April 1, 2012

20 Things you didn't know about Atheists

Some atheists are well known and open about their non-belief, while others are more noncommittal. Kevin Bacon’s name graces many lists of celebrity atheists. Given the Six Degrees of Separation game, we wondered what would the Six Degrees of Freethinkers look like?
Further, when we think of the concept of atheism, many of us think of it as a phenomenon that describes a sense of lacking, or the absence of something. But seldom do we stop and think about what atheists do have, or what they do bring to the table as a group of self-described non-believers.With that in mind and whether you believe or not, consider the following list of 20 things we bet you didn’t know about atheists and atheism:

  1. There are roughly 4.9 million declared atheists in the United States.
  1. A 2010 survey found that those identifying as atheists or agnostics are on average more knowledgeable about religion than followers of major faiths.
  1. A recent Washington Post article states that atheists are likely to outnumber Christians in England in 20 years.
  1. Sociologist Phil Zuckerman analyzed previous social science research on secularity and non-belief and concluded that societal well-being is positively correlated with irreligion. His atheism-related findings state that compared to religious people, “atheists and secular people” are less nationalistic, prejudiced, anti-semetic, racist, dogmatic, ethnocentric, close-minded and authoritarian.
  1. Zuckerman also found that in the US, in states with the highest percentages of atheists, the murder rate is lower than average; and that conversely, in the most religious US states, the murder rate is higher than average.
  1. It’s not so much that atheists are adamant in their disbelief in a god. Instead, they believe that the burden of proof lies not on them to disprove the existence of God, but on the theist to provide a solid rationale for theism.
  1. Although in Western culture atheists are often not religious in any way, many of them consider themselves spiritual.
  1. Though it may sound like an oxymoron, Jewish atheism is practiced by atheists who are ethnically, or culturally, Jewish. Because Judaism encompasses ethnic and religious elements, the term doesn’t really imply any contradiction. Because Jewish law is based on matrilineal decent, even the most Orthodox Jewish authority would have to accept an atheist born to a Jewish mother as fully Jewish.
  1. Atheism figures in many religious and spiritual beliefs within Jainism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Neopagan movements, such as Wicca.
  1. In the 20th century, atheistic thought found recognition in a wide variety of other philosophies, such as existentialism, anarchism, Marxism, and feminism, and the general scientific rationalist movement, to name a few.
  1. The prevailing myth is that atheists hate God; however, one cannot hate something that he/she does not believe exists.
  1. According to atheism educator Austin Cline, a person who truly enjoys and appreciates his or her life will take pleasure in it and enjoy it, regardless of whether any sort of afterlife exists.
  1. New Atheism is the name given to a movement among some early-21st-century atheist writers who advocated that “religion should not simply be tolerated but should be countered, criticized, and exposed by rational argument wherever its influence arises.”
  1. Although the term atheism originated in 16th-century France,  ideas that would be recognized today as atheistic are documented from the Vedic period in India and the classical antiquity.
  1. One common myth about atheists is that “there are no atheists in foxholes.” The Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers works to assist non-believers in the U.S. Army and promote awareness of atheists in foxholes. The idea that life-threatening circumstances magically convert atheists to theists is likely wishful thinking on the part of religious believers who have a hard time thinking of anything outside the context of their own religion.
  1. The Oxford English dictionary defines atheism as the disbelief or denial of existence of a god.
  1. The only religious group that’s growing in all 50 American states is “No Affiliation,” according to researchers, Daniel M. Abrams, Haley A. Yaple and Richard J. Wiener;  and census data from 85 regions worldwide, show the same trend away from identification with faith. The Netherlands is already 40 % irreligious, Australia and the Czech Republic are both 60 % God-free.
  1. The group American Atheists has erected controversial billboards—in Hebrew in Brooklyn, NY, and in Arabic in Paterson, NJ—that say: God “You know it’s a myth… and you have a choice.”
  1. Atheist feminism is a movement that advocates the equality of the sexes. Atheist feminists believe that the majority of the religions are sexist and oppressive to women.
  1. On March 24, 2012, “The Reason Rally” took place on the National Mall in Washington D.C.. The Rally is a movement-wide event sponsored by the country’s major secular organizations, with the goal of unifying, energizing, and emboldening secular people nationwide and dispelling the taboos about secularism that prevail today.


  1. I found this to be an informative and provocative article. Well written. Great job, author.

  2. After reading #20, why in the hell are there taboos about secularism today? This is 2012, we have been to space, we have re-programmed life, and we have seen 6 billion years into the past through spectroscopy. Why are people still bound by a book written less than 2000 years ago?

  3. In Ireland today, I still can't "come out" as atheist to my family - it would kill my grannies, my uncle is a priest and would go crazy, and some of my other religious relatives whom I love dearly would never look at me the same way. It would fundamentally change how my family perceives and interacts with me. I don't even blame them as their world view is based on the boundaries in which they were raised.

    1. Wow, your situation is so applicable to me. I'm a 17 year old in Australia, I'm a Hindu-Sri Lankan and my family is very religious. A loss of faith in god and my admiration of science, coupled with the fact that I always doubted the existence of God has led me to be an atheist. I've told my mum, and she took it pretty well and respected my views, but I have no idea how to start with my dad, he would never accept it, he wouldn't be able to, and not to mention my grandma would probably literally have a heart attack ...


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including hate comments from believers :-)