Atheists Don't Think God Is Real

Atheists Don't Believe in God

To most people, I expect that's pretty obvious. In fact, it's the only universal characteristic all atheists share. However, if you've experienced Christian proselytizing, evangelism, or even some online discussions between believers and nonbelievers, you've probably bumped into a few people who just don't understand that nonbelievers don't think God is real.

I believe it's actually more common than you might expect. I've encountered at least a few highly-educated Christians everywhere on the liberal to conservative spectrum who have expressed this odd misunderstanding. It surprises me every time because it's all right in the language we use and in the definition of the words themselves. I also find it surprising because it shows that some people have no idea what the beliefs they are trying to change in others actually are in the first place.

Repairing that basic but profound misunderstanding of non-belief is not as simple as saying, "Pardon me, but atheists don't think God is real." This page is intended to help people on both sides of the misunderstanding to see the effect it has on their conversations. After all, it's pretty difficult to have a deep conversation about religion or belief when the parties involved aren't using the same definitions or if either party has no idea what the other believes.


The Evidence Is in the Word Belief

Some Christians try to redefine atheism to suit whatever they think it means, so let's ignore the word atheist for a moment and focus on the definition of the word belief.

The very first definition of belief on reads: "a feeling of being sure that someone or something exists or that something is true"and it's called a simple definition on the page. It's also a very common definition of belief we grew up with in the secular world.

It's pretty clear to most atheists that believers think that God exists. It's also crystal clear to us that believers think assertions that God is real are true. That's why they are called believers.

Non-believers don't believe God exists; that's what the "non" indicates. Non-believers do not think assertions that God is real are true. That's why they are called non-believers.

Myth: Atheists Think God Is Real and Just Call God Something Else

When I've optimistically tried to just put the statement out there that "atheists don't think God is real" hoping it would be the puzzle piece needed for better mutual understanding, I've frequently gotten responses insisting that I do and I must think God is real, that I just call God something else.

Atheism isn't another religion like Hinduism wherein God has many different names or like Islam wherein Yahweh goes by the name of Allah. We don't think we are Gods, either.

We don't think there's any self-aware, thinking being who created and rules the universe or who requires worship.

So-called "natural laws" are not viewed as God by non-believers, but as observable and predictable patterns repeated in the universe. The universe is not commonly viewed by non-believers as being a thinking, self-aware being, but as the total of everything in existence. Universe is only another word for God to people who believe in God.

Please Consider This Before Defining God as the Unknown Factor or as Everything We Can't Explain

Unknown things are only God to people who already believe in God; they're just things that people don't know or haven't figured out to the rest of us. Historically, many things that were once unknown or inexplicable to human beings have later been investigated and logically explained. The gaps in our knowledge are just human ignorance.

I find it disturbing when the believer who tells me that I think God is real because there are things unknown to human beings is defining God as ignorance.

I don't think most Christians believe they worship ignorance. I don't believe most Christians worship ignorance. My experience with Christians tells me that the majority of Christians see God as a being or spirit who created and rules the universe and who thinks, feels, and requires worship. So no, ignorance is not just another name that non-believing people use to mean God.

I understand the appeal of having something you trust to stand in for the unknown things in existence because unknowns can be frightening, but it's not a universal need. I have no problem admitting that there are many, many things I don't know. That is not to say that I don't fear some unknowns; I certainly do because there's no way to know what the best action to take may be when I'm missing information that may be vital. However, just because something makes me afraid it doesn't mean I actually believe something else that is reassuring instead. I just accept the uncertainty, live with any fear it may cause, and do the best I can with the information I do have.

I see the assertion that God is ignorance as extremely disrespectful to people who believe in God. So please don't go around trying to tell people they really do believe in God because God is human ignorance. When you do so you make your religion appear to be based entirely on fear of the unknown, wishful thinking, and a reverence for ignorance. That's really unappealing and, I believe, a highly inaccurate portrayal of what most Christians believe. You certainly aren't going to convince anyone of God's existence with it and you're likely to offend believers who realize what you mean.

Skywriting is the only way atheists see GOD in the sky.
Skywriting is the only way atheists see GOD in the sky. | Source

Hey Non-Believers! Here's Some of Why I Think the Belief That We Think God Is Real Is Fairly Common:

If you've participated in religious discussions with people trying to evangelize or proselytize to you or even just in discussions with Christians trying to understand why you don't believe, you're likely to have encountered something called Pascal's Wager.

Pascal's Wager is basically a sort of challenge proposed to atheists to just believe in God on the off chance that God might be real. It is a kind of a cost versus benefits analysis of belief that suggests there's no down side to believing if God isn't real and a huge downside (eternal torture in Hell) to not believing if God is real. The glaring hole most atheists see in Pascal's Wager almost immediately is that it requires you to already think God is real. It's not like a person can "just believe" in something they don't think exists. Also, if an all-powerful, all-knowing being actually existed, it couldn't be tricked by faking belief so the belief would have to be real.

It seems highly unlikely anyone would put forth Pascal's Wager to try to convert people if he or she understood that atheists don't think God is real.

There are also the times when some atheist or knowledgeable believer points out that atheists don't believe in God, only to get responses to the effect that they really, really just do. I've even been told, "You know in your heart that Jesus is real," by people who seem to genuinely believe what they're saying.

Then comes the assertion you've probably seen even more often than you've encountered Pascal's Wager or any of the other oddities I've mentioned above.

Such assertions may be met with wordless surprise.
Such assertions may be met with wordless surprise. | Source

Talking About Belief in God Doesn't Require Belief in God

Another odd thing that comes up again and again is the question, "If atheists don't believe in God, why do they talk about religion and God?"

Atheists don't think God is real but we know that belief in God is real. We can be pretty sure that believers actually think God is real because they say they do and they act like they do. We get all interested in discussing those beliefs of theirs when those beliefs affect or influence their behavior toward other people.

