Revelations

One thing I learned about being honest about my religious beliefs is this: it does put an emotional distance between “us” and “them.”

The thing is, for those of us who grew up in religious families, when you express your doubts you become an outsider. Like it or not. You do. You are trouble. A traitor, a deserter, a defector. Why couldn’t you play along, sweep those misgivings and suspicions under the rug like so many else do? Why do you have to make a big deal about the obvious? There is no sign of god here. Not really. Everyone knows that. Why do you have to make everyone else feel like they’ve been smiling with spinach between their front teeth?

So many celebrations and rites-of-passages take place within religions—Christmas, Hanukkah, Easter, Bar Mitzvahs, marriages, baptisms, funerals. For believers, the last place their bodies will travel is through the doors of their places of worship. In our dissent, we reject all of these milestones, celebrations and comforts.

What they don’t realize: it’s not personal. You still want the celebrations and rites-of-passages, just grounded, here on this planet, with veritable people.

Even your parents, the people who are supposed to love you unconditionally, resent you–perhaps just a little–for being different. You are a disappointment. You dropped the baton that was passed to you in the relay of life; you’ve shunned tradition. You refuse to believe like everyone else; you’re so recalcitrant, so difficult. You want proof and facts and things that no one else has asked for, at least not openly.

Sure, everyone is polite. People don’t like conflict. But there are the looks and the nods and you know, without even being told, that you are no longer part of their club. And, of course, the phone calls and texts and emails slow to a trickle and conversations become perfunctory. They don’t want to be placed under the same scrutiny that you’ve placed their religion.

You understand, even though you know it’s not necessary. You’re still the same person on the inside.

Then one day you realize that you’re standing on a shore alone, and in the distance, well out of reach, are your kinsfolk and maybe even some or all of your friends, sailing out to sea. They’re waving from the boat.

And they’re not smiling.

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75 responses to “Revelations

  1. I find this post very insightful. I come from a religion that actually shuns those that no longer believe, so recognizing the distance it causes is somewhat redundant. However, I’ve seen it in others too. This look in their eye when I say I am an atheist. This slight closing of the body language. Conversation changes too. A believer will inject comments about their beliefs and how much strength they draw from them, how ‘healthful’ they are. And it occurs to me that they are seeking validation. I know this, because I was once a believer with an atheist brother. I always sought to validate myself with him. As an atheist, I don’t back down from a good debate, but I also feel no need to be validated. I know where I stand and I understand I will be judged, no matter how gently. That’s okay. Yet as a believer, that really bothered me if it came from an atheist. Deep down, even though I felt I had the truth, I sensed they viewed me as child-like or mislead. That made me defensive. These days it is very easy for me to simply shrug it off. I know where I stand. I don’t need anyone to really respect that stand. I don’t need to legislate my stand. Nothing threatens it. I believe we are threatening to many believers. I don’t always understand why. Forgive me for any generalitites.

    • @callheadquarters ” I believe we are threatening to many believers.” I think you’re right.

    • LanceThruster

      Though religionists often take the attitude that atheists are ‘stupid’ for their unbelief/nonbelief, I find that they’re the ones oozing with intense insecurity, otherwise it would not matter that others did not share their worldview of the world of the supernatural. They can at least sooth themselves that other religionists are merely misguided in that they believe in the wrong god, but an atheist tosses out the whole pantheon and forces them to face the burden of proof their belief system requires.

      Nothing offends a person more than to reject their deeply held belief. ~ LT

      • LT- I think they must know that the whole business of god/religion is not logical and that’s why they’re insecure. Otherwise, why take it so personally??

        • they take it personally because they have turned their religion into a definition of themselves–it is who they are–and when someone says it is not true, and it has no value or rejects it they feel they are attacked in a personal way, their life view and who they are in danger. at least many think like this. the verse they use against atheists in the bible—a fool says in their heart there is not god—is what they think we are saying what they are–a fool for believing in god

    • I couldn’t agree more. When I was a fundamentalist Christian growing up, I always felt defensive about my beliefs, especially around my atheist friends. Now that the shoe is on the other foot so to speak, I no longer feel defensive about my beliefs at all. I don’t really like debating things very much b/c I’ve found that most adults are actually not mature enough to handle it, sadly enough. Nonetheless, I too no longer feel the need to justify or validate my beliefs (or lack thereof perhaps). It’s a great feeling.

