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Ask an Atheist

Updated on February 29, 2016
Kylyssa profile image

Kylyssa is an American atheist with high-functioning autism trying to navigate a mostly religious world with no well-beaten path to follow

Why Should You Ask an Atheist?

Once I could read I had access to hundreds of religious texts and religious books as well as books on philosophy and nature. I read them voraciously, trying to figure out this mystery called belief. After reading many books about beliefs and belief systems written by brilliant people and talking with a few pastors and a minister, I came to the conclusion that God was probably not real.

When I was ten, I was "outed" as the child of an atheist by a teacher who then made an ignorant remark that set the tone for years of abuse both physical and emotional. She said, "[She] is an atheist and that means that she hates God."

If the teacher had known what an atheist was or if the children's parents had, I would have been saved years of suffering. As an adult, I have found that many people in America still don't have a clear idea of what an atheist is and it bleeds into society. It affects the way atheists are treated to this day.

Most people in America learn about atheism, not the way I learned about belief, but by word-of-mouth from religious parents and peers who learned the same way. Most of the things I've heard when religious people discuss atheists come from fear and speculation. The lack of understanding makes people hate and fear atheists.

To educate people about atheists and spread tolerance through education I'm offering to answer your questions. I'm hoping that instead of basing your opinion of atheists on hearsay you'll choose to ask an atheist instead.

Why Do Atheists Care About Religion? - Part One, Politics

Atheists in America care a lot about religion. This is primarily because religious groups in our country have a great deal of political power. Religious groups in America have successfully created religious laws which the entire populace, religious or not, must follow. These laws include the ban against same sex marriage, blue laws, and anti-cohabitation laws.

Conservative Christian religious lobbies are also trying to insert Christianity into public schools in place of science education. They have succeeded in getting "abstinence only" rather than science based sex education into public schools, paid for entirely with taxpayer money. Fortunately, President Obama re-allocated the budget for religion based sex education to fund science based sex education though it looks like taxpayer money is still funding some religion based programs. Even after a congressional study showing the abstinence only programs ineffective and costly, the Christian right is still fighting fiercely to keep and expand the religion based abstinence only programs still paid for with tax money. America was paying $75 million per year on a single abstinence only initiative before the cut, with more going to other, smaller programs. It seems a lot to pay for programs which are not only not science-based and not results-based but religion-based (though the material is written using scientific-sounding jargon) but, according to several additional studies and reports, may also increase the risk of STDs and reduce the likelihood of teens seeking treatment should they contract an STD.

Additionally, religious organizations are granted tax-free status even though they are politically powerful and often use their influence to create legislation or to support specific political candidates. While religious organizations do not pay taxes, they benefit from them. This means that people who are having laws passed to discriminate against them by religious lobbies are required to pay the taxes that benefit the very organizations behind the discriminatory laws.

Might doesn't make right, but it does confer power.
Might doesn't make right, but it does confer power. | Source

Why Do Atheists Care About Religion? - Part Two, Society

The most popular religions in America have subsets which teach that those who do not follow their specific belief system are sinful, evil, and immoral. This leads to intolerance, not just of atheists but of all people who don't share the same belief system or don't practice it exactly the same way they do. This does not affect atheists alone, but, to one degree or another, all non-Christians plus many progressive and moderate Christians in America.

People's behavior is affected by their beliefs, sometimes even dictated by their beliefs. If people have beliefs that are different from mine and antithetical to mine, I have a great reason to be concerned. I believe in freedom of expression, human rights for all, freedom of religion, and separation of church and state. These beliefs are the polar opposite of the most visible Christian conservative beliefs.

Prejudice against homosexuals, people of other religions, and women often stem from religious belief. White supremacists and other such cults have a religious basis. While not at all representative of Christianity at large, Westboro Baptist Church provides a good example of of a Christian-based hate group. Christians are not exempt from their religion-based bigotry. We are all affected by bigotry, regardless of our belief or absence of belief.

Another piece in the puzzle is that atheists are concerned when other human beings are mistreated just as any other decent human beings are. There is a visible amount of religiously motivated child abuse in America - people who deny their children medical treatment, people who punish their children physically for perceived sins, people who deny their children an adequate education, and "parents" who discard their children for being gay or for converting to a different belief system - all in the name of religion.

Because religious people make up the majority in America, and because some powerful and loud few of them try to use the weight of that majority to step on minorities, including atheists, of course atheists are concerned! Maybe you should be, too?

Why Do Atheists Care About Religion? - Example

This videos show an example of how casually some religious people express their bigotry towards non-religious people. This behavior is the result of a difference in beliefs. The video also shows how clearly religion has dominated politics in America.

Photo by  Sanja Gjenero, SXC
Photo by Sanja Gjenero, SXC

Did Being Homeless Make Me an Atheist or Did Being an Atheist Make Me Homeless?

Believer asked:

"I've noticed that many of your pages revolve around two topics: that you are an outspoken atheist, and that you have had a very difficult life including homelessness. Have you ever considered that there may be a connection between the two? Have you ever asked yourself "What if I'm wrong?". I wonder if you gave your life to God whether he would have taken you down the same path. Were you always an atheist? Did you have a bad experience with a church or a clergy member? Do you feel that if there was a God he would have preventing certain things from happening, and so therefore chose to believe He does not exist?"

"I've noticed that many of your pages revolve around two topics: that you are an outspoken atheist, and that you have had a very difficult life including homelessness. Have you ever considered that there may be a connection between the two?"

