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I’m a “big-tent” atheist, which includes whatever non-theistic labels people prefer: agnostic, humanist, secular humanist, freethinker, secularist, and more. This list applies to the whole tent:
1. The prefix “a” can mean “anti” or “non.” While some atheists are anti-theists, most are non-theists who have no desire to destroy religion. We don’t have a problem with believers until they try to force their beliefs on others.
2. Atheists are not necessarily protesters, though that’s how they are usually portrayed in the media. When they do protest, they protest government privileging of one religion over another or religion over non-religion.
3. Atheists are not angry at God (just as they are not angry at the Tooth Fairy), and most of us didn’t become atheists because something bad happened to us. We became atheists because we find no evidence for any gods.
4. Atheists are not less trustworthy just because we don’t believe in a judging God. Believing that of us only makes us think you would be untrustworthy were it not for your fear of God.
5. We can find joy without belief in God and an afterlife. We may not see any cosmic purpose of life, but we do find our own joyful purposes in life.
6. Most religious people are secular most of the time. Ask yourself how you would behave differently if you stopped believing in God. If you can’t come up with a good answer, then you are what I call a functional atheist.
7. Calling atheism a religion is like calling baldness a hair color. The “religion” of atheism and secular humanism is not taught in public schools, unless you think that conveying the best available scientific information is a religious act. If you wind up abandoning faith in supernatural things because of science, as many do, that is a collateral benefit to critical thinking.
8. Most atheists don’t go around proselytizing or promoting atheism. For every open atheist you know, there are probably dozens of non-identifying atheists whom you assume are religious. Many are afraid to come out of their atheist closets, and the varied reasons for that would require another list of ten or more things that I wish everyone would know.
9. Atheists don’t fit your stereotypes. There are good and bad atheists just as there are good and bad Christians, Jews, Muslims, men, women, and any other category. Judge people by their actions and the content of their character, not by their professed religious beliefs.
10. Most of the atheists I know have a good sense of humor, so I’ll end with a joke:
A Jewish atheist hears that the best school in town happens to be Catholic, so he enrolls his son. Things are going well until one day the boy comes home and says, “I just learned all about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.” The boy’s father is barely able to control his rage. He grabs his son by the shoulders and says, “Joey, this is very important, so listen carefully. There is only ONE God — and we don’t believe in Him!”