Reality Adjustments

Nephew Annoys Atheist Uncle by Repeating “Atheism is a Belief”

Jun 03, 2018

“Shut up!” screamed John Johnson (46) to his nephew Liam (10).  “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

John Johnson is a devout atheist.  And a proud one.  He joined Mensa when he was 30.  He teaches philosophy at Minnesota State Community College.  Every year gives a portion of his salary to Atheists International.

John spent last weekend with the extended family for a Memorial Day BBQ.  When grandma gathered everyone to pray to Jesus over the food, John quipped “Religion is the opium of the people.  Christians bring more genocide than salvation.  Every hear of the Crusades or the Conquistadors?  I'd like to pray to the Flying Spaghetti Monster this year.  At least his past is clean.”

This set off the same old tired debate, the one "annoying Uncle John" has every few months, stirring up philosophical discussions about what came before creation, moralism without heaven or hell, and being rude to grandma in her house.

The tone suddenly changed when Liam, who just turned ten last week, lifted his head up from his game of Minecraft and said “Atheism is a belief.”

The words dropped with silence over the house.

“Religion is a belief!” said John, this time with a bit more reaction.  Atheism is a non-belief.”

But Liam wouldn’t let it go.  The boy, who now at ten years old was capable at more advanced philosophical thought, said “Non-belief is a belief.”

John spent the next 30 minutes using a system of words and mental acts to convince the boy that his non-belief was technically not a system of words and mental acts.  But after each plea, the boy lifted his head up from his phone and responded “Sounds like a belief, Uncle John.”

By this time the sweat was visible in John's Darwin fish t-shirt.  In one final push, he said “Look, kid.  Do you really believe in a virgin birth and pearly gates and a lake of fire?  I mean come on.  What do you think?”

Liam, who at this point had become the silent hero of the god-fearing family, lifted his head up one last time and said “It's not about belief.  I’m experiencing.”

The sun was getting low.  It was time for people to depart.  Goodbyes were exchanged.  And Round 1 had gone to the kid!  

There are quiet rumblings of an action-packed Round 2 at grandma's house for the 4th of July BBQ.  To get ready, Uncle John has been studying up on deductive and inductive epistemological arguments.  Whereas Liam has been building a fort out in the woods with his friends.

The Tilted Glass