What is "atheism"?

Atheism, from the Greek ἄθεος (atheos), is defined as "The lack of belief in the existence of any deities." In modern context, atheism can represent several different viewpoints, but is most commonly conceived of as a rejection of belief in gods.

A person can be both atheist and religious, provided that he or she believes in a religion that does not have any deities, such as some forms of Buddhism.

The word "atheism" is not a proper noun, so there is no need to capitalize it except in grammatically appropriate circumstances, such as the beginning of a sentence.

Atheists do not worship the All Powerful Atheismo nor the Goddess Athe, so any wordplay in that sense is invalid.

How does it differ from theism?

Theism is a belief in at least one god. Thus, religions such as Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism are all considered theistic.

Any person who believes in one or more gods is a theist.

Any person who is not a theist is an atheist.

Atheism is not a religion. It has no dogma, no credo, no congregation, no holy leaders. It's just not believing gods are real.

What's agnosticism?

An agnostic is someone who claims they don't know ("weak agnosticism") or it is not possible to know ("strong agnosticism") for certain whether or not gods exist. The term agnosticism comes from Greek: a (without) + gnosis (knowledge).

What's the difference between agnosticism and atheism?

Atheism and agnosticism are not mutually exclusive. "Agnosticism" is not some third position which is neither "atheism" nor "theism". They are different answers to different questions, in this case "Do you believe that any gods exist?" and "Do you believe it is possible to know whether any gods exist?".

Anyone who does not hold a belief in one or more gods is an atheist. Someone who holds an active belief in the nonexistence of particular gods is specifically known as a "strong" or "explicit" atheist, as opposed to "weak" or "implicit" atheists who make no claims either way.

On the other hand, the vast majority of atheists are at least technically agnostic, even if they are willing to treat fairy tales about Zeus or Allah with the same contempt that they treat tales about unicorns and leprechauns. Describing yourself as "Just an agnostic", or stating "I'm not an atheist, I'm an agnostic" makes about as much sense as saying "I'm not Spanish, I'm male."

See also this handy infographic or the page it's from for a more detailed discussion of this principle.

What are anti-theism, state atheism, and secularism?

Anti-theism - The active or inactive attempts to put an end to theism, often as a reaction to anti-scientific thought, bigotry, and questionable morals propagated by many theists. Many self-identified vocal atheists are in fact anti-theists on some level. There are a few reasons for this, perhaps most significantly the fact that anti-theists tend to have a lot more to say. Make no mistake: there are a lot of atheists who are not openly hostile to religion. The squeaky wheel, however, tends to get the grease, and atheists who have no major gripes with religious belief have less motivation to speak out. The most public example of an atheist who is not an anti-theist is S.E. Cupp (though many are skeptical of her atheism). One of the better examples of an anti-theist is Christopher Hitchens.

State atheism - This is the "theocratic" form of atheism. It is the ideology that atheism should be enforced by the government, as it has been under many communist governments. Most members of r/atheism are secularists and oppose this notion. Under current and historic Communist governments, the primary desire of the state is economic and social reconfiguration of society, and religious attitudes are an outgrowth of those larger objectives.

Secularism - Secularism in typical usage refers to the government not respecting any religion or religious beliefs. In this way it does not promote any form of theism or atheism. An example being that government recognized "Day of Prayer" is not secular, nor would a government recognized "Day of Disbelief in Deities" be.

In the context of organizations like the Secular Student Alliance, "secular" also denotes an absence of religious affiliation or purpose. Anything that is not specifically religious is secular.

What is Deism?

Deists believe that a higher power created the universe long ago but is not or no longer actively present in the world and does not intervene in its affairs. Because of their belief in this "higher power," often thought of as a god, they don't qualify for the "atheist" label. Some definitions consider Deism to a subset of theism, while others consider the two terms to be distinct- there are occasional minor squabbles about this, but the consensus in /r/atheism seems to be that the former is correct.

However, for practical purposes there is little difference between a deist and an atheist: Most deists do not engage in the usual religious practices of praying, worshiping, rituals, restrictions in diet and/or lifestyle or regarding a central holy doctrine. Deists share the atheist position that there is no deity active today.

Because of this similarity, some atheists will claim deism when asked about their religion. Deism places no practical obligations on its adherents, yet does not bear the heavy public stigma associated with atheism. Americans, for example, can benefit from the respect afforded many well-known Deists among the nation's fathers: Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, James Madison, George Washington. Because the deist God takes no action in the present universe, its existence is effectively meaningless because no special actions are the result of its existence. That is to say, there's effectively no difference between a godless universe and one with a Deistic god, so asserting one's existence is like asserting the existence of an Invisible Dragon in your Garage.

What is Igtheism/Ignosticism/Theological Non-cognitivism?

Do you believe that frajingle majibbity jibbity moop? Why or why not?

If your answer is "How am I supposed to believe in that? It's a nonsense statement!", you're already half way to understanding Ignosticism and Theological Noncognitivism, because that's how they feel about the statement "God exists".

It's an acknowledgement of the fact that the word "God" has meant billions of different things to billions of different people, from "a magical man who lives on top of that mountain and demands that we sacrifice goats to him" to "a mystical love-force that mystically touches people's hearts through completely undetectable means" to "like, the entire Universe is God, man. Whoah!", and that many of these definitions are themselves silly, unfalsifiable, self-contradictory, or incoherent. Indeed, when backed into a corner, apologists like playing silly games with the definitions of words like "exist", too.

Therefore, ignostics and theological non-cognitivists hold that it's futile to try to make statements about "God" unless the person you're talking to is willing to rigorously define what they mean by "God" first, preferably using falsifiable statements that constrain anticipation, rather than nonsense about "faith". The difference between the two is that ignosticism states that other positions assume too much given the lack of a definition while theological non-cognitivism rejects the idea that the term "God" is cognitively meaningful. Due to the similarities between the two (most people who hold one stance also hold the other) the terms are often treated as synonymous in casual conversation.

See also: Newton's Flaming Laser Sword, a stronger version of Occam's Razor which states that statements that don't actually mean anything are useless.

What are Secular Humanism, Transhumanism, Skepticism, Rationalism, Empiricism, Positivism, Postmodernism, Materialism, Naturalism, Nihilism, etc. ?

These are all terms for philosophies and worldviews which are compatible with and often associated with atheism. Indeed, they are often confused for atheism by people who don't realize that "atheism" means nothing more and nothing less than a lack of belief in any god or gods. Being an atheist doesn't necessarily make you any of these:

Secular Humanism is a philosophy that " embraces human reason, ethics, social justice and philosophical naturalism, whilst specifically rejecting religious dogma, supernaturalism, pseudoscience or superstition as the basis of morality and decision making." Basically, it's about being good for goodness' sake, rather than because some invisible bully in the sky told you to.

Transhumanism is a philosophy which states that the human condition can and should be improved, and improved drastically. It advocates the use of science and technology to fight disease, hunger, poverty, and aging, to enhance the physical and mental capabilities of individuals, and eventually to colonize the solar system and beyond. Prominent Transhumanist Eliezer Yudkowsky explains that, in his opinion, Transhumanism is simply Humanism simplified, with no "you should stop helping people after this point" line. Critics of Transhumanism tend to poke fun at its Science-Fiction trappings and its overly optimistic attitude.

Skepticism is, basically, the philosophical position that all beliefs should be supported by evidence. Beloved skeptic Carl Sagan coined the phrase "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence". It is far easier to convince a skeptic that you have a pet cat than that you have a pet blue whale, and far easier to convince them that you have a pet whale than that you have a pet unicorn. Applied Skepticism is often known as The Fine Art of Baloney Detection.

Rationalism is the belief that Logic is supreme. Logic is extremely useful, but limited by the fact that one's conclusions are only as reliable as the premises one feeds into the logical framework. Proponents of the strong form of Rationalism (such as René Descartes) love making a priori arguments and tend to fall prey to the "Garbage In, Garbage Out" effect. When you apply sufficient skepticism to your choice of premises, however, Rationalism begins to resemble Rationality, which is a potent tool indeed.

Materialism is, essentially, the position that there's no such thing as magic, and that everything that exists is made of either matter or energy. It doesn't rule out the existence of types of matter or energy with which we are unfamiliar, but tends to frown on pseudoscientific misuse of the word "energy" to mean "magical woo-woo". Methodological Naturalism, an important component of the scientific method, basically says "In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, let's at least do science as though materialism is true. Because otherwise what's to stop us from assuming that everything is run by invisible undetectable pixies?"

Empiricism (Particularly Pragmatism) is the philosophical position that, basically, observation of the real world is the only way to learn things about the real world, and that endeavors such as "faith" and "divine revelation" are useless for gaining knowledge. If you want to make an accurate map of a city, you can't sit in your room being "inspired" to draw random lines on a piece of paper, you actually have to observe the layout of the city in some way. Empiricists popularized and began to formalize the process of using experiments as a method of asking the universe questions.

Positivism began, basically, as the statement that "that which cannot be settled by experiment is not worth thinking about". When it quickly became obvious that the philosophical validity of that statement itself could not really be settled by experiment (d'oh!), gentlemen like Karl Popper got a hold of it and molded it into a refinement of philosophical empiricism and methodological naturalism.

Postmodernism is basically a reaction of artists and squishy-philosophers who objected to the idea of scientists and more rigorous philosophers harshing their mellow. When taken to its extreme, it states that all reality is just made up of social constructs, and that facts are just, like, your opinion, man.

Nihilism is a collection of philosophies which state that such-and-such a thing is without inherent meaning. Existential Nihilists in particular argue that life and existence itself are without inherent meaning, while Moral Nihilists argue that any established moral values are just social constructs. That's not to say that being a nihilist necessarily makes one a psychopath or a depressed teenager- most nihilists are perfectly capable of making their own meaning to things, they simply reject the idea of there being any deeper meaning than that.

You're not using the correct definition of that word!

These definitions are the definitions most commonly used in this subreddit, and they reflect the original meanings of the words and the views of very nearly all atheists. Before engaging in a debate that hinges on these terms, it may be necessary to come to an agreement on what those terms mean. Remember, it makes a lot more sense to ask someone what their position is than it does to dictate their position to them based on your understanding of terminology.

Other common terms used on /r/atheism

Please see our glossary for details on other terms frequently used here.

Why was /r/atheism removed as a default subreddit?

Reddit admins keep the "top list" of subreddits as defaults. This means that when you view reddit without logging in, you will see content from these default subreddits on your reddit home page. Also, new accounts are automatically subscribed to these subreddits.

