Is It Safer
To Tell Them
We're Just Not Religious?
Karen G.

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From: "Positive Atheism" <>
To: "Karen G."
Subject: Re: proud atheist
Date: February 26, 2004 2:20 AM


I can't tell you which is worse. History has known theists to stop slitting each others throats for just long enough to enjoy a lovely afternoon at the auto-da-fé, standing side-by-side in full concert, and then go at it again the very moment that the flesh of the former atheists ceases its quivering.

Okay. Back to the twenty-first century (or the twentieth, really).

My Mother would simply chime out, "Oh, we're not religious," when pressed to disclose the genus and species of wasp that constituted the bulk of our diet. Neither of my parents ever paid any closer attention than this to the subject of religion (and thus the subject of their own atheism). As a result, they have been warmly welcomed, enthusiastically loved, and wholly respected in whatever social situations they've found themselves.

My parents now live in Southern Utah -- polygamist country, yes, but wholly religious, to be sure! Mom jokes (half-jokingly) that she now has a foolproof method for avoiding the crowds at Wal-Mart: they pack up at ten O'Clock on Sunday morning and shop while everybody else in town (except the poor Wal-Mart employees) are at Church! Well -- this is a good way to avoid the shopping crowds just about anywhere (even in Portland, Oregon, among the most atheistic cities in the United States). But Mom tells me that they literally have the entire Wal-Mart to themselves where they live.

My point in all this, however, is that the only thing my parents have ever said to anybody regarding the family's religious heritage is "Oh, we're not religious!" And she said this only after being asked very pointedly, as if it would be socially awkward to continue ignoring the question or to pretend not to hear it (or to change the subject by recapping a the most recent statement of the preceding topic, or whatever).

Mom's emphasis is not on the word not, but on the word Oh. She isn't emphasizing the "not" as if to show disdain toward religion or to say, "How dare you presume I'm religious!" as that modestly popular lapel button engine asserts in regards to a number of "alternative" outlooks and lifestyles. (Religious faith is the alternative outlook, as far as I'm concerned: religious belief is later tacked onto one's natural outcome, whereas atheism, the simple absence of religious faith, is that natural outcome.) but showing surprise at the question itself:

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine
Eight-and-one-half years of service to
     people with no reason to believe
P.O. Box 16811
Portland, OR 97292

"Those who are not theists are atheists."
     This definition is favored as a generic
self-definition for our social class by a
majority of the atheistic social critics,
philosophers, writers, and reformers who
ventured an opinion on the subject.
     We recommend the popularization of this
definition as a potential means to reduce
the stigma that is leveled against atheists
from virtually every side.
     Don't let antagonists tell us who we are!
               -- Positive Atheism Magazine

"My conclusion is that there is no reason to
     believe any of the dogmas of traditional
     theology and, further, that there is no
     reason to wish that they were true. Man,
     in so far as he is not subject to natural
     forces, is free to work out his own destiny.
     The responsibility is his, and so is the
     -- Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), from
          "Is There a God?" (1952), being the
          opinion of one-fifth of the world's
          and one-seventh of America's adults

     "The legitimate powers of government extend
     to such acts only as are injurious to others."
     -- Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), from      "Statute for Religious Freedom" THE MEANS FOR MAINTAINING THAT LIBERTY URGED:
     "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain
     a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty
     nor safety."
     -- Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), from
          "Historical Review of Pennsylvania"

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