No, but many religious people have told me that not thinking God is real caused all of my (well-deserved in their opinion) suffering. I believe that my difficulties were not a punishment from a non-existent God. Many people who are devout believers have even worse lives than mine so that logic doesn't hold up. Additionally, if I analyze what happened in my life, I can pretty well see why things happened the way they did.

As an atheist, I believe that autism is a real thing. I ascribe to no ideology that causes me to reject the existence of learning disabilities and emotional problems as real. Having been diagnosed with autism, I tend to believe I am autistic. There is a known connection between inability to perform in social interactions and autism. In fact, that's almost the definition of autism. My autism was not properly treated when I was a child and, like almost every other autistic who receives no special assistance, when left completely on my own I experienced difficulties. I was a stranger in a strange land. I had no familial support and had formed only the most inadequate of friend support structures in school.

When this left me homeless, I was the perfect victim for predators. I was incredibly naïve and socially inept. I had no "common sense" to keep me from dangerous situations. I reacted to harmful stimuli (beatings, rapes, and other frightening encounters) by withdrawing into myself instead of reaching for help as most people do. That entrenched me more deeply into homelessness - a shell-shocked autistic isn't the best at navigating the hard road out of homelessness.

"Have you ever asked yourself "What if I'm wrong?""

You assume one thing that most Christians do - that I don't want to believe in God, that I never considered it. When I was homeless there was many a night when I longed to think of God as real. What complete and total idiot wouldn't want someone or something to exist that loved them in that situation? The physical deprivation and pain of homelessness is dwarfed by the emotional pain, heartbreak, and crushing loneliness of being homeless. I often prayed, saying, "God, if you are real, please just let me think that you are." I was not able to convince myself that God was real. Even by pretending and acting as if God were real, I couldn't.

Maybe it's the autism but I have a basic inability to believe in (or even understand why other people believe in) things that I don't think are real. No matter how desirable a thing is, if I don't think it's real, I am unable to make myself think it is.

" Were you always an atheist?"

I never thought God was real. I thought I could fake myself into believing if I acted like I did (I had to pretend to believe in God anyway, to get services and to avoid abuse), you know, how smiling and acting happy can make some people really be happy, right? But I couldn't. Don't you have any idea how desirable belief is? I mean, to actually think that there is a perfect justice waiting for us? To think that the good people will be rewarded with paradise? To think that the people we loved who died are not truly gone forever? Those things are all incredibly desirable but again, I can't force myself to believe in make-believe, not even for just a time. I even watch a movie and see actors and special effects most of the time, I see art and craftsmanship, I don't experience suspension of disbelief.

"Did you have a bad experience with a church or a clergy member?"

Yes, but I didn't think God was real beforehand. After I was beaten by schoolmates because my parents were outed as non-Christians, several pastors showed up to the hospital and to our home to berate my parents for not raising us as Christians. One pastor showed up to try to convert me through fear when my parents weren't there to protect me. He insisted that while the kids weren't right to beat me that it was just a taste of the pain I'd experience if I didn't accept Jesus into my heart. He told me my dead brother was suffering in Hell because he hadn't been raised Christian - forever and ever and that it was all my parents fault.

" Do you feel that if there was a God he would have preventing certain things from happening, and so therefore chose to believe He does not exist?"

I don't think God is real but if a God were real, I would not presume to know what it would or would not do. As explained earlier, it's not really a choice at all to think something is real or not.

Give it a try yourself - think of something you think is make-believe, something lovely and desirable, like a unicorn perhaps. Now believe that it's real. You can't, can you? Now imagine your only child is dying a horrible, slow, and painful death and a bunch of people have told you that unicorns are real and the touch of a unicorn could save your child's life. Do you believe in unicorns yet? Now imagine someone you loved told you that not only are unicorns real and their touch can heal any sickness but that if you don't believe they are real you will be tortured for eternity. On top of that, imagine that a bunch of really old books say that all of that stuff about unicorns is true. Now, ask yourself why don't you believe in unicorns and you'll have the answer as to why I don't believe in God.

How Can Atheism Account for the Existence of Morality?

I believe that morality is relative and created by humankind. Hundreds of years ago, most Christians were OK with using force to control their wives, OK with slavery and rule by nobility, and OK with beating their children. Today, most Christians oppose all of those things wholeheartedly, they find them immoral. Society has evolved and morality has changed - even for those who are religious. The more everyone listens to their sense of empathy, the more humane we become as a society, religious or not.

If morality were absolute and Christians follow that absolute, then why don't all Christians agree on morals?

A while back I wrote a more in-depth article about where I think morality comes from which you can read at Without Heavenly Decree, Threat of Hell or Promise of Heaven - Where Might Morality Come From?

Ask Some Other Atheists

Atheist Exclusivity

"I perceive atheists act (behavior wise) like religious people, in the sense they belong to something. And it feels somehow exclusive. Now, tell me objectively, have you noticed that?"

It may be the area of the country I live in but, until recently, I never even met a person who I knew to be an atheist outside my own family. When an American could go a lifetime without meeting someone in person who admits to being an atheist, it's kind of hard to feel a sense of atheist community.

I'll admit that I was excited to meet my first non-family member atheist; it's nice to be able to talk openly and to not have to navigate a conversation laden with religious references that one must pretend to also believe to avoid offending anyone.

But I get that kind of conversation with my liberal, non-atheist friends, too.

