The Nuts & Bolts Of My Atheism

I’m an atheist. Did you know that? Does it matter? I have some links on my sidebar, but that’s as much promotion as I’ve ever done.

Let’s get this straight up front, I would never try to convince anyone that atheism is right, because I don’t have any proof that it is. I do not proselytize. I won’t talk you out of religion, call it stupid or laugh at it. I’ve stood up for Muslims in several posts about terrorism. I respect your views, whatever they are. I don’t talk about atheism, because there’s not much point. I don’t want to start an argument. I don’t want to offend anyone. I would rather discuss our similarities than our differences. Everyone has their own beliefs and that’s cool.

I am talking about it today because I read Rarasaur’s post Testimony Of A Theist. In it, she wrote a list of “things that atheists could do without:”

  • Blessing their sneezes
  • Telling them that God has a plan (or variations thereof)
  • Telling them that their dead loved ones are with angels
  • Calling them agnostic
  • Requiring them to pledge their allegiance to their country “under God”
  • The Religious Assumption (“Everyone is religious in some way or the other.”)
  • Requiring them to sing along to religious songs or take religious breaks
  • Assuming that they don’t know scripture
  • Assuming that their morals are more flexible than those of religious people
  • The expression “A lack of faith”

I would like to address the things on Rara’s list, because not everyone’s experience is the same. My views are different than yours, even if we believe the same things.

Blessing their sneezes

I say “bless you” when someone sneezes, though I usually drop the “god” part. Sometimes, I say “gesundheit” because it means “health” in German. I wrote a post about that here. Blessing sneezes is just part of polite society.

I also say, “thank god,” because what else are you supposed to say? Thank nothing? There’s no good replacement for it. And on the other end, I also use the word “hell.” There’s no succinct substitute for the concept of hell either.

And while we’re at it, I don’t capitalize the word “god” because that makes it a proper noun like a name. Since I don’t believe in god, I don’t capitalize it. God is a concept to me, not an entity. It is a concept like photosynthesis or hell; I’ve never seen either in person, but I understand the concept.

I hope using those words doesn’t offend any theists out there, but they’re such a part of lexicon that there’s really no easy substitute for them.

Telling them that God has a plan (or variations thereof)

You’re welcome to tell me anything you like, but that doesn’t mean I’ll agree. Telling me that god has a plan for me is like telling a Buddhist that the Christian god has a plan for them. It doesn’t make any sense because their beliefs are different.

Telling them that their dead loved ones are with angels

Again, telling me that my loved ones are with angels is like telling a Buddhist that. It’s a nice sentiment, and if it makes you feel better to say it, it won’t offend me.

Calling them agnostic

I used to be agnostic. I always said that if a god came down with a thunderbolt and provable data that it was, in fact, a god, I’d believe. And that is still true. If there were tangible proof of the existence of god–not faith, but proof–I would believe. The older I get though, the harder it is to keep the faith that some proof might appear. I’ve lost faith in the idea that god could potentially be a provable entity, so I’ve migrated from agnostic to atheist.

I call myself atheist, non-theist, non-believer, irreligious. Any of those, even agnostic, are fine, but I prefer you call me Goldfish. As my grandmother used to say, “I don’t care what you call me, just don’t call me late for dinner.” Wise words.

Requiring them to pledge their allegiance to their country “under God”

If “under god” was always in the United States Pledge Of Allegiance, it wouldn’t bother me, but that’s not the case. It was only added in 1954 in response to the “red scare,” a.k.a. communism. It hasn’t even been there 60 years.

The same goes for adding “in god we trust” to money. It was only added in 1957.

No "In God We Trust" on the left.

It wasn’t there originally and it doesn’t belong there now. The United States has a firm wall between church and state, via the First Amendment to the Constitution. Adding god to money and the Pledge of Allegiance violates the law.

The Religious Assumption (“Everyone is religious in some way or the other.”)

