How do you tell if you are an atheist ?

Right now I’m an agnostic, but I even hate the thought of religion. And how do I get my parents to accept this?

Posted: November 21st 2008

flagellant www

Hating religion and being an atheist aren’t the same thing so that, although you appear to be in the atheist neck of the woods already, there may be a way to go, yet.

Firstly, disliking organized religion doesn’t necessarily mean that you aren’t a theist – believing in a personal, interventionist god – or a deist – believing in a non-interventionist, creator god. There are many 'believers’ who think that faith is so personal that it cannot be expressed in organized religion. It’s the attitude to god that’s the key.

If, in your agnosticism, you think it’s more than likely there is a god, you have to ask yourself why you think this. This is the sort of question atheists normally address to the religiosi. We ask 'Where’s your evidence?’ (And, if appropriate, you should question yourself.) Of course, there is none; believers simply 'feel’ there’s a god, and 'hope’ that the associated things – like life after death – are true. Only the application of reason can undermine this wishful thinking. But if you don’t have these needy feelings, then you’re probably in the atheist camp already.

It is sufficient to consider yourself an atheist if you think that, on the balance of probabilities, there is no god. You don’t have to be 100% certain, even though a few 'hard core’ atheists claim such certainty. Interestingly, Richard Dawkins isn’t in the 100% certain camp.

Unfortunately, you are likely to have a problem dealing with your parents because, however careful you are in your explanations to them, they will probably view your opinions as confrontational, even though you are simply trying to express yourself. You will have to be careful: people usually get upset when their cherished beliefs are challenged. But do not worry; even if your parents are upset about your independence of mind, there’s nothing they can do about it; they can’t make you believe what you find incredible. Please remember, though, that it’s sometimes better to keep a low profile, lose a battle or two, but win the war in the end. Good luck!

Posted: December 3rd 2008

See all questions answered by flagellant

brian thomson www

As originally defined by T H Huxley, Agnosticism is the belief that it is impossible to answer questions about the existence of gods – and carries the implication that one should not be concerned with such questions. However, is it impossible? We don’t know, do we? Today we sometimes find people calling themselves Agnostic when they are not prepared to assert “there are no gods”, which is a totally reasonable position to take (since it’s impossible to prove a negative), but that’s not what Agnostic means as originally defined.

To be blunt: if you’re not a theist – that is, if you don’t accept the validity of religion or the concepts promulgated by religion – then you’re an atheist. It doesn’t mean you have to publicly label yourself as such, if you don’t want to; it’s just the word we use for what is left when the religion has gone. It doesn’t say anything more about you than that – it doesn’t tell people what kind of person you really are.

Posted: November 23rd 2008

See all questions answered by brian thomson


Most atheists nowadays are agnostics: they do not believe in a personal god that intervenes in the universe while acknowledging at the same time that they do not know for sure that there is no god (the burden of evidence is on the believers, and as of yet they have not provided the required extraordinary evidence for their extraordinary claims.) If you are such a creature, that is, an agnostic atheist, then welcome to the club of which Richard Dawkins is a member.

Perhaps, you can list all the aspects of Religion which bother you. Research one of those points so well that you will be able to hold your ground when bringing it up for discussion with your parents.

You could do a dress rehearsal so to speak—get a friend to play a parental role, or you can just do both your role and the role of your parents. The reason for this, is that we often lose our composure making clear thinking difficult when in the heat of battle. If you can (and this is what elite athletes do) simulate the stress (get that head thumping and that heart pumping), you will be able to learn how to keep cool in the actual stressful situation. This is a very useful skill to develop in general.

When presenting the argument, stay focused on presenting your point, while being polite and even-tempered. Also do not spend that much time, perhaps not more than an half an hour. Plan some activity that you need to do after the discussion (even if it is just to go chat with a friend).

Then, thoroughly research the next point on your list and do the same thing: rehearse and present your argument to your parents, keeping the discussion short with some planned activity afterwards.

If your parents insist that you go through the motions of their religion, then say that you will, but that you are certain that they do not want you to be either an hypocrite or a liar by keeping your lack of belief/doubts/objections to yourself.

Take it slow and easy with this approach. No heroics please. And remember there are lively atheist chat groups on the Net where you can have back and forth communication (unlike this site) so as to hone your discussion skills and to seek solace with like minds.

Posted: November 22nd 2008

See all questions answered by logicel


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