Popular Misconceptions: The Definition of Atheism

Quite a few of the conversations I’ve been involved in with theists lately seem to start off with a basic misconception about what atheism actually is. Since there is such a disconnect between the definition of the term and what people think or believe that it means I’d like to clarify a few things.

Most recently multiple pastors have asserted that the term atheist was best defined as  ” to be certain there is no god” or “to believe that there is no god” – both definitions are decidedly incorrect.

Theism is defined by Mirriam-Webster‘s as:

belief in the existence of a god or gods


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Strange Double Standards

I get witnessed to fairly frequently which is absolutely to be expected as an outspoken atheist here in the South. Generally I don’t mind when someone wants to share with me their version of the gospel. I don’t mind it in the least so long as the individual taking the time to tell me the “Truth” is also willing to listen to what I have to say in regards to that “Truth”.   You see, I believe that if you are willing to share your faith with people (as Jesus commands in Mark 16) that you should also be willing to hear criticisms of that faith. It’s a simple trade really; most Christians are happy to tell me that I’ll go to hell for eternity if I don’t accept their brand of the faith so I should be allowed to criticize the faith that they get those beliefs from.

Even when a young evangelical does his or her best to avoid terms like Hell  and damnation there are certain underlying tones of the Gospel; that I along with everyone ever born am fully depraved and unworthy of salvation, or that there is actually something that I need to be saved from that though not as blatant in their attempt are still just as insulting to the human mind as more confrontational fire and brimstone tactics. Virtually any sort of evangelism being exacted upon myself is grounds for challenge. This should go without saying.

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Sudden Uncontrollable Fits of Jesus

Has anyone else out there ever noticed that when someone you previously had no clue was  “religious” finds out that you are an atheist – that they suddenly have this uncontrollable  internal revival?

I’ve had one of these rather entertaining experiences recently, while sitting at my desk at a location I dare not mention I overheard two gentlemen talking about  women, particularly the naked kind.   As one of these gentlemen walked past the desk I was at he noticed the book I was reading – The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins. He asked me about it and I explained that it was about evolution and explained the premise of the book….

Instantaneously it’s as if all this mans years of church going culminated in this one moment as he asked, “You think we came from monkeys?  So god didn’t create you and me?”

I said, “Apes actually – and I don’t believe in god.”

The other gentlemen then exclaimed, “if we came from apes how come there are still apes?”

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Competing Definitions of Orthodoxy

With the recent mania surrounding Harold Camping’s failed rapture prophecy, Christianity has been in the media spotlight a little more than normal.  If you somehow missed the media blitz surrounding yet another failed prophecy of Jesus’ glorious (and terrible) return – Harold Camping used his small media/radio empire familyradio.com in order to promote his unquestioning belief that Jesus Christ would return to earth on May 21st, 2011 – he claimed to know this using a strange combination of Numerology and the Bible. He and his followers have spent an excess of 200 Million dollars buying billboards, radio ads, internet ads and other assorted media – many of them selling their homes and depleting their savings accounts in order to pursue the goal of “sounding the warning trumpet”.

Though this event unsurprisingly gained meme status among the atheist crowd, many were surprised to see that a number of Christians also had a tendency to mock Camping and his followers.  As a former Christian, I actually understand this entirely. Like many others, I know that the Bible has many references to man’s inability to know the date of Christ’s alleged return. For the most part, this is an accepted orthodox position.  However, with hindsight comes understanding, and though I likely would have ridiculed Camping as a Christian I now have to look at him and all Christians in a different light.

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Rules of Engagement

I don’t particularly like to use terms of war when I discuss what I call Positive Atheism – or activist atheism if you will. In this case I find it rather difficult to find a better term to use, but to be crystal clear, this post is in no way a call to arms or a declaration of war. This is a discussion about engagement in the form of intellectual and philosophical discussions and debates. (I don’t want there to be ANY confusion here – or any opportunity for the less scrupulous individual to make claims that might hinder reason or falsely indicate a “war mentality” here.)
In a previous post, from what seems like forever ago, I discussed what I felt was a moral obligation on my part to reduce faith and increase understanding. In this post I intend to talk about the Rules of Engagement that I have developed when engaging in these sorts of discussions. These are my personal rules, some may not find these necessary – but for me it draws a line in the sand as to what conversations are worthy of my time and attention, as I have a tendency toward extremes. If at least one of the following criteria are not met, I won’t bother engaging.

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Response to Calvary Nexus Dr. J.P. Moreland on “The Evidence for Christianity”

A pastor friend of mine recently tweeted/facebooked a link to the following video from Dr. J.P. Moreland – in this video Dr. Moreland attempts to prove that god exists using what he calls “creation”. I responded to the post on Facebook – but wanted to share my answers to three of the main points made by Moreland.



Firstly I’d like to take a moment to say the following:


Though I respect Dr. Moreland’s stance and fully understand it – I find it best, when I want to know how the Christian community or individual Christians feel about certain things, that I ask the sources directly. When Dr. Moreland here speaks as to the goals of the new atheists, although some of them are somewhat correct, I believe he does his audience a disservice – My challenge to you and anyone that bothers to read this is simply this:  Ask a New Atheist (which I am) what it is that you want to know about New Atheism (I hate to use capitals on those) – never take someone’s word over those of true sources. The same goes for any questions you have about Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, etc…even though myself or Dr. Moreland may be well versed in a few different belief systems we are not nearly as valid a source than a reasonable selection of believers in those faith systems.