You can make all the assumptions about me you’d like. I’m used to people thinking of me erroneously. I honestly do not care one lick what the public thinks of me. I would hope that you’d get to know me before assuming anything though.

This one in private life doesn’t affect me, but it does bother me when it’s the government assuming it, because it is clearly not true.

Requiring them to sing along to religious songs or take religious breaks

Almost everything on this list doesn’t bother me if it’s personal, but it would get my goat if I was required to do that at work or in a public building.

If I’m in a church, I will pretend. I’ve always pretended. A friend of mine’s mother died a couple of years ago and the funeral was held in a Catholic church. I did not go up and take communion, because I think it’s an insult to theists for an atheist to do that in their house, but I stood up when required, I sat down, I sang along with everyone else. When I’m on your turf, I will do everything in my power not to disrespect your beliefs.

Assuming that they don’t know scripture

A lot of irreligious people know the scriptures inside and out. They can quote you a Bible verse in a heartbeat. I am not one of those people. I know the Bible about as well as I know the telephone book. I used to read it in Sunday School as a kid, but all of that knowledge has been lost. I haven’t bothered to re-read it, because I don’t like arguing about religion and it doesn’t pertain to my life. I just don’t quote from it. Simple.

Assuming that their morals are more flexible than those of religious people

I once got drawn into an argument on the internet about religion. I don’t do that anymore because it’s disrespectful and pointless. In this argument, I was told I had no moral compass because I’m irreligious. My morals go about willy-nilly spinning from bad to evil and I couldn’t possibly know right from wrong.

That is a bunch of crap. Atheists have sound ethics and morals just like the religious. I have never committed a crime. I have never even been arrested. Since the age of fifteen, I’ve had a job and paid taxes. I give money and time to charities. Before I was anemic, I donated blood. I hold doors, and say please and thank you. I have manners. I am considerate. I tip well. I live in a neat and tidy house that looks similar to every house on the block. I don’t blast music at all hours. I don’t worship the devil. I don’t go around telling people they’re going to hell. I am an upstanding citizen, yet I don’t have any faith.

The expression “A lack of faith”

I have a lack of faith in religion, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have faith. I have faith in the laws of physics, thermodynamics, gravity. I have faith in science. I believe that science will make the world better. Science cures diseases. Science allowed men to go to the moon and back. Science has given us what little understanding we have of our universe and our own brains. Science rules and I very much believe in it.

I don’t remember ever having any faith to lose. I don’t think I ever believed in god. It’s alright with me if you want to say I have a lack of faith in religion, but a total lack of faith is just not true.

I hope I didn’t offend anyone with this post; that was not my intent. My goal was that maybe we could understand each other a little better. No matter what we believe, we are all humans of earth and we are not that different. Humans should be considerate of each other, no matter what they believe. I believe that adults are ultimately responsible for their own actions, and as such, we are all responsible for making the world a better place.

Big primate Homo sapiens thumbs up!

There are 56 comments

  1. aliceatwonderland

    I’m an agnostic and always have been. My parents are also and they never sent me to church because they despise organized religion. I met my husband while visiting a church with a friend. I thought I could convert to Christianity. I tried, for years. I even let them baptize me because all their praying for me was unnerving. We have raised the girls in the church, because I wanted to give them a chance to believe in God – it seems to make most people happier and we’re in the Bible Belt, so at least they aren’t given heck by people like I was as a kid. They’ve made friends there and the people are nice. But I am not comfortable there.

    I didn’t go for a while. Then I went a few times in the evening because my kids like me to be there so much. And here came all the people so excited I was here and look how happy your kids are and I wanted to sink into the floor. But I find I have a hard time singing the songs now because I’m thinking about what they mean (love songs about how the world will blow up and it will be glorious). I used to just be able to ignore all of it since while I stayed home it was my only social outlet. But now . . . I don’t know. I love my husband dearly, and he doesn’t give me trouble for not going. But it’s still very hard.

