They’re always the bad guy »« Anti-Caturday post

Call for submissions

I’ve been reading this book of 100 year old letters from atheists that was published as Letters from an Atheist Nation, and I was thinking that heck, I could do what Charles Chilton Moore did, only here in the 21st century on a blog instead of a newspaper. Moore asked his readership to write short essays, anything from a short paragraph to a couple of pages, that answered the question, “Why I am an atheist”, and then he published one in each issue of his newspaper.

So, I’m requesting submissions from you readers: short pieces titled “Why I am an atheist” which I’ll post here. Be sure to specify what name you’d like associated with it (pseudonyms are acceptable!), and if you’re willing, your general geographic location. Send them along, preferably as plain text, and I’ll make them a regular feature here.

Comments

  1. Nice Ogress says

    Oooh.

    I’m not so much an atheist as a recovering theist, but this is actually something I’ve been struggling to put to paper for months.

    So.

    I may send you something.

  2. June says

    Asking me why I am an atheist is like asking me why I am human. I was born that way 75 years ago, and I see no reason to switch.

  3. Lee says

    I was raised in a very liberal christian community. They were always very careful to tell me that it was ok to believe in evolution. They did get a little weird when I explained that evolution, like the rest of reality, isn’t something you believe in. But other than that they were fine. Trouble was they were also boring. So I filled my time in church reading the only book available to me, the bible. That was enough to convince me that I wanted nothing to do with heaven.
    Ever since then I’ve been living my life by what I would consider to be the correct version of Pascal’s wager. “Lead a good life, if there are gods and they are just, then you will be rewarded. If there are no gods or they are not just, then the good life is its own reward.” Decades later I realized that I hadn’t believed in god for quite a while.

  4. Rikitiki says

    Yep…submitted.
    Thanks for this, it was instructive to actually
    sit down and go through the steps that got me
    here.

  5. Dhorvath, OM says

    I dropped a short note. I can ill imagine keeping my nose out of something like this. So looking forward to this as it plays out.

  6. Myron says

    Warmly recommended:

    * Blackford, Russell, and Udo Schüklenk, eds. 50 Voices of Disbelief: Why We Are Atheists. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009.

  7. tushcloots says

    You ask no less than what gives me meaning?

    by Author Unknown: Philosophy is questions that may never be answered. Religion is answers that may never be questioned.

    “Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites.” Thomas Jefferson

    Blasphemy is an epithet bestowed by superstition upon common sense.
    ~ Robert Green Ingersoll

    When any government, or any church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know, the end result is tyranny and oppression no matter how holy the motives.
    ~ Robert A. Heinlein

    There is no odor so bad as that which arises from goodness tainted.
    ~ Henry David Thoreau, 1817-1862, American Essayist/Poet/Naturalist

    “Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites.”
    Thomas Jefferson

    [S]cience is simply common sense at its best; that is, rigidly accurate in observation, and merciless to fallacy in logic.
    Source: Thomas Henry Huxley, The Crayfish

    Be not so bigoted to any custom as to worship it at the expense of truth.
    Johann Georg von Zimmermann

    There’s a mighty big difference between good, sound reasons and reasons that sound good.
    Source: Burton Hillis, cited in Laurence J. Peter, Peter’s Quotations: Ideas for Our Time (1977), p. 425.

    “We have found a strange footprint on the shores of the unknown.” -Arthur Eddington

    Why am I an atheist? To pursue curiosity unfettered, free to ponder the limitless complexity of reality, I find myself dazzled by the profound beauty inherent in the perfection of existence. I look at my arm and see the very stuff I am made of, 14 billion yrs. old, my atoms were there. Inside the core of stars, I was.
    I get to feel, to know, the exquisite pain of understanding that I was not inevitable.

    I am an atheist. I am not a pawn in a charade. Plus it is more fun!

  8. Tim DeLaney says

    Done.

    I thought you said you were busy. Where are you going to find time to read all the responses?

  9. k-dub says

    When I was barely a teenager, I asked a believer how he knew the bible is true and received as an answer “Because it says it is.” Religion hasn’t become any more interesting or logical since. Not a very interesting answer to your question either, perhaps, but there it is.

  10. says

    OK – sent.
    You realise you will be swamped with these and you’ll never find the time to read them all? :)
    And you thought marking assignments was bad!

  11. MadScientist says

    I’m with Rey Fox – I can’t imagine how I would write more than one or two sentences about it. Religion is nothing but puerile fantasy – there is more cause to believe in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy than in Jesus and SkyDaddy. I am unaware of any lengthy essays on “Why I Don’t Believe in Santa” or “Why I Don’t Believe in the Tooth Fairy” so I can’t imagine that “Why I Don’t believe in Gods” would be any more substantial a topic.

