Frequently Asked Questions
By nature, most atheists and agnostics are happy to answer questions about their beliefs. Here are some of the questions that come up most often.
This FAQ page answers some of the more basic questions about the Coalition of Reason, atheism, humanism, and agnosticism. If you have more questions, please send us an email—or come to any of our events and ask.
What is atheism?
What is Humanism?
How can you be good without God?
What is the difference between an atheist and an agnostic?
What is the Pittsburgh Coalition of Reason, and what is its purpose?
How can my local secular group become part of the Pittsburgh Coalition of Reason?
A-theism literally means “without theology,” or “the absence of a belief in god.” The term atheist is also used to refer to someone who believes deities probably do not exist. Technically, many people who believe in a god (or gods) are a-theist when it comes to thousands of other deities like Thor or Zeus. You might also hear people call themselves "non-theists," or "non-believers, " which means the same thing.
The American Humanist Association defines Humanism as "a progressive lifestance that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead meaningful, ethical lives capable of adding to the greater good of humanity."
The term humanism comes from philosophy or religion, where it refers to a worldview that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, and the value of evidence and critical thinking over dogma or faith. Secular humanism is a nonreligious worldview that embraces reason, naturalism (the belief that nothing exists beyond the natural world), altruism (caring for others), and fairness. It is sometimes referred to as Humanism (with a capital H).
The answer to this question is simple: belief in God has nothing to do with whether someone is a moral person.
There are people who believe in God who do immoral things, and there are people who do not believe in God who still live by the same high moral standards outlined in many religions. Why is this? It's because humans are a social species. We rely on one another to survive, and we know that everyone benefits when we cooperate with one another. Even some animals who live in groups know how to be compassionate and how to share. We are all born with an innate ability to understand fairness and to feel emotions like empathy and guilt. From the time we are children, those instincts and intuitions help us learn what is right and wrong. In fact, one might say that most religions grow from humans' innate ability to understand and live by the golden rule.
In short, morals are the standards most people choose to follow because it is better for everyone. Some of these standards are universal; no matter their background, most people agree we should do good and not hurt one another. Cultures and religions are different, however, when it comes to the details. Since non-believers tend to ask a lot of questions about religion and cultural values, we are likely to have considered the impacts of those differences. That means we're making informed moral decisions based on real-world consequences, and on values we have developed carefully over time. We embrace integrity, kindness, and fairness because we realize those are truly human—or "humanist"—values.
An atheist is someone who doesn't believe in a god or gods. An atheist says, "I don't believe in God," or "I don't believe God exists." An agnostic is someone who thinks it's impossible to know whether God exists. An agnostic would say, "we cannot know or prove whether God exists." Some people are both agnostic and atheist; they think it's unlikely that God exists, and that it's impossible to know for sure.
Pittsburgh CoR is a chapter of the United Coalition of Reason, a national, non-profit organization. CoR chapters exist in dozens of cities across the United States. Pittsburgh CoR is a coalition of secular groups whose purpose is to:
- Generate awareness for and increase participation in the local secular community.
- Promote communication and cooperation among local secular groups.
- Provide a centralized source for member group events and information.
Pittsburgh CoR is here to support Pittsburgh's secular community, and we warmly welcome new groups who could benefit from joining us. If your group would like to become a member of the Coalition, please e-mail our local coordinator.