I travel quite a bit and am often asked about my religious beliefs. I am atheist. I found it hard for some religious (or spiritual) people (whatever religion) to accept the concept of atheism and many would state something like
You necessarily believe in something.
and then ask
What do you believe in?
It is often hard for me to answer this question because
- I am not a trained philosopher and I do not fully fathom what the answer could be
- Most people I meet during my trips have little knowledge in philosophy and it is therefore hard to explain my thoughts in simple terms (plus, we sometimes don't quite speak the same language).
Justification of beliefs
Of course, I have all sorts of beliefs.
Many of my beliefs are justified by the scientific methods. Many of my beliefs are justified by some other method, eventually generally considered as less convincing method. Some of my beliefs cannot be true or false. For example, I believe that it is bad or unethical for an employer to cut the hands and feet of his/her employee's children because the employee did not work hard enough (I'm looking at you Belgian Congo!). Such beliefs, I think are justified based on my set of ethical values (which themselves are rather unjustified I guess).
Of course, when asking
What do you believe in?, the person asking the question will not be satisfied if I list this kind of beliefs.
Essentialism vs existentialism
It is possible that when claiming
You necessarily believe in something the asker shows he/she do not accept the idea that someone may not be essentialist.
Of course, being atheist is not synonymous with being existentialist (or nihilist) and being theist is not synonymous with being essentialist but there is still a pretty good correlation (I would suppose) and I would guess that many people asking this question might actually be asking
What gives meaning to your life?.
Being an existentialist, I would be fine to just explain that I feel free to put meaning in my life in whatever seems fit to me. I am trying to be happy, eventually to make people happy around me, I like to be amazed by the world and I like dark chocolate (!) but I doubt this will be received as a satisfying answer either and it may sounds like I am not answering a question that may seem simple in appearance.
I am looking for advice on how to simply, yet clearly answer
You necessarily believe in something. What do you believe in?