An atheist espouses godlessness at HuffPost!

The title has an exclamation mark because I wouldn’t have expected HuffPost to publish a piece by an avowed atheist. In this case the author is Jennifer Furner, and her article is below. I’m presenting it not because there’s anything new in the text, but at the strong negative reaction of some commenters, who criticize the author for hubris when her article is in fact quite tame and reasonable.


Once a Catholic, Furner gave up on God for reasons she gives below. Again, this doesn’t differ materially from testimonies we’ve read many times before. Still, it’s not useless, for the more people see others coming out as atheists in the media, the more acceptable nonbelief becomes.

One plaint: Furner’s writing is hyperbolic and overblown. While in the main she did a good thing in the main by writing her piece, if she wants to become a writer she needs to work on her prose and make it read less like a romance novel. Read it and you’ll see what I mean.

One excerpt:

I don’t use the word “blessed” anymore.

Instead, I say “lucky.” I don’t believe in luck, exactly, only the arbitrariness of my good fortune. My life is merely a smattering of circumstances. If any of those circumstances had been changed in any way anywhere along the way, so would my life be changed.

I prefer this view. I will not believe in a God who gets to choose which people suffer. If people suffer, it’s because circumstances of life happen, and whatever those circumstances happen to be either end up causing suffering or they don’t. Likewise, I do not believe that good people get rewarded for being good. I don’t believe pop stars win awards because they pray more than others. I don’t believe football players make touchdowns because God has chosen them to.

I don’t think there was a day where I woke up and decided that I was an atheist. It happened over time, as I experienced more inequalities in the world, as I learned more about science, as I witnessed more suffering. My parents mourn that I won’t one day join them in heaven, but the only place I’ve planned on going for a while now is the ground, where my body can nourish the earth and my energy can give life to something else.

. . . Without God, I’m more aware of how my actions affect others and affect my surroundings. I don’t expect God to save our planet, so now I’m more careful about what I throw away and I eat less meat. I don’t expect God to save humanity, so now I speak out against hate and try to be more patient and loving with my fellow humans. When tragedy comes, I don’t send thoughts and prayers; I give hugs and meals and help where I can.

I sometimes mourn not being part of the big Christian community in this country. It usually feels like I’m in the minority rather than the majority. But then I remember that now I’m part of a bigger community — the human community, the earth-dwelling community. Since I’ve cut God out of my life, I have so much more room for everyone else.

Now if only she’d stop capitalizing “God”, who doesn’t exist, and especially quit saying “a God”, for there are many gods and the word that refers to a generic deity doesn’t get capitalized. But I quibble. If you want to see how demonized atheists like Furner are in America, have a look at the comments. Many support her, but many do not, and they’re not sparing of the vitriol and personal remarks.  (The touchiness of the subject itself is shown by the number of comments: nearly 1500 as I wrote at 12:30 pm.)

Heidel goes on and on; here’s another one:


But if you want to be heartened instead of disappointed, sort the comments by “best” instead of “newest”. For many of the “best” comments are from fellow atheists.

Nevertheless, we still have a long way to go.  Religion will disappear not by deconversion, but by the death of believers and the rise of younger generations in a more humanistic world.



  1. Cindi
    Posted December 1, 2019 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    So, I read the many folks that replied to her story and I say BS to the majority of them. Don’t try to throw “GOD” into anything since you have not died and do not know what lies ahead of anyone. I am atheist and do not believe that there is a “GOD” of any kind, I do believe in Science.

  2. Posted December 1, 2019 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    I capitalize God in reference to the Judeo-Christian god (no capitalization) because it is used like a name. But I never capitalize the pronouns he or him.

    • Posted December 2, 2019 at 6:44 am | Permalink

      I use the same rules. If I use “God” in a sentence the way that Christians use it e.g. “God is not great” I capitalise it because it is a proper noun referring to a particular god. If I’m using it as a noun to refer to one of a class of supreme beings, I’ll use lower case, even in the case of the Christian god.

      It’s a bit like the way I capitalise “Ceiling Cat” but not “the cat in the ceiling”.

  3. Posted December 1, 2019 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    I’ve noted the American use of the word ‘blessed’ instead of ‘lucky’ for years now. I noticed it only after moving to Canada 14 years ago and have mentioned it in previous comments here. Even in places as culturally similar to the US as Canada (one might say, the closest, sharing language and an awful lot of infrastructure), you see such differences in stark contrast.

