Atheist vs Skeptic: which am I?


  • One who disbelieves or denies the existence of a god or gods.
  • A person who rejects the validity of religion as a concept and generally has more faith in science and logic.


  • One who instinctively or habitually doubts, questions, or disagrees with assertions or generally accepted conclusions.
  • One inclined to skepticism in religious matters.

As I continue to explore and try to define my beliefs (or lack there of,) I find myself bouncing between these two terms. I do think, in general, I am a skeptic – someone who requires proof that something is true. I do not just accept what people tell me or what I’ve been taught. My life experiences have shown me, time and again, that too many people just accept what they’re told and often, they are lied to or misinformed or have absolutely no basis for their beliefs other than they believe things because “that’s what they were taught” or just choose to believe. I need to have a sound basis for my beliefs, so I operate from the viewpoint that something is not true until it is proven to be true. There are things it took me longer to refute as my NEED to believe was stronger than my acceptance of the empirical evidence and experiences to the contrary. My skeptic side allows for the possibility that what I’m being told could be true, but I require proof or evidence in support of it before I will accept it as truth.

But when it comes to religion and gods, I am an absolute atheist. I don’t believe there is even a possibility that a god exists, so I am not a skeptic in that sense, because  I just cannot wrap my head around the idea that there is even a remote possibility that a god exists and that so many people embrace the idea.  There has never been the slightest shred of proof that any higher power or intelligent being exists, other than books written by human beings and stories and fables passed on from generation to generation. I can understand why people WANT or even NEED to believe that one exists. I understand the comfort the idea of a god can bring to someone who needs hope where they can find none.  I can understand, in moments where we are forced to accept our helplessness in the face of the natural world, when diseases and disasters humble us and remind us there are just some things we are powerless over, why praying and believing makes us feel like we are doing something or that someone can help if we just wish it hard enough. But that is not proof to me that anything exists beyond our natural world and universe. That is just proof to me that some people need to believe for their own personal sense of purpose, empowerment and comfort. I am not uncomfortable with the thought that I am the result of an evolutionary process, that when I am dead I will cease to exist and that what happens to me is often just the randomness of life and existence. I accept that we only have so much control over our bodies and environment and lives. There is no rhyme or reason to some things. Some people get diseases and some don’t. Some people lose their houses in floods, some don’t. Some people luck into a fortune, some don’t. Some people find life partners, some don’t. I don’t believe there is someone cherry picking who gets to be safe and rich and happy and healthy and who doesn’t.

Am I open to the idea that a god exists? Only in the sense that, if you can provide empirical proof that one does exist, I will accept it and not refuse to believe my own senses or the proof laid out before me. Until then, all lack-of-proof and experience demands that I, as a rational, intelligent, thinking, mature human being reject the notion of a god because there is simply no proof that he/she/it/they exist. Just like the Easter Bunny. Or Superman. Or jeans that make my ass look good.

It is a constant struggle for me, given my beliefs, to be in a deist-saturated world, surrounded by people and friends I admire and love that continue to believe and reference and invoke a god that I believe does not exist. I constantly struggle with how to avoid showing disrespect for someone’s chosen beliefs while also being clear that I don’t share those beliefs or acknowledge a god exists. If you are asking yourself why it matters to me that people know I am an atheist, understand it is the same reason that compels me not to allow someone to assume I am heterosexual.: it is not true and by keeping quiet I only encourage, perpetuate and propagate the assumption and idea that everyone believes in a god (or is straight.)  and I do resent the assumption that I believe in a god or being told “everything happens for a reason” or “put it in god’s hands” or “pray for this that or the other thing.”  Or “god will provide”. It is important to me that people know and respect that I am an Atheist and don’t share their beliefs. It is important that people know not everyone believes in a god. It is important to me that I get credit or blame for the choices I make and the things I do and that I don’t rely on gods or magic for results or assistance or credit higher powers for the things that humans do.  It is important that people understand that being an atheist does not make me immoral, evil or lost. It merely makes me a person who chooses rationality, reason and science over faith, fairytales and superstition.

I know the things I do, I do because I believe them to be the right thing to do, not because I hope for eternal reward.

I know the things I avoid doing, I avoid doing because I believe them to be the wrong thing to do, not because I fear eternal damnation.

