It is incredibly common to come across people who say “I don’t understand atheism.” This is a very annoying statement to come across. Why? Because atheism isn’t a difficult concept. Yes, some people say this and mean “I don’t understand how someone can be an atheist.” This is a reasonable claim: if you could understand how someone could be an atheist you would be an atheist. I don’t understand how someone could be a theist. If I did, I would be a theist.
But more often than not, the person means literally what they are saying: they don’t understand what atheism is. If you don’t understand what atheism is, there are two choices. Either you live in a bubble where you have never met, seen, or even heard from an atheist. You pretty well have to live in a conservative small town where everyone is part of the same church and have no access to the internet for this to be the case. Or you have been ignoring what atheist have told you about what atheism is. It really isn’t hard to learn what atheism is in this day and age, and I know that I have explained it to a lot of people. The problem is, a lot of theists don’t want to accept what I tell them when I explain atheism to me. They want to question how I know that my definition is the true one, or they want to nit pick about how I phrase my definition. Sometimes they just want to disregard my beliefs all together. It is that habit that annoys me when people ask what atheism is. If you’re going to ask, then listen to what I have to say. You don’t have to like what I’ve said for it to be true. And if you’re unwilling to accept what I have to say, then don’t ask the question. You clearly have no interest in hearing why I believe what I believe and are simply using the question in order to ridicule my position.
As for the other things that annoy me:
Saying you’re an agnostic as opposed to a theist or an atheist is not like saying you don’t know if you like soccer. If you say you like soccer, you’re making a knowledge claim, not a belief claim. You’re not saying you believe you like soccer, you’re saying you know you like soccer. The same goes for if you say that you don’t like soccer. Saying you don’t know if you like soccer is a third option for the other two claims. Agnosticism isn’t a third option to atheism and theism, because it is a knowledge claim to two belief claims. It is not in opposition to those claims, so you can be an agnostic while being an atheist or a theist. You can’t like soccer but not know if you like soccer. This isn’t to say that one cannot call themselves an agnostic without also calling themselves a theist or an atheist, it is simply to say that agnosticism is not the alternative to atheism that people think it is.
Atheism isn’t a position taken to attack the religious, or because one feels that Christians aren’t Christ like. People become atheists simply because that’s the position that makes sense to them. Some atheists will attack religion, but they aren’t attacking religion because they are atheists. Rather they are attacking religion because they believe that religion is problematic and getting rid of religion will solve a lot of problems. It is a belief that they hold on top of their belief that atheism is correct. And believing that Christians aren’t Christ-like isn’t enough to make someone an atheist. It is possible to believe in gods while believing that Christians do bad things. Heck, most Christians seem to think that Christians do bad things. In order to be an atheist, one must genuinely believe that there are no gods.
No, atheists do not have the burden of proof. Why? For the same reason that I don’t have to prove that fairies and unicorns don’t exist: I’m not going against the evidence by believing that gods don’t exist. In fact, there is no concrete evidence. If I were to say that I don’t believe the moon exists, then I would have to show why all of the evidence that says the moon does exist is wrong. But theists don’t have that evidence to show that gods exist. Until theists can provide evidence of gods existing the burden of proof is not mine. Again, I don’t know if gods exist, but I don’t believe they do.
Yes, I believe theism is false. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be an atheist. And no, that does not mean you can shift the burden of proof on me. If I have to prove that your god is false, then you have to prove why every god that you don’t believe in is false. Do you really want to go there?
I don’t care if you pray to god. I care if you try and impose your prayer on me. Please stop trying to make it sound like your being gagged whenever you try and pray. If you are trying to push a public organization to make a public prayer, then you are pushing your beliefs on me and every other person who is not a member of your religion. If you want to pray before you eat, or before a game or class begins, go ahead, but don’t drag me into it.