“Amy,” you must be wondering, “why do you talk about (non)belief as if that’s a term we all know and use?”

My use of the term (non)belief signifies the relationship of atheism to theism in American culture. I use the parentheses to try to highlight the subordinate status of (non)belief to any belief in the supernatural. Atheism is so rarely presumed. To assert (non)belief as specifically a religious worldview — since I only am revealed as a (non)believer when presented with someone else’s beliefs — is somewhat shocking to people.

In America, a nation dominated by Christians, there’s an accepted set of “normal” (statistically prevalent) beliefs. I don’t believe in any gods or any supernatural phenomenon, but it’s clear to me that, when I say that I’m an atheist, most people believe that the god I’m denying is the god of the Hebrews. Therefore, my public (non)belief exists primarily in relationship to the beliefs of others; some Christians take offense that I don’t accept Jesus as my personal lord and savior, but none are bothered that I refuse to accept Loki. I’d rather this not be the case, but in the current climate, (non)belief exists as a response to belief.