Why do I do this? Why do I strive with believers who sometimes seem impervious to logic? Why do I care?
This appeared in my Facebook feed yesterday. I don’t think Pastor Chuck knew I saw it.
“He is dear to me – but is quite outspoken in his atheism.”
How interesting. I had no idea that, while I was supposed to let my light shine, and not hide it “under a bushel/bowl” (Matt 5:15-16) as a Christian, now having left that behind, I’m supposed to shut up and not say anything? My being outspoken is a problem?
Actually, for them it is a problem. Earlier, shortly after my deconversion (and yes, Chuck, that is what we call it, because we have done exactly that) another Christian friend, whom I’ve referred to as Titus, actually urged me not to share my thoughts with other believers for fear I would lead others to fall away. I don’t recall his exact words, but he told me that it was okay if I didn’t want to believe for myself, but that if I led others astray, I risked the Wrath of YHWH for leading others astray. He actually quoted Matthew 18:6 to me:
If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.
Now, forgive me a touch of mockery, but if I don’t believe in any of that, how is that supposed to scare me? And if I’m wrong and already going to Hell to suffer eternal torment, how am I supposed to be upset at qualifying for the Extra Torment version? Is it going to be even hotter? Will there be those around me who kept quiet and therefore are enjoying a slightly milder torture temperature?
In all seriousness, though, I’m disturbed by the fact that Chuck and others have consistently criticized not only my non-belief, but the fact that I’m, and I quote, outspoken, vociferous, brash, and an attention whore. Titus even told me that I wrote all this just to hear myself talk. I’m sure that I’m supposed to take all the in the spirit of love and caring, as it’s meant, but I wish they could somehow hear themselves with other ears.
Why is it a virtue for a Christian to speak up and be vociferous about their faith, but a something to be criticized when one is not a believer? Surely this falls under the same arrogance that drives their perception of Truth. They believe that, because they’re Right (with a capital “R”) that they should, and have every right to, shout it from the rooftops. But because they think we’re Wrong (another capital letter) we should keep our mouths shut. Yet another rank double-standard.
And I haven’t even gotten into what it’s supposed to mean for me to be defeated and come to the end of myself. Now I tend to be prickly, so it’s tough for me not to see that as some sort of wish for calamity to befall me in order to wake me up to my need for Jesus or somesuch. T is pretty sure I’m wrong about that and, as my wife, it’s her job to always be right, so I’ll go with her on this one.
So why do I do this?
Well, there are a few reasons.
One, I’ve always been outspoken. Always. I’ve always spoken my mind, for good or for ill. So whether or not I believe, I will be speaking my mind. Believers and non-believers alike are welcome to listen or to not listen. I’ll still be saying my piece.
Two, a little selfishly, I have a lot to process. Twenty-six years of religious thinking doesn’t lend itself to a smooth and easy transition to living comfortably in a rational mindset. Plus there are little scars and detritus littered all about my life and the life of my family. There are also nice parts left over too. Part of this is processing through the refuse that needs to be left behind while holding onto the very human and positive things that occurred during my time in that community. I’m also processing the parts my own psychology and emotional issues played in my accepting belief, persisting in belief, and finally giving up that belief. This is my way of processing those things.
Three, I have come to believe that religion is a drag on the progress of society and the long-term survival of the human species. The religious mindset discourages the precise sort of rational, long-term thinking that we will likely require to survive terminal population growth. If we don’t destroy ourselves with ideological and religious wars and conflicts first, we will outgrow this planet and will need to find new homes within our solar system and eventually beyond. How can we as a species focus on such massively important scientific progress when we still have 40% of our population believing the world is 6,000 years old and that we all descended from an immortal couple who became mortal because a talking snake told them to eat fruit from the forbidden tree?
But the best reason, in my book, is this: We non-believers live in a country where we are a minority, and in many, perhaps most communities, are discriminated against, vilified, and treated with open derision. Our rights to religious freedom (and freedom from it) are openly and disrespectfully run over roughshod by the Christian majorities in these communities. We are outcast by our families and our friends. We are treated as pariah, as interlopers, as unworthy citizens. Sometimes, in the midst of all that bullshit, we need to know we’re not alone.