If a Christian group decides to make a law that is based on their members' religious beliefs, why wouldn't we want to talk about the beliefs that lead them to wish to make laws that apply to everyone? Why wouldn't we want to know why they wish to force us to obey the tenets of their religion using the power of law? Why wouldn't we discuss it if we disagree with what they wish to force on everyone?

If you bring your beliefs up and then say they are the reason you are doing what you are doing, of course we're going to talk about it when your actions that you state are the product of your religion seem harmful or illogical to us. For instance, how could I, in good conscience, not want to have a discussion about religion when a gay teen I take into my home has been thrown out of his parents' home because of their belief that being gay is a sin?

Haven't you ever noticed how atheists don't ask you not to do kind things that are based on your religious beliefs?

The truly weird thing about this persistent insistence that we must believe in everything we talk about is that the exact same people can talk about Islam, Buddhism, or even ancient Greek Gods without believing in them.

Poll for Non-Believers

Have you ever encountered a person who seemed certain you must actually believe in God?

  • Yes, I've encountered at least one person who seemed certain that I secretly believe
  • No, every believer I've discussed belief with has clearly recognized that I don't think God is real
  • Something else I'll explain in the guestbook below
See results without voting


Please share how you explain your absence of belief when someone insists you actually do believe in God in the guestbook below.

Poll for Believers

Do you believe atheists think God is real?

  • Yes, everybody thinks God is real
  • No, they wouldn't be non-believers if they did
  • Something else I'll explain in the guestbook below
See results without voting


Please share why you believe atheists think God is real if you do or share why you believe they don't in the guestbook below.

Comments That Are Not on Topic Will Not Be Published.

This is not an area for people to argue with each other about anything but whether atheists think God is real or not, nor is it a place to promote articles or items for sale.

This Is a Moderated Guestbook. Off-Topic Comments and Comments Including Swearing, Threats, or Personal Attacks Will Not Be Published. 68 comments

Wild Bill 2 months ago

I read an essay about a scientist who pretended to be an atheist so as to be accepted by his colleagues. He said that was quite common in academia. I guess people from all walks of life can feel peer pressure, so I am sure that is not relegated to just academia.

The numbers of believers is extremely higher, so naturally peer pressure for religion would be more common, but like I said, nothing is 100%. In either case, I don't think the percentage is anything to make a ripple or cause concern.

Kylyssa profile image

Kylyssa 2 months ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA Author

Lots of people pretend to believe in God for safety's sake and to avoid discrimination in the workplace, at school, in the doctor's office, and in business. So pretending to believe in God makes a lot of sense, but pretending to not believe in God really doesn't.

What is the point for someone who thinks God is real to pretend they don't? Why would someone who thinks God is real choose to do something that would bring them harm and disadvantages in real life and, since they think God is real, they'd probably believe Hell is real and believe they'd spend eternity there if they pretend to be atheists in life. Maybe there are people who wish to practice such self-harm but I'd bet they are incredibly rare. Even masochists have limits.

Wild Bill 2 months ago

You are right; a true Atheists does not believe in God. Does that mean 100% of people claiming to be Atheists are? Nope. I am also sure that not everyone who claims to be a believer is one.

I guess we just have to take people at their word until proven otherwise.

jackclee lm profile image

jackclee lm 2 months ago from Yorktown NY

Austinstar, There is no mental gymnastics needed here. God is Supreme and we as humans don't always comprehend his motives. Also, God uses common events for ulterior purposes to change people's hearts and direction. I am reminded of the story in the Bible about the life of Daniel. God used him to affect the course of history of the Jewish people. The same can be said for Moses and Job and David many others...

Faith is just that simple.If someone has it, no proof is needed. Lack of faith, no amount of proof is good enough. There will always be the doubters...

Paladin_ profile image

Paladin_ 2 months ago from Michigan, USA

Jack, as I suggested before, it's all a matter of how extraordinary the claim is.

You cite an excellent example with your mention of Hitler killing himself in the bunker. Based upon what I know of his personality -- as well as his own quotes at the time -- from the accounts of those who lived and worked with him, I'm inclined to accept this official explanation.

That said, the legend of Hitler's suicide isn't actually that extraordinary. Suicide and mental illness have been a part of human existence for as long as history records. And given Hitler's particular situation and the extremely violent and chaotic environment of Berlin in April 1945, it's even more plausible. In the end, I think there's enough evidence to find it reasonable that Hitler had finally accepted that the end was near and, desperate not to be used as a living propaganda tool by the Soviets, ended his miserable life.

The problem with both the Old and New Testament stories is that we have NO first-hand accounts upon which to rely. The earliest OT manuscripts are dated centuries after the events they supposedly describe.

And the earliest known versions of the New Testament Gospels were composed at least four decades after Jesus died. And Paul, the presumed author of much of the rest of the NT, never even met Jesus! Worse, the oldest NT manuscripts we have are -- at best -- copies of copies, handwritten, with notable mistakes and revisions.

It would be problematic enough if the Old and New Testaments described ORDINARY events. Even then, the questionable quality of the 'evidence' makes their veracity dubious. But they describe EXTRAORDINARY events, unbelievable under any circumstance outside religion -- the creation of a universe, talking animals, global floods, virgin births and resurrections, to name a few. These sorts of claims require extraordinary evidence.

jackclee lm profile image

jackclee lm 2 months ago from Yorktown NY

Paladin, your right of course. However, do you personally have to experience this or if someone else who is credible witness it, would that be sufficient? If the latter is true, then I say Jesus already did that. We accept many things not based on first hand account. We know man landed on the moon but we didn't have to see it in person. We know from history that Hitler died by suicide in a bunker. I wasn't born then and yet we all believe it.

Paladin_ profile image

Paladin_ 2 months ago from Michigan, USA

Jack, I'll answer your question by returning it to you --

What exactly would you need to be convinced that Brahma exists? Or unicorns? Or leprechauns?

