10 New Questions I’ve Never Been Asked About Atheism

10 New Questions I’ve Never Been Asked About Atheism February 12, 2019

We’ve covered the most common questions atheists get asked by theists, over and over and over again. Every questionnaire for atheists seems to have the same set of queries: Where does your morality come from? How can something come from nothing? How can an atheist have purpose? It really gets old, which is why, when I find questions that are out of the ordinary, I collect them until I have enough to write a post. Here are 10 such questions and my answers:

1. How do atheists name their children, if most names have some sort of religious background?

When you don’t believe something holds any power and is just a myth, you don’t view the traditions and language associated with it as anything other than old traditions and language. Biblical names are just names that came out of ancient stories, like Hercules or Athena or Batman. You might be shocked to know that my son has a biblical name. I’d say one of the more common ones, and it’s solely because we liked it. It totally suits him, and in our home, it has nothing to do with the Bible and everything to do with the fact that it was one of the few names Godless Dad and I agreed on that was not already associated with a lacklustre Quarterback or the lead singer of a 90s noise rock band. No, there were no Thurstons or Bradys in the cards.

To answer the question, we choose names based on many factors: passing down family names, personal significance, we like the sound of it, or maybe it just rhymes with our favourite food.

2. Is atheism a form of Satanism?

Yes. We believe in Satan, but not God. We don’t believe the outlandish stories in the Bible, except the ones about Lucifer. You can imagine the cognitive dissonance that goes on in our minds when most of those stories feature God quite prominently. Easily dealt with, though. We just take a Sharpie to our Bibles and cross out any reference to God. Satan becomes an angel cast out of heaven by [black rectangle].

Of course, I’m pulling your leg. Oddly, most forms of Satanists don’t believe in Satan, nor God, which makes them atheists. So, it’s fair to say Satanism can be a form of atheism, but no, not all atheists are Satanists. As for myself, I’m not a Satanist.

3. Why has atheism become so popular in the 21st century?

Because knowledge. We know more crap. For instance, we know now that in order for the human race to have the sort of diversity it does, we could not have descended once from one family, let alone done it twice. Genetic evidence disproves the Adam and Eve story as well as the tale of Noah’s Ark. We also know, through various forms of evidence, that the world is much older than what the Bible claims. We’ve been through thousands upon thousands of prophesied end times, without so much as a blip. We have a better idea of the vastness of the Universe, which makes tiny, minuscule us being the entire purpose of it all a little silly. We know so much more now and are filling the gaps that used to be filled by God. The more we learn about ourselves and the Universe, the less use for God there will be.

4. Why do atheists choose atheism?

We don’t. We just spend some time thinking about things and learning about the world around us and eventually come to a point where believing the extraordinary claims made by religions all over the world is impossible. Even if we tried, we could not believe without a lobotomy or severe and extreme denial. It’s not a choice. It’s a realization of truth.

5. Are atheists a threat to the United States?

Yes. If what you mean by the “United States” is a gun-crazed land of fatties so obsessed with their Jeeby that they willingly starve their own children to erect 9-story crosses, then yeah, atheists are a threat to that for sure. If what you mean by the “United States” is a country founded on secular values with the separation of church and state written into the very foundation of its nationhood, then no. No, atheists will be your saving grace.

6. How do atheists keep a positive outlook on life?

Pretty easy. We don’t live our every day preparing to die. We live for this life, not the next one. We’re not involved in death cults that force us into behaviours that we normally would not be okay with, just so that after we die, we get to go to magical fairyland in the sky. We’re not living to die, like religious people are. We’re living to live. Life becomes more valuable when we realize it’s our only one. When you let that sink in, you try harder to live it to its fullest.

7. Why do some atheists insist that atheism is not a “group”?

Because it’s not. While there are atheist groups, atheism itself is not a group. The only thing atheists all have in common is no belief in gods. Some atheists are pro-gun, others are anti-gun. Some are pro-choice, but it may surprise you that Christopher Hitchens was pro-life. Some are conservative, others are liberal. We have commies and feminists and anti-feminists and anarchists and vegetarians, vegans and omnivores. We have spiritual atheists and those atheists who’ve all but removed the word “spiritual” from their vocabulary. We have travellers and agoraphobes, cat lovers and dog lovers, black, white, Asian and aboriginal. We even have loads and loads of atheists all over the world who keep their atheism a secret. We have all sorts of atheists, and as you can imagine, some of these people have no interest in being in the same “group” as some of the others.

