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October,1998

Atheism: A Primer, of Sorts by Cliff Walker

Atheism has a very long history. The lack of a god belief was told in the Bible verse of Psalm 14:1, which says, "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God...."

The fool!? Yes, we atheists have been hated and lied about for as long as religious people have known about us.

The truth is, we all start out, as babes, with no god belief. We were not grown up enough to understand what people are saying when they tell us about gods and religion. In other words, we start out normal, seeing and hearing and doing the best we can with what little we have.

It is only later, usually during our first six years, that most children are taught about things that we cannot see. People fool us with tales about gods, demons, angels, færies, witches and wizards, Santas and bunnies, and many others.

Parents and teachers and preachers and older kids looked us straight in the eye and we really had no way to say no to them, even though we did not see what they were talking about.

If we believed in Santa, a friend or a parent later told us that there is no such thing as Santa. They took us to the market where the department store Santa gladly showed us that his beard was just a cheap wig and that his big tummy was just a pillow. We didn't believe in Santa after learning that he is make-believe, just like we didn't believe in Santa before we ever heard of Santa.

Some of us waited for them to tell us that there is no such thing as gods, but that day never came.

Most of us never learned that the gods are make-believe like Santa. If we were taught these things as kids, we went on believing when we grew up. Sometimes we thought that anyone who did not believe was wrong or was a fool.

When we met a child who did not believe, we may have tried show that child just how wrong he or she was. When we keep to ourselves and don't say anything, this is called tolerance.

Tolerance is better than fighting. We still think we are better than the others, we just go ahead and let them be wrong. With tolerance, we never look to see if maybe we might be wrong.

A few children learned full acceptance of people with different beliefs. Perhaps our mother told us, "That's what their parents believe; that's what their parents taught them. We taught you what we believe, and we give you the best we can. Their parents give them the best they can. What people believe is not what makes them a good friend, it is how they behave that matters most."*

No matter what we believed when we grew up, almost everyone forgot that we all began life with no belief in a god. We all began as atheists. Nobody would believe unless someone told them about gods or unless they made up their own religion. Had we not learned to believe, we would still be atheists.

Do you know what it is like to believe in gods? Do you understand what it is like not to believe in gods? If you don't know these things, then can you tell me why it matters what people believe about gods?

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    • Notes:

    • Footnote: * This is precisely what my Mother taught me when I was a child.

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Copyright ©1998 Cliff Walker; Portland, Oregon