  2. We are all standing on the shore alone, together. Fortunately, through the power of technology we are building our own boat.

  3. Did you see Morgan Spurlock’s 30 days episode on Christians and Athiests? It’s on Netflix, season 2, if not. It was filmed in Frisco, which I thought was ironic for me since I live in the area as well. I really was shocked at some of it. You really want to believe that the percentage of us who don’t believe are higher, but it’s not. Especially when you feel the disdain so often from family and friends. It gets pretty lonely. I sometimes feel like I’m in that episode of 30 days living here. And it’s really hard when you are trying to raise a child, to feel a sense of community when most groups are Christian based and you just feel like an outcast.

    • Hi Adrienne, I did not see that episode on Christians and Atheists by Morgan Spurlock. But I liked that fast food documentary he did. I will check it out. Thanks for the recommendation.

    • John the Librarian

      I just went and watched that based on your recommendation. I thought the Christian wife at least understood the Atheist, but the husband was pretty stereotypical close minded Christian (not to say that ALL Christians are close-minded, but those aren’t typically the ones that drive us all insane). The meeting with the Freethinkers was very telling in that the husband couldn’t (or wouldn’t) understand the point about “In God We Trust”
      The other thing I found interesting, although not surprising, was the expectations each side had going in… the Atheist was hoping to be understood and maybe make some new friends while the Christians seemed excited about the prospect of showing her the “truth”

      Thanks for the suggestion!

  4. Sandy Blakelock

    Debbie- I have enjoyed your blog very much for the last several months. There have been a number of columns that I wanted to respond to, but hesitated because 1-I haven’t read all your writings (or all the comments previously made in response) so I don’t know if my thoughts are repetitious and 2- I am uncomfortable being an “evangelist” but I am a “religious atheist” who has found a (I sort of choke on the word) “spiritual” home in a Unitarian Universalist congregation. It has given me a free thinking community that has supported my family thru the life events, given my kids a religious education that taught them how to think about religion rather than indoctrinating/brainwashing them into one. We have been able to put holidays and life events in secular context without making devoid of meaning.

    No, my mom and in laws were not pleased with our rejection of our religiously conservative heritage. but finding my UU home allowed me to not throw the baby (supportive community, vaues, etc) out with the bath water (belief in god).

    Sandy

    • Sandy, I had to comment on your post., I too, attend a UU congregation as an agnostic. After reading Dale mcgowan’s on Parenting without religon I looked them up and have been pleased that they provide religious literacy to the kids. Today my kids heard from a speaker about how she and her Muslim friends were treated wearing their headscarves. It sparked a conversation about how we treat others.
      It is nice to have a community and for me it offers me a little more structure for teaching my children about various religions with no prayer or a bible in sight. They are constantly reminded about kindness and acceptance. I can barely refer to it as “church” without twitching, however. I tried to come up with other names instead of church but my kids said it just sounded like we were attending a cult. Lol I am looking forward to telling my Mom that our minister is a woman AND a lesbian. That should rock her conservative Christian values. As Deborah mentioned, families don’t see us as part of the “club” so it is nice to have places such as here and other communities to be ourselves away from the sighing and eye rolling from others.

      • @Maureen Glad to hear you also found a home in the UU church. When my boys were young, I would sit down with them on Sunday mornings and give them a lesson on different religions or just talk the history of religion. I think it’s great that the UU actually does this. It’s much easier when someone else organizes the talks!

        That’s pretty funny — let me know what your mom thinks of your minister (hopefully she’ll surprise you in a good way)!

