The title says it all, really. Don't worry, I'm not about to get all self-righteous and preachy on anyone. It's just that something happened recently that kind of made me want to talk about this.
Like most atheists, I started out religious. I went to church with my grandma as a kid when no one else in my family did. And I regularly attended youth group through high school. I never really bought everything my pastor said, and I disagreed strongly with some Biblical teachings, but overall I had this warm and fuzzy notion of God as someone who was looking out for me and had my back. Eventually I left the Christian faith after I couldn't reconcile my personal beliefs and feelings with the dogma, but I still called myself an agnostic (which now I realize I was using that term inappropriately). Basically I still believed in my warm and fuzzy higher power, but I didn't have any associated dogma, ritual or religion associated with that. I just lived my life as I normally would and kind of/sort of believed in God. Until one day I realized I was kidding myself, I didn't really believe in an all powerful, all knowing, invisible wizard in the sky and I was only clinging to that belief out of habit and fear. Since the moment I realized that I didn't believe anymore, I took a more scholarly approach to the existence of God, examining the evidence, listening to arguments from both sides, and nothing has won me back over to the side of belief.
Anyway, so that's my spiritual journey into atheism. What I want to talk about is the public perception of atheism, and how people get it wrong.
First of all, agnosticism is not Atheist Light. I hear people say a lot that they "don't mind agnostics, it's those atheists that bug me!" People seem to interpret agnosticism as saying, "I don't know if there's a God or not." versus atheism as, "I know there isn't a God." That isn't true. Agnosticism is a position of knowing. It is saying, "I don't know for sure." It says nothing about belief in God. You can be an agnostic atheist or an agnostic believer. An example of what those two things would look like:
Atheist: "I don't believe in God but I can't be sure he doesn't exist."
Christian: "I believe in God but I'm not 100% certain."
That clear? Okay, moving on.
This was all spearheaded by a friend and I talking about a TV show, Supernatural, which we're both fans of. She asked me which season I was on and I said that I had finished all of them. She said, "Oh, okay. I didn't know if maybe you stopped watching when, y'know, all the angels and stuff started happening." I was taken aback. Why would I stop watching a TV show because it happened to have angels in it? And then I realized, she thought that my atheism would make me turn away in disgust from anything having to do with religion.
That's a little something that we call anti-theism, and yeah, there are anti-theistic atheists. But I'm not really one of them. Sure, I think religion is silly, but I don't begrudge anyone their right to worship or believe as they wish, so long as it doesn't harm others. And I certainly am not going to stop watching an entertaining, fictional show because they bring elements of Judeo Christian mythology into it.
People have this view of atheists as these angry, belligerent bullies. Some are, but so are some Christians. Overall, we just don't believe in God. That's it. We're not going to hate you if you do believe in God, and we're not going to boycott anything with even a whiff of religiosity about it. We don't bite, kick puppies or eat babies, either. So calm down.