All atheists really have in common is absence of belief in God. Beyond that, there's not much held in common among atheists. Most atheists are upset by religious laws, religion based discrimination, and religious practices that infringe on human rights but then again most non-atheists are, too!

What I see among online atheists (the only type I interact with regularly) is more a type of understanding of certain situations atheists in America encounter rather than a sense of community. When I relate my experiences with anti-atheist bigotry to my liberal religious friends they express shock and sometimes disbelief but most other atheists I've conversed with have had similar experiences. Many American atheists can relate to the problems of biting your tongue to keep a job or having friends or family disown you if you are "outed" as atheists. They can relate to the vandalism and the death threats, especially atheist writers. Even if they've never had the specific action performed against them, generally they've experienced something in the same spirit.

While this might not create a sense of community it does tend to inspire activism. When I see a negative behavior among people as just my own experience, I tend to just take the indignity or abuse without raising a fuss. But when I see that the behavior isn't just aimed at me, and is deemed acceptable to my society, it outrages me. I think that is the something some atheists do belong to - a desire for positive change inspired by shared negative experience. But it is by no means exclusive. You don't have to be an atheist to be part of it. Just speak out against unjust religious legislation - anti-gay laws and anti-science education laws (religiously motivated legislation to alter the teaching of evolution, geology, history, and/or environmental sciences in public schools) are all in legislation right now. Speak out against religious discrimination against non-Christians and gay people in the workplace. Object when people slander homosexuals. Protest religiously motivated discriminatory child custody practices. Protest the medical and educational neglect of children. Any of these will make you a part of it.

What was Before the Big Bang and What Prompted It?

My answer to this is - I don't know and I don't think it is necessary to know to be an atheist. There will always be unanswered questions but simply because we don't have an answer yet, it doesn't necessarily follow that we should give up looking for one and put every unknown in the category of "God must have done it".

Historically, mankind has attributed things it doesn't understand to God. With time and a few people unsatisfied by a simple "God must have done it" many of these unexplained phenomena are now explained. Human civilization has only existed for a short time and science for an even shorter time. It seems arrogant to assume that everything we haven't answered yet must be unanswerable since we've been in the business of looking for answers using the empirical method for such a short period of time. We have yet to unravel the mysteries of such things as diseases even though we have a sound basis and have germ theory and whole divisions of biology devoted to the study of diseases. If we have yet to puzzle out such relatively simple matters, why is the assumption that if we haven't figured out more complex matters with less accessible physical data such as the origin of the universe that the answer can be nothing other than God?

In my opinion this question would be better aimed at a physicist several hundred years in the future, rather than at an atheist today.

Can You Be an Atheist and Believe in the Law?

One commenter asked this question, "Can you be an atheist and believe in the law?" To me, this question has a few, extremely simple answers.

Yes, there is plenty of evidence for the existence of laws. But rather than belief in the law, I think the real question here is, if people don't believe in God, why would they follow the laws.

First, there's empathy. The majority of people possess empathy so many laws make perfect sense to them such as laws against hurting people. Then there is reason. It can be reasoned out that it's a good idea to follow the laws of the land. Most laws are clearly written in an attempt to keep the world safe and fair. Also, there is a system of punishment in place if one does not follow the law.

For those who think Christianity is the origin of all laws, I suggest you look up things like the Code of Hammurabi and the Code of Ur-Nammu which are some of the earliest declarations of law. They, like the Bible, appear to record the laws of the time, such as those pertaining to slavery.

So Christianity is not required to create or to follow laws.

Who's More Afraid of the Other? The Atheist or the Believer?

Many atheists have experienced or heard of other atheists who have experienced religiously motivated physical violence, intimidation, or death threats. Many atheists have seen the political pressure religion can bear and may fear for their their civil rights.

Many religious people in America have been told that atheists are agents of Satan and have no morals preventing them from killing everything they see. They have been told that atheists want to destroy them, their religion, and their way of life.

This all seems pretty scary to me.

Who's More Afraid of the Other? The Atheist or the Believer?



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    • gregoryolney lm 5 years ago

      As an atheist I'm not afraid of believers. But I am extremely worried about the power and influence the religious right in the USA has over communities all over the country, and worst of all, over politicians. Your country must be very careful for whom it votes.Oh and believers are obviously more afraid of atheists, otherwise why do they waste so much time reviling us ?

    • Chazz 6 years ago from New York

      Believers are more afraid because Atheism threatens not just their beliefs but their core sense of self. People like to stay in their comfort zone and the group mindset can be very psychologically powerful. The power of organized religion is that it is structured to reward conformity, maintain class and caste distinctions, and foster the acceptance of oppression.

    • PizmoBeach LM 6 years ago

      I live in Australia where it seems atheism is reasonably well tolerated compared to the USA (from what I have read). However, whenever I mention my non-belief to a believer friend, I still get a reaction.

    • Kylyssa Shay 7 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

      Nick, were you referring to Buddhism? Buddhism is the only atheist religion I know of but I'm afraid I don't know their rules as I'm not a Buddhist nor have I studied Buddhism. However, I have known a number of Buddhists and they asked questions and answered questions just like anyone else as far as I could tell.

    • anonymous 7 years ago

      Is it against the atheist religion to ask a question?

