I can already hear you asking, “What is an atheist?,” so let me make it really clear for you: I don’t believe in god.
I was raised Jewish, emphasis on the -ish. We never went to temple or kept kosher, and I didn’t have a bat mitzvah. We did holiday dinners because it meant a lot to my Grandma. My brother and I were both asked as kids if we wanted to go to Hebrew school; but since we didn’t want extra homework, we said no, and that was that.
Is it ironic that it was at a bat mitzvah, when I was 13, that my disbelief started? We were reading a portion from a prayer book and it occurred to me that I didn’t believe a single word of it, or, for that matter, anything else in the book; it seemed too far-fetched, too much like a fairy tale. I’ll admit I didn’t just give up my belief in god then and there, and clearly recall actually praying out of desperation once in high school, when my Grandma was in the hospital, but it felt like I was faking. There are babies with cancer, millions of starving people, natural disasters, so many terrible murders–and honestly, I don’t understand how someone like god, who’s supposed to be watching over us would let all of that happen. I don’t believe anything happens “for a reason” or that anyone but the people I’ve wronged can offer me forgiveness.
The problem is that not enough people actually ask “What is an atheist?,” and take the time to learn that we’re not bad people—just people who see the world differently than religious people. In fact, atheists are pretty widely hated.I read one statistic that said people distrust atheists about as much as they distrust rapists. Wait. WHAT? Yeah, you read that correctly. Apparently most religious people think that because I don’t believe in god, I’m just as bad as someone who violently forces another person to have sex against their will. Ugh.
I’m used to the stigma, I’m used to people trying to argue with, or even convert me—which is pretty rude, considering that I’ve never tried to convert a single person to my view. I’m used to people looking at me like I just ate a puppy or something when I tell them I’m an Atheist. But I have to say, it sucks and doesn’t seem quite fair. In a country where we’re lucky enough to have freedom of religion, why is it not okay for me to be free from religion.
Hopefully after reading this, the next time someone asks you, “What is an atheist?,” you’ll tell them we’re people just like everybody else. We’re not missing anything—no screws loose here—and, hey, a whole lot of us are kind of awesome people. People you might even want to hang out and watch The Simpsons with.
Have you ever asked,”What is an atheist?” and gotten an answer you were surprised by? Have you ever questioned the existence of god? Let’s talk about it in the comments.