    I’ve tried to tell my eldest some about it, but she doesn’t really get it. I don’t want the burden of thinking I am doomed in the afterlife on her shoulders. Now I wonder if I did the right thing, letting them be raised in the church. Their father believes greatly in it and it’s very important to him. But it’s scary to me, scary that one day I might lose them. That is why I hate religion sometimes.


    1. goldfish

      If I had children, I would let them make up their own minds. I wouldn’t force anything on them. Religion does seem to make most people happier. I almost wish I could believe because of that. Plus, they have a community, which is nice.

      It’s nice that you and your husband are able to come to terms on it for the most part. I understand that fear. It’s probably the same fear my parents experienced when I moved away from the church.


  2. ardenrr

    Yay! I’m the first to like :) Great post! I completely agree that it’s a private matter. I never talk about religion anymore as a friend quit speaking to me after a conversation we had on religion wherein he believed and I simply did not. It was a sad experience but I learned he was probably not a good friend to have to begin with!


    1. goldfish

      It is a private matter, which is why I don’t really talk about it much. People make assumptions whenever the term atheist is bandied about. Belief causes so many rifts between people when it really should bring us all together.


  3. donofalltrades

    I remember when atheist used to be sort of a mysterious or even negative term. Maybe it still is in many contexts, but to me, when I hear someone is an atheist, it’s no more eyebrow raising than learning that somebody is a Mormon or Protestant or whatever. I was raised Catholic, but I’m not a very good Catholic. I’ve had my kids baptized but I don’t expect them to believe in the same thing that I do, especially since I’m not sure what I believe anymore. I know that I HOPE for something awesome to be awaiting in the afterlife, but I’m skeptical for sure. I like the to each their own philosophy. Leave me alone about my beliefs and I’ll do the same. Let’s embrace our similarities and respect our differences like civilized human beings please.


    1. goldfish

      Atheist still has stigma attached to it, which is why I generally don’t use the term. People assume all sorts of things about atheists, most of which aren’t true at all.

      I understand wanting to believe in an afterlife. I really do. It took me forever not to think of the concept of no afterlife as depressing, but it’s liberating, too. If this life is all we have, it makes every second of it all the more precious.

      I very much believe in the to each their own philosophy. We all have to do what is right for us. I just wish we didn’t hate so much over it.


    1. goldfish

      Thanks, dear. Saying you’re an atheist can end friendships or make people view you differently, when really, I just want humans to get along and stop killing each other over different beliefs.


  4. Su Leslie

    Great post, thanks. I describe myself as a Presbyterian atheist with catholic tendencies. I was brought up going to church, although I’ve been pretty clear about my beliefs since I was 14. I like the rituals of the more traditional churches, as well as the art, music, architecture, etc. I even go to church occasionally and love the way that sitting in a place that has been culturally deemed “sacred” actually affects my mood. I almost enjoy myself, then they starting talking about god, and the moment is lost. My son has been raised an atheist. We have friends from across the christian spectrum, as well as Hindu, Muslim and Jewish friends. My son has talked to them about their beliefs – and the practice of them – but is resolutely an atheist. He has taken so much shit from christian kids at school (being banned from playing with them, told he’ll burn in hell, etc) that he’s pretty anti-religion. I’ve tried to encourage him to see personal belief systems as just that – personal – but his experience of other people’s has made him a bit of a proslytizer, and I can’t blame him.
    Thanks for such a rational, thoughtful, well-written post. I really enjoy reading your blog.


    1. goldfish

      “Presbyterian atheist with catholic tendencies”

      Lol. I was brought up Presbyterian and attended Catholic school. I was abused like your son and I wasn’t even an atheist yet, just Presbyterian. My main problem with organized religion is just how much hate there is for people of other beliefs. I just can’t condone that.

      I’ve always loved the architecture and art, too. There’s something cozy about being in a church. Thanks!


