In the Facebook group Atheism United, this question was asked by Peter Elisha: “In any case…what is the #1 thing you wish the Christians in your life would understand about you, personally, as an atheist?”
Thanks for the question, Peter. Below is the response I posted in the group, edited and expanded for this blog.
Good question. The thing I wish Christians (and Muslims and other theists) would understand about me is that my being an atheist is not a phase, it’s not a rebellion against God, it’s not an excuse to “sin”, it’s not a consequence of having had abusive experiences in the Church nor of having observed hypocrisy within it. I’m an atheist because I have spent decades exploring the reasons to believe that any kind of God exists and I have found that, as far as I am able to determine, none of those reasons stand up to rational criticism.
There are still people in my life who cling to the hope that, some day, I will “come back to the Lord”. I don’t necessarily want to make them sad but I think it would be better for all concerned if they were to accept the fact that It’s not going to happen. It can’t. Not, at least, if I remain relatively sane and honest. If I lose my rational faculties through injury or disease, then perhaps some unscrupulous person will take advantage of me and make a believer of me again or maybe I’d get there on my own in my diminished state. However, as long as I continue to care about what is and isn’t most probably true and as long as I am able to reason fairly well, then the likelihood that I will believe in any god is so minuscule as to be quite safely dismissed.
Now, I’m not saying that people who believe in God are necessarily stupid, dishonest or insane. No, it’s a question of values. Some people value whatever solace or hope they think they get from their faith more highly than they value submitting their beliefs to rational scrutiny and accepting the results. Some of these people are very intelligent and highly educated and, in just about every other area of their lives, they are very rational. Some such people are family and friends to me.
it would be nice for me to say that I don’t judge them. However, to be honest, I feel that they’re missing out on something by clinging to faith. However, I’m pretty sure that most of them would say that I, too, am missing out by being a disbeliever. We might not come to a complete resolution, a full understanding, me and them. But we can live in peace (well, except perhaps us and the religious extremists) and, although this one thing separates us, there are still many, many more things on which we can agree, things we can celebrate together and even things to which we can unite in opposition.
But they’re still mistaken about God. 😛