalumpacus, it’s militant to insist that your way must be the right way even though a vigorous debate is still going on.

    Hrm, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find any example of a vigorous debate where the participants didn’t believe themselves to be clearly in the right. A debate between people who aren’t at all sure about their position is never vigorous and usually isn’t even a debate. It’s usually a mutual confusion session.

    Leaning against atheism because atheists seem to think they’re right to be so is pretty stupid, IMO. What do you want, atheists to say that atheism is wrong? I notice you’re making a pretty strong claim for agnosticism; should I take your advocacy as evidence that you’re wrong?

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Thumpalumpacus, it’s militant to insist that your way must be the right way even though a vigorous debate is still going on. You can’t just strut around saying “I won!” That’s why I find both sides of the religious debate unsatisfactory.

    Chet stole a bit o’ my thunder in pointing out that fact that I am on the atheist side of this debate because I am convinced it is true. This ain’t, after all, a forensics class, and speaking out for atheists everywhere is Ebon’s choice — not his teacher’s assignment.

    Furthermore, given that no one here is saying “we won!”, your claim in that regard would seem ill-founded. Have you any quotes?

    And as Hank above pointed out, the onus is on the claimant to produce evidence of a claim. The only claim I make is this: I see no evidence for any god or gods; therefore I do not believe god exists.

    Of course you realize that in choosing agnosticism, you have automatically asserted that you have no faith in god; in the words of Neil Peart, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”

  • pplr

    But Neil Peart may be wrong.

    I think there are people who can argue a point well regardless of if they believe in it.

    About the blog…. I wouldn’t be shocked to come across one encouraging Christians to become Muslims or vice versa, ditto for political parties and so on.

    There is a point I noted, and generally agree with but for one thing.:

    I’m sorry to hear about your father, Steve. That comment by Scotlyn was wonderful, and I certainly think it would be a fitting part of a humanist memorial service.
    Also, I have a note on this whole “militancy” thing:
    Back in January, I wrote an essay titled “Enemy of Faith”. In that post, I said, as I’ve always maintained, that I am in favor of freedom of conscience. I completely support the right of people to live their lives however they choose, so long as those choices cause no harm to others. If your faith meets that criteria, then I’m not your enemy.
    However, respecting people’s choices is not incompatible with speaking your mind and trying to persuade others. Just because I respect your right to live your life as you wish, that doesn’t mean I can’t express my own views, or even that I can’t point out ways in which I feel my worldview is superior. If that alone is “militant,” then the definition of “militant” is stretched beyond plausibility.
    I’ve said it countless times, but it bears repeating: At this very moment, there are millions of religious believers who want to kill those who believe differently, who want to conquer civil government and use it to enforce their faith, who are willing to bomb, maim, oppress and torture in the service of God. The most “militant” thing that any atheist has done is write books. No rational person can believe for a moment that there’s any kind of moral equivalency here.
    Comment #70 by: Ebonmuse | July 5, 2009, 2:56 pm

    I agree that people should be free to choose what they believe.

    I do this as a religious person and one who abhors when other religious people kill to enforce their beliefs on others.

    But Ebonmuse missed that atheists (some but not all), perhaps the real “militant” ones have killed, tortured, discriminated against and all the other bad and nasty things people can do to others of a different group.

    If it was Russian Communists (atheists with a strong streak of class warfare theory), French military units (around the time of “the Terror”), or Pol Pot’s followers there are atheists who have used deadly means to punish believers. This is part of intolerance and cruelty-something humans (Atheists, Christian, or whatever) are not immune to in our history.

    Saying only one group (often regardless of if you are talking about religious/non groups, ethnic groups, and so on) did _____ is often “selective history”-and I don’t know if I would use the word “militant” with that. But I would say it is inaccurate and shouldn’t be embraced.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    None of those atheists were killing in order to deconvert people to atheism.

  • Caiphen

    Guys

    I am a member of the SDA church and another non denominational church, which both generally believe in a literal 6 day creation. I’m a reasonable person and I can’t keep this going anymore. I haven’t believed in years, and in speight of my wife’s beliefs, I can’t perpetuate the nonsense anymore.

    I thought biblical prophecy could keep my faith going. It simply isn’t. Like the creationist movement, I was clutching at straws.

    I was once also quite homophobic at the height of my belief. For all you homosexuals out there, I’m so sorry.

    Daylight atheism is doing a fantastic job. For guys like, Thumpalumpacus, OMGF, Ebon, Steve Bowen and Modusoperandi, thankyou for your patience.

    Q) Does anybody out there have any knowledge about a good atheist/ humanist organisation in Queensland Australia? I’d love to meet up with like minded people.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Caiphen:

    These came up on Google; I hope they help.

    http://www.atheistfoundation.org.au/
    http://home.vicnet.net.au/~atheist/
    http://www.atheistdirectory.net/countries/or_aus.html

    And you need not thank me; our interchanges made me think, and that’s always a gift.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Ditto what Thump said. I’m glad that you had the courage to actually have an open mind Caiphen.

  • http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    We’re here for you, Caiphen.

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    Caiphen
    Here’s to you! As Thumpalumpacus says, the pleasure of the debate is thanks enough, even if thanks were needed. Loss of faith will I hope be no real loss for you and life free from religion is just as rich as one with (if not richer).

  • Caiphen

    Guys

    There’s no real great loss on my part. I haven’t really believed in years. But, to be honest, I just was keeping up appearances. Thankyou to mother goose that I no longer have to!

    Some of what I debated with you guys, I didn’t really believe. I wanted to see what your responses would be. The responses were informative and taught me a whole lot. Your arguments are by far the most impressive.

    I’m planning to go to the US next year, I may time it so I can attend the next convention you guys have.

    Take care.

  • Ritchie

    It’s very pleasantly humbling to be reminded every so often that these online discussions really do have profound impact on others from time to time.

    I spend quite a bit of time debating religion, and all too often no-one RELLY wants to listen to the other side and give way. It’s more often about trying to hone debating kills or stubbornly refusing to give way. I’m as guilty as any, I suppose.

    I had an upbringing of extremely slight religious expectation, so my ‘coming out’ as an atheist was greeting with no real scandal, surprise, or anything really which would merit the term ‘coming out’. It’s so easy to forget that deconverting from religion is not so easy for everyone.

    So hats off to you Caiphen. You’ve made a brave step, but I am confident you’ll find it a rewarding one.


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