  12. says

    Haha! It’s kind of funny that the comments here are verbatim to what people were saying in 1903. Something to be proud of, because atheism has not had to be watered down or changed like Christianity. This is telling.

  13. tushcloots says

    Thomas Lawson says:


    8 October 2011 at 9:58 pm

    Haha! It’s kind of funny that the comments here are verbatim to what people were saying in 1903.

    5.I am an atheist because it’s cool, maaaaaaan.

    4.I am an atheist because, outside of a few humans, everything in the known universe is, also.

    3.I am an atheist because God told me ‘e doesn’t exist.

    2.I am an atheist because every time I think about religion I either laugh so hard or get so angry that aneurysms form in my brain.

    And the number one reason I am an atheist is because my friend took me to his Pentecostal church when I was 12.

  14. Rikitiki says

    re: MadScientist @ #22 –

    Actually, for me, there’s more evidence for
    Santa and the Tooth Fairy: when I wrote to Santa as a kid
    or asked him at the store what I wanted, many times I
    actually got it!. And, sure enough, when
    I put a lost tooth under the pillow, it was gone in the
    morning, but a quarter was in its place.

    See, evidence: Therefore Santa and Fairy!

  15. patrickblouin says

    I am an Atheist because I was not indoctrinated as a child. Boring story, I know. I was never baptized, or subject to any crazy religious ritual. My father became an Atheist when he was 18.

  16. says

    A little sample from the book mentioned:

    Men have written books. We might also include preachers and jackasses in the list. This is a sufficient explanation of the existence and authorship of the Bible. The “perseverance of the saints,” in “replenishing the earth” with epileptic idiots, accounts for the fact that some people still cling to the theology of inspiration.

    The career of the mythical Jehovah has been wild and miserable. The offspring of barbarian Jews, he was adopted by the whole of Christianity to act as the father of her bastard son. Beginning her career with the meekness of conscious weakness, at the last she seized the sword of supreme power and wielded it without mercy. Like M. Grier Kidder, we “would like to build a cathedral with the bones of Christianity’s victims. Across its front we would write in baby blood: ‘Jesus Christ came to teach us mercy and left this souvenir of his visit.’”

    Maybe a little too touchy-feely?

  17. Dr. Audley Z. Darkheart OM, liar and scoundrel says

    Here you go, PZ:
    Used to be a “dictionary atheist”, but I got better.

    THE END

  18. says

    Yikes. Just got back from the convention to find 80 submissions waiting for me already.

    I guess this is going to have to be a daily feature for a while.

  19. says

    “Why I am an atheist”

    That needs more than a few sentences? Perhaps I suppose it can be elaborated about one’s person journey but really the question of the justification of atheism needs about as much as “Why I am an afairyist” or “Why I am a non-astrologer”. Bunk is bunk.

  20. says

    What would be more interesting to me would be a book in which believers write about why they are atheists with regards to n-1 gods, for n being the total number of gods ever invented by humans.

  21. says

    Although I am an atheist, and could probably write an excellent two word essay about it, I’d much rather write about why I am a secularist. Would that be OK?

  22. says

    Bloody hell. Submitted mine, then found I hadn’t finished a paragraph in the middle and had to send an erratum email. Don’t want to cost PZ extra time when the competition’s so fierce, so sorry about that Peez.

  23. se habla espol says

    After quite a few hours of contemplation and composition, mine’s in.

    tl;dr version: the arrogance of faith doesn’t work, while the humility of science does; and my human-derived morality is much more moral than the morality hinted at, but never delivered, by the christianities.

  24. creature says

    My grandmother gave me a set of encyclopedia from the 30′s, and it had a whole volume of mythology- Norse, Greek, Roman. When I asked her why these were less valid than the religions I knew about, she just said “Because they are.” I never really accepted that, and in the course of growning up, I checked out many religions, and found all of them lacking in credibility. My atheism developed kind of like Dawkins’ “not believing in that last deity”. I realize that the life energy in all living things is the same electrochemical process, and that is a valid and definitive “power great than myself”. The gods that I learned about were all intangible and exttreme, but reality is irrefutable. “No god, no problem; know god, know nothing”

