A Step-by-Step Guide to Becoming an Atheist May 6, 2008

A Step-by-Step Guide to Becoming an Atheist

Austin Cline presents a list of the steps one takes to become an atheist.

Step One: don’t believe in any gods.

And… that’s about it.

Short and snappy.

I like it. Just like the God FAQ.

What do you *not* have to do?

  • You don’t have to deny the existence of any gods.
  • You don’t have to assert that no gods exist.
  • You don’t have to be certain that no gods exist.
  • You don’t have to join the Communist Party.
  • You don’t have to be rebelling against your family.
  • You don’t have to stop celebrating Christmas.
  • You don’t have to burn a picture of Jesus.
  • You don’t have to eat Christian babies in satanic rituals.
  • You don’t have to care about religion, theism, or gods.

You may not have to care, but I’d say just about every atheist I know cares quite a bit about that last item…

It might seem like getting over God is the hardest step, but personally, the next part is even tougher:

You will have to decide whether you inform others about this and, if so, how you present it. Many people may start treating you differently simply because you don’t believe in their gods anymore. You may have to be concerned about whether knowledge of your atheism will lead to discrimination against you at work, for example.

Advice on when and how to tell other people you new stance on God is much more useful.

What advice would you give people trying to achieve “Step 2”?

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  • Danielle

    Move to the northeast.

  • What advice would you give people trying to achieve “Step 2?? – Be Nice, be tolerant. Respect their views. Your own views are equally confusing and seemingly inaccurate to them.

    Danielle, I hope you’re right. I’ll be moving from Az to NJ in three weeks. It’ll be nice to be back in a blue state.

  • Chris White

    I don’t usually tell people I’m an atheist unless they ask about my religion, spiritual beliefs, etc. Then I will tell someone whatever they ask about (assuming I have time). It isn’t something I ever felt scared of telling anyone, but I don’t just go up to strangers on the street and say “Guess what? I’m an atheist” either.

    Usually when I’m asked to fill in a blank on a form next to “Religion”, I just put “none” or “n/a”, since I don’t like calling atheism a religion.

  • Kev

    I would just ask whichever person was having problems and treating me differently, face to face, if they really see me as a different person. I’m still the same kind hearted, caring and compassionate person they knew before, nothing has changed except that they now know me on a deeper level. If they really still see me as a baby-eating devil worshipper, there isn’t much else I can do to sway them. Or even if they just can’t accept it, I would just tell them I thought I knew them better and thought that just as I am understanding and respectful of their beliefs, that they would be caring and understanding back towards me. If they really can’t handle that, maybe they aren’t someone I want to associate with anymore, though I will still be kind and care about them long after, and leave the opportunity open for them to maybe come back later and learn even more about me and my own beliefs.

  • Now, I know we don’t HAVE to do any of those things on that list…but, can we still do them? ‘Cause I really need my Christian baby fix!

  • Move to Europe. We speak English in England and they speak Spanish in Spain. What other languages are common in North America?

    Sorry but it’s sort of ironic that I’d suggest leaving America for England to escape religious persecution.

  • You mean I’ve been eating Christian babies for nothing? Oh man, I’m glad I can finally stop that.

  • frank

    HoverFrog, you make a good point, one that I have been considering myself, although in another direction. Does anyone know what the attitudes toward atheists are down under? I’d love to move to Europe, but frankly your weather is too cold for too long. I moved to Florida for the weather, but will be leaving because of the stupid.

  • A good next step is to come up with a nonconfrontational (unless you want drama) answer to the question, “Do you go to church?” or, “What church do you attend?” If your cultural background isn’t mainly Christian, replace the word “church” with an appropriate noun.

    In my experience, most people will stop after I say, “No,” to the first question or “I don’t attend any,” to the second. It’s especially helpful to change the subject. Usually, those people are less interested in the state of my imaginary soul than in some small talk to pass the time or to get to know me better. If you change the topic to something like what a terrible thing the latest weather disaster is, or how nice your niece’s birthday party was, then they have something to latch onto.

    Of course, your mileage may vary. You may run into someone who really does want to proselytize. If so, you can either leave the conversation, suffer in silence with noncommittal noises, or confront them and ask them to defend their assertions. If you’re forced to talk to this kind of person, because it’s a work relationship or a family one, best of luck.