    I’m continually disappointed by the frequent and almost knee-jerk jumps to irrational, magical thinking by so many Americans. From sports, where curses and other superstitious factors are taken seriously, to the rampant belief in angels, ghosts, the devil and an afterlife by so many, to the steadfast opinion that there is no such thing as morality without the threat of torture in such an afterlife (even, it seems according to these comments, to those who no longer believe in such things!), Americans always value belief over reason, passion over logic, and denigrate anyone who does not see things their way.

    It saddens me that the country of my birth is now dominated by voices of irrationality and intolerance, and makes me more convinced that I can no longer live there, no matter whether things are moving in the right direction or not. The US is still too religious for me.

    • Posted December 1, 2019 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

      Well said! The sports connection is particularly galling. One would think people would pray before getting into their cars since road rage is becoming so pervasive, but I’m convinced many people aren’t sincerely devout as much as they want to trumpet themselves. But whether or not people actually believe in a supernatural realm, religion is closely linked to narcissism in American culture.

      I also hate the many references to God and Jesus and magic and “coincidences” (implying ESP, etc.) in true crime shows. Oh, and the victim is always the most wonderful, virtuous person in the world. It worries me how many cops are religious and downright evangelical.

      • Rita Prangle
        Posted December 1, 2019 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

        I saw a funny cartoon of a losing football player being interviewed after the game: he says “First, I’d like to blame the Lord for causing us to lose today!”

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted December 1, 2019 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

          Haha. I’d love to hear that or “first, I’d like to thank Satan for our win today. Hail Satan! Hail the dark lord!”

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted December 1, 2019 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

          Must be confusing for God, what with all the prayers coming from and for opposing sports teams — I mean, except for Notre Dame football, of course; everyone knows they’re the Good Lord’s favorite.

          His help isn’t always enough to ensure a Fighting Irish victory, but I figure it’s worth at least a point-and-a-half in the betting spread. More, when when they’re playing at home within sight of Touchdown Jesus. 🙂

          • Posted December 2, 2019 at 6:47 am | Permalink

            Does God support the team with the best prayers or the best players?

            • ThyroidPlanet
              Posted December 2, 2019 at 7:01 am | Permalink

              Ah – clearly a mistranslation of “l” from the Greek scriptures.

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted December 2, 2019 at 7:45 am | Permalink

              According to Scripture (as interpreted by Damon Runyon), the race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that’s still the way to handicap ’em.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted December 2, 2019 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

                Ken, I don’t know that Runyon saying. Which story was that in?


              • Ken Kukec
                Posted December 3, 2019 at 10:36 am | Permalink

                I don’t know that it appears in any of his stories, but it was a quote he gave The Milwaukee Sentinel in 1939 (though I understand he said it originated with a sportswriter named Hugh Keough).

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted December 4, 2019 at 5:07 am | Permalink

                Thanks Ken. I recently re-read almost all of Runyon’s stories and I thought I would have remembered if I’d seen it. 🙂


            • phoffman56
              Posted December 2, 2019 at 8:08 am | Permalink

              Wit mah down-to-earth-iNiFiL-speak, ah tink it’s da best pwayahs.

          • randy bessinger
            Posted December 2, 2019 at 8:40 am | Permalink

            Ken, you make me laugh…Thank you!

          • Posted December 2, 2019 at 11:20 am | Permalink

            KK – don’t know if you have ever been to the ND stadium, but TD Jesus is most impressive!! He is 132 feet high and 65 feet wide, containing 81 types of stone from 16 countries. All he needs is a stripped shirt.

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted December 2, 2019 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

              Yeah, I’ve made the hajj to South Bend, Doug. 🙂

        • Posted December 1, 2019 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

          lol. God made me fumble that ball. It is about time that people start blaming God for the bad things that happen rather than thanking him for the good things.

        • Posted December 2, 2019 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

          Voltaire supposedly said that god is on the side of the best shots, not the biggest armies. I suspect an analogous thing is true of sporting events. 😉

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted December 2, 2019 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

        “Oh, and the victim is always the most wonderful, virtuous person in the world.”

        I’d noticed that.

        The moral is, be a complete and utter bastard and an arsehole to everybody. That way, you will never suffer a tragic or violent death.



  4. Diana MacPherson
    Posted December 1, 2019 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    I always enjoy the vapid remark that the atheists should see what it’s like in a non religious country. What like Scandinavia? Or maybe they mean N Korea but there the religion is the Dear Leader who is a god.

    • Mark R.
      Posted December 1, 2019 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

      They don’t even understand how much better it is to live in a non religious state, which would be a democratic (blue) state. The republican, religiously addled states have the worst health care, education, poverty, economy, voting rights, workers rights, etc. This is a generalization of course, but I just googled…the 10 “worst” states to live in are all red states, mostly in the south; the 10 “best” states are all blue but 2. Utah is one of them, so I guess that means the mormons have a better religion than the christians, since their state is one of the best places to live and the southern christian states are in the dregs.

