The #atheism FAQ for Atheists

Last updated 14 July 1998
Most FAQs for atheist forums such as #atheism are written from the perspective of a theist asking the questions and an atheist responding. However, commonly repeated topics are not reserved to theists; there are several questions asked and issues brought up by atheists that deserve placement in a FAQ. This document, therefore, is from the perspective of an atheist being answered by another atheist. I hope that you will find it useful.

*I'm not an atheist! I'm an agnostic!

There is a great deal of misunderstanding about the meanings of the terms atheism and agnosticism. Despite the claims of many, especially nominal agnostics, agnosticism does not mean that one does not know whether or not god/s exist or that one allows the possibility of god/s but is waiting for evidence. Agnosticism specifically means the epistemological position that the ultimate cause of the Universe is unknown and unknowable. As such, it is not mutually exclusive with either theism or atheism. In fact, the majority of those who identify themselves as agnostics are also weak atheists.

Atheism is the lack of belief in gods. An atheist does not necessarily assert positively that gods do not exist; in fact, such are in the minority of the atheist community. Most atheists are either weak toward all gods, or else weak toward gods in general and strong against some specific gods (such as the Judeo-Christian-Islamic omniomnibus god concept).

A good quick test on whether you are an agnostic and whether you are an atheist is to ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do I believe that I could one day know more or less for sure whether or not god/s exist?
  2. Do I believe that a god exists? ("I don't know" counts as "no")
If you answered "no" to number one, you are an agnostic. If you answered "no" to number two, you are an atheist.

*Are there any disproofs of god?

It depends on whom you ask. I have yet to see any that I accept as valid. There have been various attempts, and some of them have enjoyed moderate success among thinkers, but sadly I have not yet found one that holds logical water. In my experience, most of them are based on misunderstanding of the terms involved, and more or less none of them deal with all god concepts (most deal with omniscience, omnipotence, or what have you, and thus only deal with gods that are said to posses those attributes). One of the most common of these misunderstandings is the Big Rock Conundrum.

On the other hand, many atheists feel that the Judaeo-Xian-Islamic omniomnibus god concept is logically contradictory, and are thus strong towards that particular god concept, but weak to others, such as the Graeco-Roman "limited" gods. Others feel that the term "god" itself has no meaning, because there have been no coherent definitions put forward. This would make the very concept of "god" logically empty, so this would be a sort of disproof of the current concept of "god."

*Atheism isn't a religion; if it were, bald would be a hair color!

This is often brought up when theists try to claim that atheism is a religion. While the statement ("atheism isn't a religion") is correct, the justification is not. Atheism is merely the lack of belief in gods; religion is a formalised system of rites and doctrines which deal with a supernatural or highly superhuman force or being. Because of this, atheism and religion are not, strictly speaking, mutually exclusive; it is possible to have an atheistic religion (such as Zen Buddhism), and it is similarly possible to be an irreligious theist.

The reason that atheism is not a religion is that atheism is the lack of a single belief, and as such no more forms an entire religion than monotheism or the belief that prayer influences God. The only characterisitc that all atheists have in common is the lack of belief in god/s, so there is no foundational set of doctrines or rituals that would define a religion of atheism. Atheists are as diverse as theists, ranging from Zen Buddhists to Leninists to Objectivists to Confucianists, as well as many other unique and disparate viewpoints.

*Why don't you talk about atheism? This is #atheism right?

#atheism is not and never has been intended strictly as a place to discuss atheism or philosophical topics relating to atheism. It is, first and foremost, a place for people in general and atheists in particular to congregate and chat. Religious debate, discussion of atheistic philosophy, and other such things are an occasional and pleasant occurrence (although repeated religious debate can be quite tiresome); they are emphatically not, however, the sole purpose of the channel. Topics covered include philosophy, religion, politics, mythology, computers, literature, and outright banal chat and gossip.

*Why do you have a Christian/Wiccan/whatever op?

Chanops on #atheism are based on merit, not on worldview. If someone inputs a significant amount of time into the channel, clearly knows what they are doing, and is responsible enough to handle it, that person will generally be made an op, regardless of beliefs [or lack thereof]. As a side note, please do not think that this is an attempt at showing tolerance through having token theist ops. It is not, and we have, from the start, made sure that our intention in these oppings is genuine rather than pseudo-tolerant posturing.

*Hey, I just got here five minutes ago but I'm a really cool guy! Can I be an op too?

No. We have enough channel operators as it stands (some would say too many) and are not really in the markets for new ops. Even if we were, chanops are a position which gives a lot of authority to influence (for better or for worse) conversation and general operation of the channel. They are not handed out lightly. If you really want to become an operator, then the best plan of action would be something like:

  1. Start attending the channel regularly.
  2. Get on the good side of the channel populace in general, or at least most of the fairly influential ops.
  3. Through incredible strength of character or incredible acting, convince a reasonable number of people on-channel that you are fair, responsible, emotionally stable, and capable of using your IRC client.
  4. Wait several months and, if you have not yet been nominated by someone else, politely ask a powerful op who likes you about your chances.
  5. Repeat as necessary

Many ops intentionally set themselves against "op-beggars," so it is generally better for someone else to nominate you than for you to ask. If you ask repeatedly and annoyingly, then you almost surely will not get the ops any time soon. You're more likely to be kickbanned than anything.

*Have you heard the one about the dyslexic atheist?

Yes. It started to decline in humor about the one millionth time we heard it.

*Hey, let's go raid #bible and piss them off!

Many members of the #atheism community (myself included) think that trolling Christian channels is a juvenile diversion which exhausted its possibilities long ago. Many also feel that it is generally boring, stupid, and a good way to prove yourself a jackass. If you wish to go troll #bible or #christian or whatever, feel free to do so, but don't expect us to form a gang of BAAWA to go piss off those #biblers.

Counterevanglism missions to #bible are also sometimes proposed rather than straight-out trolling or flaming; while superior to the former, after a few attempts, I think one will find that they are generally futile, exasperating, and may end in a kickban from #bible. The counterevangelist usually comes away from the experience thinking that #bible is a channel full of close-minded fundamentalist bigots [which is quite often the case] who kicked him out of fear and censorship [which is often not the case]. The theists on #bible usually dismiss the counterevangelist as nothing more than another jackass atheist who came in to annoy them. Please try to keep in mind that most Christian channels are for the purpose of Christian fellowship above all else, and are not intended as debate channels. For the particular case of #bible, keep in mind that its purpose is explicity Biblical issues, not debates such as "prove God exists" or "the Bible is false." If you truely feel the compulsion to debate on #bible, it will greatly help your case to pick some more appropriate topics, such as homosexual Christians and evolution vs. creationism within the context of Christian belief. You will still probably be banging your head against a wall, but at least you are likely to remain on the channel as long as you choose.


Written and maintained by Charles W. Johnson (cwj2@eskimo.com).
This document is hereby released into the public domain.