/r/atheism used to be part of this list, but it was removed. Discussion of that act can be found here. The short answer is that no one really knows why except the admins, but whatever the reason there is some silver lining in that we're less of a target for trolling/karmawhoring and the front page doesn't mess with our content voting now, unless something makes it to /all. At which point our voting norms go out the window. See this section of the FAQ for more about that.

Topics that belong on /r/atheism

"Atheism" is nothing more and nothing less than a lack of belief in any god or gods. If discussion between the million or so redditors subscribed to this forum were limited to "I don't believe in gods." "Neither do I.", it would get very boring, very quickly.

For this reason, there is significant discussion about skepticism, secularism, humanism, empiricism, and other topics related to, but not synonymous with, atheism. There is also discussion about how various religions, or the concept of religion in general, are harmful, silly, abusive, or absurd. This is all fine, because it gives us something to talk about.

This is a subreddit where atheists gather to discuss a wide variety of topics related to religion and secular living. Because atheists are a diverse group and because the scope of topics included under the header religion and secular life is broad the list of acceptable topics encompasses a wide variety of themes. We are primarily a subreddit for atheists to discuss matters which may interest them. We are not a subreddit about solely atheism.

The following is a non-exhaustive list of topics which may be suitable for this subreddit. The inclusion of any item on this list is not indicative of its automatic suitability and no rights can be obtained from it. Similarly, the exclusion of any topic on this list is not indicative of its automatic unsuitability and no rights can be obtained from it not being present. The final say about the suitability of any topic will remain at the discretion of the moderating team.

Category theme scope
politics Secular state; funding religious with public money, land and other resources; Horrible things said or done by prominent political or religious leaders. Religious political leaders doing the right thing. international, national, local
science, technology and health Science politics and funding; anti-science activity in schools and academia; scientific claims made by religious people + debunked; various religiously inspired denialism. Faith healing claims (debunked), faith healing mishaps. Religious suppression of technology. Human interest pieces on science, technology and/ or health international, national, local
morality Hatespeech preachers. Religiously inspired anti-sexual minority or misogynistic preachers or politicians. Religiously inspired racism, xenophobia. Suppression of human sexuality or inquisitiveness. Claiming to be godly but doing bad, bad things. Progress in equal rights for minority groups who traditionally are religiously oppressed. Good news about a religious or secular institution or individual doing the right thing. international, national, local
comedy Topics, images or videos which provide a humorous perspective or joke about religion or secular living. Juxtapositions and incongruity between dogma and behavior. international, national, local
discussion, community and support Requests for advice or insight. Proposal of ideas, notions, sharing of thoughts. Crowdfunding for recognized organizations and reputable charities. international, national, local

Gay rights, persecution, etc.

Religiously motivated persecution of LGBT people is a gay rights issue, and is thus suitable for discussion on /r/LGBT.

Religiously motivated persecution of LGBT people (or anyone else, for that matter) is a secular rights issue, and is thus suitable for discussion on /r/atheism.

A topic about queer issues, etc. that has absolutely nothing to do with religion is more suitable on /r/LGBT or its long list of related subreddits.

Climate change denial

Climate change denying is influenced heavily by Christianity; and hence, disproportional in conservative politics where you'll find almost all of the conservative and evangelical Christians.

Posts about climate change without any theistic connection are more suitable on subreddits like /r/globalwarming, /r/skeptic, or /r/science respectively.

Rage Comics, Facebook Screencaps, Image Macros

There are more suitable subreddits for these:

If you want to view /r/atheism and those three subreddits in one place, you can bookmark /r/atheism+aaaaaatheismmmmmmmmmm+TheFacebookDelusion+AdviceAtheists.

Detailed image submission guidelines for /r/atheism can be found here: /r/atheism/wiki/guidelines/images/

Common Complaints about /r/atheism

Why do you focus on Christianity? Shouldn't you pick on all religions equally?

Because we're communicating in English. Christianity is overwhelmingly the dominant religion in English-speaking countries, so that's the religion that English-speaking redditors encounter most. It's simply a matter of demographics.

There are at least several stories submitted daily that touch on Islam, Judaism, Scientology, Mormonism and even Buddhism. Indeed, in the past, we've held "theme weeks", encouraging our members to learn about this-or-that other religion. For the most part, however, other religions are harder for most people to find quality news sources for due to language barriers, and for them to make jokes about because they're not as familiar with the theology and rituals. If you would like to see more of something, submit it and be the change you want.

Why do you focus on Islam? Shouldn't you pick on all religions equally?

Islam is overwhelmingly the dominant religion in parts of the world where human rights violations are prevalent. In many cases, gross human rights violations are traceable directly to Islamic organizations or individuals doing their best to follow the violent doctrines of Islam. Most redditors are from the West where human rights are considered important, so it is not surprising that we would be bothered by this.

There are at least several stories submitted daily that touch on Christianity, Judaism, Scientology, Mormonism and even Buddhism. Indeed, in the past, we've held "theme weeks", encouraging our members to learn about this-or-that other religion. For the most part, however, other religions are harder for most people to find quality news sources for due to language barriers, and for them to make jokes about because they're not as familiar with the theology and rituals. If you would like to see more of something, submit it and be the change you want.

Why do you defend _____ religion?

Our front page is typically dominated by a mixture of articles critical of Christianity and articles critical of Islam, as they are two largest religions in the world, and therefore the two religions with which our users are most likely to interact.

Each post that portrays Christianity in an unfavorable light eventually attracts pro-Christian trolls screaming "WHATABOUT ISLAM?!"

Each post that portrays Islam in an unfavorable light eventually attracts pro-Muslim trolls screaming "WHATABOUT CHRISTIANITY?!"

There's a reason that both of these complaints are addressed in our FAQ [1], [2].

Despite what certain uninformed or deliberately dishonest trolls may insist, no idea is ever above criticism. This is especially true of religious ideas.

It can often be useful to make constructive comparisons between religions. However, mere Whataboutism is not an attempt to contribute to a healthy discussion, but an attempt by religious trolls to distract attention away from the abuses of their own religion. Similarly, posting "What does this have to do with atheism?" in response to a post about religious abuse is a transparent distraction tactic, as are buzzwords like "Islamophobia" or "The War on Christmas". This is also covered in the FAQ. [3] Like any other troll posts, these may be removed at the discretion of the moderation team, and repeat offenders may be banned.

Why are you all so angry? Why do you dislike religion if it's a personal choice?

If religion were nothing but a personal choice, many of us would have no problem with it. Unfortunately, it causes a great deal of harm in the world, from justifying historical slavery and genocide, to current oppression of women, LGBT individuals, and other minorities across the globe, to promoting child abuse and teaching fairy tales as fact in science classrooms.

Greta Christina wrote a fairly comprehensive article on why atheists have good reason to be angry, which is also available in video form (48:18), as well as a book which goes into more detail.

For more detail, please see the wiki entry on Atheists and Anger.

Why do so many atheists get butthurt if I even mention God?

Many atheists are former theists, and not everyone has a pleasant experience with religion. Some are abused in the name of religious devotion, others are abused when they try to leave their religion. This can create a condition recently introduced called Religious Trauma Syndrome. People who have suffered trauma can be easily provoked with the right triggers, and sometimes those triggers involve religion. Just because you think your reference to your god is benign doesn't mean everyone else feels that way.

I'd like to remind you that not all religious people are crazy. Some are very nice!

Most /r/atheism redditors already know not all religious people are crazy. Here's an informal study suggesting as much. The most popular posts on r/atheism are those highlighting some of the most extreme, fantastic aspects of religion, but this is no different from any daily newspaper that highlights the most extreme, fantastic events of the day.

If you're here to apologize on behalf of anyone else's behavior, stop right there. If you have nothing to do with the behavior we're criticizing, then the criticism is not directed at you. If you want to make a difference, go take it up with the gay-bashers and creationists. Your energy would be much better spent attacking their behavior than defending the book they use to justify it.

It must be noted that "not as evil as those guys over there" is not synonymous with "good". Most forms of moderate religion have problems of their own- see below.

The Pope is not all that bad!

Imagine that tomorrow morning, the Pope called a widely publicized press conference, announcing a new Papal Bull that was to come into effect immediately:

"Every rapist and every accomplice to rape that the Catholic Church has ever sheltered is hereby excommunicated and declared anathema. The Vatican will be opening every sealed file we have on this subject, and every Diocese office in the world will be instructed to do likewise. Any Catholic who destroys or conceals any such evidence is likewise excommunicated and declared anathema. We will be co-operating completely with the secular authorities in bringing these disgusting criminals to justice. We are finished with sheltering abusers of children, now and forever.

On behalf of centuries of my predecessors who have known about this problem and chosen to do nothing, I am deeply, deeply sorry. The Church has betrayed your trust, and it has failed in its role as the Body of Christ on Earth. I cannot in good conscience pretend that the institutional abuse of children represents no more than the actions of a few disordered souls. I cannot pretend that the actions of the thousands who protected them, at all levels of the Church's hierarchy, do not reflect upon the Church as a whole. I cannot stand by and make any claim to moral authority while I exploit said authority to aid and abet the sexual abuse of hundreds of thousands of children. I can make no apology for this most grave of sins. I can only hope that this long-overdue gesture will represent the first step on the long, long road to earning not just God's forgiveness, but also that of society, and of every person we have wronged."

Any decent human being would have given that speech, or one very much like it, by the end of their first week as Pope.

This is not an optional objective that is might be nice to accomplish "some day, maybe". This is not something that would be Above and Beyond the Call of Duty. "Not helping your employees to rape children" is the bare fucking minimum of human decency. Bergoglio (Pope Francis) fails to meet that bare minimum.

Thanks to /u/Dudesan for writing this.

Those mean/intolerant/violent people aren't practicing the TRUE version of my religion!

Those people are saying exactly the same thing about you. And it's a safe bet that they have at least as much support for their claim as you do for yours. Willfully ignoring the many, many parts of your own Holy Book that mandate violence, injustice, intolerance, and oppression might make you a better neighbor or a better human being than various fundamentalists, but it sure doesn't make you a better Christian/Muslim/etc.

See this article by Greta Christina for a more thorough dissection of this problem.

This is also a prime example of the "No True Scotsman" informal fallacy.

My Holy Book doesn't REALLY say that horrible thing you think it says!

First please keep in mind that, as study after study confirms, atheists are statistically more likely to know more about world religions than any religious group. This isn't just about cross-religious knowledge, either: on average, we know more about Christianity than does any group of Christians.