  • Just remind them that Step 3 is profit 😉

  • Be brave and fly your colors! Whenever I mention that I am an atheist, people are very interested and have questions, or they say “wow, me too.” I would miss out on many wonderful conversations and I might even think I was the only atheist in my town if I wasn’t brave enough to come out first in a conversation.

  • Luther Weeks

    Whew! I’m a vegetarian…I suspected that was not a requirement…always wondered how we could be criticized for eating babies and being vegetarians at the same time (I just don’t have the faith that both could be possible at the same time).

    As a long time christian friend said to me when he learned I was godless: “there is still time for you”. That’s now what I tell my religious and republican friends, “there is still time for you”, when I find out the sad news about them.

  • dylan

    -frank, I lived in Australia for 5 years. I found them to be mostly indifferent to religion in general. It’s just not the issue there that it is in the US. The first girlfriend I had there came from a catholic family. She told me she was talking to her mom about me and her mom said, “Does he know we don’t go to mass? I hope he doesn’t think we’re those kind of catholics.”
    I got the impression that most Aussies were that way. They would claim to be of a certain religion but it was in tradition only. And they weren’t ashamed of that fact. By the way I lived out in a rural area 270 miles inland from Sydney. I don’t know if things would be different in the cities.

  • Ron in Houston

    I don’t know about your take on “not caring about religion, theism, or gods.”

    There are a lot of atheists who couldn’t give a flip about religion, theism, or gods. The only time those register on my radar is when they are a source of cruelty or discrimination. However, that has to do with caring about stopping cruelty or discrimination more than religion.

  • Step 2: Leave Mississippi under cover of darkness.

  • Frank, there is at least one guy in the forum from Oz. He (and maybe others) might be able to tell you what the religious attitudes are down under. I have an uncle and a cousin there so I should know but, unfortunately for you, religion has never come up in conversation.

  • Karen

    Step 2: Realize that your ideas about religion are private and you don’t have to share them with anyone if you don’t want to.

    If directly asked about church attendance, I just say, “I don’t attend a church” or, depending on the circumstance, “I’m an atheist.” Thankfully I’m in an area where I don’t typically get any strongly negative responses (just some surprise).

  • Susan

    Getting the heck out of Tennessee would be helpful (which I will be doing in a year, thank FSM!!). Same goes for any other state where “naked” is pronounced “nekkid.”

  • Polly

    You don’t have to agree with other atheists about a single other thing.

    You don’t have to be a fan of Richard Dawkins.

  • “Nekkid” is so much more amusing.

  • Susan is right about Tennessee. I’ve lived in TN most of my life, but have also lived in TX and AZ as well. I have to say of the three that TN is by far the most religiously intolerant (I lived in Austin while in TX so that might not be too representative of the state as a whole). I won’t discuss religion at work for fear of discrimination, but I do tolerate whole conversations at work with people discussing their “relationship” with the lord.

  • Athe the False

    * You don’t have to join the Communist Party.
    * You don’t have to be rebelling against your family.
    * You don’t have to burn a picture of Jesus.
    * You don’t have to eat Christian babies in satanic rituals.

    You don’t?

    Now you tell me.

  • Mark

    Lets keep all this in the proper perspective.

    The only thing we know for sure is the when it rains the ground gets wet.

    Being an Atheist won’t change that one bit.

    Being a beliver also will not change that fact one little bit.

    The universe doesn’t really care if you believe in God or not. Its going to keep on trudging forward no matter what you think.

    Reality doesn’t bend to suit our opinions.

    Keep this in mind the next time you are deciding how much energy to invest in arguing with someone over religion.

  • “Nekkid” is so much more amusing.

    “She’s nekkid, and she’s not wearing any clothes too!”

    I’m sorry, I love that line. 🙂

    See 15 seconds into Thumbtanic

  • Damo

    Frank, as an Australian,
    I can state that most Australian’s religious preference would be half-arsed agnostics.

    Most couldn’t be bothered to make a commitment either way. Too much trouble and great decisions over the existence of the Deity cuts into drinking time.

    I might be wrong of course and might need to check my facts , but I couldn’t be arsed either.

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