    • Ayngel Overson 7 years ago from Crestone, Co

      I have come to believe that any argument based in the emotional realm is totally pointless. The intellect can only absorb what the emotions are willing to allow. Yet I have been harmed at the hands of well meaning believers far more often than atheists. In fact Atheists usually treated me with far more respect than anyone in the church ever did. They helped me in more ways that a church member ever did, and were not prone to judgment. As a Christian I was told that anyone who was not one of us was the enemy... that is a pretty bold statement.

    • glenbrook 8 years ago

      It depends on what country you live in. In certain countries (China, North Korea, former Soviet Union, etc) believers of any religion are/were severely persecuted. While I wouldn't say believers in the US are persecuted in any way, they sometimes seem to get a lot of verbal abuse when being open about their faith.

    • anonymous 8 years ago

      Atheist have nothing to fear, since we are only presenting an honest and scientifically provable issues. The believers, however, are trying to protect their myth's, which have no basis in reality of science - or course they are scared!

    • anonymous 8 years ago

      To the believer, atheists represent everything that is evil and wrong in the world. If atheists can be nice, moral and successful, then what is the point of God? Atheists are walking proof that believers' views are tenuous, at best.

    • WHPFord 8 years ago

      I think believers are afraid of atheists because we are reminders that their beliefs in god and the afterlife might just be imaginary.

    • Kylyssa Shay 8 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

      When I say believer I mean someone who believes in the supernatural, god or gods.When I referred to "many religious people" I am referring to those told these things - yes, in the US, primarily Christians.

    • anonymous 8 years ago

      that people too often equate religion to Christianity. While it may be the most common religion in both the United States and the world at large, people - both religious and atheist - should take more care to specify what they mean.

    • Kimberly Napper 8 years ago from U.S.

      I would say the fundamentalist believers are the most afraid, because their deeply religious, psychological fear creates in the atheist a shadow enemy that is nothing like reality. The imagined hate of God and imagining that the atheist is an agent of Satan adds a frenzy, or fervor, that serves to amplify their fear.But I would also agree with you that, between ordinary believers and atheists, it's probably a close call.

    • John Parr 8 years ago from Montreal

      Religious people are in general exclusive by nature, if it doesn't comply with their beliefs then it's threatening.


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      • spot-ify-73997 5 years ago

        The Atheist is obviously in more danger, physically, societally, and emotionally than the believer.Since, Atheists have no God to command us to fight in his name, and since we are sadly, the minority, we have much greater reason to fear Believers who may be acting because "God spoke to them". Yikes!

      • aquarian_insight 5 years ago

        This is a difficult one as I believe both groups fear the other. Believers seem genuinely threatened by Atheists and that is something I have witnessed personally in my 20+yrs of Atheism. But as an Atheist I fear the believers, because their beliefs imapct and affect the world and society I live in. I fear the repercussions of their beliefs on my life.

      • anonymous 6 years ago

        I believe the atheists certainly are the ones who have reason to be afraid. Given the actions of Christians and other Believers through the course of history, it's obvious that they have little tolerance. Combine that with their absolute conviction that their way is the right way, and their ignorance of what atheism really is (i.e. many Christians assume that atheists worship Satan, when the truth is atheists deny the existence of Satan just as they deny the existence of God) and I think the Atheist is more afraid--not of the hellfire and damnation we're threatened with, but of what can and has happened when religion rules government.

      • dannystaple 6 years ago

        It depends where you are. Considering the shrill tone of religious fundamentalism rising in the states, I would be a little fearful for atheists there. While Christians are told atheists want to destroy them, they are then told to destroy atheism. The thing is, many atheists are also liberal, and value people's lives highly, so they are not willing to use violence to express themselves, and sadly, a significant vocal minority of each of most major religions have no problems whatsoever in using extreme violence to make a point.

      • anonymous 7 years ago

        Atheist are the most hated group of people in America, perhaps even more hated that the fundamentalist Muslims, so I would say Atheists have much more to fear from Christians. We are perhaps the LAST group of American society that has almost NO protections by law.

      • anonymous 7 years ago

        I would say it depends on who the status quo is and in most places believers outnumber atheists by a huge margin. My parents i think are both atheists but never warned me about believers as i was growing up, but my limited experience with religion seems to indicate that most children and adults in religion are heavily indoctrinated to believe that atheists, "non-believers" as we are called in the bible, are their sworn enemy. It doesn't keep me up at night but i think that my atheism is much more likely to be used as evidence in a court of law than someone's christianity is.

      • anonymous 7 years ago

        As an atheist, I'm more concerned with my human rights and civil rights taken away from me, because of my lack of beliefs. Even more so, because of my race and the fact that I support gay rights.

      • jbauer0318 7 years ago

        It has been my experience as an atheist that we have more to fear from the religious. As you have stated in this lens, legislation is introduced and laws are passed in favor of religious beliefs without regard to those of us that are non-believers. I believe that our nation is on the brink of a turning point. A time when if science, learning and understanding are not emphasized that our nation may very well suffer many consequences. It is time to put away the bedtime fairy tales and fear mongering of the religious and look forward to a time of education and tolerance. If the religious continue to win this battle, I think our nation will continue to suffer a dumbing down and we will see a widening of the gap between the poor and rich. I have many more thoughts on this, but only so much space here.

      • anonymous 7 years ago

        I am a Christian. I used to be afraid of Atheist because many of them are bullies, rude, and continue to call Christians names, I have been called things that I cannot repeat here.... that is not how rational discourse takes place. I am not afraid anymore bacause I know how to answer their objections to Christianity. Now they can only offer empty attacks to my character, not my belief. I believe atheist attack who I am so much because they are afraid what I believe might be true.