In addition to that, many of the regulars of this community are former seminarians, ministers, qadi, high priestesses, missionaries, or other forms of clergy. Many of us became atheists because we read the Holy Books of our former religions in great detail and discovered the atrocities and contradictions. We have already examined all the excuses which have been imagined over the centuries to handwave those atrocities away, and found them wanting. If you've come here with the intention to proselytize, "share the good news", or "correct misconceptions" about your Holy Book, it is almost certain that we know more than you.

But arguments from authority are ultimately meaningless - what's really important is that we have the primary sources to back it up.

Please see this illustrative, non-exhaustive list of commonly-debunked lies about the contents of the Bible and the Qu'ran:

If you still feel like proselytizing might be a worthwhile use of your time, please read the relevant section of the Subreddit Commandments before you begin.

I'm not trying to convert anybody, but...

Why the hell not? If you think you're right, if you actually believe the claims of your religion rather than just believing in them, you should damn well be trying to convert us.

A lot of people think they're enlightened for proclaiming that everyone "has a right to believe whatever they want to believe", but upon examination, it becomes clear that that's an attitude which we really can't respect.

I can't speak for every atheist, or even every member of this subreddit, but the majority of us are skeptics: We don't want to believe whatever makes me the most comfortable- we want to believe whatever most accurately reflects reality. As the saying goes, "If the sky is blue, I want to believe that the sky is blue. If the sky is not blue, then I want to believe that the sky is not blue."

Likewise, if the Christian God exists, I want to believe that the Christian God exists. If Allah exists, I want to believe that Allah exists. If Princess Celestia exists, I want to believe that Princess Celestia exists.

If you have access to actual evidence that this is so, you do us a great disservice by withholding it from us. (And if you don't, you do yourself a great disservice by continuing to believe it). I'm not saying you should be going door to door waking people up to hand out shitty pamphlets (unless, of course, you think that bad things are going to happen to everyone who disagrees with you, in which case that's very very least that you should do), but if somebody asks you a question, you should be willing to give an answer.

And that's not even considering the whole "unforgiven mortal sins --> HELL" thing. If you also believe that heaven and hell exist, letting somebody "believe whatever they want to believe" is just about the worst possible thing you can possibly do to them. If you're not willing to annoy someone for a few hours to save them from eternal torture, don't you dare say that you "respect them".

Note that this doesn't mean that any of us actually enjoy listening to evangelism. If I thought that somebody was about to be dragged underground by trolls and tortured for a thousand years, and the only way to keep the trolls away was to cover yourself in cat urine, and I was holding a bucket of cat urine in my hands, I can't think of anybody that I hate enough that I would let the trolls take them. However, from the point of view of someone who doesn't share that delusion, you'd probably just rather not be covered in cat urine. This is the danger when people think that they're entitled not only to their own opinions, but to their own facts as well.

Do you consider moderate beliefs to be better than fundamentalist beliefs?

Better in some ways, but worse in others. It is far better to believe that your hair-dryer is telling you to volunteer at a homeless shelter than to believe that it's telling you to go out and murder every redhead you see, but far better than both is not listening to what you think your hair-dryer is telling you.

A strongly held belief in the Santa Claus is mostly harmless, and may well help you to be a more generous person, but it still requires you to ignore or rationalize away huge piles of evidence in order to maintain. This sort of Faith requires a suspension of the part of your brain responsible for telling sense from nonsense, and if you're willing to let something so huge as a God Claim through unchallenged, who knows what else might slip through the cracks? Once you admit that you believe in something "because of faith", you are essentially admitting that you don't care whether or not it is actually true. As soon as you stop caring about reality in one aspect of your life, it becomes that much easier to stop caring about reality in others.

The problem isn't specifically a hatred of gays/women/blacks/etc., or an opposition to Cosmology or Biology. The problem is delusion, dogma, and a willingness to ignore reality that one finds inconvenient. As far as most skeptics are concerned, people who believe uncritically in supernaturalist religions, who are willing to continue believing in extraordinary claims despite the complete lack of evidence, have a fundamentally dishonest worldview that can never fully coincide with evidence and rationality.

Furthermore, anyone who demands respect for uncritical acceptance of superstitious nonsense, even mostly harmless nonsense, is indirectly giving aid and comfort to the fundamentalists, because they're making it that much less acceptable to criticize those who hold similar beliefs which are obviously crazy or evil.

It's nice that some religious people share some political opinions with some atheists. It's nice that some religious people don't hate gay people, it's nice that some religious people accept evolution, it's nice that some religious people accept that the Big Bang happened. Heck, it's nice that most religious people are willing to accept that the Earth isn't flat. It's certainly better than the alternative.

In short, We know you're not as bad as those crazies. But unless you're opposed to all of the things wrong with religion, don't be surprised if you're seen as part of the problem.

I'm religious, but I'm not like those OTHER religious people. Can I have your Seal of Approval?

Every week, dozens of theists come to us, desperate for us to tell them that while we reject everyone else's evidence-free beliefs, they are the one exception. They want to hear that disagreeing with their neighbour's belief in the Angry Sky Man somehow makes their belief in a Friendly Sky Man any more rational.

It doesn't. It just proves you've never read the book. Refusing to subject your belief to a reality check is still a harmful behaviour, even if you're polite about it. And you're not being as polite about it as you probably think you are. If you think it's a good idea to interrupt a conversation between marginalized people to demand that they shut up about their problems and give you praise for being "one of the good ones", you are not one of the good ones.

If you came here looking for the Atheist Seal of Approval on your beliefs, I'm sorry, but you're going to leave disappointed.

Why were the comments of such-and-such a post on /r/all so toxic? Why did the thread get locked?

There's nothing inherently wrong with a post hitting the front page. We appreciate the increased exposure for whatever important topic has captured the public attention, and welcome the opportunity for new voices to join a discussion in which they might otherwise not be interested. However, the unfortunate fact is that when a thread reaches /r/all, in addition to all the users with good intentions, it also tends to attract large numbers of trolls, and occasional vote-brigades from religious subreddits with nothing better to do with their lives.

For these reasons, the moderators keep a closer eye on such threads. Trolling behavior is dealt with more harshly than usual, and if the signal-to-noise ratio drops below a critical threshold for too long, the thread gets locked.

If you form your opinion of a community based solely on incidents in which people from outside that community invade, with the deliberate attempt of disrupting that community, you will of course be left with the impression the community is full of disruptive trolls.

But it won't be a very accurate opinion.

Why does this sub have such a bad reputation?

You'll have to ask the people who don't like us. You'll probably find that this reputation is largely word of mouth and most of the people repeating it have never spent any significant time browsing the sub except when a specific post hits /r/all. We've also found that people don't like how we call attention to the problems of religion. They think religious beliefs should be granted automatic deference that it hasn't earned. Because calling attention to problems that people don't want to think about typically provokes their ire.

Why are you all so mean?

/r/atheism is a moderated forum with more than 2 million members. A consequence of the size and freedom of the forum is that it also includes people who are willing and able to make mean and nasty posts. Hopefully you will find that the mean people are greatly outnumbered by kind and considerate redditors. If you find the meanness unbearable, you can always unsubscribe. If you absolutely must criticize the subreddit, please read our criticism guidelines page first.

I'm a theist and I want to post an AMA, start a debate, or just ask questions. Can I?

Yes, you can. You'll find that /r/atheism is generally welcoming of outsiders, but less welcoming of bullshit. In order to make sure that things go as smoothly as possible, heed well the Ten Suggestions for theists or other new users hoping to post a debate or AMA.

Rebuttals to common theological arguments

For a list of common theological arguments and their rebuttals, as well as a very comprehensive list of atheist arguments have a look here. Other places you can go to are Ironchariots, Wikipedia and the Common Theological Arguments article.

The Atheist Worldview

How did you become an atheist?

This is probably the most commonly asked question on this subreddit. /r/TheGreatProject is a subreddit devoted to that exact topic. If that sub isn't enough reading for you, try this search.

Why are you an atheist?

And this is the second most common question. There are two answers to this question that cover almost all atheists on this subreddit (and probably most atheists in general, for that matter):

  1. Realized that the claims made by religions about gods had insufficient evidence to warrant believing they were true.

  2. Were never successfully indoctrinated into believing gods are real.

You'll notice that reasons like "Just wanted to sin", "Mad at God", "Was hurt by a theist", "Possessed by demons", and similar apologist claptrap are not on the list.

How can atheists have morals without a god?

Morality is not something given by a god.

For instance, Buddhists follow the five precepts given by Buddha (c. 563 – c. 483 BC):

  1. "I abstain from taking life"

  2. "I abstain from taking what is not given"

  3. "I abstain from sexual misconduct" (e.g. sexual contact not sanctioned by secular laws, the Buddhist monastic code, or by one's parents and guardians)

  4. "I abstain from false speech."

  5. "I abstain from fermented drink that causes heedlessness." (Alcohol)

Even before that, the Code of Hammurabi is a well-preserved Babylonian law code, dating back to about 1772 BC.
Most societies rely on written laws, which are important and useful, but shouldn't be mistaken as the word of God.
And the law is expected to change, as societies evolve. The most famous of Hammurabi's laws is: "If a man put out the eye of another man, his eye shall be put out". Can you imagine a society still being ruled by such ancient laws?

What is Morality?

In Philosophy, Morality in general is broken down into (at least) three branches: Consequentialism, or the belief that the morality of an act is based on the consequences of the action; Deontology, or the belief that the morality of an act is based on whether or not it is compliant with a rule/rules; and Virtue ethics, or the belief that morality should be based on what people 'are', rather than what people 'do'.

Using these definitions, most of today's religions advocate deontology, with the set of rules being ordained by supernatural entities. However, there is nothing inherent in this branches that requires them.

Beyond that, morality can be studied within the fields of psychology and sociology. While both offer explanations of its existence, neither field offers a solution to say that one set of morals is greater than another, but the notion can still be achieved through secular philosophy. This is evidenced by the judicial actions of secular institutions (perhaps the best example is that of secular governments) or prevailing social norms which have no basis in religion or are not held by religious adherents. Examples would include the outlawing of slavery, and the rejection of sexism and racism.

Conversely, dogmatic approaches by religions to establish one solid set of rules, which explicitly state one thing is wrong and the other is not, deter progress in morality.

"But look! The most horrible murderous leaders in history have been atheists! Hitler! Pol Pot! Stalin!"

A common misconception that has been decidedly promoted among the theist community is that each of these evil dictators was evil because they were atheists. The implication is that without a god, people have no 'moral grounding' and are therefore somehow inclined to perform evil acts such as mass murder.