  25. Rhonda Taylor says

    I’m an atheist for the same reason I don’t believe in santa. Santa was a ploy by adults to keep kids in line. It was extortion used when parenting skills were bad. The legend grew and you can bet when people realized it was profitable they were going to encourage it. How many of you feel bad if you don’t buy everyone you know a christmas present no matter how much you need your money to live on?
    So I don’t believe in a god either. The story is used in much the same way. It was started by people wanting to control the actions of other people and the legend grew. Nothing I’ve learned in my life makes me think I could be wrong. I don’t have a nagging sense that if I don’t throw myself on a bible or the kuran or whatever I will go to hell.
    In fact the morals that I do have can’t be found in the bible. I don’t believe in beating children til they behave, I don’t believe in coercing adults to follow a certain dogma as long as their actions don’t hurt or bully others. I think if you have to screw up the environment to make money you shouldn’t do it. I think if you molest, rape or abuse a child or another adult for that matter something bad should happen to you. There are more undesireable behaviors that aren’t covered in the bible or koran.
    I am sure that having a religion helps some people to be better people but I am equally sure it causes others to be worse.
    Science and knowledge are beautiful, nature is beautiful how could a person want more than that?

  26. sumdum says

    Perhaps this is the luxury of living in a secular country, I never have to defend not believing to someone. I could really think of no other reason why I don’t believe than ‘it doesn’t make any sense’.

  27. says

    I find saying that I don’t believe in a deity easy, not many people I know actually do. Its saying that I don’t believe in the afterlife, or psychic ability, or the universe having a plan for me, and “that’s just your journey’ type stuff thats difficult with the people around me.

  28. crissakentavr says

    Even though I have no startling story, I found it difficult to write only a letter’s worth of writing about why I’m an atheist. There are so many reasons! The universe, so vast and full of its own mysteries; human kind, filled with promise and possibility; pseudo-science from my own head; and last but not least the construction of ethics and morals which I think make for a better society.

    I could go on for days, perhaps, if only because I’ve thought of, and tested, so many ways for this to be the better way to be. I don’t say right, because certainly I could be wrong and there could be a better way – but I know my ethics are the best I can be.

    And this before getting into the silly disproofs of god or theology. They’re stories, why would I need to disprove them?

  29. Polly says

    Why I Am An Atheist
    by Polly Pockets

    I am an atheist because:
    1. Unlike some believers, I have actually read the bible.
    2. The majority of religious people I have observed are hypocrites, very much like the Scribes and Pharisees.
    3. I have not yet observed any evidence for a god.
    4. I am an intelligent being, capable of rational,logical thought.

    There, ’nuff said.

  30. otrame says

    I was a teenager. I sang in the choir for the Protestant church services on Air Force bases. Most services were non-denominational, and a few were Lutheran. I was there mostly for the singing and for social reasons but I was a Christian. My mother was a generic Christian, a sort of non-denominational granddaughter of two Methodist ministers. My father was an atheist, though I did not know that at the time. I never got any sense that he opposed the Sunday schools when I was young or the choir in my teens. I think he expected me to figure it out for myself.

    George Carlin once said about religion “I tried, folks. I really did.” So did I. I wanted it. I wanted what all those people around me had, that sense of the presence of God, a real relationship with God. I prayed frequently for God to fill me with what the others described as the Holy Ghost. It never happened.

    It was the weekly attendance at church with the choir, which went on for about 2 years, that put the first crack in my belief. One day I realized, after reading the Sermon on the Mount, that I rarely heard a preacher quote Jesus. We got a lot of Paul, and sometimes a bit of the other letters. We got the Old Testament. At Christmas and Easter we got a lot of stories about Jesus. But we very rarely got what Jesus actually said. As a joke I told a friend that they weren’t Christians, they were Paulists. But I couldn’t figure out why they spent so little time quoting Jesus.

    We had a great Youth Pastor. I think he really was, though of course, these days we have a tendency to look askance at them because of how many of them end up molesting children. He honestly tried to answer my questions, which were becoming more and more frequent. But he really couldn’t. It all came down to “You have to have faith,” a very unsatisfactory answer.

    Then I re-read Stranger in a Strange Land. I’d read it shortly after it was published when I was 11 and approximately 70 percent of it went right over my head (my parents had no idea at the time what the book was like, as Heinlein’s previous books were aimed at children), but this time I was old enough to actually understand most of it. I was just barely 16. Heinlein’s cynicism, his contempt for religious leaders, and his failure to accept the norms I had been taught were a revelation. But the most important thing in the book, at least as far as my religious faith was concerned, was a passage in which he described what happened to Lot’s daughters. His character then said, “That’s not the only surprise in store for any one who actually reads the Bible.”

    I took him up on his implied challenge. I read the Bible, starting at Genesis 1:1 and continuing all the way through, page by page. I admit I skimmed over the begats and I just never could quite finish Revelations. It was just too weird to me. It made no sense at all to a 16 year old in the mid-1960s, before everything got all psychedelic. But I read everything else.