I believe I have a responsibility to myself, my loved ones, my community and my environment to always try to contribute, help and do no harm, not because I’m a child of someone’s god and that’s what I was told to do in some book or by some self-appointed spiritual leader, but because I believe it is the right way to be and the right way to live for the betterment of myself, everyone and a fair and just society and world. I choose to try to nurture and protect and heal and support and educate. I do not accept that someone has chosen that path for me and requires it of me.

So, all things non-god related, I am clearly a skeptic and science and proof will bear out whether they are true or not; but when it comes to god:

If there is a god and he/she/it doesn’t like the way I live, or who I am, or what I believe, let that god tell me.  I’m all ears. Until then, I’ll worry about the world around me, that I know exists.  Because that’s what really matters. No matter what others might wish otherwise.

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9 Responses to Atheist vs Skeptic: which am I?

  1. BosGuy says:

    Raised catholic and respectful of others beliefs, I too go back and forth btwn skeptic and atheist. The only thing I’m certain of is that I don’t believe something just because its written in a book whether you call it the bible, koran, torah, etc… The other thing I’m certain of is that I don’t know everything and I’m inclined to change my mind; my opinions have certainly changed over the years.

  2. domanidave says:

    People ought not assume that one is straight, or that one is a theist, I agree. But I’ve lived long enough to have endured Madalyn Murray O’Hair style atheists whose proselytizing is just as obnoxious as the Mormon’s. I’m resigned to ceasing to exist one day, but not being remotely clear on where ‘is’ is, I maintain a micron of hope. And a micron of belief in pixies.

    • Sassybear says:

      Thanks for reading and your comment, domanidave. I agree that there are parties in any school of thought who are adamant that they are right and everyone must agree with them. In my 40+ years on this planet, however, I have only been bombarded by deist attitudes, proselytizing to me and others and assumptions that we all are, or should be, god fearing/loving/believing people. I never met another atheist until I came out as one two years ago, and I never initiate any discussions about my atheism, save for on this blog, unless it’s in reaction to someone’s assumptions that I am a deist or derogatory comments about atheism (and even my blog posts about atheism are usually sparked by such interactions.) I would argue that the more recent visibility of, and activism by, the atheist and skeptic communities is in direct response to the constant , aggressive, indulgences and political influencing behaviors of the religious right and deist communities who have declared war on separation of church and state and tried to enforce a christian and deist nation through law and politics. I also feel it is hypocritical to imply atheists are shoving their beliefs down everyone’s throats by announcing or acknowledging their atheism or refuting the assumption they are deists, when, in fact, our entire society and language and habits are infused with god talk and terminology we are exposed to every day. Much like straight people holding hands is normal, but gay people holding hands is flaunting it, deists can talk as if god is real and we all believe that, but an atheist states god isn’t or they don’t believe and they are proselytizing. Just another case of “American Double Standard.”

      • Dave says:

        Apologies if I have implied that announcement or self-identification qualifies as proselytizing. Do you have people saying ‘Have a blessed day’ in your part of the country? I hope not. Sometimes I think I’ll unhinge if I hear it even one more time.

      • Sassybear says:

        No implication taken, Dave. I was just explaining why I feel the way I do based on my experiences and the prevailing attitudes in my general surrounding population. I am constantly told that god will provide, that god has been good to me, that I should pray for help or what have you. It’s tiring and I’m over it. So now I just respond “Sorry, those are not me beliefs.”

  3. anne marie in philly says:

    I have real-life friends, not imaginary ones (like jeebus). real-life friends (like you) are better.

  4. Excellent post! Thanks for sharing it. Miss you much, and miss hanging out with you and talking. 😦

  5. Raybeard says:

    Rich pickings in this subject, S/b. Hardly know where to start. All I’d say for now is that IF there were a God who conforms to the conventional, Bible-based (or Koranic etc) view, then not only do I have no respect for such a being, I think that such a being DESERVES no respect – from anyone!
    Pity that with the deficiencies of language, a-theists (i.e. literally without a god) are put in the position of not only having to prove a negative but also expected to just accept that proof of the existence of such a being, even if not demonstrable (unlike other scientific proofs) is a tenet which ought not be challenged. Seems might unfair to me.

  6. cawfeeguy says:

    hm. I was curious how your faith/beliefs worked. thanks for clearing it up, BL.

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