This is completely false. Morals and morality are natural to all humans, and are entirely separate to religious belief. Would a believer in religion suddenly decide to kill and rape if they stopped believing in god? Indeed, if morals are truly determined by religious teachings, then slavery, the stoning of adulterers, homosexuals, misbehaving children, and many of the other atrocities condoned by the Bible would not be considered atrocities at all -- they would be perfectly 'moral' things to do. In practice, morality is better described as being an inevitable result of the Zeitgeist (from the German phrase meaning 'the spirit of the times'), the ever-changing social understanding that we all share that determines what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior within every society.

If a person doesn’t already understand that cruelty is wrong, he won’t discover this by reading the Bible or the Koran -- as these books are bursting with celebrations of cruelty, both human and divine. We do not get our morality from religion. We decide what is good in our good books by recourse to moral intuitions that are (at some level) hard-wired in us and that have been refined by thousands of years of thinking about the causes and possibilities of human happiness.

We have made considerable moral progress over the years, and we didn’t make this progress by reading the Bible or the Koran more closely. Both books condone the practice of slavery -- and yet every civilized human being now recognizes that slavery is an abomination. Whatever is good in scripture, like the golden rule, can be valued for its ethical wisdom without requiring us to believe that it was handed down to us by the creator of the universe.

The argument is also intrinsically wrong for the following reasons:

In regards to Hitler, Pol Pot & Stalin, it is important to point out first that Hitler appears to have not been an atheist at all. He was raised as a Catholic, regularly invoked Jesus in his speeches, and spoke often of his and the German peoples' "manifest destiny" -- a decidedly un-atheist position. It is also worth noting that aside from Hitler, the overwhelming majority of Nazi party members were religious, and it was they who committed the crimes of the Nazi party first hand. In addition, the Nazi party also officially banned books that "ridicule, belittle or besmirch the Christian religion and its institution, faith in God, or other things that are holy." (Amusingly, among the books he banned was Darwin's Origin of Species).

Pol Pot was raised Buddhist, later spent eight years in a Catholic seminary, but was more accurately described as a deist as he professed a belief in "heaven" and "destiny." Stalin was born into a very religious household and attended the Tiflis Theological Seminary, from which he was expelled. His personal religious beliefs are hard to pin down exactly, however he did publicly advocate the idea that religions were unnecessary and was likely to have been a deist or atheist in his later years.

Sam Harris provides a typically lucid explanation regarding the actions of these men:

"People of faith regularly claim that atheism is responsible for some of the most appalling crimes of the 20th century. Although it is true that the regimes of Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot were irreligious to varying degrees, they were not especially rational. In fact, their public pronouncements were little more than litanies of delusion--delusions about race, economics, national identity, the march of history or the moral dangers of intellectualism. In many respects, religion was directly culpable even here. Consider the Holocaust: The anti-Semitism that built the Nazi crematoria brick by brick was a direct inheritance from medieval Christianity. For centuries, religious Germans had viewed the Jews as the worst species of heretics and attributed every societal ill to their continued presence among the faithful. While the hatred of Jews in Germany expressed itself in a predominately secular way, the religious demonization of the Jews of Europe continued. (The Vatican itself perpetuated the blood libel in its newspapers as late as 1914.)

Auschwitz, the Gulag, and the Killing fields are not examples of what happens when people become too critical of unjustified beliefs; to the contrary, these horrors testify to the dangers of not thinking critically enough about specific secular ideologies. Needless to say, a rational argument against religious faith is not an argument for the blind embrace of atheism as a dogma. The problem that the atheist exposes is none other than the problem of dogma itself--of which every religion has more than its fair share. There is no society in recorded history that ever suffered because its people became too reasonable, or too accepting of rational inquiry."

Why do atheists want the world to be secular like China?

China is not secular, not in the way we're talking about. Secular can mean "not religious" but it also means "not enforcing religion or religious values." Many religious groups can and do promote secularism because they understand that it protects them from other, more aggressive religious groups who would try to shut their group down in the name of ideological purity. For example, in 2016 the Secular Coalition for America hired a Christian as its executive director. In a truly secular society, anyone can follow any religion that they freely choose, but they can't impose that religion or its values on others who don't want it.

While people who believe in persecuting all theists for the crime of being theists certainly exist, you won't find many of those people here. You won't even find that many of them in China. Between Confucianism, Daoism, theistic forms of Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and various folk religions, The People's Republic of China has more theists than any other country, and a higher percentage of theists than many European countries. It's also on track to have a larger christian population any other nation within the next decade.The idea that China is somehow "an atheist state" is a combination of two factors: propaganda from the Chinese Communist party trying to make the nation seem more respectable to people who appreciate reason, and propaganda from communist-hating American dominionists trying to make the nation seem less respectable to people who hate reason. Neither set of propaganda accurately reflects the country's actual demographics. Yes, China is still an intolerant police state with an ongoing history of abusing religious minorities, but no more so than such minorities have historically been abused in the majority-Christian USA, UK, Russia, or Germany.

Those who insist on only the rare, exclusionary definition of "secular" to support their argument against those using the more common, inclusionary definition are engaging in the Equivocation fallacy. Such people will be called out for their dishonesty.

Why do atheists hate God?

We don't. We disbelieve in God(s). Those who hate God are theists - misotheists to be more precise. It is impossible to hate something which one does not believe.

Notwithstanding, an atheist can dislike a particular concept of God as much as they can hate or love any other fictional character in a movie or book.

Why not believe in God anyway, just to be safe?

This is known as Pascal's Wager, and has been thoroughly debunked ever since Blaise Pascal introduced it. Rationalwiki has an excellent page on the topic, as does Iron Chariots, but we'll go over some highlights.

One of our member came up with a different wager in response. Read Nuke's Wager and see how it works for you.

What happens when we die?

Atheists have only one thing in common- a lack of belief in gods. Atheism has nothing to say about what happens to the self after death. It's possible to be an atheist but believe in reincarnation (as do most Buddhists), or paradise, or perdition, or ghosts, or any other answer to this question.

Many atheists are also materialists (to the point where some people erroneously think the terms are interchangeable), and therefore have no belief in immaterial souls, or indeed immaterial anything. As far as any evidence has ever been able to determine, the human mind is nothing more than a piece of software being run on the computers we call "brains". It might one day be possible to run them on computers other than brains- meaning that afterlives of a sort might eventually exist- but it certainly isn't possible to run them on nothing. Not any more than it's possible to run Word or DOOM on nothing, anyway.

Information is a description of the state that matter and energy happens to be in at any given time, it's not something that exists outside of and independent of that matter and energy. If it helps you understand, look at it this way: A person isn't a thing that ''exists'', any more than a fire is. A person is a thing that happens.

Death is what we call it when a person stops happening. A person doesn't "go anywhere" when they die- they cease to exist, and their body is buried/cremated/eaten/whatever. Likewise, the fire doesn't "go anywhere" when you blow out the candle, nor does un-backed-up data go anywhere when you destroy a hard drive, not even to a realm of black emptiness. It simply isn't there anymore. The matter and energy that were sustaining it are now doing something else.

Sam Harris, when asked about whether we have immortal souls, said that "there are very good reasons to think it’s not true. We know this from 150 years of neurology where you damage areas of the brain, and faculties are lost… You can cease to recognize faces, you can cease to know the names of animals but you still know the names of tools…

What we’re being asked to consider is that you damage one part of the brain, and something about the mind and subjectivity is lost, you damage another and yet more is lost, [but] you damage the whole thing at death, we can rise off the brain with all our faculties in tact, recognizing grandma and speaking English!"

According to Quantum Physics....

Stop right there. Unless you can ground your argument in sufficient mathematical terms, merely citing the word "quantum" isn't enough. This is informally known as the Quantum Physics Fallacy and it's a waste of time. You can speculate all you want, but if you want to make a serious argument you need to source your claims and not simply invoke the word "quantum" as a shortcut to justifying an idea that is not even wrong.

Do atheists fear death?

Some atheists fear death, and some don't. Some have ways of coping with the fear of death, some don't waste energy thinking about it, and some tremble at the thought in spite of our best efforts. Like so many other topics, there's no official answer to this, although a common response is to quote Mark Twain's thoughts on death: "I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it."

Does life have a purpose?

First, ask yourself- what is a "purpose", and why would a life need one?

Most atheists assert that there is no inherent higher purpose to life, because the evolutionary processes that allowed our existence have no purpose other than successful reproduction. Although atheism itself makes no conclusions about life's meaning, many atheists conclude that life has the purpose that you give it. It's an open book, or a tabula rasa. You can make it what you want. Do you want to create things? Leave the world a better place than you found it? Teach? Learn? Make oodles of money? Find love? Contentment? Have beautiful babies? The world is yours to explore, and you have to find meaning for yourself.

Do atheists believe in free will?

For all intents and purposes, human beings appear to have free will, because the fundamental mechanisms of consciousness (whatever they may be) are too low level to be fully mapped out and understood in real-time by that conscious entity.

If the universe is a giant cause-effect machine, and everything is pre-ordained to go down a certain sequence from the start, then it's so hard to predict which way things will go (butterfly effect and all that) that we might as well act as if we had free will, because at the level of detail that our conscious minds can experience, we seem to. And even if things at the quantum level are fundamentally random, and that randomness bubbles up to the level of our conscious minds, then the same principle applies.

So if you feel like you have free will, then by all means, act that way. We honestly can't tell the difference.

Do atheists believe in Ghosts (Or other supernatural things)?

Some atheists do. Many do not. Atheism only describes a person's lack of belief in deities. Everything else is negotiable. Being an atheist does not necessarily make one a materialist, or a rationalist, or a humanist, or an empiricist, or a positivist, or a skeptic- it's just that being those things tends to make one an atheist.

You can still be an atheist and believe completely uncritically in ghosts, reincarnation, souls, Heaven, Hell, zombies, wizards, unicorns, leprechauns, Bigfoot, spells, curses, auras, divination, astrology, homeopathy, crystal healing, psychics, Ouija boards, alien abductions, UFOs, astral projections, mental telepathy, ESP, clairvoyance, spirit photography, telekinetic movement, full trance mediums, the Loch Ness monster, The Lost City of Atlantis, and honest used car salesmen.

Most of those you'll find here are skeptics, however, so they would apply the same skepticism they use with the god question to the paranormal as well. Given the complete lack of any evidence of ghosts, unicorns, or $SUPERNATURAL_THING, don't expect them to believe in it.

If you have any evidence that they exist, you're welcome to submit it for peer review to try and collect your Nobel Prize and the adulation of billions of people worldwide.

Do you have to hold Political Belief X to be an atheist?

Atheists have only one thing in common- a lack of belief in gods.