      • Posted December 2, 2019 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

        I’ve made that point many times, but sometimes I wonder if I’m confusing cause and effect; In other words, are the states with the worst health care, education, voting and worker’s rights religious because of that condition (i.e, Things are bad, so the remaining consolation is religion) or is it that being more religious results in someone with political views less likely to support the activities that a more enlighten (and I use that word ironically) state government would be involved in, like health care funding, education, union membership, etc.

    • Geoff Toscano
      Posted December 1, 2019 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

      Indeed. The favourite dictators of the twentieth century, Hitler, Stalin, Pol
      Pot get a mention (though, as usual, they conveniently omit the other horror, Franco, because he was a fervent Catholic) as being atheist. Ignoring arguments as to whether they were actually atheists it’s a fact that they adopted the tools of religion and, effectively, replaced church religion with state religion, whereby they became gods themselves.

      • chris moffatt
        Posted December 1, 2019 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

        Funny there’s no mention of those well-documented christian hi-jinks such as the thirty years war, the albigensian crusade, the eighty years war and the french wars of religion to name only a few.

      • Posted December 2, 2019 at 6:53 am | Permalink

        I don’t think Hitler was an atheist, at least not at the time he wrote Mein Kampf. He references God a lot in his speeches and writing, although, I concede that might be just a rhetorical device like “God does not play dice”.

        • Posted December 2, 2019 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

          Richard Carrier has also analyzed this question with more thoroughness than I would want to do (reading Hitler stuff is sort of awful). He concludes Hitler was a theist, but likely not exactly a Christian of any usual denomination – likely his own.

      • Posted December 2, 2019 at 9:06 am | Permalink

        That ain’t the half of it when it came to the Nazi ‘god fearers’ take a look at this epic from Coel.
        Coel is a reader/regular here at WEIT

    • Al
      Posted December 2, 2019 at 3:08 am | Permalink

      Sweden has become an object lesson in how unfortunate ideologies can fill the void left by religion.

    • Pierluigi Ballabeni
      Posted December 2, 2019 at 4:23 am | Permalink

      According to a 2012 Eurobarometer survey, the Czech Republic and France have higher proportions of atheists in their population than Sweden.

  5. Randall Schenck
    Posted December 1, 2019 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    I was going to recommend to her, but think you already did in a way. Just tell your story to other atheists and don’t bother with the public confession. Maybe that is some of that left over Catholic in you. The religious don’t deserve to hear from you and they certainly don’t get it. Ignorance is very deep in their world. Just hearing that you are an atheists requires that they go after you like a four-legged Trump goes after a female, or a democrat or you name it.

    Enjoy your atheism in your own way and be glad you have removed the chains of religion that do you no good. It is probably like beating the smoking habit although I really couldn’t say since I have been atheist all my life. I quit smoking over 10 years ago.

    • Mark R.
      Posted December 1, 2019 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

      I quit god and smoking. I quit god in my teens, and smoking in my early 40’s. It was much harder to quit smoking. It was a relief quitting god.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted December 1, 2019 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

        Having never started g*d I never gave it much thought until I started following PCC and Dawkins. I do believe you never miss what you never had.

        I was close to 60 before I quit smoking. Not easy but necessary.

  6. Historian
    Posted December 1, 2019 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    I’m glad that the HuffPo posted this article. But, yet, on the home page, three articles to the left is one about a surgeon who relates praying to God after a difficult surgery. The patient survived against all odds. The implication is that God may have had something to do with it. Although this site is leftist ideologically in regard to politics, on other topics, I think they will post anything they think will get clicks.

    • RGT
      Posted December 1, 2019 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

      Ah, the old “god guides the surgeons knife” line. Wouldn’t it make more sense to pray to god before a difficult surgery rather than after

      • Posted December 2, 2019 at 5:26 am | Permalink

        Wouldn’t it be even better if god didn’t cause or allow the health problem that required surgery?

  7. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted December 1, 2019 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    Is this standard news fare – the “opinion” pieces in the papers that argue the opposition, but for the audience which is the opposition of that opposition? Example : apparently pro-Trump opinion piece in WaPo? I’m not sure how much is accomplished by these efforts.

