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The following overview of Atheism was written by Religion Transcends writer Jackie Walker for the Summer 2009 issue of Relate magazine. Relate’s mission is to inspire teen girls to pursue their dreams with confidence and to teach them to be an example for others in their speech, life, love, faith and purity. Religion overviews may have Christian overtones to make the content relatable for the Christian teen audience.

Imagine a world with no religion:

No churches, no temples.

No nuns, no crosses, no Sunday morning services.

No Creator, no religious leader to set an example.

No prayer.

No Bible, no Koran.

No angels, no Heaven.

No Buddha, no Jesus, no Muhammad.

No Christmas, no Hanukkah.

For several teens in your schools and neighborhoods, this is life. Maybe they’ve never heard about God. Maybe their parents don’t want them to hear about God. Or maybe they used to believe in God but now they want nothing to do with religion. It’s likely you know many teens who just aren’t sure what to believe. And since they may be your best friends, your sisters, your classmates – it’s best to understand why they think the way they do. Maybe then you’ll be able to open up to them about what you believe.

What is an Atheist?

People who do not believe in a higher power are called Atheists, from the Greek word “atheos” which means “without god.” Atheists can be broken into two types:

1. Those who strongly state there is no God: Some Atheists in this group actively attack religions; others have examined religion and simply think it’s untrue.

2. Those who haven’t found a god they would believe in: Atheists in this group have looked at multiple religions and decided there is no particular god they believe is real.

Many Atheists believe humans can’t prove that God exists, that prayer works, or that Scripture is from God. They may also believe that religious people waste their money on churches instead of hospitals or are responsible for starting wars. Some Atheists do acknowledge the good works of many religious people.

Agnostics are similar to Atheists. An Agnostic is someone who isn’t sure whether there is a God and who doesn’t think we can really figure that out. In other words, Agnostics aren’t sure that Atheists or religious people have it right.

Most Americans believe in God

In the United States, how many people claim to believe in God? Here’s what the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life discovered when they polled Americans in 2008:

-71% are certain God exists

-21% are fairly or not too certain

-4% actively say they don’t believe in God

-3% didn’t know or refused to answer

When claiming religious belief or lack of religious beliefs, only 1.6% of Americans said they were Atheists. If these numbers are correct, there are around 15 million Atheists in America. But American Atheists, an organization for Atheist rights, claims on their website that the number is probably closer to 50 million Americans – many just don’t want to admit to they don’t believe in God.

What do Atheists care about?

Among the arguments and ideas most important to Atheists are the following:

-Science: Most Atheists reject anything that can’t be proven by science or with evidence. They might say, “Think there’s a God? Prove it!” Many Atheists believe that if we can prove God and Heaven don’t exist, then we can make the best of life here on Earth.

-Morals: Many Atheists say it’s still possible to do the right thing without religion. Atheists can still be moral and responsible and treat humans with respect.

-Equality: Some Atheists want equality between religious people and those who don’t follow a religion. In other words, they oppose “special privileges” for religious people, like being allowed to hang the Ten Commandments in a courtroom.

Where does Darwin fit in?

Some Atheists point to the ideas of Charles Darwin as proof that there is no God. Darwin was a scientist known for his theories of evolution and natural selection; this year marks Darwin’s 200th birthday. Born in 1809 in England, Darwin initially believed God created the world. But after sailing around the world collecting fossils and studying plants and animals, Darwin came up with a new idea: Each creature was not created separately but evolved from one type of creature. Darwin might say:

-A higher power didn’t create humans and monkeys. Rather, both humans and monkeys probably evolved from the same type of animal over time.

-Let’s say humans were originally born with 11 toes. A higher power didn’t create humans with 11 toes, only to later remove a toe. Instead, as each new human was born, her eleventh toe would appear smaller, the next human’s eleventh toe even smaller, until eventually no humans were born with an eleventh toe.

Darwin’s findings were published in a book called On the Origin of Species (for short); the book is 50 years old this year.

Darwin himself didn’t use his theories to prove there is no God. However, after his death in 1882, Atheists and others sometimes use his ideas to prove there is no God. As of early 2009, the Catholic Church now believes Darwin’s theories are probably correct. Still, most people who believe in God also believe that God played some (if not the whole) part in creating the world.

Do Atheists hate religion?

No, Atheism doesn’t mean hatred of God or religion. However, many Atheists have decided they don’t believe in God because they believe if there were a God, he wouldn’t allow evil in the world.

And yes, some Atheists do dislike religions. Perhaps today’s most popular, outspoken Atheist is Richard Dawkins, a British scientist who focuses on Darwin’s theories and actively attacks religious ideas. In his best-selling book The God Delusion, Dawkins wrote that God is bloodthirsty, unforgiving, jealous, a racist, and a bully (which of course ignores the parts of the Bible that describe God as loving, just, and merciful). Another of today’s popular Atheists, Sam Harris, says religions don’t allow for science and life in other places of the universe. While you may hear about Dawkins and Harris on TV, remember that not all Atheists despise religion. Unfortunately, Dawkins and Harris are just the two who have received the attention of the media.

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Created by, 2009

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3 Responses to “Life Without God”

  • nbjayme:

    Atheism persists because they are not interested to search for proof of God. Some because of peer pressure, some because they cannot give up their own moral standard — continuing to live what deems immoral in religious views.

    No matter which side an Atheist is it cannot take away the proof God graciously provided in history:

    The Eucharistic Miracles and the Fatima Miracle

  • Brian Westley:

    A somewhat reasonable writeup, but this part:

    Let’s say humans were originally born with 11 toes. A higher power didn’t create humans with 11 toes, only to later remove a toe. Instead, as each new human was born, her eleventh toe would appear smaller, the next human’s eleventh toe even smaller, until eventually no humans were born with an eleventh toe.

    That’s completely incorrect. I don’t even know what your point is supposed to be here. Biology doesn’t work like that.

    People can be born with more or fewer toes & fingers, and sometimes these conditions are passed on.

    See e.g.

    Also, Origin of Species is 150 years old, not 50.

    • Thank you for your comment and for the date correction. As for the 11 toes, it was meant to be an explanation that young girls can relate to — they understand toes and fingers better than evolutionary theories. Your point is correct, but please take my article within the context it was written. And please refer to Atheism Explained by David Ramsay Steele. Some of my research came from that book, and he makes a similar point. I appreciate your attention to detail, and keep reading!

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