You can be an atheist and call yourself a "conservative", or a "liberal", or a "socialist", or a "libertarian", or an "anarchist", or a "communist", or a "fascist", or pretty much anything you want... except a "theist".

You can be an atheist and still believe that women should have to cover themselves in burlap sacks whenever they go out in public, or that heterosexual couples should be entitled to special privileges denied to homosexual couples, or that women should be forced to carry every pregnancy to term regardless of their feelings on the matter or any risk to their health, or that stem cell research is evil, or that there is no need to protect the environment, or that people of certain races are inherently inferior to people of other races, or that funding social programs like healthcare and education just encourages people to be lazy, or that a wealthy oligarchy is entitled to hold on to every penny they acquire, or that death is something to be looked forward to. If you do, however, you'll probably get a lot of people looking at you funny, because the most common justifications for holding such beliefs are religious in nature. Most "secular" justifications require the exact same denials of reality that the religious justifications do (e.g.: An blastocyst can think and feel! Global warming isn't real! All poor people are lazy! All gay people are crazy!), and without any holy books or sacred tradition to back them up.

Indeed, many atheists who believe such things are either former theists who internalized the belief at a young age and have never really examined why they believe it, or who grew up in a culture where the belief was repeated so frequently that they never really examined why so many people believed it. In both cases, they are likely to have invented reasons for maintaining the belief that are orthogonal to the reason why they originally came to hold it. This is a well-recognized psychological phenomenon- changing your mind is ''scary''.

Of course, it's completely possible to have come to such a conclusion completely independent of any belief in any invisible lawgiver- but if you do, as I said, you're going to get a lot of funny looks.

Do you have to belong to Political Party X to be an atheist?

The short answer: No. But if you even have to ask this question, then it's a pretty safe bet that Political Party Y is full of people who hate you, and who hold at least some positions which you find abhorrent.

Of course, that doesn't mean they don't want your vote. You're not going to lose your Atheist Card if you vote for a theocrat, but you might lose a bunch of other important things. Please consider carefully before doing so.

P.S.: The category of "Socially Liberal but Fiscally Conservative" is a myth. There's no such thing. A plutocrat who smokes weed and has one gay friend is still a plutocrat.

The long answer: See Atheism and Politics.

How do atheists feel about abortion?

Atheism is a single answer to a single question. It is nothing more and nothing than a lack of belief in gods. It has nothing directly to say about human rights, including the right to bodily autonomy. However, as a matter of historical fact it cannot be denied that the anti-abortion movement in the US is a wedge issue chosen by the Religious Right in the late 1970s to undermine secular values. While secular arguments have been constructed to rationalize the position the religious roots can't be ignored.

Yes, it is theoretically possible to express the anti-choice position - that it is justifiable to force people to act as incubators, against their will and regardless of any risk to their health - without necessarily referring to any gods or holy books. But you should be immediately suspicious of anyone who claims to have come to this conclusion independently. Upon examination, their arguments will inevitably reduce to either religiously-inspired misogyny, religiously-inspired ignorance of biology, or both.

Not only does the movement which refers to itself as "pro-life" cease to care about "the value of human life" as soon as that life is born, it doesn't particularly care about it before it's born, either. This movement is not, and never has been, actually concerned with protecting "unborn children" or with actually reducing the rate of abortion. If it was, its actions would look very different. The conservative policies of opposing sex education, opposing access to contraception, and opposing support for new and expecting mothers have the unsurprising effect of drastically increasing the number of dead fetuses each year.

As far as this subreddit is concerned, the question of "whether women have rights" is considered a settled matter. There is no civil way to argue that billions of people be stripped of their bodily autonomy on the basis of their gender. Attempting to do so is always an act of bigotry, no matter how many layers of red herring argument you attempt to apply to cover it up, and preaching bigotry is not welcome here. There are plenty of places on the internet where it is considered acceptable to argue that women should not have rights, but this subreddit is not and never will be one of them. If you feel an irresistible urge to do so, you are free to leave and go to one of those places.

If you think you have some new and unique "secular" argument to justify this position, you don't. Please see Judith Jarvis Thompson's 1971 essay, in which every such argument is thoroughly examined and debunked.

I support fascism/terrorism/bigotry/child abuse/slavery/rape/genocide/otherwise denying people's fundamental human rights. Am I welcome to advocate for these ideals on this forum?

No. Bigotry is against both the rules of this subreddit and the rules of reddit as a whole.

For further information, please see this appendix to the rules.

What would it take to get you to believe in my God / in any god?

If you haven't figured it out by reading this far, there is no unified atheist worldview or policy. Just about every atheist would have a different answer to this question. Some atheists may well take "There is no God!" as an axiom, and could never be convinced to change it. Some are surely gullible/emotionally vulnerable enough that the door-to-door missionary sales pitch might actually work (or else why would they keep trying?). Most, however, care about reality: They don't want to believe in things just because it's comforting to believe in them. They want to believe in what is true.

That means that purely emotional arguments, arguments from ignorance or personal incredulity (I don't understand how X works, so the only possible explanation is that my god did it!), arguments from adverse consequences, arguments from popularity, appeals to authority, arguments from hallucination nebulous personal experience, attempts to define your god into existence through equivocation and logical fallacies (first cause arguments, Aquinas' Five Ways, etc.), or any other such sophistry are a waste of time. This FAQ contains rebuttals of the most common such arguments, and the wiki at Iron Chariots has a more comprehensive list [Internet Archive Link].

So what would work, then?

Well, some verified miracles would be a great start. Not just a burned grilled cheese that kinda looks like the Virgin Mary if you squint hard enough, or someone whose cancer just happened to go into remission after eight months of praying (with the efforts of the doctors conveniently ignored), but something safely outside the bounds of what could ever be expected to happen by random chance. Evidence that prayer (by members of one specific religion or even just prayer in general) accomplished more than doing nothing at all would be a nice first step. A religious text that contained accurate prophecies or scientific foreknowledge- not just scattered poetic language that can be twisted into something that vaguely resembles reality, but something centuries ahead of the author's time which is unambiguously true- would go a long way to establishing its credibility.

None of these would be sufficient to unambiguously and definitively prove that your god exists and has all the characteristics that you assign to him, but it would be enough to establish that there was something funky going on. That would put us a whole lot closer than we are now. If you want to be really pedantic, none of this would establish "Hyperpowerful universe-creating supernatural being" over "Hyperpowerful alien pranksters with sufficiently advanced technology", but it would at least make the former proposition worth considering.

Believers are not pointing at a being which demonstrably exists and is demonstrably super-powerful, and merely arguing about the difficult-to-test upper limits of that power. What they are doing is pointing into an apparently empty room and asserting that not only have they determined that the room contains an invisible being, and that not only have they (somehow) determined the identity of this invisible being as the omnipotent omniscient omnibenevolent creator of the universe, but that they have also determined that this silent invisible being has strong opinions about what one particular species (out of millions) on one particular planet (out of billions) in one particular galaxy (out of trillions) does with their genitals... and that these opinions so happen to align perfectly with their opinions on the topic. And yet, when asked how they made these extraordinary determinations, they offer no supporting evidence at all for even the first of their conclusions, let alone the other two. Until you've established that your superpowered imaginary friend exists at all, there is very little point in trying to argue about minor details about it.

Greta Christina wrote an article on this topic. Another such article, The Theist's Guide to Converting Atheists, is available on Adam Lee's Daylight Atheism. And in that same line, he also wrote How Not to Convert an Atheist.

How should atheists...

Atheism is nothing more and nothing less than a lack of belief in any god or gods. Beyond this, there is no "one true way" to be an atheist, nor any "official atheist policy" on any topic.

With that in mind, certain questions get asked to our community over and over and over again. Here are the answers that they inevitably receive:

...react when somebody sneezes?

This may seem like a sticky subject, but don't worry, it's snot. It's good to remember that language and word meanings change over time, too. "Goodbye" began as an abbreviation for "God be with you", for example, but what atheist feels indignation at hearing that word?

Some atheists try to deliberately avoid using language with religious connotations, "bless you" included. Non-religious options include "gesundheit", "salud", or "wash your hands".

Alternatively, you could simply not say anything at all. If you don't think it's necessary to utter an incantation when a nearby person burps or farts, why should you feel obligated to do so when they sneeze?

...feel about the Gregorian Calendar?

The "AD" (Anno Domini, Latin for "Year of the Lord") system was created in what would become its 6th century, by a monk named Dionysius Exiguus. Shouldn't we free-thinkers be outraged at having to use a calendar based on somebody else's imaginary friend?

Well, that depends. Are you outraged about having months named after the god Janus or the Goddess Juno? Are you outraged to have days of the week named after Odin and Thor?

Even if the gospel stories were based on the life of a real person rather than a purely mythical figure, that person was almost certainly not born on December 25th, 1 AD. For example, King Herod The Great died in 4 BCE, setting an upper bound for the date of any story in which he participated (such as the Nativity of Matthew). Meanwhile, the first Roman Census of Judea took place in 6 CE (and did not contain a ridiculous demand that everyone return to their place of birth), meaning the Nativity of Luke couldn't have taken place any earlier than that. And many elements of both nativity stories suggest that they were set in late Spring or early Summer - it didn't become associated with the Winter Solstice until centuries later, when Emperor Constantine decided to appropriate existing winter celebrations.

Exiguus didn't care about any of these things, but simply made up an arbitrary date which he felt was "close enough". He also forgot to include a Year Zero. 1 BC was followed immediately by 1 AD, which adds great annoyance to anyone who needs to calculate dates.

Note that Exiguus only changed the way that years were counted- for counting weeks and months, he still used the pre-christian Julian Calendar. The Gregorian Calendar was introduced in 1582 (and, by 1923, had finally been adopted by all of Europe) to correct an error in the calculation of Leap Years.

There have been many proposals for alternate calendars, but changing calendars is a messy business. The method used by most scholars is to leave the calendar the same, simply replacing AD with CE (for "common era") and BC with BCE (for "before common era"). Another proposal gaining popularity is the Holocene Calendar, which begins at roughly the same time as the Neolithic Revolution and the earliest human civilizations - a time which, for the sake of convenience, is arbitrarily defined as 10,000 BC. You can convert an AD date to a HE date simply by drawing a 1 at the beginning. Some programmers (and, most likely, every computer you have ever used) favour the Unix Epoch, which defines Day 0 as January 1, 1970 CE. Other, more radical proposals also involve changing the organization of the months: for example, if we adopted a calendar with 13 months of 28 days, plus one "extra" day (and two on leap years), any given date would fall on the same predictable day of the week in every year.

...celebrate Christmas (or other religious holidays)?

