How to Be An Atheist: Rule #1

After participating in a number of on-line forums populated by various combinations of Christians, Muslims, atheists, and others, I have come to the conclusion that a lot of atheists on the Internet seem to be either new at it, or consumed by some sort of fear that their former faiths will reach out and drag them back unless they push back hard all the time. Therefore, as someone who has been an atheist for a long time and who has been able to coexist peacefully with Christians in my life for just as long, I have some rules for fellow atheists to bear in mind.

Rule #1: It’s OK to say “Oh My God”

I often hear comedians (who no doubt think they’re being hilariously original) asking what atheists say instead of “Oh my God”. But it’s not just comedians; regular people ask that too, and even some atheists struggle with the question.

However, the real question should be: why is this a question at all? Why can’t atheists say “Oh my God” in moments of shock?

“Atheists can’t say that because they don’t believe in God!” you might answer. And that seems to make sense … until you ask why the word “Herculean” persists in the English language. When a Christian says “Lou Ferrigno landed the role because of his Herculean physique”, he is not saying “I believe in the Greek demigod Hercules”. When a Christian refers to a Trojan horse, he is not saying that he believes Homer’s tale is historically accurate. When a Christian accuses another of being “narcissistic”, he is not saying that he believes in the Tale of Narcissus. When Christians went to see “The Poseidon Adventure” in theatres, they were not declaring fealty to an ancient Greek god of the sea.

The fact is that Christians use these phrases not because they secretly believe in Zeus, but because Greek mythology is part of the cultural history of western civilization. Similarly, Christianity is and will be a part of the cultural history of western civilization for the foreseeable future. If people still refer to Greco-Roman mythological figures nearly two thousand years after the death of Hellenistic paganism, then it seems safe to say people will still be blurting out various Christian terms long after we’re all dead.

In short, if you’re an atheist, go ahead: say “Oh God” during sex. Say “Jesus Christ!” as an expletive. The effort you put into creating your own custom expletives is wasted and will accomplish nothing, other than to make people look at you funny. You’re an atheist now; those words have no actual power over you, so stop acting as if you’re afraid of them.

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7 Responses to How to Be An Atheist: Rule #1

  1. Dan +†+ says:

    Do you say Oh my Hitler? Why not? Its just a term. Why not use Hitlers name as a cuss word?

    What you are saying is OK is blasphemy. You are breaking the third Commandment. You are taking the name of the Creator and dragging though the mud as a cuss word. It is very serious and a horrible thing to do to one that created you. Why not use your Mom’s name as a cuss word? Offensive?

    You are literally breaking the law when you blasphemy. God’s Law. You might say “so what” but you must understand what the law is. Please just realize that you are breaking the Law when you lie, steal, blasphemy. Some say, what is one little lie? but it is huge because you are storing up God’s wrath upon you. So just understand when you use God’s name as a cuss word that you will be judged according to your actions for this very short period here on earth. 9 months growing to prepare for this world, 90 years of learning and growing spiritually to prepare for the next world.

    Why do I tell you all this?

    Because I love you silly.

    • Spade Caller says:

      What an R-tard … (Religio-tard)

      Seriously – how did your ancestors manage to evade predators?! … ;P

  2. Michael Wong says:

    Is this a serious question? I don’t use Hitler’s name as a cuss word because Hitler’s name is associated with unspeakable evil in our history, and he was a real person.

    God, on the other hand, is a nebulous term which means different things in different contexts. In the context of saying “Oh my God”, it’s nothing more than a generic exclamation. People use it all the time and no particular religious meaning is required.

    As for your bit about “breaking the law”, I have broken no law which applies to me. You can obey your religious laws if you like, but they do not apply to me any more than Sharia Law does.

  3. Jorge Sosa says:

    Can’t believe that guy… Is he Dan the ninja man by any chance??? I would bet one of my balls he has say “Oh my God” as a surprise expression and not out of devotion (thus, breaking the third Commandment) the average amount of times for a regular human being….

  4. Thea Karan says:

    That actually helps, a lot thanks. (Even though I am technically an agnostic, not an atheist).

    • THEA,

      DO YOU UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE IN THE DEFINATIONS OF THE WORDS ‘KNOW ” AND BELIEVE”?

      YOU EITHER “KNOW” THERE ARE ONE, OR MORE GODS, OR YOU DO NOT! IF YOU DO NOT “KNOW”, YOU ARE AN AGNOSTIC,

      YOU EITHER”BELIEVE” IN ONE, OR MORE GODS, OR, YOU DO NOT.
      IF YOU DO NOT BELIEVE IN ONE OF MORE GODS, YOU ARE AN ATHEIST.

      TO ME, THE ODDS ARE YOU AN ATHEIST AND HAVE NOT YET REALIZED IT.

      MYSELF, AND MANY, MANY OTHERS SELF IDENTIFY AS “AGNOSTIC ATHEISTS”

      PLEASE, TAKE CARE!

      NEIL

  5. WHEN I ACCIDENTLY USE SOME “RELIGIOUS” TERM AND i AM CALLED ON IT (OR NOT) I ADD:

    “IT IS MERELY A COLLOQUIALISM IN MY VERNACULAR WHICH DOES NOT PERTAIN TO AN ACTUAL ENTITY.”

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