There is a significant difference between an ordinary claim and an extraordinary claim. For example, if you tell me your name is "Jack," I'm inclined to believe you. After all, there are plenty of people named "Jack," and under normal circumstances, it's fairly ordinary, and doesn't stretch credulity.

However, if you also tell me that you have invisible wings and can fly to the Moon, I'm going to need more evidence to believe you. A LOT more evidence. It's simply too outrageous to accept without some very compelling evidence.

This is the problem with your claim that Yahweh exists. His story is so extraordinary and supernatural that it takes an enormous amount of compelling evidence to convince anyone who's truly objective.

Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 2 months ago from Somewhere in the universe

Apes, monkeys, elephants, and dolphins have been studied most frequently. The most relevant studies to this day that represent self-awareness in animals have been done on chimpanzees, dolphins, and magpies. Self-awareness in animals is tested through mirror self recognition.

And your 'trinity' is IMPOSSIBLE to understand because it makes no sense whatsoever. A god gives birth to himself and has himself tortured and killed in order to save the world that he created? When ALL this god would have to do is freaking say the words, "I forgive you". And that would be that. But he has to split himself into 3 pieces and become just as psychotic as you have to be to believe in such craziness.

Please explain the mental gymnastics you have to do to believe in talking snakes, donkeys, zombie saviors, and world genocide in order to have 'faith' in a god that cannot save his own creation with a simple phrase.

BTW, that world genocide thing? Someone needs to tell your god that it didn't even work. He slaughtered and drowned men, women, and children all for nothing.

jackclee lm profile image

jackclee lm 2 months ago from Yorktown NY

What other species are self aware? Please enlighten me.

The reason Jesus can be killed is because of the Trinity. I explain this in "the power of three". God is 3 person in One. The Father, the Son (Jesus as Man) and the Holy Spirit.

It is a hard concept for people to understand. The Trinity is One God but in three forms. Similar to Water, Ice and Steam (H2O) molecules.

Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 2 months ago from Somewhere in the universe

jacklee - we are NOT the only species that is self aware. And yes, it would take a personal appearance from a god that would never be convicted of sedition and tortured to death (even though he allegedly came back from the dead which isn't proven).

If you god can be killed at all, why do you consider him to be a god?

jackclee lm profile image

jackclee lm 2 months ago from Yorktown NY

paladin, What exactly would you need to be convinced that God exists? Should Jesus appear in person and show you his wounds? as Thomas requested? I really want to know. A common complaint I hear from unbelievers all the time. "why doesn't God just appear to all and settle the issue?"

Guess what, he already did 2000 years ago... If people are not willing to accept Him then, no amount of proof will convince some people now. For a believer, I see miracles happen every day. In fact, the biggest miracle is your own brain - as CS Lewis explained in his book. We are the only species that are self aware. Scientists even today have no clue as to how it works...

Paladin_ profile image

Paladin_ 2 months ago from Michigan, USA

Jack, what I DIDN'T miss is all the "first-hand accounts" from Fatima that seem to describe completely different things, as well as a supposed visit from the "virgin" Mary that -- despite the presence of approximately 70,000 adults -- only three children could see and hear.

As for your comments on faith, I'm afraid you're 100% wrong when you assert that, for unbelievers, "no amount of evidence will suffice." The 'problem' -- and it's really only a problem from the viewpoint of an apologist -- is that we require extraordinary evidence for extraordinary claims. It's not that we won't accept evidence. It's simply that we examine it ALL with the same level of objective scrutiny.

And let's be completely honest, here -- it's the same sort of evidence YOU would demand for a claim of Muhammad flying to Heaven on a winged horse, or of Thor sending lightning down to punish wayward humans. The only difference is that, when it comes to claims of Christian miracles, you set your skepticism aside, and will accept anecdotal 'evidence' of the sort you've mentioned.

jackclee lm profile image

jackclee lm 2 months ago from Yorktown NY

Paladin, that is the definition of faith. You may not find this a help but I offer it anyway. Miracles happen everyday, big and small. Just as Jesus walk the earth 2000 years ago. For those of us with faith, we see it. For unbelievers like yourself, no amount of evidence will suffice. It is the apostle Thomas who doubted the resurrection...The term doubting Thomas came about from the Bible. Whatever you think about Fatima or some other super natural events, the point is, science does not privide the answer.

Btw, did you miss the first hand account at Fatima where in a matter of minutes, a storm that rained minutes earlier were dried completely by the dancing Sun...

Paladin_ profile image

Paladin_ 2 months ago from Michigan, USA

Jack, I've seen the photos from Fatima. They show nothing but a crowd of people and a cloudy sky. As for what people there 'witnessed,' there appears to be a great amount of confusion regarding that, but it mostly seems to be that the sun did something strange in the sky. Some miracle.

As for the 'predictions' of the children, it's my understanding that they were never revealed until AFTER the 'predicted' events had already supposedly happened. In my book, predicting something AFTER it happens doesn't qualify as a prophecy!

Still, as you say, people believe what they want to believe -- even if there's not one shred of evidence to support it.

Oztinato 2 months ago

What about entanglment? Will it be a miracle until it is explained? Are such"explanations " merely rationalizations? Are rationalizations rational or just convenient?

Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 2 months ago from Somewhere in the universe

Miracles are based on beliefs and anecdotal evidence.

Facts are not anecdotal - they have substance and can be measured in some factual way.

Your photos would be facts, because they can be measured (examined). But what do these photos show?

Predictions are just guesses, they are not facts. A prediction may happen because of coincidence or conclusions of evidence, and there is no way to prove that the prediction is what 'caused' the result. The result may occur whether or not anyone 'predicts' it. Or it may not occur, whether anyone or not 'predicts' it.

So, define 'miracle', then put your examples to that test.

