What Causes Most People
to be Atheists?

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From: "Positive Atheism"
To: "Joanna"
Date: July 30, 2004
Subject: question

Being born.

The real question is, "What causes some people to then become theists, often before they've grown up enough to comprehend the claim that a god exists?" You see, a-theism, that is, being without theism (without a god-belief), is the natural state for a human. Religion is learned behavior, trained into you later in life. Nobody starts out being a theist, that is, with a god-belief; rather, everybody starts out having no god-belief. In other words, everybody begins life as an atheist (as that's what the word atheism means).

Often a person who was force-fed religion as a small child will grow up and snap awake, suddenly realizing,

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"Hey! This isn't true! It can't be true! My word! How could this happen? Why did they do this to me!?"

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This can signal rough times ahead for such individuals. Part of the Positive Atheism project's mission is to help sich people quickly transform from faith-based thinking to a life where we each stand on our own: we are accountable to ourselves and to the cold-hard facts of life for our own foolishness and we reap the rewards for our own wise investments. We do the best we can with what we've got, and nobody can do more. What we get out of life is precisely what we buckle down to create for ourselves, for our fellows, and for our environment -- juxtaposed, of course, against what life, our fellows, and certain environmental factors dish out to us via the elements and fate. Nobody can do more than this. Our ability to create good lives for ourselves and our families and associates is limited only by our fallibility.

The article "Defining Atheism" by George H. Smith might make it easier to see how atheism is not what many religionists (and some unthinking atheists) tell us that it is.

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On another front, atheism is nothing like what many imagine it to be: "just like any religion except there's no God." Neither is it simply the reverse of religion. Rather, atheism is the direct absence of everything that one normally associates exclusively with religion. I say "exclusively" because many wrongly think that morality can be had only through religion, but this is pure falsehood. Even if morality is obedience, an atheist, whose highest direct authority is that aspect of nature over which he has no control, is naturally obedient to that "authority." A humorous online column called "The Darwin Awards" is a collection of (usually fictional) stories about the exploits of those people who apparently thought they could thwart this authority!

In the eyes of most atheists, their own atheism means very, very little: we just don't think about it much, if at all. We certainly don't care about the private religious dealings of others: that is entirely their own business and it is rude for us to pry -- even when they offer to let us through evangelism (which itself is a form or rudeness). Our atheism only comes to mind when the religious practices of other people get in the way of a peaceful and prosperous society. This happens, usually, in one of three ways.

First, some theists con government to force atheists to acknowledge, to support, or even to practice religion and religious rites.

Secondly, some theists take it upon themselves to proselytize their religious faith or, worse, erect and support huge, powerful evangelistic projects.

Finally, for reasons more inexplicable than might explain the above, some theists take it upon themselves to oppress us, assail us, and in many other ways give us a hard time simply for being "those @%+$# atheists"; this is not simply the result of private affairs, but like the above can become institutionalized as government policy or social norm. I was jailed, for example, for refusing to undergo religious instruction in a sequestered environment!

Our main goal as a project is to find ways to reduce or eliminate thises

Thank you for writing. If you have any further questions, feel free to write again.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine
Entering our 10th year of service
   to people with no reason to believe

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