Because I am an atheist: Rebecca Watson

Today’s contribution comes from a Twitter conversation I had with Rebecca Watson, who took a decidedly minimalist approach to her response:

Because I am an atheist…

Rebecca: "I don't know that I really do anything bc I'm an atheist, except maybe cringe at the things atheists say, haha"

Rebecca: “I don’t know that I really do anything bc I’m an atheist, except maybe cringe at the things atheists say, haha”

I have been intentionally selecting the responses from people who have been saying that their atheism makes a big difference in their lives, but there is a large contingent of the atheist population whose atheism simply does not play a meaningful role in their decision-making. While the way I framed this issue does presuppose that a lack of god belief is something that makes you do things, the fact is that many people simply do not see it that way. A response of “nothing” is an entirely valid way of answering the question of “what does your atheism change about your life?”

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  1. Jessica says

    I was raised LDS; anyone familiar with doctrine knows about food storage (which is really just license for a very specific kind of hoarding). Because I’m an atheist, I don’t have a roomful of powdered milk and other non-perishables. This has contributed immensely to my well-being and sense of sanity.

  2. Martha says

    You’re absolutely right that a lot of us would answer this question by saying, “nothing.” Especially those of us who were more or less raised atheist and can’t compare our atheistic lives to theistic ones. Perhaps this is part of the reason I value the humanist label more than the atheist label: as I see it, a moral code follows naturally from the stance that all human beings are valuable, whereas I can’t see how a lack of belief in a deity affords the same result.

  3. Priscilla Parker says

    My acceptance of others. My religious belief growing up caused me to see others as sinners and limited my interaction with those that were perceived to be ‘lost’ to witnessing to them. Being an atheist has allowed me not only to accept others but to become friends with some very caring, loving people. This in turn has allowed me to accept things about myself that growing up I condemned myself for. I am more open and honest with people and more empathetic to others and their experiences.

  4. says

    Well if the way you live your life is informed by your belief, and you forgo that belief, then it’s not exactly inconceivable that your life would change as a consequence of that. You may also look at the world very differently from your neighbours if you are atheist and they aren’t. Not all important aspects of someone’s world view are necessarily based in ethical decisions (where humanism becomes relevant), but might just have to do with existential questions of how you see yourself in relation to the rest of the world.

    That being said, some people don’t have that experience, and so “nothing” is the only reasonable response to a question like this.

  5. mynameischeese says

    I realised that I was an atheist at such a young age that the only difference I can remember it making to my outlook was that I was no longer afraid of the dark after the realisation. Quite boring.

  6. cassmorrison says

    Even though I grew up catholic, it was in a kinder time (or at least the nuns in YVR were cool). Sexism has been way more of an concern for me than religion so I have to agree with Rebecca on this one.

  7. says

    I agree that my humanism informs my actions and worldview, while my atheism is simply a lack of belief. Even so, I could be a bit pedantic and point out that I couldn’t even really say “Because I’m a humanist, I [am concerned about social justice, etc]”. It would really be reversed. Because I care about humanity, because I believe that we should focus on helping one another and demonstrating compassion for marginalized people, I am a humanist.

  8. jemby5 says

    The continued examination of religion has grown rather tedious. In Math they don’t labor over the proof of the quadratic equation repeatedly. You simply learn it and apply it to higher math. I think that is why skepticism is a more positive label of this movement (whatever one would call it) because skepticism is the methodology that would eventually lead one to atheism.

    My background is in physics and one of the chief complaints of staff scientists is our perseveration over solved problems. They serve a pedagogical function but not obsession.

    We assume there is no God and our observations are consistent with this assumption. So, in the words of Fienmann (although this could be legendary accretion) “shut up and calculate.”

  9. mynameischeese says

    That’s all well and good, but for some people the “obsession” is there because the greater culture is obsessed with atheism, especially if your atheism intersects with something else. For instance, if you’re a woman who is pressured to adhere to some kind of standard/behaviour because it is sanctioned by religion.

    As an atheist, I’d love if atheism was just a neutral fact about myself that I never had to consider and most of the time, when I’m surrounded by secularists, it is. But when I come into contact with people who want to limit my rights and religion is the justification, then I have to consider my atheism.

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