      1. Su Leslie

        I think I wanted to be Catholic when I was a kid because it seemed so much more … Well just more than being Presbyterian. We were the Church of Scotland division and it seemed really drab. No incense, no sparkly robes, no Latin. A bit pedestrian really. I’ve since studied sociology and understand how important it is to set the sacred apart from the “everyday” to facilitate belief. Catholics do that so much better!!!

        I share your concern about the bigotry and hatred engendered in so much organised religion – and that’s my son’s real concern too.

        The British comedian Eddie Izzard does a wonderful piece about the Church of England. You might know it already , but here’s the link:


  5. sortaginger

    I’m an agnostic raising an atheist. I hear *a lot* that if I weren’t agnostic, the kid would have chosen Christianity. WTF?

    Can I add something to the list? The phrase “I’ll pray for you”. If someone says that as a way to offer comfort, then I have no issue with it. It is what they know to do in a lousy situation. If someone says that as a way to convert my feeling or stance on something, then it is offensive (and should really be offensive to anyone regardless of religion).

    Finally, I (well, I guess my kid since he is the atheist here) am not offended by Christmas trees, etc. I love my tacky teal holographic foil tree.

    Great post, Fishie! :-)


    1. goldfish

      Oh, yes, I’ve gotten the “I’ll pray for you” thing, too. My response is go right ahead if it makes you feel better, but it’s not really going to change anything.

      I’m not offended by Christmas trees either (as long as they’re not displayed on publicly owned property). I really like Christmas. Honestly, I’m not offended by much as far as religion goes unless it infringes on my own rights.


  6. JackieP

    Really well said. I’m not athiest, but I’m not religious either. I’m spirtual. Which I have a hard time explaining to a lot of people so I don’t even try. I try not to discuss religion. I’m part Native American and I think my feelings of spirituality comes from there. I believe mostly like they believe. Respect nature, people and everything else and try not to trample on feelings and their way of believing and all will be as it should. I’m big for respect. Basically doesn’t that what it comes down to? If you respect me I will respect you, differences and all. Now if we could get everyone to think that the world would be a much better place.


    1. goldfish

      Yes, exactly that. I don’t attack anyone for their beliefs, so I ask not to be attacked for mine. The diversity of belief is what makes humans special. If only we could all respect each other as humans, not as Christians or Muslims or atheist, the world wouldn’t have quite so much hate and war.


  7. prog4

    These days I tend to view atheism as similar to religion – it’s another belief system but in this case a belief that certain things do {not} exist.
    I think it is doubtful a god exists and I also think there is a lack of tangible or (to me) believable evidence that god exists – however I cannot bring myself to state categorically that this is the case…. how could I possibly know that?
    For those reasons I have come to think of myself as agnostic.


    1. goldfish

      Fair enough. And I tend to think of agnosticism as not picking a side. :P

      In all seriousness, I don’t care what I’m called. Agnostic, atheist, nonbeliever; it’s all the same to me.


  8. AR Neal

    You are certainly a true Fish of Gold (especially one who can lick: “I honestly do not care one lick what the public thinks of me.” Now, only a talented goldfish can do that! :D

    You go, standing up and clearly stating your beliefs. That’s how everyone should be. Even the Bible says that we are to be either hot or cold, not lukewarm–we each gotta stand for something! You believe in the tangible, the provable, and have left no room for argument (disagreement maybe, but we all do that, right?).

    I also agree with you that your being an atheist should not make a difference once a person has gotten to know you; it doesn’t run me away from your fabulous bloggy-space just because I have different beliefs.

    And you are right; in so many situations, “faith talk” can turn ugly so quickly, which is the antithesis of faith (in the Christian sense anyway, where, as a Christian I find quite a few problems…). As I read the Bible, I don’t see Jesus being all nasty to the people who disagreed with him; in fact, he often treated them better than the folks who thought they were his closest friends :D

    Anyway, you keep on being you, to steal a line from a few other folks around here ;)


    1. goldfish

      Thank you. It’s a big sigh of relief that people with different views can read this and understand, since I was worried about offending.