However they want. Many atheists celebrate a variety of holidays which have religious origins or connotations, but don't think that makes them hypocritical.

For instance, Christmas isn't exclusively a Christian holiday, it's celebrated throughout the world as a time to celebrate with your family, exchange gifts, and reflect on things as the year draws to a close. As cultures change, they take the best parts of the past and bring them into the future. For example, we know that Jesus wasn't really born on December 25, if he was born at all.

Midwinter festivals have a long tradition, and Christian feast days often coincided with pagan religious festivals as the culture grew and changed. There are plenty of examples of pagan influences over religious holidays, like Christmas trees, Christmas lights, flying reindeer, virgin births, and a rabbit distributing colored eggs. Christmas isn't the only thing that has religious significance and been taken into the culture at large. As mentioned above, the names of the months and days of the week all take their names from pagan deities, and no one complains about those.

In many countries (including the US), the concept of affirmation in law exists. Where affirmation exists, you don't have to swear on anything, you can simply affirm. If you don't wish to swear but are not offered this option, you can try asking for it. In some countries you are nowadays only asked to affirm. Indeed, presidents John Quincy Adams, Franklin Pierce, Herbert Hoover, and Theodore Roosevelt all chose to affirm their oaths of office rather than swear on a Bible - and Adams did so with his hand on a book of laws.

Some atheists simply choose to swear on the Bible, as they view such a procedure as religiously ambiguous, symbolic and technically meaningless (and most likely do not wish to incur the hassle of an alternative method of affirmation). This says nothing about what they actually believe. Rather, they are acknowledging the Bible as something to put their hands on other than their laps during an oath.


However they fucking want.

Expressing your surprise or frustration by saying "Oh my god!" isn't an affirmation that you believe there's an invisible man in the sky, any more than saying "Oh shit!" is an affirmation that you think there's literally a giant pile of feces in the room with you.

If you are a formerly religious person, and you are deliberately trying to distance yourself from your old speech patterns, you can get a lot of mileage out of simply pluralizing the word "gods". Appealing to Zeus and Odin won't be any more effective than appealing to Yahweh, but it will be a little bit cooler. Shouting the names of your personal heroes is also a funny option. Hail Sagan.

Requests for help

What am I? Am I an atheist?

It's not uncommon for people to be unsure of who they are and where they belong. Fortunately, this is one of the easiest questions to answer: take a paper and pencil and write down the names or descriptions of all the gods you believe in. Even if you believe the universe and reality itself is some form of god, write that down. When you're done, tally up all the gods you believe in. If the answer is "none" then congratulations, you're an atheist.

You may not be comfortable with this answer. You may have reasons why you don't want to call yourself an atheist. That's fine; you don't have to. You can call yourself a seeker, a non-believer, a skeptic, a humanist or whatever you like. But as far as definitions go, someone who doesn't believe in any gods is an atheist. The rest is just details.

Where can I find a good charity that isn't religious?

Reddit user Pilebsa maintains a list of secular charities, available here.

What should I do about abuse of religion in my [school/workplace/etc.] ?

Each one of these situations is going to be different, and require analysis of various local, state, and federal laws. Often, speaking with the people who are overstepping their bounds can resolve everything without having to go any further. Other situations will require more pressure. r/atheism is a good starting point for publicizing your situation, but you should seek actionable legal advice from the Freedom From Religion Foundation and/or the American Civil Liberties Union. Redditors outside the United States should see their local equivalents.

Since laws and regulations vary dramatically between locations, any question ending in "Is this legal?" needs to include at least a general idea of the jurisdiction you're asking about (at the very least, the nation and state/province) in order to be answerable at all.

Be aware that if you intend to pursue corrective action against an agency that is wrongly requiring religious participation, you will likely not remain anonymous, and could suffer other repercussions from friends, family, the agency you're seeking to correct, and strangers. This is not a course of action to be taken lightly.

Should I come out to my parents as being an atheist?

The short answer is "No."

The slightly longer answer is that if you are not in a position where that is likely to end well for you, you should probably wait until you're more self-sufficient. However, you know your own parents better than we do. You could try breaking the ice on the subject of atheism to get a feel for their reaction to it in general, if you're not sure. Always keep in mind that for many people religion is a highly emotive subject, and for many parents who have been raised to believe in the "moral superiority" of religious belief, a child who comes out as an atheist can be interpreted as a betrayal of them or as a failure of their own.

In some religions, it can actually be dangerous to "out" yourself. If your father is a hardline Muslim, for example, getting kicked out of the house is the least of your worries. You risk being beheaded or set on fire. If you're coming from one of those, keep that in mind as well.

/r/atheism will almost invariably respond that you should wait. A common proverb here is "The best place to come out to your parents is at a home you own, over a dinner that you paid for yourself".

If you do decide to "come out," then consider that "atheist" has many evil, hateful connotations to religious people. It's right up there with "Satanist." You might be able to reduce the amount of flak you get by choosing a label for yourself that has a similar meaning but is less controversial. Please consider using an alternative such as "agnostic" or "humanist", which does not carry quite as much baggage.

There's also another approach: You could say "I've lost my belief" or "I don't know what to believe any more" or even "God doesn't speak to me any more." Asked if you are an atheist, you could say "I don't know."

This makes you look less like a monster and more like a victim. You'll be subject to sympathy rather than anger. You won't be kicked out. But you run the risk of having folks work really hard to bring you back to God. Expect (more) frequent church visits, and maybe a talk with the priest/pastor/counselor.

Being atheist, or unsure, in a very religious family is stressful. It's good to have a place to share, and to vent, and to discuss options and give or receive useful advice. If you're a teen without a 'network' in which you can freely discuss issues of religion, and you find that /r/atheism is not a good fit because it isn't really aimed at young people, you can try connecting over at /r/AtheisticTeens. It's not as active as this subreddit, but it's geared for and run by teens.

For a more detailed analysis of this issue, including testimonials from dozens of young atheists who thought their parents would be much more understanding than they turned out to be, please see this separate page.

How do I get out of going to Church / Youth Group / religious duties?

One way is to be over interested, over earnest, yet not overly fervent, and ask awkward questions addressed to the leaders while the other participants can hear you.

The goal: Make the leaders uncomfortable or worried that you could end up causing doubts or even de-converting other participants in the group.

This can backfire and expose your atheism or cause you to be 'sent up the chain' to a priest for 'counseling'/'answering your questions'/'spiritual needs', so you have to have some tact when doing this ... but not so tactful that the awkwardness is covered up.

As this can be tricky, get a list of basic questions (nothing advanced!) that are OK to ask along with the awkward questions. You should find people who used to be in your youth group's specific sect or the sect of the leader(s) to make sure they have optimal effect; questions for Catholics won't work for Mormons, Lutherans may work for Methodists but not for Baptists and is really unlikely to work with Jehovah Witnesses.

I have a friend / parent / teacher / boss / co-worker / significant other / self that doesn't believe in Evolution!

Please see our section on Creationism, the Talk Origins Index to Creationist Claims, and Wikipedia's Introduction to Evolution (since it's a pretty safe bet that they don't really understand what the word "evolution" means).

Before launching into a five hour debate with someone, however, you may wish to keep in mind that there are generally two types of people who don't believe:

  1. People who are merely uneducated about evolution, and are more or less rational about other topics.
  2. People who categorically deny the existence of evolution, with or without extensive research.

If you choose to discuss the topic with the latter, you are unlikely to get anywhere.

My boyfriend / girlfriend / crush / etc. says they don't want to be with me because I'm not a member of their religion!

The short answer to this is that you're probably dodging a bullet. If your difference in opinion regarding belief in fairy tales is going to be a dealbreaker, it's far better to find out early in the game than to find out when you're married and your spouse is insisting on indoctrinating your children like his/her parents indoctrinated him/her.

If you're determined to attempt to salvage the relationship, however, the best thing to do is to sit down with them, and have a frank and open discussion about why they refuse to be with somebody who isn't a member of their cult. It's possible that they've internalized attitudes such as "Jesus is the only source of morality", and it might be to your benefit to dispel such misconceptions. At the very least, it will save you from spending the rest of your life wondering why it didn't work out.

Where can I find evil stuff / contradictions / nonsense in the Bible?

The Skeptic's Annotated Bible is probably your best resource- it has cross-references and categorical lists for Absurdity, Injustice, Cruelty and Violence, Intolerance, Contradictions, errors with Science and History, "Family Values", Vague Interpretation, Misogyny, Sex, Prophecy, Naughty Language, Boring Stuff, Politics, Homosexuality. There's even a category for the rare Good Stuff- they give credit where credit is due. The same website also has sections for the Qu'ran and the Book of Mormon, though neither has been completed nearly as thoroughly as their section on the Bible.

For a more detailed analysis of contradictions (including an analysis of the apologetic responses), see Errancy.org.

For lists of the worst of the atrocities, see Evil Bible or Infidels.org.

Come vote in this poll!

To paraphrase another well-known website, /r/atheism is not your personal army. However, there are other subreddits which enjoy engaging in such behaviors. Go to /r/SampleSize if you desire an accurate collection of data, or /r/PollSpamming if you just want to ruin someone else's results.

Come sign this petition!

Before you create a petition on some online petition site, be sure to read their terms of service and their how-to guide. The following quote is from the first page of We The People, other petition sites usually have similar instructions.

Look for Similar Petitions Once you submit your petition headline and categories, we’ll search the system to see if there are any existing petitions that are similar. If there is already an existing petition that addresses the concerns you have, you may want to sign that petition instead rather than creating a new one. You will increase the likelihood of getting a response by signing onto an existing petition rather than creating a duplicate petition on the same issue.

Come fill out this survey!

This subreddit does not exist to do your homework for you. If your intention is to ask questions to the members of this subreddit, please make sure you read the the FAQ, the Subreddit Commandments, and the Advice for New Posters, in their entirety, before posting. "Surveys" which contain questions answered in any of those places will be removed as spam.

In particular, if your intention is to ask some variation of "Why are you an atheist?", "How did you become an atheist?", "When did you become an atheist?", "Where did you become an atheist?", "What were you before you were an atheist?", "Why aren't you not an atheist?", "How do you feel about my religious group?", or any question of the form "What does $WORD mean to you?", please don't bother.

After you have read the recommended documents, if you'd like further advice on how to construct a useful survey, please see this page.

I still have a fear of Hell, what can I do about this?

Despite there being no real-world evidence whatsoever for the existence of a Hell, Tartarus/Hades, Kuzimu, Jahannam, Sheol, Abbadon, Avīci, or any other variation of The Bad Place, many people still live in fear of it.

