Defining what it is to be an atheist

David Perez, TSV Staff Writer

I think there is a lack of understanding when it comes to the meaning behind the word atheist. On Oct. 13, in Spartanburg, SC, the Christian run “Spartanburg Soup Kitchen” refused to let the atheist organization “Upstate Atheists” volunteer at the soup kitchen.

They can set up across the street from the Soup Kitchen. They can have the devil there with them, but they better not come across the street.” Lou Landrum, executive director of the soup kitchen said, according to Cleary, Landrum does not understand what it means to be an atheist.

On Nov. 11, The Kansas City star reported that the “Kansas City Atheist Association” was told that their services would not be needed this year. These services included delivering meals to those in need on Thanksgiving. The reason?

“They informed us ‘we wouldn’t be a good fit,’” Coalition President Josh Hyde wrote. Clearly, the Kansas City Rescue Mission does not understand what it means to be an atheist.

Anytime it comes up that I’m an atheist, the response is usually awkward silence or a twisted expression. My aunt said “How dare you?” and that she had no respect for me as a human being. After the experiences I’ve had, I’m usually reluctant to admit my non-belief because it can provoke an angry response. And usually it’s not my lack of belief, but what people think I believe that offends them.

Too often, I see atheism wrongly labeled as being evil or satanic. The University of British Columbia conducted “trust” experiments on 350 Americans and 450 UBC students. The results of the experiments concluded that people feel atheists to be about as trustworthy as rapists. Think about that for a minute. Atheists as trustworthy as rapists. What crimes have atheists committed to be looked at in the same light as rapists? I can’t think of any. I don’t think the hate stems from simply thinking a different way, but stems from a massive lack of understanding on what an atheist is.

Last year’s Gallup Poll found that only 54 percent of those asked would vote for a “well qualified” openly atheist presidential candidate. That is the lowest percentage for any of the other groups polled. The other groups polled include Blacks (96 percent,) Women (95 percent,) Catholics (94 percent,) and Gays and Lesbians (68 Percent.) This poll shows that many people still view atheism as a negative attribute, and because of that, it is still socially unacceptable to openly say you’re an atheist.

There is a common misconception that because someone is an atheist they automatically hate the religious, that’s just not true. Just because someone doesn’t believe in any particular religion, does not mean they are opposed to it, or opposed to others believing in whatever they’d like to. There is a term for people that oppose religion and/or forms of religious harm, they’re called anti-theists.

I personally believe people can be good simply because we have a conscience. I accept scientific theories like the big bang and evolution, but even that can’t be attributed to being an atheist. Nothing I proactively believe in or stand for can be attributed to being an atheist.

So, let’s make it clear, the definition of an atheist is someone who does not believe in a supernatural deity…that’s all.


Update: This article has been updated to correct the byline, the article was written by David Perez. 10:25 AM, 11/25/13.
Update: This article headline has been changed to better reflect the headline. 1:14 PM, 11/25/13.