8. Why do so many atheists fail to understand that belief doesn’t require proof?

It’s not that we fail to understand that. We get it. What concerns atheists is that you’re so willing to believe things without proof. It makes us wonder where you might draw the line. At what point do you stop believing things if your line is not drawn at lack of evidence? We know some people don’t draw the line before child abuse, murder or even genocide. Weekly, there is a new story about some religiously inspired crime that has ended lives. It’s terrifying to us that so many people believe things with no evidence, because if your standard for believing things does not require evidence for them, then there is absolutely no way for us to ever know what your standard for believing things is and one day, we might be reading your name in the paper after some heinous, religiously inspired crime.

Most of the time, the question of evidence for God comes up in debates with atheists, because the theist is asserting that our lives will somehow be better if we believed. We usually counter that we will not believe without evidence… because our standard for what we will believe is based on evidence. There is no good reason for an atheist to believe anything until we see evidence for it.

9. What is paramount for most atheists?

Truth. Evidence. Life. Love. Humanity. The planet. Education. Freedom of speech. Human rights. Choice. Doubt. Exploration. Progress. Equality.

10. Is it difficult being an atheist?

Yes. For some more than others. I live in a pretty secular part of the world and most of the people around me are irreligious. However, there are countries where being an atheist draws violence, prison sentences and even death. Some families shun an atheist child, especially among the ranks of the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses. People have been disowned, kicked out of their homes, divorced, lost custody of their children, lost their jobs, been beaten up, hospitalized, jailed, tortured and murdered, all simply because they say they do not believe in God. I have it easy compared to many, many atheists out there. I can speak up without the threat of arrest or violence. That’s why I do. I hope that one day, all of our voices will get loud enough and prominent enough that they’ll see the futility in trying to silence us.

What are your answers to these questions? Let me know in the comments!

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Image: Creative Commons/Pixabay

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  • chemical

    I disagree with your answers to 3 and 4. I don’t think atheism became popular because “we have the facts”, so to speak, although I do agree that we do have the facts. Rather, I think atheism became somewhat popular due to the total and absolute failures of many of the most popular branches of Christianity practiced in America today.

    Over on Mehta’s Friendly Atheist blog, he had a blog post recently about a former fundie that is now an atheist. Read the comments on that post, and you will see that a lot of folks on FA suffered some serious crap because the church hates them for whatever reason (being LGBT showed up a lot). In those cases, the church failed those people. It failed to provide a community where they felt welcome.

    Our side wins by default, because we do have the facts, but people don’t go from Christian to atheist unless they have a reason to do so.

  • valleycat1

    #6. I am more positive and happy with my life now that I am not trying to meet some impossible standard of living, spending time trying to reconcile the wildly varying interpretations of the Bible and “what god wants” and hoping I pick the one version that is correct, or spending time praying for understanding the dichotomy between an all-powerful omniscient loving God who nevertheless allows great tragedy and evil to continue to torment even the most faithful and the innocents.

  • valleycat1

    Also, atheists are more visible now that they can easily find out they are not the only atheist, and that despite the continued social stigma, people can live normal lives. Since time immemorial there have been plenty of people who just went through the motions of religion because it was the expected norm, not because they were true believers (cough *Trump* cough).

  • Martin Penwald

    some people don’t draw the line before child abuse, murder or even genocide.

    And some don’t even draw the line there.

  • Michael Neville

    How do atheists name their children, if most names have some sort of religious background?

    I’m reminded of the old quip: Every Tom, Dick and Harry is named John.

    Why do so many atheists fail to understand that belief doesn’t require proof?

    I read this as: “Why do so many atheists refuse to accept belief based on faith?” Faith is what theists use to justify their belief because they don’t have evidence and they know they don’t have evidence. If theists had evidence they couldn’t find enough ten-foot poles to keep faith away. Over the centuries faith has become a “good thing” in the eyes of theists but it’s a cover for the lack of evidence to support beliefs.

  • Raging Bee

    Every questionnaire for atheists seems to have the same set of queries: Where does your morality come from? How can something come from nothing? How can an atheist have purpose? It really gets old…

    One reason it gets so old, is that the people asking the questions NEVER show ANY sign of receiving, publishing, acknowledging or discussing any of the answers we’ve been giving them for, what, about FIFTY-ODD YEARS NOW?

    Seriously, everyone who publicly asks any such questions needs to be totally swamped with emails asking why they’ve been ignoring our answers for over half a century.

  • Raging Bee

    How do atheists name their children, if most names have some sort of religious background?

    If you’re not bound to any particular religion, that just gives you all the more freedom to name your kids from any culture you want. Or from “Serenity” or “Game of Thrones.” Denarys and Arya seem like nice names for girls, no?

  • Raging Bee

    Why do so many atheists fail to understand that belief doesn’t require proof?