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Moral Obligations: Reducing Faith, Increasing Understanding

Ever since I was very young I’ve felt an unexplainable drive to seek out , discover, and even defend truth, whatever that may be.  I think somehow this desire translated into a fervent religious belief through my teen years and a lengthy role in defending that belief.  That drive still exists, though my methods of determining exactly what is and is not true has changed entirely (from the view that truth was dictated by the Bible to the view that truth is dictated by the evidence is a pretty massive transition) and at this point I feel that the defense and propagation of that which is true transcends mere desire, but has moved into the realm of obligation.

For me,  it seems that the atheists, skeptics, Humanists, naturalists, rationalists,  and scientists of the world may even have a moral obligation to see that truth is not only spread (peaceably) but also defended in a world where the rational or empirical are often scoffed at – or worse.  When religious or otherwise irrational society largely dictates both social standards and the political environment there are some pretty severe consequences for virtually everyone that has to share space on this planet with them.  From homeopathy, to fundamentalists who refuse medical treatment for their children, to proponents of the Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell policy, and the denial of equal rights to homosexuals the majority largely decides what the rest of us can and cannot do, additionally these people will make victims of anyone and everyone in the name of their god.

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Losing my Faith


I found out yesterday that a local pastor used me in an illustration in one of his recent sermons. This was brought about because the pastor had seen a Facebook conversation or two that I had been in with a friend of mine that attends his church.

When I listened to this I expected to become angry and to write a letter or  blog calling this guy out, this didn’t actually happen. What I felt, as I heard my story story simplified and the death of my god minimized into a decision to “Just give up” a flood of memories hit me as I remembered the great pain I felt for those years as my faith slowly died. All day I sat there reliving much of that pain – as if this wound from over 4 years ago now had been reopened. Just as one might still feel the sting of losing a parent or loved one years after the fact, there are times – though increasingly rare – that still I remember this long struggle.

Please understand that I don’t share this in order to cause havoc in this man’s life. He meant no harm and we have emailed each other now a few times and I found him to be both gracious and very apologetic….I think he understands my point of view at this time.


Dr. Daws,


Jimmy Garrett provided me with the sermon from August 8th that you gave regarding a Warrior Mentality and Persevering Till The End – in it, at around the 21 minute mark you made a mention of Jimmy’s atheist friend – that friend being me.

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Honey and Flies – My Personal End to Bitterness


This is the first post in a series in which I intend to explain, philosophize, argue, and even convince myself of a new approach in my own personal life regarding my lack of religious faith.

For nearly two years now I’ve been an out atheist and as a result of a very painful process of losing my faith I have to force myself to embrace a Truth regarding myself – I’ve been bitter, angry, and sometimes hurtful toward other people. Some of them deserved it while others did not and I feel the need to repair my approach to humanity.

The fact is, despite my best efforts and the efforts of my peers, we are stuck here with religion and the religious – the vast majority of whom, due to the nature of faith, will hold on to their faith despite all of the good evidence you and I can provide to the contrary. Religion, as a whole, may one day disappear but not without many more years of scientific discovery and understanding so that all questions in which god can be a hypothetical answer to may be answered – if they ever are.

It’s not that I’ve suddenly forgotten all of the dangers of religion or how it has held humanity behind for ages – I haven’t. I simply can’t justify the effects that my approach have had on myself and others in the last few years. Despite being the happiest I’ve ever been, there has still been this underlying bitterness…even a persecution complex (something I often accuse Christians of) in-so-much that I may often see persecution in places that it isn’t actually occurring. Of course persecution absolutely does occur and yes I have absolutely been a victim of it – but my failure has been in giving those around me the benefit of the doubt.

Lessons of experience

Over the last few months I have found myself associated with two organizations, one of which I am a founding officer called C.O.F.F.E.R of Dodge County – a citizens organization dedicated to working with the local Board of Education to ensure that responsibility is used in the areas of education and finance. Secondarily I am now performing all of the web-admin duties and doing other volunteer work for Faithful Hearts Animal Shelter (501c3) – a local startup non-profit incorporation of individuals interested in building a permanent rescue for abandoned and abused animals in my local area (we desperately need it – but that’s a whole different story, just know that my wife and I are pretty much animal freaks.)

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‘A’ Week – Letting the World Know

The Scarlet A - use this as your FB profile picture for A weekNext week will be the first official "A Week on Facebook" in which thousands of Atheists will be changing their profile picture to the well known Scarlet letter 'A'. The purpose for this is to show the world that we, as atheists, are here and regardless of what the world may believe about us, good without God.

I not only think this is a great opportunity to tell the world who we are and to renounce the myth that a deity is the provider of morality, it is also a wonderful time to come out of the closet and let your own friends and family know that you are an atheist if you have yet to do so. Of course I'd never encourage anyone to come out that may be hounded or threatened by their family, but if you are a person with a somewhat reasonable surrounding then perhaps you should consider taking advantage of this opportunity. If you aren't in a location or time at your life where it is safe to do so you have my sympathies – I've certainly been there as well.

I also want to encourage other minority groups to organize an event such as this one. I think something like this would be most beneficial to the GLBT community and I know that many atheists would be willing to show our support for GLBT rights and identity if it were done.

All the details of 'A' Week can be found at This Website or this Facebook Page.

I'll be participating and I've encouraged those on my Facebook Fan Page to do so as well, will you? Why or why not?