Cal Poly

Welcome to the Secular Society FAQ


List of Questions


1. What is an Atheist? 2. Do Atheists believe in anything? 3. Doesn't it take a leap of faith to be an Atheist? 4. What does it mean to be Agnostic? 5. If you are an Atheist, where does your morality come from? 6. Isn't evolution just a "theory?" 7. Aren't Atheists just angry at God? 8. Who is to say what is true or not? 9. What is Secularism? 10. Aren't you promoting hate speech against religion? 11. But isn't this a Christian Nation?

1. What is an Atheist?

An Atheist is someone who does not believe in god.

2. Do Atheists believe in anything?

Atheism is often mistaken for nihilism, which is entirely different. Atheism is simply a rejection of the God Hypothesis. Atheists apply skepticism to any proposal put before them, which includes supernatural explanations of the universe. Nihilists don't believe in anything.

3. Doesn't it take a leap of faith to be an Atheist?

Faith is belief in something without evidence. Atheism, on the other hand, is a lack of belief. We merely do not accept the claim that a god exists. It is the same thing as saying you don't believe in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy. Someone made the claim that something exists and we decide based on the available evidence that this claim is not supported. There is also the alternative claim "God does not exist." Some Atheists also reject this claim due to lack of evidence. This brings us to the realm of knowledge which is discussed later.

4. What does it mean to be Agnostic?

Agnosticism or Gnosticism refers to what you claim to know. To be an Agnostic about anything means you claim that its existence cannot be determined absolutely. The colloquial and incorrect definition of an Agnostic is someone who is not sure about the existence of a god.

5. If you are an Atheist, where does your morality come from?

The origin of morality is a complex biological inquiry that potentially takes volumes of books to answer. However, to paraphrase, we can see patterns of solidarity in any animal group, not just humans. No animal society could survive without most of its members contributing to a common good, humans are no different. The origin of morality can be attributed more to the theory of evolution than to a god.

6. Isn't evolution just a "theory?"

A theory is a framework in science to tie observational evidence into one cohesive idea. All of science is based on theory. Theory has acquired a colloquial connotation of being some sort of "guess" without basis. But in science, the hypothesis is only the beginning of the process of scientific inquiry known as the Scientific Method. The theory of gravity, for example, is the end result of hundreds of years of study and analysis of observed phenomena.

7. Aren't Atheists just angry at God?

We don't believe in a god, and so we can't really be angry with it.

8. Who is to say what is true or not?

Truth is just a way of saying that a claim agrees with reality. In science, and in our day to day lives, we do not deal with "Truth" as theologians and philosophers do. As with a court of law, we are concerned with truth "beyond reasonable doubt," not some absolute idea of truth handed down from some outside source. We come to the best, most truthful conclusion by reasoning on all available evidence.

9. What is Secularism?

Secularism is the view that there should be an absolute separation between any religious institution and government, as is called for in the constitution.

10. Aren't you promoting hate speech against religion?

Hate speech is hostile verbal abuse with the intent of offense or degradation. Our goals are only to sever ties between the government and religion. We believe that in a free society one must be free to believe and say whatever they want, but we do not believe the government should be in the business of endorsing supernatural claims.

11. But isn't this a Christian Nation?

There is no endorsement of a god in the Constitution, and the First Amendment specifically states that there shall be no established religion of the land. People often mistake "Christian Nation" for a "Nation of Christians," meaning the majority populace is of the Christian faith. These two should not be confused.