    Belief that is used to justify harmful actions does indeed require proof. A LOT of proof. If you want to take away my rights, or refuse to do something that’s clearly necessary and beneficial to millions of innocent people, than you need to show me a damn solid case to justify it.

  • Anat

    Or invent some. Very common in Israel, at least.

  • Anat

    Also, when something bad happens that’s not because the ruler of the entire cosmos is punishing me.

  • Michael Neville

    You have to be careful about Game of Thrones names. As Tyrion Lannister remarked: “Anyone named Desmond Crakehall must be a pervert.”

  • Raging Bee

    And definitely don’t name your weapons, because only cunts do that.

  • Raging Bee

    3. Why has atheism become so popular in the 21st century?

    Because religion has totally failed to live up to ANY of the promises made on its behalf, and far too many religious people have proven themselves to be the worst sorts of frauds, bigots, authoritarians and just plain assholes — every single chance they got.

  • Brian Davis

    How do atheists name their children, if most names have some sort of religious background?

    How do Christians name their days of the week?

  • ephemerol

    There is a short piece over at Recovering from Religion entitled “I’m Now Suspicious of…,” and one of the items on the list was the following:

    I’m suspicious of a group of people who claim to have a pure and perfect divine force living in and through them … but are no different from the rest of humanity at large.

    Born to devout parents of a fundy and legalistic sect, I accepted christianity from my earliest days from within an inherited worldview and upon the assumption that christianity had succeeded for my parents and for all the other adults who I came into contact with, who were older than me, and presumably wiser than me, and upon the corollary to that assumption that if I gave it the chance, that christianity would succeed for me on the same basis.

    A lot of water passes under the bridge and I look around and realize there’s no end of excuses offered up for church leaders who have extramarital affairs, turn out to be pedophiles, or even murderers. I have to wonder why, assuming christianity is a “real” thing, the churches have not established milestones to help members systematically manage their progress, or even developed any advanced material. Everything is aimed at the entry-level, and church is basically like a high-school curriculum, except you’re never allowed to graduate. Members claimed that a divine force was living in and through them, but their behavior told a different story, and the lack of any structure that one would normally expect to find in a secular environment of progress to keep people on-track and moving forward belies the vacuity of christianity—it is not structurable because there is nothing there to be structured. How does one “work out their salvation,” with, or without the fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12)? How does a christian “prove” any “thing,” let alone all of them (1 Thessalonians 5:21)? And nevermind that this is conceptually at odds with the faith imperative that trashes evidence-based approaches anyway (i.e. John 20:24-49, Hebrews 11:1). It is deeply indicting that a christian who decides to drill down into his religion will be forced by its contradictory nature to either cherry-pick or else abandon the religion altogether as unworkable. And as soon as one does drill through christianity’s surface crust, one discovers it is an empty shell. All of this offered an explanation as to why I never could find Jesus. For all I can tell, if any gods exist at all, I’m chopped liver to them all. If my prayers were ever answered, the answer was usually “no,” especially for things the bible said were among god’s key objectives for my life. This is what you would expect if there were no god.

    So, yeah, I’d say christianity failed. I set out to systematically get this thing called “salvation” handled and under control, and what happened instead was the entire thing crumbled into ashes before my eyes. I didn’t choose atheism. I wasn’t attracted to atheism. I wouldn’t even say that atheism has any facts. Rather, atheism is a description of what I was left with when the religion of my youth was carried away by the wind because it turned out not to have any facts. And because I’m now suspicious. It had nothing to do, at least in my case, with community because it wasn’t the people who failed me, it was the religion itself—it was Jesus himself—who failed us all, so to speak. Still, I’ll leave it up to the hard atheists to say that Jesus doesn’t exist: I just say that the ball is in his court. Although even if he did, somehow, manage to return the ball, he’d still have an awful lot of explaining to do…

  • Anat

    You don’t know how this reads to a Hebrew-speaker. Because in Hebrew a word that in antiquity meant ‘weapon’ in modernity became a slang word, the equivalent of ‘dick’.

  • Truth Is Trout There

    I know now that I’d i ever have a kid, I will name him or her Batman.

  • Anri

    Just so you remember what occurred to make Batman Batman.

  • Anri

    6. How do atheists keep a positive outlook on life?

    Some don’t. I know I struggle with this.
    But that’s entirely beside the point.

    “The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one.”
    – George Bernard Shaw

    Something doesn’t become truer just because it makes you happy. If a theist wants to invoke credo consolans, that’s fine by me – just so long as they understand that that is certainly not a compelling reason for me to join them in their belief, and absolutely not a compelling reason for me to accept any strictures they would place on me because of their faith.

