My child is an atheist?

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Answered by: Justin, An Expert in the Facts About Atheism Category
First of all, do not panic. Defined most inclusively, an atheist is a person who lacks belief in god or gods. That is literally it. So please do not conflate your child's 'lack of belief in god or gods' with a tacit (or explicit) endorsement of any of the things the American public associates with atheism, things like nihilism, fatalism, communism, fascism, moral relativism, egoism, solipsism, a veritable litany of other 'isms,' or just general immorality. Being an atheist does not necessarily entail being any of those other things. And speaking glibly about things which you, your religious friends, or said American public mistakenly associate with atheism is certainly not the way to proceed.

Now, why is your child an atheist? Barring the occasional, flippant conversion grounded in rebellion, your child was almost certainly convinced by the various lines of argumentation against 'belief in god or gods.' While the different arguments are far too numerous to cover in any depth here, they do follow a general format. Understanding this broad-stroke approach is key to understanding your child's 'lack of belief in god or gods.'

In essence, to subscribe to a particular religion, you, your child, anyone, has to believe in a number of claims about that religion. Examples of these claims are exceptionally numerous – virgins can give birth to children; human beings survive death; the Earth is 6,000 years-old, just to name a few. The problem with these kind of claims is that they directly trespass on the purview of science and reason. Biology has shown us that, absolutely preposterous circumstances aside, virgins do not give birth to children. And the evidence for the non-survival of humans after death is voluminous, as is the evidence for an Earth whose age is most accurately measured in gigayears.

People who sincerely hold beliefs like these generally have formulaic conversions, because their views were held while ignorant to the litany of contrary evidence. The examination of the merits and truth-value of his/her religious beliefs (and by extension, yours) which contradicted the findings of science is probably where it all began.

Though the aforementioned general case applies in many scenarios, there may be other reasons why your child is an atheist. The positive case for the existence of 'god or gods' is an exceptionally poor one, be it Thor, Zeus, Wotan, Osiris, Yahweh, The Flying Spaghetti Monster, or The Invisible Pink Unicorn. The standard in every other discourse and discipline is that the burden of proof is on the believer. It is important to understand that there is not a single shred of evidence for the supernatural, gods or giants. That fact is not to be taken lightly. Why is there not even one single piece of compelling evidence for the existence of any of them?

The simplest explanation, all other things remaining equal, is that there is no evidence for them because they simply do not exist. And for the people who adhere to the rules of logic, to those who value reason and evidence and education, who recognize that these are the principles upon which our lives and societies are and should be founded, for those people patently incorrect religious beliefs and lack of positive evidence are reasons strong enough to merit abstaining from belief. That is probably why your child is an atheist.

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