My definition of miracle is - something that happens that is IMPOSSIBLE. Like the regrowth of a severed limb, the cure for every disease, a supernatural god proves himself/herself to be real by regrowing severed limbs (or other impossible thing).

When I see the impossible happen, then I will document it as a 'miracle'.

jackclee lm profile image

jackclee lm 2 months ago from Yorktown NY

Paladin, I believe that a super natural event occurred at Fatima. One that cannot be explained with science. This event was witnessed by thousands of people for a few hours. There were eye witness testimony and newspaper articles written with photos... In addition, there were numerous prophecies given to the 3 children and later came true... I am a believer of miracles. For those who don't believe, it is fine with me. However, God gave man free choice. To choose to belief or not has consequences.

Paladin_ profile image

Paladin_ 2 months ago from Michigan, USA

Jack, what do you believe happened at Fatima?

From what I can tell, three precocious children managed to con a whole lot of adults into believing that the "virgin" Mary was speaking to them. Conveniently, she appeared and spoke only to these three children, even though there were an estimated 70,000 people present on the final day in question. Photographs even exist of the "event" which -- of course -- show nothing out of the ordinary.

To quote the immortal words of the Bard, it was much ado about nothing.

Kylyssa profile image

Kylyssa 3 months ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA Author

Well, BobC, I've got to use a boatload of synonyms to avoid getting edited for "keyword stuffing" on this site. Nobody I know offline refers to atheists as non-theists or non-believers, either, but we do what we have to please the people paying the server fees.

jackclee lm profile image

jackclee lm 3 months ago from Yorktown NY

So how do you explain Fatima? Check out the detail acounts by live witnesses and numerous newspaper articles...

BobC 3 months ago

"Please share how you explain your absence of belief when someone insists you actually do believe in God in the guestbook below."

I would never say "absence of belief" because only a wimp would say that. I'm 100% certain gods are not real because they are completely impossible.

Link10103 profile image

Link10103 6 months ago

It seems really silly if not completely ignorant to me to say that because no one lost their life as a planes engine failed and landed in a river, its somehow a supernatural occurrence/divine intervention.

Just ignore all the crashes that left planes as huge fireballs with hundreds dead in it wake...

Outside of that, I can't really think of anything nice/not overly sarcastic to say about people with views like that. Mums the word.

Kylyssa profile image

Kylyssa 6 months ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA Author

I don't see coincidences and preparedness as miracles. How many other planes crashed and how many other people died before this extremely unusual occurrence and after it? When there are many possibilities and billions upon billions of things happening, some of them are going to be unlikely or unusual. Why would the pilot have ever learned any of the techniques he used and why would they be taught if they have no possibility of working? If something is possible and it happens, why does that automatically make it a miracle? Why aren't all the other possibilities, even the bad ones, also miracles if they happen?

If I toss a coin a thousand times and it lands on its edge just once in all those tosses, do you see that unusual way of landing as a miracle or as just a possibility that occurs rarely? Does it have anything to do with the way I toss the coin, the levelness and stability of the surface I toss it onto, the construction of the coin, or the wind or lack thereof or is it a miracle? If I learn how to toss the coin to make it land on edge more frequently, would it still be a miracle? I believe that our actions and the conditions around us affect the things we experience and the world around us. I believe the pilot learned how to maximize his potential for landing an out-of-control plane, much like the hypothetical me with the coin flipping obsession might learn how to get that coin to land on edge more frequently. I believe the rescue people were trained, compassionate, and competent and on that day, they had enough small things accidentally go their way to heroically save everyone.

By claiming the pilot and everyone else who did an excellent job of reacting to an emergency had nothing to do with the lack of casualties you are diminishing the value of each and every one of them as human beings.

You seem unaware that evolution isn't incompatible with belief in God. Worldwide, most Christians accept evolution and don't see it as something atheist. Christians who accept evolution don't worship a God so limited that He couldn't imagine a universe and create everything in that universe using the natural processes He created. I don't believe in their powerful, all-knowing God any more than I believe in yours, but I think it's healthier to believe in something truly intelligent beyond comprehension rather than in something that has to resort to magic tricks to create people.

Paladin_ profile image

Paladin_ 6 months ago from Michigan, USA

Indeed, if someone is determined to believe something, NO amount of evidence to the contrary will suffice!

For example, someone who is determined to believe in miracles will single out anomalies like the "Miracle on the Hudson," ignoring the countless disasters where there wasn't such a fortuitous convergence of amazing coincidences, where people suffered horrible deaths. They'll find one survivor in the aftermath of a tornado and call it a "miracle" from God while ignoring the hundred neighbors whose lives were blown away in the storm (apparently, freak deaths don't qualify as miracles).

As for Dr. Schroeder's book, I can't say I've read it, but there's an interesting review of it on the very excellent NCSE (National Center For Science Education) website:

It appears that the crux of Dr Schroeder's arguments rests upon his own personal estimations of the mathematical odds necessary for evolution, though he reportedly mentions natural selection only once, in a passing reference to Dr. Dawkins. It seems odd that someone determined to convince people of a creationist viewpoint would fail to address the predominant scientific explanation for the diversity of life!

jackclee lm profile image

jackclee lm 6 months ago from Yorktown NY

You are missing the point of the miracle. It is not that the pilot was well trained which we know they are. The miracle as documented by eye witnesses who were there is that no lives were lost, not one. In that freezing water, the coincidence that rescue boats were only minutes away from the landing site... You can also read about some of the survivors. They have written about there experience that day... I know I can't convince you and I won't try. To people go faith, no proof is necessary, to others, no amount of proof will suffice.

I have studied evolution theory for years. You might want to check out "the Science of God" written by a physicist Gerald Schroder. It is eye opening.