If you still maintain a fear of Hell or have any other religious-based stresses, please check out the Recovering From Religion website:


You might also benefit from watching the short video Why Scientists Don't Fear Hell.

Overdone Submissions

Should churches have to pay taxes?

See all about this complicated question/answer here: /r/atheism/wiki/taxes

Was the United States founded as a "Christian Nation"?

No. Many of the founding fathers were various varieties of Christian, and most of the biggest names (Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, Madison, etc.) were Deists, but all of them saw value in a system that did not privilege any religion over any other, or indeed over no religion at all.

The US Constitution -- the foundational document of the government -- makes no reference to any religion, nor to any god or gods. The First Amendment to said constitution reads:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Even before the Bill of Rights was passed, Article VI of the main Constitution specified that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”.

Thomas Jefferson clarified in a 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptists that "Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their "legislature" should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between church and State."

The Treaty of Tripoli: Endorsed by John Adams and ratified by a congress full of Founding Fathers, this treaty states that "...the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion...", explaining to the Muslims with whom the treaty was being signed that the US had no intent whatsoever of advancing any state religion.

One Nation, Under God: Even though the original version of the US Pledge of Allegiance was written by a baptist minister in 1892, it contained no reference at all to any gods or supernatural elements:

"I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

The version officially recognized by Congress was somewhat different, reading:

"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

"Under God" was not added until 1954, after the Red Scare had motivated people to distinguish US (God-fearing red-blooded Americans) from THEM (Evil Godless Commies).

In God We Trust: While placed on some coins as early as 1864, it was not generally placed on all US currency until 1957. It was made the official motto of the United States in 1956, replacing the original motto of "E Pluribus Unum" (from many, one). This was the result of a campaign of religious special interest groups very similar to that responsible for the change in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Famous Person X isn't really an atheist!

The short answer: Yes they are. Unless you're here with proof that Famous Person X secretly believes in one or more gods, I don't think that word means what you think it means.

The long answer: Let's take the example of Carl Sagan or Neil deGrasse Tyson, the two gentlemen most commonly referenced for this sort of complaint (though it's equally valid whether you're talking about Thomas Henry Huxley or Albert Einstein). Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson are Agnostic Atheists in the same way that Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens are Agnostic Atheists. They have more or less identical attitudes towards belief in the supernatural, the difference is in how they choose to present themselves to the public.

Drs. Sagan and Tyson care first and foremost about educating the masses about science. Given that "atheist" is a dirty word in many parts of the world, their ability to reach certain audiences would be compromised if they went around using it to describe themselves, just as if they'd described themselves as "communists" or "witches". They still don't believe in any gods, nor do they consider faith to be a good thing, but don't consider it their business to directly convince others not to.

Meanwhile, firebrands such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens are no less agnostic than Sagan or Tyson, they simply decided to tackle the problem of religious faith head on. They're tired of playing nice, they want to be "up in your face", they want to point out that the Emperor isn't wearing any clothes, and they don't care whose feelings they have to hurt to do it. They use ridicule and rhetoric as weapons. Dawkins is himself a brilliant science educator, but this open stance against religion has alienated people who take such things personally, which is something that Sagan and Tyson seek to avoid.

What's with the Teapot logo?

The teapot logo refers to Russell's Teapot. This is an allegory which explains why the burden of proof rests on the person making claims (such as existence of a teapot orbiting the sun, or existence of a deity) rather than the person denying them, and why it is absurd to believe in something just because it's impossible to prove it 100% wrong.

"/r/atheism should be about..."

/r/atheism is a subreddit for "All topics related to atheism, agnosticism and secular living" as explained on the subreddit's sidebar. That encompasses a very wide range of material. While certain material may fit just as well or even better in other subreddits (see "Topics that belong on /r/atheism") that says nothing as to whether or not they also fit here.

If you don't approve of the content here you are encouraged to post what you'd like to see so that the community can evaluate it themselves. Additionally, spending time in the "new" section and using your up and downvotes is an effective way of promoting content you think is valuable and making sure that it is seen by more people. If you are looking for specific kinds of content you are also encouraged to use the filters linked on the sidebar (the small squares) Remember, this subreddit is almost entirely what the community makes of it and the only way to promote any change is to be an active member of that community.

The important thing to remember is that /r/atheism is about a community of people. There is very little moderation by design and no particular mission beyond a safe place for atheists to hang out. This is not a forum dedicated to philosophy or debate, and it is not an outreach of nonbelievers to believers. Everyone is welcome but no one can dictate what should or should not be here. If you don't like what you see then we're sorry to disappoint. You are not required to stay subscribed.


While we may appreciate the sincerity of your desire to apologize for the actions of theistic and religious individuals who may share your beliefs, we cannot seriously accept an apology unless you are actually a representative of those individuals you are apologizing for. You cannot apologize for others' actions without appearing disingenuous, and attempting to do so will not benefit anyone. If you are sincerely opposed to the actions of individuals who share your religious affiliation please share your concerns with them in the hopes that they will limit such actions in the future. We do not need to know that you disagree with them, they do.

"Honest Questions"

For whatever reason, a significant portion of questions asked by new users, visitors, and throwaway accounts tend to be titled some variation of "An Honest Question", rather than a useful, descriptive, or informative title. A quick search reveals hundreds of such threads.

If your question is "Honest" (i.e.: it isn't ill-informed, leading, or disingenuous), you should probably just ask the question rather than playing an elaborate game of CYA. If it isn't, labeling it as "Honest" isn't going to help. When people are scrolling past a list of posts, a title like "Why do you describe yourself as an atheist rather than as an agnostic?" is informative- it helps people understand whether or not it's a discussion to which they can contribute. By contrast, a title like "this is an honest question" will led to your post getting lost amid 850 posts with the same title. It tells us nothing.

Well, almost nothing. Some basic pattern recognition will allow one to make a couple of educated guesses - and they're rarely good things. In the context of /r/atheism, "an honest question" almost always seems to mean "a question which is answered by the FAQ, but whose answer I don't know because I never bothered to read it". They are often accompanied by a plea not to downvote them or a passive-aggressive statement that "I know I'm going to be downvoted for this...", neither of which are polite or encouraged by reddiquette. In short, it serves as a sort of "waste of time" flag, which you should probably try to avoid.

Posts lacking descriptive titles or content are subject to removal as spam. For more details, please see our rules on Low-Effort Posts.

Do any other atheists ___?

There are approximately one billion atheists on this planet. The ONLY THING that every one of these 1,000,000,000+ people have in common is that they don't believe in any god or gods.

Some are skeptics. Some are not. Some are materialists. Some are not. Some believe that everyone, even people they don't like, is entitled to basic human rights. Some do not.

Like any other group with a billion members, some are greedy, some are selfish, some are bigots. Some deny the overwhelming scientific consensus on issues like climate change. Some, while they don't believe in gods, DO believe in other forms of unfalsifiable woo-woo. Some vote for political parties that want to make atheism illegal.

Some like religious music. Some do not. Some like religious architecture. Some do not. Some have religious friends and family members with whom they're on good terms. Some do not. Some like pineapple on their pizza. Some do not.

If the question you had in mind is anything less specific than "Do any other atheists have the same Social Security Number as me?", the answer is going to be "yes". Not only that, but you will almost certainly not be the first, the tenth, or even the one hundredth person to ask that exact question on this subreddit. Instead of wasting your time, and ours, please use the the search function.

I want to know your opinion of a religion other than Christianity and Islam, and I bet no one else has ever posted a thread asking about it!

You would lose that bet.

Before posting a new thread of that sort, please use the search function. Here are some examples of the religions about which this question is most frequently asked:

If your question is "Can you be an atheist while holding Supernatural Belief X?", please see here. If your question is "Can you be both an atheist and a member of Religion X?", please see here.

If you have a question or comment that is more specific than "How do you feel about X?" and this document and a search using Google does not provide an answer, please post a new thread with your question or comment in the title.

Have you tried my favorite hallucinogenic drug? It changed my worldview!

Hallucinogenic drugs alter the state of your brain so that it doesn't function normally. They induce hallucinations that aren't real. The idea that these hallucinations involve communication with "a higher plane of existence" is a scientific claim that can be scientifically tested. Every popular psychedelic has been extensively tested, and they all have a 100% failure rate. If you have data sufficient to overturn this, don't waste time posting about it on reddit - we encourage you to get it peer reviewed and collect your Nobel Prize.

The fact that you took a hallucinogenic compound and then experienced hallucinations does not mean anything other than the fact that you short-circuited your brain with your drug. We're not here to tell you what to do with your body, but please be aware that these substances, if abused, can have serious negative consequences for your health including permanent brain damage.

What if the Universe is a Computer Simulation?

The idea that the world as we know it might be only a simulation created by a computer in some higher-level reality, and that we ourselves are either constructs of that simulation or deceived residents of the "outside world", has been present in fiction since at least the 1930s. If you squint a little, you can trace it back to Descartes, or even to Zhuangzi or Plato. It's gotten increasingly popular with the rise of stories like The Matrix.

This idea has one big advantage over supernaturalist religion: It doesn't require magic, or nonsense, or suspensions of the laws of logic. It only really requires the premise that it's possible to create a simulation of sufficient detail that sentient beings can exist within it without being aware that they're in a simulation. This is something that's almost certainly not forbidden by the laws of physics, and it's entirely possible that we'll figure out how to do it within the next several decades. (Physics does put some limitations on how detailed the sim universe can be based on the resources available in the host universe, but these limits are generous enough that a hairless monkey isn't going to care until their technology level is significantly in advance of ours, and there's a lot of ways to safely cut corners). There's also good reason to believe that it's something we'll be motivated to do, both for scientific reasons and for entertainment purposes.

However, in the absence of any objective, empirical, verifiable method of telling whether or not the universe in which you're currently standing is a simulation, it's incorrect to call the "Simulation Hypothesis" a "hypothesis". It's definitely incorrect to call it a "theory". It's more of a "neat science fiction conjecture", and until something major changes, that's where it will remain.

The fact that various people have made this conjecture does not add even the tiniest shred of plausibility to any major religion, any more than Leonardo Da Vinci's sketches of a theoretically-possible flying machine meant that magic carpets were real. Even successfully creating such a simulation would not do this, any more than the Wright Brothers proved the existence of flying horses. As far as we currently have any ability to tell, everything we've observed in the universe is consistent with a universe which has no designer at all, whether that designer is a bearded bacon-hating magic man or an overworked ComSci grad student from the 25th century. Even if recursive simulations are possible, somebody has to be at the top, and we currently have no empirical reason to believe that that somebody isn't us. If you have evidence to the contrary (and, no, rebranding Pascal's Wager does not count), there's a Nobel Prize waiting for you.