      • GreenEcoBean 8 years ago

        Atheists live in fear of death. Religious people possibly live in ignorance. I think society is veering away from religion. I just wish everyone would have respect for everyone elses beliefs.

      • anonymous 8 years ago

        religious people are stupid...if there was really a god we wouldn't have to die or lose people we love. get over yourselves..atheists know best

      • anonymous 8 years ago

        Everyone is scared. AHHH.Actually, there isn't much violence towards religious or secular beliefs where I live. But if you ever choose to be an atheist, you'll never live it down.

      • anonymous 8 years ago

        I think we live by examples. I work with religious people who have told me me I am nice and fair (I'm the boss). They say it as if they were surprised by this. I think a little at a time we can show, by example, that we are loving, nice people. I think our actions will defiantly speak louder than words, under these circumstances especially, because they are waiting for us to mess up and say, "See, you are evil". When they can't even see what the hundreds of atrocities xtians commit every day. I live by example. :) Doesn't mean I am perfect and I will be the first to admit that to any believer or non-believer. I have NO problem with not being perfect, but I also don't worry about retribution from a nonexsistant entity. My actions usually come back to haunt me one way or another. No spirits needed :) peace&love~

      • anonymous 8 years ago

        Atheists because believers will willingly die for their religion in belief of the afterlife.

      • Kylyssa Shay 8 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

        I'm curious as to what you mean by that. What kind of attacks have you received from atheists?I don't see atheists trying to spread awareness of atheism as an attack against religion though many do.

      • Everyday-Miracles 8 years ago

        I can't speak for everyone, but I can speak for myself. Recently I have seen an uprising of atheists attacking religious people, perhaps not physically, but violently in an emotional and spiritual way. I've seen more and more atheists attempting to "spread the word" of atheism and I have been saddened to realize (too late, I suppose) that we don't live in a live-and-let-live world.

      • Kylyssa Shay 8 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

        It's a pretty close thing in my opinion but I'm going to say I think atheists are more afraid of religious people. Not only have we seen evidence of that some believers can be dangerous but when we get threats from believers, those who make them are quick to remind us they outnumber us at least ten to one.

      Do Atheists Who Attack Religious People Give the Rest a Bad Reputation?

      What are some ways that atheists can work to reverse that reputation?

      I think that the small percentage of atheists who simply attack instead of discuss religion sometimes give the rest of us a bad reputation. I think we should call them on it and tell them they are out of line. However, I don't think it's appropriate for the rest of us to accept responsibility for their words.

      In my opinion, all Christians should not be held responsible for the verbal attacks, the religious abuses, the religiously motivated murders and hate crimes, and the political pressure perpetrated by some Christians. It's supremely ignorant to blame the whole of a group for the actions or words of a minority of its members - and I don't think religious people are ignorant. I think that it's enough for us to disapprove of attacks and to not do any attacking ourselves.

      The problem is that anything said in defense of atheists existing and not being abused or speaking out against religious abuses of power is seen by the religious community as atheists attacking religion. If you speak out against religion made into law, if you complain because someone was fired for being an atheist, you are seen as attacking religion. If you relate the story of religiously motivated abuses you've suffered, if you lay out in words an explanation or even just a statement of your non-belief, you are seen as attacking religion.

      So I think the answer to the problem of atheists who speak in anger and make attacks rather than participate in discussions is to publicly express our disapproval, explain that we do not support their actions, and to conduct our own affairs courteously. This also means that when religious people respond to us aggressively and provocatively, we musn't take the bait and fan the flames. We must remain firm in our objections but not rise to provocation.

      What's Up with the Big Red A?

      The red letter 'A' in Nathaniel Hawthorne's famous book, The Scarlet Letter, stood for adultery. It was worn by an adulteress as a badge of shame, intended to humiliate her.

      The symbol has been adopted by atheists as part of the Out Campaign which encourages atheists to come out of the religious closet. The Scarlet 'A' is used to ironically express the social stigma of being an atheist.

      Do you have a question you'd like to ask about atheism? Feel free to ask. I request that you do not evangelize or simply make statements, please ask a question or leave a relevant comment instead.

      All comments containing profanity or hate speech will be removed.

      Ask an Atheist

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          Kylyssa Shay 3 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

          @jen09 writes: The duel modules are buggy in a completely unpredictable way. Most of the time they work right but sometimes they don't.Why didn't you report the teacher? He would have likely been fired. It's not even legal to do something like that. Students are allowed to read the Bible in public school (assuming they aren't supposed to be doing something else) and also to pray, even aloud so long as the prayer isn't led by staff. It's horribly wrong for people to act like that whatever their religion.

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          jen09 writes 3 years ago

          I tried to post this in the duel module, but for some reason it won't allow me... I Just wanted to share this Personally I am afraid of atheists, not because of their beliefs but because of their agenda to force their beliefs on others. I live in a fairly large city where atheism is very common and I was often bullied in my public high school because of it. While some of the bullying came from atheistic teenagers, more of it actually came from atheistic staff. I believe many atheists think because someone says "I am a Christian" it means they are going to attack atheism and so they immediately jump on the offensive. Just as an example of being bullied by staff... During homebase during my senior year we were to have "quiet free time" which was to read, work on homework, or just sit quietly. I brought my Bible and opened it. Within seconds, my openly atheistic teacher stood directly above me and shouted, "You are to close that book immediately!" All eyes turned towards me. I said, "What's that?" He responded, "I will NOT allow any student to defile themselves with such material! CLOSE IT NOW!" I politely closed it, and decided to have a calm conversation after class. As soon as class was over, however, I became surrounded by atheistic students who began cursing me, shoving me, and just in general bullying me. So am I afraid of atheists? Yes.

