Atheists are individuals who subscribe to a position of no belief in, nor acceptance of, a God. “God” is a psychological construct that human beings devised, over time, to diminish certain anxieties, or to use as an excuse to marginalize and minimize people they perceive as inferior. God is vain, capricious, and violent; this deity does not think that he or she has to give an explanation for his or her acts, which are often less moral, less ethical, than those of humanity, according to Jennifer Hecht in her book, Doubt: A History. Religious individuals, especially those with more literalist, fundamentalist beliefs, are more likely to thank their God for protecting them from a storm but refuse to criticize their precious deity for destroying their next-door neighbors.
For atheists, religion is unnecessary, even harmful. Because arriving at this conclusion requires investigation and study, atheists are far more likely than their religious counterparts to answer questions about religion accurately. Why is that? Many atheists have considered a religious worldview for themselves, but reject that view because, for them, it is intellectually dishonest. And yet atheists tend to have a strong moral sense, quite distinct from religious beliefs.
Even if we understand what atheists are, can we describe what atheists are like? Some studies have indicated that atheists are less harsh than non-atheists when provided opportunities to be assholes. They also tend to demonstrate heightened integrity in their thinking. Primarily because they are non-authoritarian, atheists tend to be relatively unprejudiced toward minority groups. They place very little value on being similar to everyone else. And generally speaking, you won’t find many atheists who are determined to “convert” believers to their views—and they tend not to value those few atheists who dogmatically pursue such conversion. After all, we know what pressure to conform to the beliefs of the majority feels like.
So why do we as atheists persist in their non-belief when almost eighty percent of Americans believe in God? In one research study, a participant simply stated: “Do I want truth? Or do I want God?”
Or, as psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi wrote in 1990: “Even if God is dead, it does not mean that life cannot be given meaning.”