      You’re right. So much negative behavior is the antithesis of Christian values. Jesus was an amazingly peaceful and welcoming person.

      Thanks for sticking around. :)


  9. rarasaur

    Yay, I love this! I’m always surprised by how much I just don’t care about what religion someone is. In fact, I’m having to work myself up to reply to comments on my post about it because … eh, it’s just religion. Sorta boring as far as topics go. *Who* a person is rarely has anything to do with religion. Interesting things like unicorns, invention, and dinosaurs– well, that takes priority. :) As far as the blessed sneezes, it bothers me more than Dave. It’s actually the excuse that bothers me, “It’s okay that’s I’m referencing an archaic science and wrapping it up in a big Christian god bow because it’s a habit.” I don’t see it as any different than calling me a colored person or dollface. It might’ve been an acceptable habit, but it’s not anymore. Not that I go all rawr on people just for god-blessing me, but it doesn’t sit well with my logic-based-vulcan-like brain.


    1. goldfish

      Yay! I’m glad. I was a little worried posting this since religion is not a part of my life and I know it means a lot to others. I certainly don’t want to denigrate anyone’s beliefs. I’d much rather talk about unicorns, invention, and dinosaurs. :)

      Honestly, as long as the intent isn’t malicious, most of this stuff doesn’t bother me at all. Of greater concern to me is the erosion of the wall between church and state, but that should worry everyone.


  10. Deena Siddle

    I have never argued anyone into a relationship with God, I have watched many try. For what point I’m not sure?
    I respect your privacy and love your blogs, maybe not all of them but that is my view.
    We each find our way in life.


  11. Katie

    You make so many great points in this. I’m an atheist as well, and I echo many of the same sentiments. I think this is a very fair assessment that dispels a lot of the atheist stereotypes that float around.

    Also, your concern for offending people with this has inspired me. :)


  12. dhonour

    Former Catholic agnostic, but that’s too wordy (even for me). And I’m not sure I could fully cull the phrase Jesus H. Christ from my litany of curse words, though I try to pretend I’m saying Cheesy Rice for the sake of my 5 year old. And you are right–faith is not the the sole propriety of the religious. I have faith in myself, faith in my family, faith in lots of things. I really enjoyed this.


  13. completelydisappear

    Agree with your words that we’re all human no matter what religious/belief we hold on. We are not that different and I think that if we can understand this idea, we won’t raise the conflict against each other.


  14. twistingthreads

    I would not have been offended by this when I was a Christian. I am not offended now as someone who has not been a Christian for over a decade. And if I was…I could have just skipped this post, honestly, but I don’t see that it harms anyone.


  15. persephone2013

    I once had a conversation with a friend who asked me if I had accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and savior. I said that I did know, but that I was ok with it, and that I am very secure that nothing horrible is going to happen to me when I die. She told me I wouldn’t get into heaven. Then I asked her, if I were a small black boy in the wilds of Africa, who had never heard of Jesus, and who lived a life of kindness and honor, would I go to heaven when I die? She said I would not. I told her that I definitely disagree.

    To me, this type of thinking is very narrow and evangelical (translation= judgmental). That is what I can do without. Since that time, I actually had a spiritual awakening (long story and very unexpected). I personally do not use the Bible or go to church. They can be wonderful tools for lots of people. But they have never completely resonated for me (bits and pieces perhaps). However, I now do have things that I more than believe in, I know them from personal experience. And everyone needs to come to what they either believe or know, for themselves, in their own time.


    1. goldfish

      It’s entirely unfair that someone who’s never heard of Jesus would be penalized just for that. Ignorance of the law is no excuse I guess.

      I think whatever anyone wants to believe is their own business. I don’t want to insist that anyone believe what I do (or don’t) and I only ask the same courtesy.


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