Kylyssa profile image

Kylyssa 6 months ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA Author

So you truly believe the pilot's training, skill, clear thinking, and courage and the clear thinking, survival instincts, and courage of the passengers plus the training, skills, clear thinking, and courage of the rescue workers had nothing to do with the outcome of that near-tragedy?

Evolution only addresses the way lifeforms have changed over time and has nothing to say about the origins of life. If you are looking for scientific theories about the origin of life, you'll want to investigate molecular biology instead of evolution.

If you think the chances of evolution occurring by random mutation plus natural selection are astronomical, you'd likely benefit from learning about evolution. I doubt you'd ever consider reading it, but the very best explanation of how changes add up over millions of years I've ever found was in The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins. He does a great job of explaining the math and the science in multiple ways in such a way that it's entertaining and very easy to understand, but not condescending.

The logical conclusion is that when a wide variety of things happen many, many times, some of those things will be be flukes or freaks.

jackclee lm profile image

jackclee lm 6 months ago from Yorktown NY

Interesting. It sounds like you are open to being convinced if you witnessed or experienced a miracle or supernatural event personally. That is different response from most atheists. From my experience, no amount of evidence will suffice. I am not talking about something that happened thousand of years ago. Miracles are happening today all around us. Checkout miracle on the Hudson -

It's funny how some put their faith in science and yet when the statisticsl odds are computed, they reject the only logical conclusion.

BTW, the same can be said about evolution and mutations. The chance of life originating by random mutations are astronomical...

Kylyssa profile image

Kylyssa 6 months ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA Author

I've never witnessed a miracle nor have I ever seen any credible evidence of one so I don't believe in the existence of miracles, either. I don't believe in anything supernatural.

Here's how I explain miracles: I believe that when billions and billions of things happen, some few of them may seem extremely unusual and religious people will call all of the positive or beneficial extremely unusual things that happen miracles usually while not bothering to acknowledge the extremely unusual negative or detrimental things.

I see positive extremely unusual occurrences as flukes and negative extremely unusual occurrences as freak accidents. When there are a wide variety of possibilities and many, many things are done and many lives are lived, some people are statistically likely to encounter extremely unusual occurrences and outcomes.

There are over seven billion people on the planet. Some of them will die in freak accidents or from things that just aren't likely to kill people. Some of them will get far better results than usual from their cancer treatments or survive things 999,999 people out of a million wouldn't. The vast majority of them won't experience either extreme.

jackclee lm profile image

jackclee lm 6 months ago from Yorktown NY

I get it. You don't believe in the existence of God. But how do you explain miracles?

Eldon Arsenaux profile image

Eldon Arsenaux 7 months ago from Cooley, Texas

Here's an additional thought: An atheist can still believe in the power-of-symbols. Power approaches belief, because actions bespeak. After all, the biblical equation is God=Word.

As an atheist I'm still a symbol-user. Belief has power, thus, so does God, regardless of our temporal reality. Perhaps you've heard this argument before. It may be re-worded thus: If, God as a physical entity does not exist, 'it' finds existence in unifying concepts, or an elemental image, immediately reversible from "the highest to the lowest orders".

Parenthetically, I do not credit atheism as the legitimate beholder of pure rationality. Atheists, as I see myself and others, are oft equally constricted by another's language. Once this game is going, the interjection of new rules requires we change the board. It is like two people at chess: the rules are in place, and all possible moves are charted out before the game gets going. Both play the game using different pieces, different moves (ideas, within the same overarching discourse, as our metaphor works). Despite who thinks they may have won it, the game is then reset. It is a constant shift of perceived winners-and-losers, with neither side admitting any summary defeat. A game again.

This is not to say that the mere insignia of God demands reality; rather, our use of symbols (abstracting upwards from positive reality to Ultimate Terms) points to an intellectualizing organization, an Upward Way, or entelechy, that ends at a precipice, or God, who organizes. This is not the God of all worlds, but the God of all Words.

Truth is based in belief. Facts, if we take them to be Universal Truths, run on another mathematical belief-system. However, where facts are falsifiable, so goes God, though agnostics can claim no absolute certainty, because of the broad spectrum of unknowns. So what is known. What is so intrinsic to modern life that we feel we will not be able to live without it (much like God)? Money. It is symbolic of life. The monetization of God. God, in this sense, is not the creator of wealth, or the shaping-hand of reality, but a set of various organizing principles behind property. Perhaps that example is too obtuse.

(Consider my continuing an apology)

'It' is not a man in the sky, but rather a concept, which all humans use innately when describing the dialectic. Science, as I see it, disperses with 'the old gods'. Yet, we must lookout for 'new gods', that insidiously insert themselves onto present symbol systems.

Thanks for this Hub. It got my gears going, though hopefully I didn't run too long with the railroad without questioning my own discourse along the track-way,


Kylyssa profile image

Kylyssa 7 months ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA Author

It's really about what people do, rather than about what they believe. When people beat and then kick out their gay child due to their religious beliefs; I hate the beliefs because of what they caused those parents to do.

If people use their religion as the reason they are introducing a law to make bullying legal so long as the bullying comes from sincerely held beliefs, I'm going to hate that part of the belief responsible.

If people vandalize my car with the words "Die Atheist C^&*" because I'm an atheist, I hate that their beliefs lead them to believe they are above the law.

Hate the particular belief, not the believer.

Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 7 months ago from The Beautiful South

What I don't understand is Atheist hatred for someone they do not believe in. I don't believe in anyone else's professed god but since I don't why would I get so made about it and hate them? I can live my life around other people's beliefs. I just ignore it.

Kylyssa profile image

Kylyssa 8 months ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA Author

Thank you.

I, too, have noticed that some people become less and less aggressive trying to convince others of their beliefs with age. I have also noticed that some people develop a midlife or late life fervor for converting people.