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          anonymous 5 years ago

          I recently came out of the atheist closet and my highly religious family does not accept my beliefs. My grandmother just died (I was unfortunately not very close to her) and my grandfather is asking that people donate to a religious organisation instead of buying flowers. I live in Europe and am unable (financially) to attend the funeral in USA. I want to show my sympathy to my family in a way that is meanful to them, but I have a very hard time sending money to something that I firmly disagree with. I thought an appropriate alternative would be to send a photo of my grandma in a photo frame with a letter. But perhaps I should look past my beliefs and show my respect to my grandfathers wishes by donating some money ($25 feels a little stingy, but I can't bring myself to donate more than that). Have you or anyone you know encountered such a situation? How can I both show my sympathy while not stepping out of my personal boundaries?

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          Edutopia 5 years ago

          It is unfortunate that an Atheist has to carry around their identity as an Atheist as a piece of luggage that must be unpacked and showed to others. Yet at the same time this can help raise awareness so that Atheists who follow in their footsteps will be able to live a normal life.

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          aquarian_insight 5 years ago

          I am an Atheist. My family are not, neither is my partner. I think they would all agree that I am more well versed on the world's religions than they are. When I became extremely ill with ME/CFS I actually had people suggesting that I wasn't exactly being punished, but that this was a 'test' from God. He had sent me this great pain to help me find salvation. Now, was it just me, or did that make no sense whatsoever? I told them that even if God came before me right now, and proved his existence, I could never support or love anyone that would do something so callous to someone.

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          anonymous 5 years ago

          @Diane- "Regarding religiosity and abuse, yes, it does happen, but be aware that those who are abusive and disrespectful in the name of religion are not following the laws of Christianity." I don't know what the laws of Christianity really are, but generally I thought I've read that Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, etc essentially have all have similar laws: do good/no harm (with all kinds of exceptions and constraints in between). Does it really take a religion for one to understand that one should do good? I don't know b/c I've already been influenced by Catholicism (but now am agnostic). Better yet, I'd like to hear responses from those people who were never officially or significantly engaged with some religion: do they believe in doing good/causing no harm? if so/not, why/not?- "As a Christian, I do not approve of religions that must force their will on anyone and preach hatred against other groups..." What kind of Christian sect do you belong to that doesn't preach hate or force themselves in some manner, whether implicitly or explicitly? I was a Catholic and no, no one explicitly preached hate and no one explicitly proselytized, but we also didn't have dinners with Jews, Atheists or Buddhists and we didn't talk about the good/bad points about those belief systems either. Sounds implicitly forceful to me and I would argue that that kind of behavior can be fuel for hatred.- "I believe that God gave us free will, and allows us to grow and improve at our own pace" I believe we have some level of free will, but again, given I was raised Catholic, I'd like to hear responses from unadulterated atheists or from those who have never been officially or significantly engaged with some religion at least with respect to God being the reason why we have free will.- "I also believe that no one, nor their beliefs, should be mocked." I believe basically the same thing; do atheists need to believe in a God to also believe such a thing?- "Some of your arguments for atheism in regard to religion are really an argument against humanity, and has nothing to do with religion if you really think about it." I disagree. I believe there are nefarious religious zealots who are intent on harming people and to boot in the name of God; so sad, so sad - it is primarily b/c of this kind of egregious behavior that I have begun to seriously question religion and its motives. I, personally, do not intend to harm any person, regardless of religion, or lack of; sure I fail in this simple code; I could potentially inflict harm on some entity who shows real action to inflict physical harm onto my mother or my child.- " least the Christian religions, are supposed to be about love, but humans often fail. That's why Christian religions are also supposed to be about forgiveness and the effort to do better, but people often fail at that, too." I always thought the great majority of the religions were generally about love and forgiveness - what am I missing here? Still, are atheists exempt or not allowed to feel or impart love and give or accept forgiveness? (I really trying to avoid having to become a religious expert to fully understand each and every religion with respect to each and every situation.)- "Another fact, no matter how much progress one social group sees, there will always be a group that is greatly hated. Humans don't progress in that respect, they merely transfer their hatred. It's sad and unfortunate." I could not have said it better. However, b/c I am not a scholar and b/c I don't yet have sufficient data to prove my assertion, I have up until this point kept my theory - similar to yours - quiet, and that theory is: 'People Will Forever Assault Some Entity in Some Way and Even Find a Way Around Some Man-Made Law so That They Could Still Assault That Entity Which is Supposedly Protected by Some Man-Made Law, or If That's Not Possible, Then People Will Just Find Some Other Group or Entity to Assault In Some Way B/C There Could Never Be Enough of Man-Made Laws to Protect Each and Every Group in Every Way All The Time'.@Lynn- If I were you, I would start researching and questioning your own belief systems and what you were taught. Open your mind; you have a brain, so do use it. And, finally, don't let schooling get in the way of your education - you may have to work on this one to break that unfortunate bond.Thank you for tolerating my ignorant/biased/prejudiced/etc person.DHelp me to help you to help us to help this Universe.(jupiter2011 at gmail dot com)