  • Raging Bee

    Thank you, I aim to please, I’m here every day, please tip the wait-staff…g’night, you’re a lovely audience…

  • Raging Bee

    Did any of those questions come from sites where the public were given space to post answers? The last time I saw a Christian web-page with “questions for atheists,” there was no place to leave comments or answers. That says a lot.

  • Zeropoint

    Obviously, the kid will be adopted by a second set of parents and go on to live a secret live of luxury under the assumed name of “Bruce”.

  • islandbrewer

    All of these are right up there with “fucking magnets, how do they work?”

  • Or months?

  • MadScientist1023

    I’m not sure I’d argue that being an atheist is hard, at least not on its own. I used to be a pretty committed neo-pagan. Now that was hard, mostly because it was absurdly complicated and could take up a lot of time, energy, and money. I don’t really want to think about how many hours I spent at classes or events, or how much money I spent on ritual supplies.

    I think what’s hard is being a member of a religion or belief system that’s not approved of by family, friends, or society in general. The difficulties you list for atheists are certainly real for some people and for some parts of the world. Most of those issues, however, aren’t unique to atheism. A lot of that shunning and rejection happens to people who convert to the wrong brand of Christianity, Islam, etc. Atheism is only hard in the context that it will sometimes force you to go significantly against the cultural grain.

  • We gave both of our children Bible names, when we were Christians, but it had zero to do with the names being in the Bible. Maybe things have changed since the 80s, but Christians used to pick names because they liked how they sounded, and perhaps because of some family tie, exactly as you described the “atheist way.” And we picked one of their names that turned out to be one of the most popular that year, even though we didn’t know any other children with that name! So much for free will!

  • The Bible actually defines faith as a substitute for evidence and substance.

  • Pennybird

    Some of the names in the Bible are beautiful, so of course they’re used over and over. I wouldn’t associate you giving your children Biblical names as a Christian act anymore than calling one of them Taylor means you can sew.

  • Pennybird

    Is atheism a form of satanism? This shows how out of the loop the questioner is. How can you have an anti Christ if you don’t have a Christ?

    How do atheists keep a positive outlook on life? Well, for one thing, we, on masse, didn’t vote for the least qualified presidential candidate ever out of sheer desperation for something different, which kind of shows we have a better outlook on life than Evangelical Americans. But also, there are friends & family, good meals, pets, laughs, books & movies [the list goes on], and anticipation of the next good thing to come down the pike… all without the threat of damnation.

    Why do atheists fail to understand that faith doesn’t require proof? Some of us require proof. It’s our brain wiring.

    Is it difficult? Here in the northeast US, I doubt atheists are threatened with violence or losing their jobs much, but sometimes we have to be careful not to insult the believers we like. I once told someone I was atheist, confident it wouldn’t matter, and she said later it upset her so much she worried about me all week. I wish she understood there was no need to worry.

  • Jane Ravenswood

    #8 is always a good one. Considering the massive amounts of resources that Christians put into trying to find evidence, and buying crap from apologists to try to convince themselves that there realy are gods they don’t believe that belief doesn’t require evidence either. I most like when Christians are so desperate for evidence for their nonsense, that they accept the claims of a possible historical Joshua Ben Joseph, who was just a human who thought he was the messiah as “close enough”.

    #6, well, how do Christians? We get the nonsense “god doesn’t give you more than you can bear” but Christians all over the place commit suicide. So much for their god and their lies.

  • ThaneOfDrones

    Believers regularly use this standard of proof (or supporting evidence, to be technical) – against other people’s beliefs.

  • ThaneOfDrones

    But that’s always been true. One distinct difference in the 21st century is that now we have the Internet. This makes it harder to raise brainwashed children, and to keep them isolated from counter-arguments. Even just the knowledge that people exist who believe other things may cause a thoughtful person to realise: these various groups of people have incompatible beliefs. Most of them must be wrong.

  • soter phile

    How about another one:
    What do you make of Thomas Nagel’s critique of the New Atheists (e.g., the materialist, neo-Darwinian conception of nature is almost certainly false)?

    Or Nietzsche’s critique of commercialized nihilism?
    Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as science ‘without any presuppositions’; this thought does not bear thinking through, it is paralogical: a philosophy, a ‘faith,’ must always be there first of all, so that science can acquire from it that direction, a meaning, a limit, a method, a right to exist. … The truthful man, in the audacious and ultimate sense presupposed by the faith in science, thereby affirms another world than that of life, nature, and history; and insofar as he affirms this ‘other world,’ does this not mean that he has to deny its antithesis, this world, our world? … It is still a metaphysical faith that underlies our faith in science.

  • 24CaratHooligan

    My fundy parents gave both their daughters biblical names but not their sons… I try not to let it bother me because for the first 2 weeks of my life I had a beautiful and non-biblical name