If your nephew has made it through six years of seminary without losing his faith, he's likely to keep it. Seminaries seem to turn as many people into agnostics as they turn into ministers.

letstalkabouteduc profile image

letstalkabouteduc 8 months ago from Bend, OR

I think as one grows older you become less inclined to try to convince anyone of anything. I have a nephew who's in his last year of seminary school (6 years total). I think it's great for him and I would never say a word against what he so strongly believes. He doesn't try to change me, either. It's acceptance and respect. We're both on our own journeys -- our beliefs based on our own life experiences. I love that everyone is different. If I could possibly make myself believe in God, I would because there are many health benefits for believers. But, as you write, you can't make yourself believe something you don't. Great hub!

Say Yes To Life profile image

Say Yes To Life 8 months ago from Big Island of Hawaii

Most people believe in at least one god. It is because they were raised that way. They are afraid to challenge that belief, because nasty cosmic repercussions could happen, either in this life or the next.

Having recently lost my faith in God due to flashbacks from inadvertently joining a cult, I find it easier to simply not discuss the matter. If anyone tries to convert me, I calmly say that I've heard it all before, having attended a Christian school, and I'm glad it works for them. End of argument!

Kylyssa profile image

Kylyssa 8 months ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA Author

Thank you for your insightful and rational answer.

I don't think saying you feel everyone has a God-shaped hole in them is the same as saying everyone believes in God at all. Humans all have needs and wants and it's clear that belief fills important needs and wants in many people. All you're really saying when you say we all have a God-shaped hole in us is that human beings have a lot of the same basic needs and desires, we just fulfill them in different ways.

For instance, believers might be able to soothe feelings of guilt for things that are beyond their control by setting down their feelings of responsibility for those things and putting them into God's hands, as it were. A non-believer might just use an awareness that logically, she's not responsible for things beyond her control to talk herself out of illogical feelings of guilt. Both approaches are healthy and fulfill the same need. Both God and rational thought can fill that particular hole. I think we've all got a lot of holes in us and we can only fill them with things we think are real, believer and non-believer alike.

Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 8 months ago from Somewhere in the universe

I think you are on to something here. "A god shaped hole"! And what is even worse is that the hole is impossible to fill because there is no god to fill it, other than empty prayers, wishes, superstitions, "feelings", and illogical beliefs.

One thing I don't understand is how a "perfect" god could have created an "imperfect" universe. And just suppose that if a god had written the genetic code for humans, why is so much of it imperfect?

It's analogous to a writer/creator writing a sentence. If the sentence is off by a few letters, the writer/creator would simply fix the errors - not erase the whole sentence (as in destroy all humans in a flood, only to allow the errors to continue afterwards). To me, this is proof that a god doesn't exist, and certainly not a perfect god.

There are thousands of more anecdotes for showing that a logical/perfect god not only does not exist, but cannot exist as postulated.

But those with the "god hole" cannot comprehend that they are using platitudes, mythology, repetition, indoctrination, and faulty logic to fill those holes.

sketch 8 months ago

I promised I would explain my believers answer of " something else, I will explain."

I think that nonbelievers still have what believers would call the "God shaped hole." The God shaped hole is that yearning for deeper meaning in life.

Believers fill that yearning with a belief in God and find fulfillment in all the trappings of their religion or simple security in the knowlege that there is something beyond the visible world.

Non believers have the hole but fill it with other feel good things. Many believers wrongly think that void gets filled by Science for the nonbeliever, but that is incorrect. Science is empirical fact. Facts don't fulfill, they just are. Believers can believe facts too (let's leave evolution out of this for now). The non believer will fill up the hole with things that are fulfilling: helping others, being a "good person," even drugs and alcohol. These things, while they feel good, and may even be wholesome things to engage in, don't ever seem to be enough. Like the hampster in the wheel, they have to keep moving and doing these things in order to feel good.

The believer may appear to be doing a similar thing with continual observance of religious trappings, but not every believer does them or does them in different ways. Consider the believers who say "I believe in a higher power and that is good enough for me" then don't engage in any religious practice whatsoever. This category of believer still finds peace and fulfillment.

So really the God shaped whole can be filled without formal religion while still being filled. "Spiritual but not religious" is often the term they apply to themselves.

In conclusion, this "God shaped hole" is experienced by everyone. Atheists fill theirs even without belief in any sort of deity/higher power. The Atheist's use of good actions (or even bad, really) to fill the hole will lead a believer to wrongly state that the atheist is a god unto his or her self. However, that conclusion actually ignores the believer's own code. What a believer calls "sin" isn't just breaking the rules. Technically, it is making oneself a god. Anytime a believer sins, he or she places the self in the throne they claim to reserve for their deity by ignoring the rules of that deity. So ironically, believers commit the sin they accuse atheists of on a regular basis. Everyone has the hole. How we fill it will determine believer/nonbeliever status. How we screw that up is everyone's problem regardless of deity/nondeity.

Titen-Sxull profile image

Titen-Sxull 8 months ago from back in the lab again

The number of people identifying as non-religious is the fastest growing religious demographic in the world at 16% of the world population but the number of those who are actually identifying as atheists is difficult to pin down.

Far from being "in" or 'hip' to be an atheist in most places around the world it will get you ostracized by your family and community and in many places it could even threaten your life. I think it was last year that several atheist bloggers in Bangladesh were killed. I also can't imagine what it's like for those living in Muslim countries who begin to doubt their faith.

On the internet however atheists are free to express themselves which is what leaves many religious people thinking there are so many atheists and it must be some new fad with the kids.

Kylyssa profile image

Kylyssa 8 months ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA Author

The proper term for people who believe in a God but not a religiously defined, interested-in-humanity God is actually Deist. Since people where I live call everyone who isn't a conservative Christian an atheist or a Pagan and I've found quite a few people online who have experienced the same phenomenon elsewhere, your friends are probably just saving themselves some headaches trying to explain.

