How Not to Explain Atheism

Amanda at Irreverent Musings tells a story of a day at work and an overheard conversation. “Ira,” an atheist, was telling “Kelly” about how there was no afterlife. He added this: “When you die, your body will rot and be eaten by maggots. Life really has no point.”

Thank you, “Ira.” That helps. A lot.

We’ve seen this before: Atheists confident in their beliefs, saying things that are technically accurate, but unable to give the proper presentation. In this case, it’s like he’s doing it on purpose. “Ira” might as well have said, “I can live my life with these beliefs, but you can’t. You need the crutch of religion. Let me see your reaction as I tear you down. By the way, if you wouldn’t mind, let me go ahead and kick your knees out from under you…”

Thankfully, Amanda was there to save the day:

Later that afternoon, Kelly wandered over to my cubicle and grumbled, “Oh, I’m just having a great day—Ira told me I’m going to be eaten by maggots and that there isn’t any point to life. Did you hear?” Apparently, this was a case when I was supposed to ignore cubicle tenet number two and acknowledge that I had, indeed, been eavesdropping. I nodded. “My mother raised me as a Catholic,” Kelly continued, “she’d just be so upset to hear something like that.” I nodded again. “Why would he believe something like that?” she asked.

I took a deep breath as I prepared to out myself. “Well, actually, I’m also an atheist. However, I think Ira’s being a bit of a nihilist.” I explained how the lack of an afterlife just makes life sweeter—since we only get to try once, we should do as much with our lives as possible. I explained that, while I didn’t believe there was a prescribed “meaning” of life, we make our own meaning through social compacts and personal values. “Oh,” Kelly said, blinking a few times as she absorbed this. Then she smiled, “That’s really so much nicer. I’m so glad I met you, Amanda,” and wandered off…

That’s how you do it. Same beliefs. Better presentation.


[tags]atheist, atheism, Irreverent Musings, maggot, religion, nihilist[/tags]

  • http://www.irreverentmusings.com Amanda

    Many thanks for the mention and the link. A quick correction though– while I was guest blogging & cross posting on The Atheist Mama’s site, I am not, indeed The Atheist Mama (that’s Cassandra, the owner of http://www.theatheistmama.com). The closest I’ve gotten to parenting so far was when I owned two pet goats who liked to try to eat my house.

    I’m in the middle of your book and really enjoying it so far. It was great to meet you in Seattle!

    ~ Amanda Warner

  • http://friendlyatheist.com FriendlyAtheist

    That makes much more sense. I made changes in the posting above to correct the link. Hopefully, it didn’t confuse anyone!

  • http://www.secularstudents.org August E. Brunsman IV

    Hemant,

    Thank you for this oh-so-clear example of how to stay true to yourself but at the same time not turn people off.


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