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Atheism 101: Why isn't everyone an atheist?

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“If atheism is so true, why isn’t everyone an atheist?” That was the question a religious believer recently asked me and to be honest, it wasn’t the first time I have heard that question. There are many ways in which one can address such a loaded question. Here are a few.

First, it isn’t very hard to turn this question around on the religious believer. If Christianity is so true, why isn’t everyone a Christian? More to the point, if this Christian’s particular brand of Christianity is so true, then why isn't everyone a “True Christian” just like this Christian? In other words, why doesn't everyone on Earth have the exact same beliefs on everything?

Facts don’t require that everyone agree with them in order to be true. Facts are true because they actually reflect reality whether you believe they do or not. We know facts are true by testing their truth-value using the scientific method. Or more accurately, we know that they are probably not false. This method allows us to factor out our own biases and preconceived notions. Through the peer-review process, scientists can check the work of other scientists to factor out errors. This is how we know is something is an accurate reflection of reality. We can test the claims made in the Bible and in other holy books and we have found that those claims are not only patently ridiculous, but also false. They don’t match up with the facts. They are not an accurate reflection of reality.

Another way to address this religious question is to point out that the question itself is a logical fallacy. It is called an “argumentum ad populum,” or an appeal to the people. Basically, the religious person is arguing that atheism is false because many people believe it to be false. The reality is that reality isn’t a democracy. It doesn't matter how many people believe in the power of the lucky rabbit’s foot when the reality is that rabbit’s feet are no more or less lucky than prayers are answered. No superstition magically become true just because people believe that it is true; not even the superstitious belief in a deity.

Finally there is my favorite way of answering the question, “If atheism is so true, why isn't everyone an atheist?” Everyone is actually an atheist… with respect to all the thousands of other deities people once believed in but now don’t. Does a Christian believe in Oden, Zeus, or Ra? Of course not, but why not? I don’t believe in those gods either. In this respect, atheist are just like Christians, Muslims, and Jews – we just lack belief in one more deity.

This article is part of the Atheism 101 Series for frequently asked questions.