Atheism isn’t a scary word

Katherine Johnson

They played board games and talked about Star Trek. It seemed like any other student organization. There was no plotting to take over the world, converting Christians to atheism or devil worshipping – just friends getting together to hang out.

Earlier in the week I walked past the United Secular Alliance and wondered what they were about. I’ve been an atheist myself since I was about 13 years old, but I’d never talked to other atheists about what it means to be an one.

Contrary to stereotypical beliefs, atheists are normal people. We just don’t believe in God. As an atheist, I feel that too often we’re assumed to be evil, crazy or immoral people. I’ve had people say, “You’re an atheist? You’re such a good person,” as if the two can’t coexist. My lack of religion doesn’t lead to a lack of morals. Too often people have a preconceived idea or notion as to how a certain type of person should look and be, like an atheist.

The most common misconception I’ve come across is that atheists are Satanists and immoral, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth. While atheists don’t believe in God, this doesn’t mean they’re morally bankrupt.

In high school, one of my friends said something about my atheism, which was overheard by another student. Although my friend clearly stated I was an atheist, the other student started talking about Satanism as if they were one in the same. Atheists aren’t bad people just because they don’t believe in God, and when others make such a large mistake as comparing atheists to Satanists, they don’t understand either idea.

These judgments are hurtful because they’re based on one’s personal beliefs instead of their actual character. It’s the same as judging someone by their race or sexual orientation because it doesn’t define a person or reflect their character. Although discrimination for all of these groups still happens, it has gotten better over time. Discrimination based on a person’s lack of religion remains one of the least-discussed forms of discrimination to this day, which is part of the reason why people don’t understand it.

Because of the false ideas perpetuated in society concerning atheists, many have struggled with telling friends and family members from fear of them not being accepted.

Jacob Kamieniak, president of the United Secular Alliance at VCU, calls the group a social organization whose main goal is visibility. The alliance also offers support to those who are questioning their religious views and offers discussions and educational speakers. Kamieniak made it clear that the group is not out to push an agenda. They want VCU students to realize two major ideas: Atheists aren’t the bad guys, and everyone should be inquisitive. While the group doesn’t force their ideas onto those who are religious, they’d like you to dig deeper into what you believe. Many times, people refuse to do this, even though it’s just exploring and understanding their beliefs a little further.

I believe atheism will gain acceptance in the future. As one member put it, it’s like a “generational gap.” Their key idea is to promote visibility on the VCU campus, which will lead to understanding of what being an atheist is and prevent unfair stereotypes. We can only gain this acceptance and tolerance through visibility and discussion.

People fear what they don’t understand, which is why atheism should be talked about more. It shouldn’t be hushed or swept under the rug. If we continue to do this as a society, we will never grow and gain acceptance for those who are different from us. The key to removing unfair assumptions and judgments is openness, which can start here on campus with VCU students and expand to the rest of society.

1 Comment

  1. Great job!!!!… to the United Secular Alliance and to the author of this article. This is exactly what Roy Roberts and myself had envisioned the United Secular Alliance to be at VCU when we co-founded this group 4 or 5 years ago. We wanted this group to be a staple on campus; to have a place where atheists, free thinkers agnostics and others can come and be accepted, AND we wanted continuity. The new leadership under Jacob, Brianna, Kat and the rest of the gang has been phenomenal. And it only shows that atheism is a growing faction of the VCU community. With each generation, more atheists will come out of the closet and they now have a place to go to on campus. They have a place to discuss, be heard, socialize and help educate the larger VCU community. We have to remember that there are numerous christian organizations on campus, and the United Secular Alliance is the ONE group that unites all secularists, agnostics, atheists and even theists on the verge of de-conversion on campus. Beltway Atheists, Inc. will be more than happy to help organize future events and I think this relationship will benefit both groups. 🙂 Congrats! See you guys tomorrow at the David Silverman event.

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