I’ll share a few comments I’ve received over the past year or two:
Thanks for telling your story. I am still working through the process myself. I have not yet been prepared to call myself an atheist. But my faith has crumbled. I have pulled out of church leadership and stopped attending services, though the church folk think I am having a bit of a break.
I suspect it is to do with my personality, I crave certainty and tend to a pessimist. I still have a lingering worry that I might be wrong in my conclusion that the Bible is a human creation. So I find it hard to act based on what every part of my intellect tells me, really. But I know I will need to follow what my mind tells me, as I can no longer see the Bible as divine.
Thanks for stories, such as yours they help people like me to make the same journey.
I really do admire your wife, she seems to be a most wonderful person.
He’s also quite right about my wife. Smart guy!
Thank you for sharing your story. It was very well written and easy to follow but, more importantly, it makes me feel completely normal. Okay. Not a freak. Not alone. So thank you so much for that.
I am beyond happy to find this Blog. I feel alone in this journey of mine. I have kept this a secret. I just told my husband last year and now I have given hints to my teenage children. I do not outright say my doubts, I just throw questions out there. I will admit, I am fearful that I am wrong and Jesus is our salvation and I have condemned myself to hell and possibly my children if they follow in my footsteps.
I’m so thankful for this blog. For the better part of 4 years I haven’t spoken to my family more than the typical cordial holiday greetings and birthday wishes. They are devout Christians and I am on the cusp of my own complete break from the chains of the faith. I’ve never felt supported by my family in any way. Before my father married the woman he is with now he never pushed religion on me in any way. Then when she came along I was forced to go to church, forced to pray, forced to cancel my astronomy class because I’m not supposed to “look to the heavens,” forced to dump my mixed race boyfriend because “even the bible says the races shouldn’t mix” (her exact words). Even as a child I knew that all of these things were completely asinine but under their roof I better not ever say that out loud! I love my family but religion has made them nasty, ugly, judgemental, unsupportive people that I simply love from a distance. I too feel like Poppy that I’m alone and that if I admit my non-belief to anyone I will be looked at like a freak or a demon even. I’m waiting for my breakthrough but until then I will continue reading 🙂
Anyway … I wanted to let you know that I’ve enjoyed reading your blog this afternoon. Conflict or no, it’s good to know I’m not sitting out on an island by myself talking to a volleyball named Wilson even though it sometimes feels that way.
From jim (sic)
I’ve been reading your blogs with much interest and delight. After calling myself a Christian for over 50 years I have recently renounced the faith. I basically came to the same conclusions that you have over a period of about 5 or 6 years. It all started with research for sermons (lay pastor) that I was preparing. One thing led to another, one question led to another, one book led to another and when my reading led me off the prescribed grid my eyes started to open. I fell off the wagon with much pain and soul searching but off the wagon I came. It has been very difficult to explain my position to my wife and friends who are still Christian so I mostly just keep my mouth shut. It’s good to know that I’m not alone. Thanks for you writing.
I’m pretty much in the closet about my faith (or non faith lol) when my husband talks to me about it…. He says he thinks I was never saved now. And the stories I read from others.. They probably weren’t ever saved either. It’s frustrating because I want to talk about things that don’t line up straight about God, and I mostly get dismissed because the only conclusion…. I was never truly saved.
I love your blog… Yours was the first that I found. You helped me to see I’m not alone. Christians do not understand how hard this is and how frightening it is to say you no longer believe . Don’t let his unkind words bother you. I know there are so many like me that are so happy we found you!!!
If there’s ever a reason for me to do this, it’s comments like these. While I’ve been fortunate to be in an environment that’s much more accepting, many are like some of these folks who are utterly alone and scan the internet because they’re afraid (and have been told) that they’re abnormal, that they’re freaks, or even demons. Then they see that they’re not alone. Not only do they see what I write, but the many thoughtful commenters who’ve also tread the lonesome road of non-belief.
So yes, I blog for myself, for my own peace of mind, but I also do it because I know I’m not alone, and I hope others will also find some solace and comfort knowing they’re not freaks or demons, and that they’re very much not alone.