When I wrote the piece that appeared on CNN, I wrote it as an iReport. I just wanted to get my voice out there about some misconceptions. I wanted to be heard and understood. I wanted people to know that those of us who don’t believe are not bad. We DO have morals. We’re kind, loving people who want the same things as people who believe: we want to raise good children and have good lives.
I was shocked by the amount of response, and even more shocked by the number of people, both from faith and from no faith, who supported agnostics/atheists. If you’re a non-believer, you expect people to be angry. I did not take that personally. Those people lash out because of their own fears and insecurities. But I was floored by the amount of people who felt the same way. I don’t feel so isolated, and I hope others feel the same way.
I was also glad that this opened up a dialogue, and it brought doubters out, made them want to speak up. It’s sort of like immunotherapy: every time we talk about this, each discussion, can move us closer to mainstream acceptance. It means that our children may live in a world where religion does not dominate a political discussion, where they can speak up and say, “No thanks, I don’t believe.” It means that we will never have to worry about Creationism sneaking into our classrooms and textbooks.
For now, I have to admit, I am relieved that I have been able to retain anonymity in my community. Writing this piece has shown me how many kind and thoughtful people are out there, but it has also reminded me that there are a few very, very angry people. These people make nonbelievers fearful. We’re seen as the Devil’s work, and if you believe that the Devil controls people like puppets, then I don’t know what other realities you have trouble with.
One more observation…I see that one popular argument against agnostics and atheists is that “we don’t understand.” Or, we haven’t tried religion. Very few of the people who commented had actually been raised without religion. Most of us have been there, done that. We’ve given a lot of thought and reflection to our stance. We read religious texts and books. We didn’t come to this place of disbelief lightly. It’s a difficult place to be. It takes some getting used to. There are no safety nets. There’s no big guy in the sky watching our backs.
It can sometimes be a scary place, but knowing there are other people out there who have these same views is comforting.