Chapter 1. Born atheist.
All thinking men are atheists. Earnest Hemingway
Everyone is born atheist. Religion is learned. As a learned behavior, peoples’ religion can be accurately predicted by the religion of their parents and the place where they live. Therefore it is no surprise that 77% of Americans are Christian, 97% of Saudis are Muslim, 95% of Thais are Buddhist, 80% of Indians are Hindu and 85% of Swedes have no religion.
Religionists do not want to admit that everyone is born atheist. The statement infuriates them. Religionists want to deny the facts. They call this faith--persisting in believing something despite contrary facts. They act as if faith is a good thing. But it does not change the fact that everyone is born atheist, religion is learned. Perhaps religionists fear that if they admit religion is learned, people will realize that it can be unlearned.
Atheists have no belief in god. Some atheists never learned religion. Others have unlearned religion. Literally, atheism means “without deities.” In this book, I use it slightly more broadly to mean “without religion.”
Religion is generally characterized by 1.) believing in a supernatural god or gods, 2.) believing in life after death; and, 3.) following a “holy” book or “scripture” that is allegedly attributable to their god or gods.
Religion is man-made. Religion is not a divinely inspired truth, it is a product of family and society. If you were born in Saudi Arabia, you would most likely be Muslim. If you were born in Thailand, you would most likely be Buddhist. There is no one great religious truth. Today, there are many religions and over the history of man, there have been many more. If you follow a religion it is almost always the result of the time, place and family into which you were born.
Each religion claims to know the one true path. But they cannot all be right. To accept one religion means denying the others. For example, a Christian finds the religious assertions of a Muslim silly or even dangerous. The Christian has no belief in the Muslim god. The Christian has no belief in the Muslim scriptures. The Christian is an atheist when it comes to Islam. Each religious person is effectively an atheist in the remainder of the world’s religions. This book asks the religious person, why not add one more?
The atheist has nothing to prove.
As an atheist, I have no belief in god--not in the Jewish god, not in the Christian god, not in the Muslim god and not in the Hindu gods. When comparing myself to a religionist, I like to picture each of us holding an old mayonnaise jar. Perhaps when you were a child you poked a few holes in the lid of a mayonnaise jar and collected insects for observation. But in this instance, instead of putting insects in the jar, picture it full of religious beliefs.
The religionist’s jar contains all of the beliefs of his religion. For example, a Catholic’s jar would include heaven and hell, a bearded man in the sky and his human son, virgin birth, walking on water, people rising from the dead, saints, miracles and the Pope as the infallible spokesperson for god.
My jar is empty.
Often religionists feel atheists should prove there is no god. Perhaps because they have been in power for so long, they think they can set the terms of the debate. But atheists have no belief in god. My jar is empty. I have nothing to prove. All of the shouting in the world will not change this fact. It is the religionist who has a jar full of beliefs. And the religionist lacks facts to support his beliefs. So he labels them faith. Religion requires faith because it has no facts.