According to virtually every study completed on the topic, Atheists are the most disliked and distrusted minority in America, and by a considerable margin. Eight states have constitutions that technically ban Atheists from holding public office, and Arkansas even bans Atheists from holding civil office and testifying in court. While I certainly don’t feel actively persecuted for my (lack of) religious beliefs, I have definitely felt prejudiced against at many points. Luckily, I have experienced very little in the way of public or official prejudice (except for a few teachers in school), but I have definitely seen quite a bit in my personal life and the personal lives of others. One thing that I have definitely noticed is that (even very well-intentioned) Believers have a tendency to ask Atheists more questions about their faith than they would a follower of a different religion. I don’t really mind as long as it’s not coming from a hateful place, but here are 5 that can be a little uncomfortable to answer in the best circumstances:
5. Why do you hate Christians?
I don’t hate Christians at all. The vast majority of people I know and care for deeply are Christians. I love and admire many Christians very much. This is the case with most Atheists. Are there Atheists that do hate Christians? Yes. Unfortunately, some of the most well-known and outspoken Atheists are in the Christian-hating category. They give most of us a bad name. However, TV and the media generally want the most shocking headlines that will incite the strongest emotions. The Christian-hating Atheists will generally provide that better than a more moderate voice. Just like the vast majority of Christians aren’t vile duck-calling bigots, the vast majority of Atheists don’t harbor some deep-seated animosity towards Believers.
4. Do you recite the Pledge of Allegiance?
Yes, I do. I just don’t say the “Under God” line. I’m a loyal American who loves this country. I just don’t believe that there’s a God over it, so I choose to ignore a line that I find personally distasteful. On a related note, it doesn’t particularly bother me that currency has “In God We Trust On It.” It’s money. I love it. It could have the phrase “JepH Juergens Eats Poop” on it, and I would still love it. It DOES really bother me that to testify in court (and various other governmental functions) you have to swear on a Bible, but only because of the implication that my word is somehow more valid because of someone else’s religious text.
3. Aren’t you afraid you’re going to Hell?
No, I am not. I don’t believe that Hell exists. Are you afraid that if someone doesn’t put coins on your corpse’s eyes that you won’t be able to pay Charon to ferry you across the River Styx? It’s the same for me and Hell. I don’t believe any reward or punishment is awaiting me after I die. I believe that nothing at all happens after I die. I just cease to exist. Is that comforting? Not really. But it’s what I believe. I don’t find it comforting that an infant would be doomed to an eternity of suffering because he or she wasn’t baptized. Every religion (or lack thereof) has plusses and minuses that you have to accept.
2. If there’s no Heaven or Hell, do you think people should be able to do anything they want?
No, I absolutely do not. Just because I don’t believe in divine reward/punishment doesn’t mean I don’t have morals. My morals are probably somewhat different than yours, sure, but I still have them. For example, I think there is absolutely nothing wrong with being gay or having premarital sex. There are some acts, however, which are just universally wrong, like murder or robbery. Just because I don’t believe in a higher power than the US government, doesn’t mean I think life should be nasty, brutish, and short. In my experience, Atheists are no more or less moral than Believers in any religion. Some are very moral, and some are very immoral. The quality of a person’s character has nothing to do with their faith, only who they actually are.
1. Why Are You An Atheist/Why Don’t You Believe In God?
I have two major problems with this question. The first is that you would only ask a question like this to an Atheist. When someone says that they’re Jewish or Muslim for example, I don’t hear anyone asking them why they don’t believe that Jesus Christ is their Lord and Savior. It’s just assumed that they were raised to believe that, and that it’s ok for that reason. It’s a little bit insulting to not have the same courtesy, as if Athiesm were not as inherently valid a belief system. The bigger issue is that there is no way that I can possibly answer this question in a non-offensive way. Obviously, I have rejected something that you believe very strongly as false. What is most meaningful, sacred, and true to you is a fictional piece of literature to me. That’s just what I believe. While I mean absolutely no disrespect to you personally and I completely respect and understand your belief, I just don’t share it. I don’t want to deconstruct what I feel are the weaknesses of your religion because I know how much it means to you, and I’d prefer that you not ask me to.