      • Maureen- glad to hear that you have found a home in UU! It truly takes a village to raise a child, and my UU congregation was my village. My kids (now aged 30 and 28) best friends were always those from their Religious Ed classes, and most of my closest friends were among their parents. One of my favorite RE curricula over the years has been “Neighboring Faiths”. It includes not only learning about the spectrum of religious thinking, but visiting their places of worship. About 20 years ago, our congregation voted to change our name from “church” to “congregation” (the building is “the meetinghouse”). “Church” is loaded with Christian ties, and it is not only ex-Christians looking for a more liberal, inclusive home. Jews, Muslims, Hindus are all more comfortable within the context of a congregation.

    • Hi Sandy–I’m glad you let me know you’re out there. Thanks for taking the time to write. I’ve heard good things about the Unitarian Universalist church–about how they embrace nonbelievers, too.

      Learning about religion is important, and it is nice to establish traditions. I think that’s why we’re now seeing “Atheist” churches. I noticed our paper had an ad for one today.

      Comment any time. I repeat myself often!

  5. For a long time I wondered why none of my still faithfull siblings ever asked me “Why?” when I left the church. Never once did they want to know from me why I no longer accept the thing which their whole world revovles around. I wondered if they cared for me at all. But this above is why. They default to the churches reasons for why one leaves; wants to sin, was offended, isnt a faithful righteous obedient servant of God. And even though I know they love me they see me as second class citizen in the family now.

    • @Anonymous I know how you feel. I (and others here) know and understand why you left. I can also tell you that, sometimes when you tell your family your reasons, they don’t believe you or they think that you just are going through a phase. It’s condescending…

  6. So sad, but so true.

  7. Greg LeMunyan

    In my view there is a very definite and accelerating move towards non-belief in the world especially in America, largely correlated with rapid technological growth. As an atheist I see parallels to the LGBT movement going on for 5 decades or so. I certainly am held as an out cast on both my spouse’s side and my family, but try to look at a bigger picture and see things in a historical context. Part of my world view is to continuously true myself to the right side of history and therefore place myself in the sometimes uncomfortable place of challenging my own opinions/views/ideas.
    Largely I refrain from talking about non-belief with relatives but I draw the line at defending myself. I have grown somewhat familiar with the existential loneliness, which has also had the effect of sweetening my experience of life.
    There are good Christians and there are bad atheists. The point is how shall we live? I watch some nasty battles on Atheist Facebook groups or skeptic blogs and come back to how should we live?
    It is a comfort to read your posts and at least know we are kindred spirits!

    • @Greg LeMunyan It does seem as if there are more nonbelievers–or perhaps they are just coming out because of the Internet. Maybe there’s that effect working–”if those folks don’t believe, there must be something I’m missing.” I do agree that this movement seems similar to the LGBT movement.

      I started this blog over 8 years ago because of that “existential loneliness” and out of frustration with people’s assumptions. I don’t talk with people about my beliefs unless they ask, not even on FB. I don’t want to be one of the in-your-face new atheists/agnostics. It would be hypocritical for me to do to the religious what they do to us. I don’t want them to try to convince me I’m wrong–and I don’t want to talk them out of their faith. As you said–people can get really nasty.

      I like connecting here on-line because it’s not threatening to anyone, and we can be honest in ways we can’t with our families.

  8. Deborah, this is a sad post but I take comfort in knowing that I am right beside you on the shore, whispering, “let them go, we’ll be fine…” Only we are on beach, a very crowded beach. It has a wonderful breeze. Now, where is my sunscreen?

  9. I have to admit I’m a cowardly atheist. I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone outright that I’m an atheist. I’m very non-confrontational and keep to myself, and it just seems easier to not mention it, not have to explain or defend, and not to suffer the possible disdain of others. (Frankly I can’t remember when it’s ever come up in casual conversation.) Not that I don’t sometimes secretly feel disdain or concern for them. How could those intelligent, well-educated people seriously, literally believe that stuff? I’ve concluded that in some, maybe many, cases, they don’t. The show of going to church regularly is about social and business connections, being seen as an upright citizen of the community, etc. It’s “the thing to do” and has very little with belief in skydaddy.

    • I really do think that many people have no real faith or religious conviction, but they go along because it’s the “right thing to do.” It’s a proxy for morality, unfortunately. I’m not sure they are really atheist, but rather just never think about it and accept a vague notion that there is a god.