    Then I thought about it. I thought about all the Bible stories that I’d never heard of, and with damned good reason. I thought about God the Father who will send his children to hell. He will do this even to those who had never really hurt anyone in their entire lives, while murderers and rapists went to heaven if they just confessed their sins and repented. I knew my father could never send me to hell, no matter what I did. I thought about the injustice of God punishing us for being who he made us to be. I thought about the genocide of peoples whose only real crime was being on the wrong land at the wrong time and all the other crimes authorized by God.

    After about 3 weeks, I told my mother. “I don’t believe it. It doesn’t make sense.”

    She just shrugged and said, “Don’t worry, you’ll figure it out eventually.” Actually she figured it out. She is an atheist today.

    My reasons for being an atheist have become more sophisticated over time, but it began as an overpowering sense of the unfairness inherent in the Christian doctrine. A measure of my lack of sophistication at the time is that it never occurred to me that maybe another religion was the right one, which is fortunate in way, as it saved me a lot of time searching through other beliefs.

    These days I tend to concentrate on the lack of evidence for a supernatural being, and the utter lack of evidence that becoming a “good” Christian, or indeed, any other religion, makes you a more moral person. But my atheism is still grounded on that sense of unfairness.

  31. Gary Allan says

    I do not believe in God or any gods as there is no evidence, and no logical necessity.

    Of course it also helps that I was not raised in a strongly religious family and so was not propagandized much, so it is no doubt easier to come to the conclusion than for those with strongly religious upbringings, because what one believes is often a matter of training rather than fact or reason.

  32. klaud says

    Sono ateo perché, se dio esistesse, l’avrei saputo prima che i preti me lo venissero a raccontare.

  33. pAolo says

    In this upside-down world, the question seems to be quite natural, but it’s not.
    I find it very hard to believe in the cosmic teapot. That’s why I’m an atheist.

    pAolo :-)

    [Thanks to Dawkins]

  34. Dale Headley says

    At about age 7, it struck me that neither Santa Claus nor God made any sense. When I confronted my parents with the irrefutable evidence that Santa Claus couldn’t be real, they persisted in their ignorance. When they finally got around to admitting their deception – that they had just been playing some kind of sick game with me all along – it was the beginning of my skepticism about anything my parents (or any adults) said. I consequently assumed that they were still trying to fool me with their wild claims of this invisible magic man in the sky, who they told me did stuff that I thought made Santa’s gift-giving circumnavigation of the world look like child’s play. I am now 76, and it still seems as though everybody is playing games with me. But I long ago decided not to join the party.

  35. Markus says

    Why not ?

    You don’t need a reason to be natural, you need a reason to believe in supernatural. Much of that is anxiety, sometimes it is greed.

    I find it hard to define myself as an atheist, the others are rather “theists” or believers, they take a position and need proofs and explanations. I don’t take any, don’t need to prove anything at all. I just live my life without mixing imagination and reality but sometimes I find it hard accepting the misbehaviours of certain believers though.

  36. says

    I’m atheist because the presence of god in the Universe is unnecessary.
    Natural things act by the postulate of the highest economy, so every thing that is unnecessary is also improbable.

  37. says

    What a miracle! What a coincidence!

    I am a rationalist activist from India. When I started this rationalist blog, http://www.carvaka4india.com, in June this year, I had a similar thought and made a similar request.

    I though gave a wider choice – “Why I am an atheist/agnostic/rationalist/skeptic/humanist/secular humanist?” As examples, I uploaded testimonials of Bhagat Singh, Bertrand Russell, and Wole Soyinka and asked them to contribute.

    I am no way inundated with responses, but they are trickling in! Interested readers of your blog can read them here:

    http://carvaka4india.blogspot.com/search/label/Why%20I%20am%20a%20Rationalist

  38. Mark says

    Two reasons. One, they can’t all be right, but they can damn sure all be wrong, and that’s what I’m banking on. Second, nothing about religions makes any sense, and if something doesn’t make sense then it’s probably not true.