  8. Posted December 1, 2019 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    Why do these “believers” (and do they REALLY believe in the supernatural, or just in “something larger” with some nostalgia for church/house of worship and “coincidences” thrown in) truly believe that regressing into canned thought is somehow liberating from not only retrograde ignorance but also the commercial, corporate, internet-pumped and social media-hyped Frankenstein “religion” has become today?
    They’re like pseudo-goths who write about suicide but don’t really have a reason to do it or any understanding of real pain.
    These religious apologists sound like people who “feel sorry” for anyone not watching Game of Thrones or partaking in any of the latest hyped drivel. How sad.

  9. Posted December 1, 2019 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    lol – is this a case of ‘conscious bias’? I knew religion was big in the US, but this amount of pushback over a simple article of non-faith is mind boggling. Apparently it’s perfectly okay to be religious, but it’s arrogant in the extreme to make a statement of non-belief in public. Most atheists, myself included, have no interest in converting anyone. Why are so many people feeling so threatened?

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted December 1, 2019 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

      Social control. Moving away from the established norms is punished by the enforcers.

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted December 1, 2019 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

        That’s true but I think something more is going on. Atheism is an existential threat to them; it’s all or nothing, and they’re the ones who are terrified that their “all” might actually be nothing at all, so they mount a pathetic defense of fear that they think is an offense (well, it is offensive, but in the other sense of the word).

      • Posted December 2, 2019 at 4:00 am | Permalink

        True, but it seems to hark back to the 50’s and early 60’s when stigma was very much alive and well. We haven’t come very far. 😦

  10. rickflick
    Posted December 1, 2019 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    Thank god! At last we hear from an atheist in a national publication like HuffPo.

    • Andrew
      Posted December 1, 2019 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

      I agree. As a doubting young adult, surrounded by religious people, I thought I was the only one. It’s great to have a place where your ideas are reflected and you can see you are not alone.

      • rickflick
        Posted December 1, 2019 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

        Among the readership of HuffPo, I’m sure there are at least a large scoopful of people in that exactly circumstance.

        • Posted December 1, 2019 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

          I was going to say that maybe HuffPo will try more of this sort of thing. Reader support will be noticed.

  11. Steve Pollard
    Posted December 1, 2019 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    Some of those comments are hilarious; but many of them strike me as coming from people who are pretty frightened: maybe of death, maybe of the future more generally, maybe because they have been told they are miserable sinners who might be in the running for the everlasting pit, who knows.

    The second interminable comment from Eric Heider reminds me of a wish I have sometimes had in my less generous moods: that, before their final moments of existence, the most rabid religionists (Ayatollah Khamenei, say, or Ann Coulter) should have a vision of the universe as it really is: godless, pitiless and entirely natural. How uncharitable of me.

    • Posted December 2, 2019 at 9:48 am | Permalink

      That sounds like a beautiful vision to me. I don’t know that they deserve it.

    • Posted December 2, 2019 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

      I would hope that they would encounter each other and find their own ridiculousness mirrored back in a way that provokes reflection, but alas …

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted December 2, 2019 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

        Yep, that was my instinctive reaction. They should get stuck in a lift (elevator) with each other…


  12. phoffman56
    Posted December 1, 2019 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    From the first letter:
    “They have a Christian priviledge.”

    Existence of a ledge upon which is a privy (see definition if needs be) would then indicate that there are special narrow open air mountain christian places where one may ‘take a shyte’, in the less than delicate language of a rural northerner (or Shakespeare’s). In what way would it differ from a muslim such place? Hopefully the climbers coming up from below are at least wearing helmets.

    Perhaps there are some spelling problems here, since lower down his “Chritan people” surely should have the spelling ‘Cretin’, should it not?

    • Jim Danielson
      Posted December 1, 2019 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

      I wonder if he’s heard of Japan, a non Christian country that has one of the lowest crime rates on the face of the planet.

      • Al
        Posted December 2, 2019 at 3:03 am | Permalink

        Their respect for the law is most likely the result of their buddhist and shinto beliefs. I think there is a very strong case to be made that Western culture was made possible by the Christian belief in the value of the individual and it seems a bit churlish to reject the possibility out of hand. I think it is vital to understand the forces that shaped our civilization or we are in danger of destroying them. It seems fairly obvious to me that religion has been replaced by self-serving secular dogmas the fervour of which is in inverse proportion to their degree of identification as religious. Personally, I don’t want my antipathy toward religion to blind me to recognition of it’s possible.

        • rickflick
          Posted December 2, 2019 at 8:11 am | Permalink

          Their respect for the law is most likely the result of their buddhist and shinto beliefs.

          I have no idea if that’s true or not, but it’s possible that Shinto and Buddhist beliefs are the result of their respect for the law. In other words, culture is possible because of innate human characteristics. The particular form of the culture reflects local adaptation.