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          annel lm 6 years ago

          Hi, Kylyssa, have you read this very interesting scientific book - "Why God Won't Go Away (NY: Ballantine, 2001) It's explain, or at least hypothesize physiological point of human beliefs.By the way, it was funny story about this book. I ordered it from the library and soon after start getting pretty obsessive phone calls from religious organizations. Question about confidentiality aside, it was really funny, because they definitely had no idea what it is all about, following only the title of the book and tried to involve me to their sects :)

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          anonymous 6 years ago

          Hi, Kylyssa.This is in response to your question about my article, "Is Atheism a New Religion Embracing Bigotry?" On Associated Content, "resources" are not the articles that we use for writing our articles--those are *in* the article. Resources are web sites that we think people should check out on the topic, in this case, atheism. I linked to your web page because it is an example of a NON-bigoted page. It is not filled with hate, but objectivity. In other words, I applaud you article, and I thought that any atheists reading my article should see yours since you lead by good example. :-)______________________________Regarding the tax-free status of religions (in your article), they are not tax-free because they are religions, they are tax-free because they are non-profit organizations. Many atheists are quite active in non-profits, and atheists can start a non-profit just like anyone else. Regarding religiosity and abuse, yes, it does happen, but be aware that those who are abusive and disrespectful in the name of religion are not following the laws of Christianity. They are human, just like everyone else, and they must deal with their flaws and overcome their potential for wrongdoings, just like everyone else. As a Christian, I do not approve of religions that must force their will on anyone and preach hatred against other groups, and it does happen. I believe that God gave us free will, and allows us to grow and improve at our own pace. I also believe that no one, nor their beliefs, should be mocked. I have atheist friends, and we like each other and treat each other respectfully. That's all that matters. That's how it should be. :-)Some of your arguments for atheism in regard to religion are really an argument against humanity, and has nothing to do with religion if you really think about it. Religion is an excuse. It is unfortunate because religion, well at least the Christian religions, are supposed to be about love, but humans often fail. That's why Christian religions are also supposed to be about forgiveness and the effort to do better, but people often fail at that, too.Another fact, no matter how much progress one social group sees, there will always be a group that is greatly hated. Humans don't progress in that respect, they merely transfer their hatred. It's sad and unfortunate. Best wishes!

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          Kylyssa Shay 6 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

          @anonymous: I'd suggest studying whatever religion you belong to to find out what is right for you.

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          anonymous 6 years ago

          I'm starting to have disbeliefs about God etc...Is this normal or is my up bringing yanking at my on my concience.

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          anonymous 7 years ago

          hi i just wanted to ask a ? see i don't believe in god but i believe in government or at least laws i'm not sure how to say it. can u be atheist and believe in the law?

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          nickupton lm 7 years ago

          Brilliant lens! I am an atheist too and cannot understand why I would have to follow a set of arbitrary religious dogmas and believe in a God that "acts in mysterious (ridiculous) ways" to be a good person. One can be an atheist and be a caring, helpful, considerate and responsible person - in fact all the things that religions preach.

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          jbauer0318 7 years ago

          I thank you very much for this lens and your courage to speak out as an atheist. I too am an atheist, one who until the 2 to 3 years has kept silent about it. I was afraid to let it be known. I have only begun to let others know that I am an atheist and I am still in fear of some finding out. I am facing that fear because it only takes time until those that I fear find out. Keep up the good work Kylyssa, I hope that I can become for vocal in time as you are. Again thank you for your lens, it is favorited and 5 starred.

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          anonymous 7 years ago

          I've noticed that many of your pages revolve around two topics: that you are an outspoken atheist, and that you have had a very difficult life including homelessness. Have you ever considered that there may be a connection between the two? Have you ever asked yourself "What if I'm wrong?". I wonder if you gave your life to God whether he would have taken you down the same path. Were you always an atheist? Did you have a bad experience with a church or a clergy member? Do you feel that if there was a God he would have preventing certain things from happening, and so therefore chose to believe He does not exist?

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          zhenyar 7 years ago

          Morality is understood as a certain standard of atheism? And what about the notion - each has its own morality and the degree of conscientiousness. In my opinion, each decides for itself what is good and what is bad. And it does not depend on whether he believes or is an atheist. Everyone in something he believes.

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          Kylyssa Shay 7 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

          [in reply to boshemia] "What I don't understand is why there is such a focus on morality when what we really need is less morality and more HUMANITY. When one person can watch another suffer, or even cause them to suffer it is not a sign of lack of morality it is a sign of lack of humanity." - Brilliantly put! As humans we should strive to be more humane.

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          Ayngel Overson 7 years ago from Crestone, Co

          I don't really have a question for you... though not exactly an atheist I am not a believer in any specific faith either. I don't believe in anything anymore but I am open to anything that may want to reveal itself to me (so far still waiting) What I don't understand is why there is such a focus on morality when what we really need is less morality and more HUMANITY. When one person can watch another suffer, or even cause them to suffer it is not a sign of lack of morality it is a sign of lack of humanity. Yet many people cause suffering in the name of (insert deity here) and say it is okay, because somehow the people they are hurting are less than human. We are all human, and all equal. Religion itself is designed to divide, to separate into groups of us and them and this more than anything I see in the world today saddens me deeply.