  39. Sergio Puxeddu says

    Perché sono ateo? Semplicemente perché non credo assolutamente che esista un dio, del quale non sento la necessità. L’Universo esiste, e non so perché; io esisto, ma non so perché; morirò, certamente, ma non so perché. Se ci fosse un dio, che senso avrebbe? Perché dovrebbe esserci? Da quando? A qual fine?
    Il fatto è “semplice”, perché “irrisolvibile”. Non sapremo mai, nessuno di noi, il motivo dell’esistenza di ciò che esiste: le religioni sono state inventate dall’uomo CHE NON VUOLE MORIRE, CHE VORREBBE VIVERE IN ETERNO: a far che, poi? per l’eternita!! Senza conoscerne la ragione…
    L’uomo è un animale come gli altri (cani, gatti, formiche)che, grazie all’evoluzione del cervello ha inventato, tra le tante meravigliose cose (l’arte, la scrittura, la riflessione su di sé…:la vita dell’aldilà, eterna come la materia che invece si evolve e muta, e non si sa che diverrà – né il perché, nel futuro.
    Mah, non so che dire: ho 79 anni, e tra non molto (toccando ferro), cesserò di vivere; spero solo velocemente e meno dolorosamente possibile. Non temo la morte, ma il dolore fisico più di quello morale…
    Ciao,
    Sir Joe

  40. Sergio Puxeddu says

  41. Kate says

    I am an atheist for a simple reason. When I was eight, my mother began to dabble in religion for the first time, rapidly becoming consumed in a hysterical, early-1980s sect that was convinced that Satan worshippers were everywhere. When I was nine, my sisters and I were sexually abused by a neighbor she invited into the house to talk about said religion with. When she found out, she proceeded to beat each of us with a leather strap, forcing us to recite the lord’s prayer, as a means of exorcism recommended by the pastor of said church. Could there be a more conclusive way to destroy a faith as yet uncertain?

  42. Donald Oats says

    I am a life-long atheist; I’m not claiming to be any more rational than the next person, let me note.

    My earliest memories of religion, and Christianity more specifically, relate to questions of the soul. From a very young age I was familiar with dead animals, and had seen pictures of human organs, the skeleton, and the muscles. I simply could not reconcile how humans were any different to cats, dogs, foxes or frogs, or snails or slugs. Dead is dead. Yet people kept telling me otherwise. When it came to how the soul left the body and went (presumably) to Heaven, people would become exceptionally evasive on why noone has witnessed it; secondly, why couldn’t we see Heaven? I knew about telescopes and astronomy—their existence—but not why astronomy books of mine failed to mention Heaven at all!

    Where I really ran into trouble with Christians was when I questioned (naiively) the belief that Earth was only a few thousand years old. My copies of “Tell Me Why”, and “More Tell Me Why” explained in simple terms how the Earth had been around for billions of years; and then there were the fossils of tiny shells in the limestone blocks making up the walls of my house, and a wall in the backyard. If creatures died and became fossils, how long did that process take? Did God put them there just to tease us, I used to ask? The whole God thing seemed so arbitrary!

    My parents gave me a fantastic present one day: an astronomy book which I still own. They also bought me model dinosaurs, something many kids would have seen, especially in library books. How could so many books consistently be at variance with the claims of my Christian friends? I’m not sure what settled the matter for once and for all—perhaps the resolute certainty with which all of my evidence, much of it directly observed, could be dismissed without a moment’s pause; perhaps that solidified my view that it was my friends who were being deceived.

    On Sundays, I used to get up just before dawn and hide in a neighbour’s yard; no amount of calling could coax me to Church. What little indoctrination I failed to escape concerned matters of Easter, and of Noah. I could not understand what I was being told at Sunday School, it just defied everything I knew at that point of my life.

    I wish to credit my parents, for they provided such an open-minded and intellectually examining home environment, in spite of coming from families with religious beliefs. That must have taken some courage.

    To this day, I just don’t get how adults can deny the nature we are all part of, and then proceed to fill kids’ minds with some dusty tall tales. What a sad waste for the kids, and for the adults. If you want to be part of something awesome, just look up one starlit night…and remember, dead is dead.

  43. Gillian Wiseman says

    I am an atheist partly because my mother outgrew her religion as I was growing up, and I watched her become more and more skeptical as I matured. But also, I remember sitting on the grass during Vacation Bible School (I went for the candy, more than anything!) listening and watching as we were all exhorted to take Jesus into our hearts. And the only child who seemed at all serious about her mystical experience was the nasty suck-up, who tormented the rest of us when no adults were around.

    I decided right then that if that’s what it meant to be a xtian, I was staying as far away as I could.

    Add to that a love of science, a healthy skeptical education from my engineer father (who was always a believer in a distant, mechanical “god” until he read Letter to a Christian Nation last year), and my own stubbornness, and atheism became the only rational viewpoint to uphold.

  44. says

    You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I to find this matter to be actually one thing that I think I would by no means understand. It sort of feels too complicated and very broad for me. I’m looking ahead on your subsequent submit, I will attempt to get the hang of it!