I've never met a Deist who identifies themselves as atheist but then again, most of the atheists I know (face to face) are closeted and let people think they're Christians so they don't have problems on the job or in their communities. I'd guess Deists would likely do the same here because they'd just get lumped in with atheists anyway.

Kylyssa profile image

Kylyssa 8 months ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA Author


If you don't like stereotyping you could stop doing it by not saying things like that atheists say they are atheists to because it's an "in" thing to do or that they're confused. You could have a third party listen to and read a few days worth of your words and they could help you by pointing it out when you are stereotyping. It probably wouldn't take long for you to catch on to when you are doing it.

Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin 8 months ago from Oklahoma

For the sake of argument, many of the atheists I've spoke with do believe in what one might term God; it's just that this force is so far removed from mainstream religion, it's just easier to identify as Atheist.

Oztinato profile image

Oztinato 8 months ago from Australia

I just told you: to mask their embarrassment and confusion.

Oztinato profile image

Oztinato 8 months ago from Australia

It's the same thing. People are individuals some are confused more than others while others go with fashion. I don't like stereotyping.

Kylyssa profile image

Kylyssa 8 months ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA Author

@Oztinato My beliefs are based on what I think is real rather than what I think is cool. Believing all of the loved ones I've lost weren't really dead but just hanging out in paradise with the creator of the universe instead would be COOL. Unfortunately, I don't think that is real. They're all actually dead and no longer exist as any sort of thinking, feeling entities; I wish I could believe they weren't just dust and memories.

It's not fun or cool or in to be an atheist.

Link10103 profile image

Link10103 8 months ago which is it Oz. Are atheists trying to hide their agnosticism, or are they just confused about what to believe and choose atheist to be cool?

Kylyssa profile image

Kylyssa 8 months ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA Author

There's really no point trying to make sense out of it.

Link10103 profile image

Link10103 8 months ago

It would be one thing if he said some believers or actually closested atheists, or that there are simply closeted atheists out there. There are a variety of reasons for people to be closet atheists, some including death.

Except that Oz said there are atheists actively trying to hide their agnosticism. Like wtf is the point of hiding THAT if people already know you're an atheist lol..

Oztinato profile image

Oztinato 8 months ago from Australia

I don't atheists are ashamed about their beliefs just understandably confused about what to believe in. People want to be fashionable and "in" so for a few years it's cool to be atheist.

Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 8 months ago from Somewhere in the universe

Yeah, Christians and Muslims need to get over their fear and hatred of non-believers.

Kylyssa profile image

Kylyssa 8 months ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA Author

Some theists think atheists are ashamed of their disbelief because some atheists are still closeted. Some atheists still feel the need to be closeted, not because they are ashamed, but because they live in places where being outed as a non-Christian could result in job loss, harassment, or other negative consequences.

Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 8 months ago from Somewhere in the universe

LOL Link! Yes, what would be the point of hiding a disbelief in anything? Do theists think atheists are ashamed of their disbelief? Quite the contrary. No more so than being ashamed of a disbelief in Ra, the sun god, or a disbelief in Quetzalcoatl. I also don't believe that planets are created in 6 days! That makes me a scientist, not a bad person.

Link10103 profile image

Link10103 8 months ago

...and what exactly is the point for an atheist to (uselessly) hide their agnosticism.

Paladin_ profile image

Paladin_ 8 months ago from Michigan, USA

Actually, contrary to an earlier assertion (by a Hubber who's notorious for being wrong on a great many things), most atheists are NOT "closet agnostics." Most atheists I know (including myself) are OPEN agnostics.

Unfortunately, most people are still confused about the literal meanings of "atheist" and "agnostic," erroneously believing that "agnosticism" is some 'wishy-washy' half-way point between believing and not believing.

In reality, the two terms refer to two completely ideas. "Gnosticism" and "agnosticism" refer to what someone KNOWS, while "theism" and "atheism" refer to what someone BELIEVES. Thus, one can be an "atheist" (not BELIEVING in God) AND an "agnostic" (not KNOWING whether or not God -- in whatever relevant form -- exists). It's been my experience that this is the case with most atheists.

Oztinato profile image

Oztinato 8 months ago from Australia

Hardcore atheists try to hide the fact they are actually agnostics. After questioning you find out they like a bit of Buddhism, a bit of meditation and are hedging their bets about God. This is called closeting.

Link10103 profile image

Link10103 8 months ago

What the heck is a closet agnostic? The average atheist lacks belief in God and is by default an agnostic atheist, nothing hidden about it.

Kylyssa profile image

Kylyssa 8 months ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA Author


I believe it usually comes from a place of concern that something real and bad is going to happen to us. The idea of their God torturing people they care about for eternity is certain to be horrifying to them. My ex-husband used to have bouts of what I can only call terror thinking about the both of us being burnt over and over for eternity because he's gay and I'm an atheist. His concern was genuine and it touched my heart even as it made me feel sad for his distress.


I also think many people don't really understand what agnostic actually means and think it means doubting rather than realizing it's the opposite of gnostic. They think being an agnostic atheist means being a doubting believer rather than being a person who is open to empirical evidence of anything. I didn't get into that in the piece because it would pull the page off topic with theists arguing over the definitions. I didn't use a dictionary definition of atheist because some Christians feel they get to define what other people believe their way and would argue with it.


My observations have been similar. I notice you also live in Michigan, though, so our experience might be regional in nature? I've met plenty of people who refer to Catholics as Pagans and refer to moderate and liberal Christians as atheists and I've been told it's likely a regional phenomenon. Maybe extreme cherry-picking is, too?

Maybe a lot of people really want to follow all the Bible, like the ones putting out petitions to legalize murdering gay people and so on, but they are obeying the laws of the land as Jesus tells them to in the Bible?


Lots of the ignorance or gaps people tend to label as God seem to eventually get filled in or bridged with knowledge once people study the issue long enough. I think theists tend to think in terms of humanity being some apex of creation rather than being very intelligent animals who haven't learned an awful lot yet.

