What it means to be an atheist

As an atheist I do not believe there is a god or higher existence that created the earth and all that lives here. I stopped using that word to describe myself for a while as some people started to act a little standoffish towards me. When asked what religion I was I would mutter “oh I’m not really that religious” – that was fine, but if I mentioned the word ‘atheist’ people would act differently in case I tried to push my non-religious agenda.

Recently I started to openly identify as an atheist again, and encountered a few misconceptions that I’d like to clear up…

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I determine what is morally right and morally wrong for myself.

I don’t have a list of commandments to tell me what to strive for and what not to do, but that doesn’t make me an immoral person. I know not to kill or steal or go after people in relationships – it’s common sense.

I don’t believe in God, but here’s a list of five things I do believe in:

  • Equality regardless of race, class, gender, sex or sexual orientation
  • Vaccinations
  • Access to education
  • Gun control
  • Adopting children and pets

The moral of this? Just try and be nice to other people.

I am free of religious biases, but not of personal, social and cultural ones.

Everyone has biases whether they acknowledge them or not. I do not identify as religious, therefore my views related to the world are based on my personal experiences and upbringing rather than on what is ingrained through religious beliefs. Because of this I suppose an argument can be made for me having a non-religious bias…

I do not see myself as better than anyone who freely practices religion.

I have religious friends who have taught me about their religious beliefs and customs. I think that the architecture of places of worship is intricate and beautiful. If asked I will participate in rituals or ceremonies because they are important to the people I care about.

I will not argue about the existence/non-existence of a god or gods because life is too short for that. I will not intentionally stir up someone religious and point flaws in their beliefs as I know some atheists tend to do. Accepting others regardless of religious beliefs is different to agreeing with everything they are saying – no reasonable person is asking you to do that.

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