        • Jim Danielson
          Posted December 2, 2019 at 9:49 am | Permalink

          If you read the first screen capped comment you will see Heidel states Christianity is responsible for people following the law and other countries that are not Christian show that. That Christianity is special in this way.

          Which I disproved by the reference to Japan. Nor is this the first time I’ve seen this argument, that Christianity especially creates a more moral society.

          The difference between Japan and the highly Christian USA is stark. The US is violent with a high murder rate, personal property crimes is high. In Japan crime of almost all types are extremely low. Vending machines sit in remote areas unmolested, abandoned houses with valuable contents are left untouched, for decades. There is very, very little graffiti or vandalism in Japan.
          Unlike the USA.

          Christian societies have done pretty horrific things, with the full blessings or insistence of the Church(s). Slavery, genocide, murder, torture, theft, rape. The Conquistadors arrived with priests that approved everything they did. Christian UK made a fortune selling opium to the Chinese in full knowledge of the damage they were doing.

          Your assertion that adherence to the rule of law is the result of Shintoism and or Buddhism is an assertion without evidence. Imperial Japan had the same religions but also committed acts of slavery, genocide, murder, torture, all across the Pacific, treating the ‘other’ as little more than vermin.

          Buddhism grew out of China which has a culture of ‘if you’re dumb enough to get scammed by me, too bad for you’. Something that appears in the USA as well, including by Christian televangelists and preachers.

          Some of the countries with the highest crime rates in the world are Christian (South America) and Islamic (Africa/Middle East).
          Conversely some of the countries with the lowest crime rates in the world are Christian, Islamic, and largely ‘nones’. Less crime seems tied much stronger to economic well being than to religion.

          All that said I don’t see how you separate religion from culture and culture from religion, and show which one created the major influence, or law, governmental policies and social pressure.

  13. Ken Kukec
    Posted December 1, 2019 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

    … if she wants to become a writer she needs to work on her prose and make it read less like a romance novel.

    Least she skipped the Harlequin bodice-ripping, though she seemed to be trying too hard to impress her high-school English comp teacher, bloating a 15-word aperçu into a 30-something paragraph HuffPo piece.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted December 1, 2019 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

      As I grow older, I get more and more impatient with long back story introductions. I find myself skipping several paragraphs to determine if what they are saying in the main part of the article is worth my time.

      • rickflick
        Posted December 1, 2019 at 11:09 pm | Permalink

        Me too, he said guiltily.

  14. Roger
    Posted December 1, 2019 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

    Type type type typity type type… still no god.

    • Posted December 2, 2019 at 10:35 am | Permalink

      And vanity, vanity, vanity about their goody-two-shoes, sanctimonious selves – and still no God. (I love turning their language back on them, since religion today is mostly a parody of itself, anyway. Want an example of a devout Christian? Charles Darwin turning away from the cloth to study nature, writing about a new theory and become an agnostic.)

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted December 2, 2019 at 10:58 am | Permalink

        Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.

        — Ecclesiastes 1:2

        See, even the devil nonbeliever can cite Scripture for his purpose. 🙂

  15. philfinn7
    Posted December 1, 2019 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

    I am a bit surprised at this – Now if only she’d stop capitalizing “God”. Surely that is rather handy shorthand that many of us use all the time, despite our lack of belief. A quick look through posts on WEIT shows that it’s not uncommon for Professor Ceiling Cat to do the same.

    • Posted December 2, 2019 at 4:39 am | Permalink

      Yes, I’m inconsistent about that, but never capitalize “god” when it refers to generic gods rather than specific gods.

      • Posted December 2, 2019 at 5:39 am | Permalink

        I, too, am inconsistent in referring to “god” or “God”, just as I am with certain punctuation rules. “A god” doesn’t refer to a specific god as far as I can tell. Context matters. And, most atheists I know are well aware of the great many gods there are and have been throughout history. They may be given the same value and honor given to a christian “god” or “God” by any atheist.

  16. Posted December 2, 2019 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    Great post thank you for sharing ♥️💯
    Merry Christmas Wishes

    JAC note: I have removed the link above to the website (this comment was obviously intended to advertise the commenter’s website), as the site is anonymous and the Roolz prohibit calling attention to your site if it’s run anonymously.

  17. Dominic
    Posted December 2, 2019 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Has anyone read Tom Holland’s new book, Dominion? All about goddiness & how it made the world we are…?

    I refuse to read it!

  18. Posted December 2, 2019 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    Capitalizing God is ok as we normally capitalize the names of fictional characters.

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