We've only just created the scientific framework for investigating reality in the last few hundred years. We've done amazing things within our limitations but we're nowhere near done with our self-education, yet some theists expect us to either know everything or believe God is in the gaps.


Actually, atheists believe lots of things are real, just not Gods.

Kylyssa profile image

Kylyssa 8 months ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA Author

How is it stereotyping to say some Christians seem to believe atheists think God is real when you've said so yourself? Saying people say things they've actually said to you isn't stereotyping.

Oztinato profile image

Oztinato 8 months ago from Australia

I have put it on record on HP that most atheists are closet agnostics so you can't stereotype what some of us theists think.

Eldercurk 8 months ago

IN a sense, Atheists believes in something but they would rather have scientific or logical proof. The scientific proof has been revealed already in the creation of the universe but they ignore it as evidence that there is a divine intelligent creator behind it. I n a tragic event of something, they will sometimes bend and call on God for help.

Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 8 months ago from Somewhere in the universe

Yes! Remember when everyone BELIEVED that thunderbolts came from Thor? Well someone did not Believe that and proceeded to figure out where thunderbolts actually came from. That's the way atheists think. THEISTS BELIEVE a god/being created the universe, except people are waking up to the fact now that that's not how it happened. We are discovering that the universe (and everything in it) is all natural, no god required. Just like thunderbolts.

Paladin_ profile image

Paladin_ 8 months ago from Michigan, USA

I think Titen hit the nail on the head. I think the presuppositionalist approach is responsible for most of the confusion regarding non-believers.

Not too long ago, I noticed a comment by a believer in one of the HubPages questions that she'd "never met an atheist who didn't fear God." I had to shake my head, bite my tongue and let it go, because I hate trying to use the format in those question pages, where it limits your word count. But I really wanted to educate her.

I actually have an hypothesis regarding much of religious belief. I suspect that much of it is actually belief in BELIEF, rather than actual belief in God (or gods). It seems sensible to me that, if people truly -- I mean genuinely -- believed in God (as described in the Bible), they would lead lives VASTLY different from those they currently live.

At the risk of being inflammatory, I must honestly observe that, in more than a half-century living on this planet, I've never met a believer who hasn't adapted their belief to accommodate their own circumstances, and not the other way around.

It's my understanding that belief in God is an all-or-nothing proposition, that one must accept ALL of his dictates without question, and not merely pick and choose those which don't offend our own human morality or convenience.

If you're going to honor the Sabbath, you must also stone to death any witches or homosexuals you might meet. If you're going to turn the other cheek, you must also kill any child who curses their parent (as Jesus himself reportedly admonished). If you truly 'love' Jesus (and believe that he 'loves' you), you must follow his instructions to trust in God to provide for you, and to not take any care for the morrow (including productive employment) -- and to let the "dead" (those of us not destined for Heaven) bury their dead.

These are dichotomies that that are undoubtedly uncomfortable for those who believe, but are simply UNSUSTAINABLE for those of us who used to believe, and I suspect that's the primary difference between us. Once the fa├žade is abandoned, belief is no longer possible.

I recognize that my comments have essentially reversed the topic, from non-believers to believers, but I hope they've shed some light on the larger issue of how we tend to think so very differently.

kbdressman profile image

kbdressman 8 months ago from Provo, Utah

I think some of the problem is that people confuse atheists and agnostics. Believers divide everyone into people who believe and people who don't, when in reality there are three groups: people who believe, people who aren't sure if there is a God or not (many in this group think we can't know for sure), and people who believe God doesn't exist. By lumping agnostics and atheists into the same category and responding to both groups in the same way, believers can look pretty ignorant.

Snakesmum profile image

Snakesmum 8 months ago from Victoria, Australia

Very interesting and logical discussion.

You say : " I've even been told, "You know in your heart that Jesus is real," by people who seem to genuinely believe what they're saying. "

Perhaps the basis of this is fear and they cannot stand to think that there is a chance that God does not exist.

Kylyssa profile image

Kylyssa 8 months ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA Author

We're blaming BELIEF in God for stuff. If a teen's parents throw him out for breaking with their religious beliefs, I don't blame God, I blame their beliefs. Belief in God gets used to justify all sorts of misbehavior. Why shouldn't we blame the belief when the people committing the acts claim they are just following what God told them in the Bible?

Oztinato profile image

Oztinato 8 months ago from Australia

Then why do atheists keep blaming God for stuff.

"If I was a believer I would blame God for stuff" is not even a good rationalisation.

Also many atheists admit to having agendas of political anti religious activism: it's called gross religious intolerance.

Finally if you disagree with them they then stifle free speech.

Kylyssa profile image

Kylyssa 8 months ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA Author

Thank you for your insight, Titen-Sxull. You make an excellent point about presuppositionalists. Since they can't conceive of anything except God existing without being made by an intelligent designer, perhaps they also can't conceive of anyone else being able to do so, either.

Titen-Sxull profile image

Titen-Sxull 8 months ago from back in the lab again

This is a great hub Kylyssa that hopefully will help to clear up some of the confusion that believers have about atheists and vice versa.

It's a sad thing that typically atheists and theists in a discussion or debate end up talking past each other or simply attempting to psychoanalyze the other participant in the discussion.

Most commonly the brand of believer that put forth the idea that atheists belief are Presuppositionalists, a presuppositionalist presupposes that God must exist for the Universe to be intelligible at all. Presups also put forth verses of scripture that suggest that God is self-evident and that all human beings must KNOW deep down that God is real and thus anyone denying the existence of God is simply self-deceived or lying.

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    Kylyssa Shay (Kylyssa)316 Followers
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    Kylyssa is an American atheist with high-functioning autism trying to navigate a mostly religious world with no well-beaten path to follow

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