I'm Not Really An Atheist,
But --

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From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Leamond"
Subject: Re: Thanks
Date: November 05, 2003 7:55 AM


It is good to hear that we have expressed our values in ways that people can understand, accept, and even appreciate, even if they retain a radically different understanding of Reality. Here, I think, is the most important observation we can make about atheists; that is, where we fit into the larger picture (most of us, anyway):

When we observe theists, we see a tendency for the religion to play a substantial role in the lives of most religious people. With very few exceptions, this is simply not the case with atheists. For the vast majority of us, atheism is nothing, really; we don't give a hoot about religion and thus don't care one whit about our atheism. (This is what atheism is, after all, an indifference, at best, toward those matters which most people would call "religious.") If anything, our atheism is merely a way for us to distinguish ourselves from those people who are interested in religion (if need be -- which, fortunately, is not very often).

Unfortunately, a handful of active atheists, for one reason or another, appear to miss "the old life" under the thumb of religion. They form groups with like-minded atheists in what looks like an attempt to make their atheism do for them what religion once did for them (what it continues to do for others). This is next to impossible, though, because religion is "a thing," whereas atheism is what's left after that "thing" of religion has been removed from the picture.

Truth is, almost every atheist's atheism is merely incidental to his or her humanity: the atheism (that is, the absence of a god-belief). Don't ask us about religion or why we don't believe (and in most cases, don't even care), Instead, ask us what we want to do about the problems we all face; ask us what forms of human self-expression we appreciate; ask us how our kids and partners and parents and friends are doing and what we're doing to make our world a nicer place (or what we think needs to be done). Ask us about work and play; ask us about art and advocacy; ask us about friends and loved ones and our pets and the wilderness. Ask us about music, theater, and film, about crafts and woodworking, about fishing and skiing; ask about eating and drinking with family and friends during the holidays; ask what we've done for those who have none of these things. And ask us how we think we got here (see if we have any clues); ask us how long we think we'll last (what the future might hold); ask us what's important for us as individuals, as a species, and as the collective DNA "project" that has thrived on Earth for about four billion years or so.

All this and more is what atheism is about -- not what other people believe when they go to the Mosque, to the Synagogue, to the Church, to the Sweat, to the Warm Spring, to the Mat to meditate, or to the Closet to pray. This is because atheism is not, really -- for us, anyway.

"Atheist" is what others call us, not what we call ourselves (most of the time).

Yes, a few of us have discovered that atheists are what we are, have studied our heritage as atheists, and have tried to figure out why we so often get the short end of the stick simply because others focus almost exclusively on a single aspect of who we are, an aspect of which we are barely even aware, something that means about as much to most of us as the fact that we don't have prehensile tails or movable ears.

Oh, our Donation page (which used to be the Subscription page) lives here:
If I ever become healthy enough to publish again, Donations will be converted to Subscriptions, and we'll send a postcard out for you to return so we can make sure you're still at the same address.

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Eight years of service to people
    with no reason to believe

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