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          anonymous 7 years ago

          How can Atheism account for the existence of morality? I have discovered it cannot.To the atheist, morality is dependant on circumstance. But, circumstances are different and can change. Since this is true, then circumstances must contradict one another. Can truth contradict itself? not at all... The relativistic nature of atheist morality makes it false. Either morals are established by a relative standard or an absolute standard. There are no other options. So by proving one is false, the other must be true by default...If morality is based on an absolute standard, then they must reflect an absolute Moral Lawgiver. Please understand that I would never claim that atheist are immoral. I will claim that atheism cannot offer a valid standard to judge whether something is morally good or bad.

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          anonymous 8 years ago

          Thanx for this wonderful article, Kylyssa. I find it amazing that the atheists in the USA always have to justify their non-believes and are treated as social pariahs. I'm so happy to live in a country, where most Christians are extremely decent and don't have problems with atheism and where evangelical Christians are a tiny minority. It is time that the Christians in your country grow up as well. You are doing a fine job to guide them on the right track. Respect!

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          anonymous 8 years ago

          [in reply to John from OKC] Go tho this website John. I think you will find it both interesting and enlightening.It is the closet thing I have seen to the truth and the best explanation for our origins and I believe it myself 100 percent. I am 69 years old and it has taken me nearly 40 years of my life to realize that I was brainwashed from the beginning of my life with the lie that is religion and god.

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          John Parr 8 years ago from Montreal

          I perceive atheists act (behavior wise) like religious people, in the sense they belong to something. And it feels somehow exclusive. Now, tell me objectively, have you noticed that? Thanks

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          anonymous 8 years ago

          I think you're brave to be out there discussing this issue. It's so polarizing. My brother told me he's not afraid to die, because he's going to heaven, but he's just sorry that some of the people he loves (looking pointedly at me) will be in hell.

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          anonymous 8 years ago

          What was before the Big Bang and what prompted it? Using the Aristotlean prime mover idea I can go back to there ... but then I am stymied. That's why I consider myself an agnostic. But how to atheists look at it/explain it?

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          Kylyssa Shay 8 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

          [in reply to GreenEcoBean] Again, I'm curious - does it take the same form or is it mostly online? Does it take the form of open job discrimination, vandalism, death threats, verbal and emotional abuse of school children by adult atheists, statements by politicians against Christians, ad campaigns against politicians for associating with Christians, people losing custody of their children for being Christian, or similar such attacks? This is a serious question because I live in a very religious area of the country and so I am only exposed to those kind of things committed against atheists and not vice versa. Surveys have shown that nationwide, at least 91% of Americans have some kind of belief in God, gods, or some other kind of supernatural entities. In West Michigan, I'd guess it's probably closer to 99% of its population that believes in God, gods or other supernatural entities so my experience may be strongly skewed.

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          GreenEcoBean 8 years ago

          I like that you mentioned atheists attacking religious people, cause I see that just as much as vice versa. It doesn't matter whos right, it matters how much respect you have for someone elses beliefs and their right to have them.

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          Kylyssa Shay 8 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

          [in reply to EverydayMiracles] I am not familiar with what you are talking about regarding atheist attacks - are you referring to some kind of protests at your church, door to door atheists, or some kind of atheist driven legislation? Please tell us about these attacks.

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          Everyday-Miracles 8 years ago

          Kylyssa, I feel that you are the wrong person to ask this question of, but you've opened yourself for it, and I hope you might be able to provide the answer: Why is there a percentage of atheists (growing percentage, it appears) which is hell-bent (no pun intended) on attacking believers and removing from us our right to worship provided that we do it peacefully?I try always to see others as I wish to be seen. You have your right to non-belief in the same way I possess a right to belief. Shame on me if I try to interfere with your use of free will! (Something I learned as a pagan, for sure!).I hope you don't mind if I add that some "religious" people do not believe that you are sinful and we are not: we (well, I anyway!) believe that we are *all* sinful and immoral and separated from God. Strange how that percentage (sorry, but yes, the majority) of Christians and other theists give the rest of us a bad name!

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          anonymous 8 years ago

          I believe in Nogod. I know Nogod exists and that is why I believe in Nogod. Nogod makes the world the way it is, Nogod decides upon our future and Nogod made it the way it was in the past. Nogod is everything and we must accept Nogod into our lives. Look into the sky and you know, there is Nogod; look at the oceans and you know, there is Nogod. Nogod loves us and through believing in Nogod will find happiness.

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          alexei2ru 8 years ago

          Hi! Great lens. I think that atheists have more freedom than believers. They cannot be manipulated through religion. They can decide for themselves what's good and what's bad. You don't always need someone to tell you that, however, many of us need guidance, therefore they turn to religion. The problem is the rise in power of religious groups. Inquisition has also started based on hatred towards those who had an open mind and did not accept everything as others. It's one thing to help people follow the teachings of religion and other to manipulate their beliefs, sometimes defying all logic. I think we all have to find our own answers, if not, we would not be human, we would be just mindless followers of "those few who know all the answers". I have one question. "Who's more afraid of the other? The atheist or the believer?"

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          GabrielGadfly 8 years ago

          Do you think that atheists who go out of their way to attack religious people have given the rest of the atheist population a bad reputation? What are some ways that atheists can work to reverse that reputation?

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          Kylyssa Shay 8 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

          I'm starting things off with two questions I was asked again recently by people offline, "Why do Atheists care about religion if they don't believe it themselves?" and "What's up with the big red A?"

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