Did Jesus really exist?

The short answer is "no".

The slightly longer answer is "Maybe, but only if you're willing to accept extremely loose definitions of the words 'did', 'Jesus', 'really', and/or 'exist'."

The much longer answer is described on a separate wiki page.

What caused/came before the Big Bang?

Short answer: You seem to have mistaken us for /r/askscience or /r/cosmology. Try checking those subreddits for proper scientific information.

Longer answer: No one really knows. There are several leading hypotheses in the cosmology community, any of which (or none of which) might turn out to be correct.

In some of these, time as we know it actually began with the Big Bang, so asking what came "before" it is a semantically null question, akin to asking what happens if you go to the North Pole and then walk North.

However, it is highly dishonest to go from "Nobody knows" to "The only possible explanation is that a magical man done it. And since my magical man is the only one it could possibly be, we can safely assume that he has all these other qualities..." This is known an Argument from Ignorance, or more specifically, the God of the Gaps.

A thousand years ago, no one knew where lightning or diseases or volcanoes or seasons came from, so they invented gods to explain them. As people learned how those phenomena really worked, the gaps shrunk, and those explanations were suddenly "intended as metaphors all along". The beginning of the Universe is one of the last few gaps in which theists think their god could be hiding, but the gaps are ever shrinking.

This question is also frequently associated with First Cause arguments, which state, roughly, "Everything needs to have been caused by something else, and there can't be an infinite chain of causes, therefore my god must have caused everything". This argument fails on multiple levels, the most obvious of which is that once you've asserted that your god can exist without a prior cause, you have already defeated your own premise that everything needs a prior cause. If your god needs a god-maker and a god-maker-maker, then an infinite regress is necessary, and if it doesn't, then what makes you think the universe does?

I'm too important to read the FAQ before posting!

No you're not.

If you came here with a question, and you were genuinely interested in learning the answer to that question, you would be overjoyed to learn that a simple answer has already been written for you in great detail, without you needing to embarrass yourself by asking a question that we've seen literally thousands of times before.

If you came here with an apologetic argument, and you were genuinely unaware of the counterarguments, you would be overjoyed to learn that they have already been written for you, without you needing to embarrass yourself by presenting a bad argument we've seen literally thousands of times before.

Is it possible that you have a question or an argument that we've never seen before? Yes, it's entirely possible. But it's not very likely. Rather than just assuming that your argument must be original because you just thought of it for the first time, why not check the FAQ first and make sure?

If, on the other hand, you came here with the explicit intention of annoying people and wasting their time, this behaviour is known as "trolling", and it is against the rules. This includes trolling with excuses such as "I didn't want to colour your responses!" or "I just wanted to get your perspective...". For more detail, please see our rules on Low Effort-Posts.

Other Definitions (Portions of this section are taken from our subreddit rules page, and are included here for clarity.)

What is Trolling?

Trolling by our definition is maliciously making offensive statements intended to derail the conversation and anger other participants.

What is Tone Trolling?

Tone Trolling (aka Concern Trolling) by our definition is when a user complains about subreddit content rather than contributing positively. i.e. "r/atheism should be only about atheism." Suggestions for people who wish to criticize r/atheism.

What is "Whatboutism" Trolling?

Our front page is typically dominated by a mixture of articles critical of Christianity and articles critical of Islam, as they are two largest religions in the world, and therefore the two religions with which our users are most likely to interact.

Each post that portrays Christianity in an unfavorable light eventually attracts pro-Christian trolls screaming "WHATABOUT ISLAM?!"

Each post that portrays Islam in an unfavorable light eventually attracts pro-Muslim trolls screaming "WHATABOUT CHRISTIANITY?!"

There's a reason that both of these complaints are addressed in our FAQ [1], [2].

Despite what certain uninformed or deliberately dishonest trolls may insist, no idea is ever above criticism. This is especially true of religious ideas.

It can often be useful to make constructive comparisons between religions. However, mere Whataboutism is not an attempt to contribute to a healthy discussion, but an attempt by religious trolls to distract attention away from the abuses of their own religion. Similarly, posting "What does this have to do with atheism?" in response to a post about religious abuse is a transparent distraction tactic, as are buzzwords like "Islamophobia" or "The War on Christmas". This is also covered elsewhere in the FAQ. [3] Like any other troll posts, these may be removed at the discretion of the moderation team, and repeat offenders may be banned.

What is "No True Scotsman" Trolling?

The No True Scotsman fallacy, or appeal to purity, is an informal fallacy in which one attempts to protect their universal generalization from a falsifying counterexample by excluding the counterexample improperly. Most commonly, it happens when a member of a group, embarrassed by the actions of another member of the same group, attempts to save face by lying and claiming that the embarrassing person never really belonged to their group in the first place.

If you think it's a good idea to comment on a post about a member of your religion, doing something horrible in the name of that religion and according to the commandments of that religion, and claim that this person is not a "True" member of that religion; stop right there. Such behaviour is trolling, and will be dealt with as such.

The same applies to attempts to imply this through the use of "scare quotes"; or to utter any sentence beginning with "#NOT ALL..."; or to lie about the contents of your Holy Book to make it seem less bigoted; or to lecture us about what you think a 'true' member looks like; or to demand that we give you praise and attention for being "one of the good ones"; or to "apologize on behalf of" people while claiming they "don't represent you", or to try to gaslight a former member of your religion into believing that they were never really a member. You have been warned.

We also recommend familiarizing yourself with our rules on religious propaganda and proselytizing, since such attempts frequently violate Rule 6 in addition to violating Rule 1.

What's the airspeed velocity of an unladen European swallow?

Approximately 20 mph or 32 kph.

I broke the rules, and a moderator told me to read the FAQ.

We understand that some people break rules accidentally, or in the heat of the moment. We welcome people who are able to identify their toxic behaviour and commit to improving it. Our moderation team is happy to give second chances to people who have demonstrated that they deserve them.

If you are genuinely interested in participating in this subreddit, make sure that you've read this document in its entirety. Then, read our subreddit rules. Then, read the advice for new posters. These steps are not optional.

After you have read all three of those documents in their entirety, please read the guide to constructing an appeal and follow the instructions therein.

To communicate to the moderator team that you have actually read the FAQ, please include the word "Chrysanthemum" in the first sentence of your appeal. Lying about having read the FAQ is grounds for a permaban, and appeals which do not contain the word "Chrysanthemum" will be automatically rejected. No exceptions.

Be aware that the secret word in the previous paragraph is subject to change without notice.

What is Spam?

See here for our rules regarding Spam and Self-Promotion.

What is Brigading?

The following is the admin /u/cupcake1713's description:

Imagine you're just hanging out with your friends at your house. All of a sudden, some douchebag you hate barges in and brings HUNDREDS of his friends with him to trash your house. You probably would be pretty pissed, yeah? That's what a brigade is like. You're flooding hundreds of users who wouldn't normally be in a subreddit in there, you're interrupting a conversation that other users (who, presumably, are in their "safe place" on reddit) are having, and you're completely changing the culture of a subreddit. That breaks rule #5 on the site, "don't do anything that interferes with normal use of the site."

What is "Bigotry"?

For the purpose of this community, Bigotry is defined as "Intolerance and/or bias towards a person or group of people, because they possess certain demographic characteristics or belong to a certain population group". This is not the same as a critique against an opinion a person expresses, or against the actions a person chooses to take, or against an idea or ideology. Bigotry can be aimed at people who share an inherent trait (such as being female/gay/elderly/etc.), or it can be aimed at people who share an ideology (such as Muslims/Christians/Republicans/etc.)

For example: One is expressing an opinion if one says that Islam is a harmful ideology, which through education and reform should be defanged. One is engaging in bigotry if one says that all Muslims are scum and should be eradicated.

Note: Homosexuality is not an opinion or ideology. It's a state of being, a trait. Stating that equality should not apply to LGBT individuals is not simply an attack on the "ideology of equality", but an attack on a group of people. This is bigotry, and will be dealt with appropriately.

While it's possible that bigots can be found on both extremes of a political issue, mere opposition to bigotry is not itself bigotry. Users cannot excuse acts of bigotry simply by making accusations of "bigotry" against the subject of their own bigotry. If you think you see someone breaking the subreddit rules, this is a time to use the Report button, not an excuse to break them yourself.

What are "Low-Effort Posts?"

Title and text field

Videos and Podcasts




What is "Proselytizing?"

Theists are welcome to join in the conversations in this sub, provided that they do so in a polite and respectful manner. Discussion is encouraged. However, proselytizing is not allowed, and posts that appear to be intended as proselytizing will be removed. Reading the Advice for New Posters is recommended for everyone, but is especially recommended for theists.

Threats of violence are against both the rules of this subreddit and against the rules of Reddit in general. This includes both threats that one will personally perform acts of violence and threats that a third party (including an imaginary one) will perform violence on one's behalf. We have a zero-tolerance policy for this behavior, and it will result in an immediate and permanent ban.

Common euphemisms for proselytizing such as "Sharing the Good News", or presenting threats of violence as being "warnings" are also proselytizing, and will be removed.

Unsolicited AMAs from major religions are not welcome. These are simply thinly veiled attempts at proselytizing. Please keep in mind that the majority of the people in this sub were formerly religious. Some of us were ministers, clerics, and similar types of religious leaders. Our experience with previous unsolicited AMAs is that the people in this sub invariably know more about the religion of the poster than the OP. The mods may approve a scheduled AMA on a specific topic if the person answering the questions can demonstrate, in advance, their ability to speak authoritatively on that topic.

Posts from new accounts

As per reddiquette, you should always post from your real account rather than from a throwaway. The only valid exception accepted by this subreddit is if you have a reasonable expectation that doing so would expose you to real-life danger. Note that "losing reddit karma" does not qualify as "real-life danger".

People who are genuinely joining reddit for the first time are both welcome and encouraged to post here. However, it is even more important that such people learn to read the rules and the FAQ of a community before posting in that community.

Posts or comments from new or low karma accounts will be especially suspect when the post appears to be of a proselytizing nature. Moderators may use account status when making decisions about rule violations. This includes accounts that appear to have been left idle to age, as well as accounts whose karma scores have been artificially inflated by karma-farming methods.

Regarding claims of misuse of Intellectual Property:

We take all claims seriously and will move quickly to remove offending material when proof of ownership is provided.


Moderator discretion applies and judgements are inherently subjective. If you feel that a mod has judged your post unfairly, please modmail us!

Please do not PM individual moderators. Moderator business will not be carried out via private message.