An atheist, by definition, does not believe in the existence of any deities or an afterlife.

It's that simple. Some atheists and theists try to make it more difficult than this. DON'T. Please remember this: atheists are only guaranteed to agree on one thing, and that is the above definition.

Both atheists and theists, though especially theists, will from time to time group atheists together as having certain characteristics. If you do this, you are silly. Atheists are individuals and have different ethics, interests and passions. Atheists may or may not believe in life on other planets, be vegetarians, like the colour green or listen to They Might Be Giants. As far as I know, some atheists may believe in ghosts (as something else other than a spirit from the afterlife).

Common misconceptions regarding atheists in general, and my PERSONAL responses (other atheists might not agree with me):

Atheism is no good (for morale, I suppose, or it's un-American).

Atheism is wonderful. I think for myself and I have a free mind. I'm not a servile automaton, and I'm not a worshipping machine. I experience beauty, joy and passion without fearing sin or hellfire. I do things for myself instead of asking someone else to do it for me. Atheism means sleeping in on Sundays and doing it without guilt.

Atheists have nothing to live for.

I have everything to live for, since the only place I'm going when I die is in the ground (or a science lab, I haven't decided yet). My brief time on earth is all I've got to experience and enjoy everything I can. Frankly, if I thought I was going to spend the good life in heaven for eternity, I'm not sure why I'd want to waste my time here on earth.

There's nothing to stop atheists from committing crimes, being mean, etc.

We do have our ethics, and uphold them as much as any theist. I've only got this life to live, so I'm keen on making it the best I can. That means not making people miserable or getting myself thrown in prison.

Atheists pick on Christians.

And Christians pick on everyone else. Some of them, anyway. Christianity is as false as any other religion in the world, but Christians are the only theists pushing their religion on everyone else. I have not recently heard about Wiccans attempting to get their creation myth taught in public schools, nor have I had Native Americans banging on my door.

Specific examples:

I often told my husband that he was an "atheist for all practical purposes". He detested the label, saying that he didn't want to be an atheist because he didn't want to be an "activist". That's not what being an atheist is about. It's personal preference if someone wants to be an activist, but it doesn't come with the package. I've since decided he's a Deist.

One of my favourite atheist authors is Frank Zindler. Zindler wrote the book Dial an Atheist, which humourously exposes some of the absurdities of Christianity and those who follow it blindly. What I didn't like was when he took different types of music and listed what percentage of atheists listen to which type. He was very pleased to announce that most atheists listen to classical music. Does this mean anything? No, but Zindler made it sound as if atheists are more cultured than anyone else. What type of music atheists and theists listen to really has nothing to do with anything, and does not reflect on the definition of an atheist. I personally rarely listen to classical music.

Silly things once said:

"Darwin was a naturalist; that means he was an atheist."

Nope. A naturalist studies the natural world, regardless of his or her belief system. Darwin was probably never an atheist, he simply found evidence for a mechanism by which the theory of evolution works. And while I'm on the subject...

"Why believe in the theory of evolution without evidence?"

There are many evidences to support evolution. If there were none, it would not be a scientific theory.

And my personal favourite..."The Bible says that the fool has said in his heart there is no God. That's enough for me."

And by the same logic, you could also believe that Elvis is still alive and that little green men abduct people. People swear by it, so it must be true, right?

But I digress...

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