On behalf of all atheists, I would respectfully request that those of you practicing your chosen faith refrain from saying or asking the following:
- “Well, have you ever read the [insert holy book of choice]? Maybe you should.”
The answer, in most cases, is yes. Many atheists were not brought up in faithless households. In fact, many of us attended church in our youth and are well acquainted with whatever religion those who raised us were practicing. In my experience, atheists tend to know a lot more about religion, Christianity in particular, than the followers themselves. But, even if we have not read it, it is presumptuous to assume that someone’s entire belief (or non-belief) system is going to be shaken to its foundation simply by reading a book. We don’t go around suggesting that you read the works of Immanuel Kant or Carl Sagan or Stephen Hawking – it’d be nice if you’d return the favor.
- “You’re going to hell!”
We don’t believe in hell. (Neither, for that matter, do the Jews, and they’re supposedly God’s Chosen People – what does that tell you?). If this is meant to be a threat, it’s a weak one. And it makes you sound like an asshole.
- “You just haven’t gone to the right church.”
No church will ever be the right church. It has nothing to do with the church itself, and everything to do with what we believe is the most logical and reasonable explanation for life and the universe as we know it. Would it be fair to say that you just haven’t gone to the right science classes?
- “Why do you hate God?”
We can’t hate something we don’t believe in. Certainly there are plenty of angry atheists out there who insist on being arrogant and aggressive toward people of faith, asserting that they are stupid or ignorant or otherwise inferior because they choose to believe their existence can be credited to a deity rather than physics. But most of us take no issue with religion unless it is used as an excuse to harm others or to discriminate against them.
- “Science won’t get you anywhere. Religion will.”
Really? Science got us to the moon. Checkmate.
- “Technically, atheism is a religion, too.”
The meaning of religion is, by definition: “the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, esp. a personal God or gods.” So…no. Atheism is the antithesis of religion.
- “Well, what’s going to happen when you find out you’re wrong?”
If your god is as loving and forgiving as you say he is, I’d like to think he’d cut me a break.
- “How can you possibly believe that nothing happens when you die?”
I don’t believe that at all. The Law of Conservation of Energy is one we’re all familiar with: energy cannot be (naturally) created or destroyed. The human body is full of energy; when we die, it has to go somewhere. It’s my belief that everything we see and everything we are came from stars that exploded billions of years ago and that each atom that makes up my physical being was once part of one of those stars. Therefore, when I die, those atoms that once were me will return to the cosmos and become something else.
- “Evolution is just a theory, too.”
True – but here’s the beauty of science: when a discovery is made or facts are presented to disprove a theory, scientists accept it and start over. You can’t do that with religion because the religious don’t believe the existence of god is a theory – they believe it to be fact, and often refuse to adjust their beliefs to fit the facts.
- “I’ll pray for you.”
Um. Okay. Thanks?