    • @PiedType That’s good that you’re not asked, and you’ve not been put in a position to have to disclose your views. I’ve heard you say that (or read!) before, and I’m amazed.

      I’m asked about once a week, usually by strangers or people I don’t know very well. A repairman came to my home the other day, and he flat out asked me what church I go to. All I said was, “I don’t.” (He told me he’s a preacher and the name of his church, which, of course, I forgot. He was obviously trying to recruit members.) Just about every single day, someone tells me to have a “blessed day” or mentions god/Jesus/church.

    • @PT You’re not alone. Other than telling a close Xian friend, I have mentioned my non-belief a total of one time in two years, and that was in a casual conversation with some Xian coworkers. It consisted of a question or two and that was it. Otherwise it has never really come up. Why should it? Atheism is not my identity in the same way Xianity was. Now I’m just me and I happen to not believe in a god or gods.

  10. This post has so much truth in it. It is so sad that our fellow humans choose to isolate us rather than understand us. I need to be social but have found in the past decade that I choose to isolate myself more and more because it’s easier than being misunderstood. I would give my right arm to have a true social life, but I have failed too many times. I have a decent relationship with my mom even though she does not approve of my non-beliefs. I think she’s more in denial than anything. My mother is a very intelligent woman, but she is very religious and very judgmental. For instance, many years ago, I lived with my husband before he was my husband. There was a time in the dead of winter when we lost power so we had no heat and didn’t know how long that would last. I asked her if we could come sleep at her house and she flat out refused because I was “living in sin.” I still remember how deep that cut, that she wouldn’t even help me out because of her beliefs or my lack of them. She has tried to convert my sister over and over and even though they share a very close bond, my sister still can’t bring herself to be converted. What is ironic (to me) is that while I was growing, on more than one occasion, my mom would refer to me as a sheep, saying that I just did what my friends did and didn’t have a mind of my own. Like the time I came up with an outfit to wear to go rollerskating. My friends decided they liked my outfit and copied it the best they could. Rather than getting the facts, my mom called me a sheep because she just assumed I was following them when in fact, they were following me. She was always pushing me to be independent (she was a single mom raising two kids, so I got that). But she just can’t grasp my independence when it comes to religion. Ironic? To me it is quite ironic. It is sad that we are rejected because of some book written a so long ago.

    • @Gina That is ironic as hell that your mom raised you to be independent, and then we you show that you are, she tries to convince you to be a sheep. And I’m sorry that she wouldn’t let you stay with her when your power was out. That was rather mean….I understand her “values,” but the value of helping another human, especially her child, is so much more important.

  11. John the Librarian

    I’ve been fairly fortunate in the family aspect. The people that know are either not really bothered by it or they at least keep it to themselves.
    Virtually my entire family is Southern Baptist, although they seem to be more on the “not crazy” side of the SB spectrum.
    It helps that I don’t have a lot of family left, I suppose. My dad died when I was 15 and I hadn’t delved too much into my doubts by that point. Mom (the ordained minister) died 5 years ago. I’m pretty sure she knew (at the very least I know she knew I wasn’t a Christian) but it just wasn’t important enough to talk about. My sister knows and doesn’t care. And since I’m pretty open on Facebook, my uncle, aunt, and cousin in Tyler surely know, but have never said anything. One other cousin (also a minister) knows and he doesn’t seem bothered in the least. I do lie directly to the face of my 97 year grandmother about going to church and whatnot, but hey… she’s 97… I see no good reason to mentally punch her in the gut.
    My mother-in-law was upset when she found out, but she doesn’t treat me any different and doesn’t push anything on our son. Not really sure about my father-in-law.
    I just don’t talk about around my extended family because I figure I have it pretty easy and I’d just as soon keep it that way.
    I’ve honestly had more negativity from friends than relatives.

    • @John the Librarian You’re lucky then….I thought the Baptists were pretty hard on the nonbelievers, especially in TX. Maybe your family is young (sister, aunt, uncle, cousin)…
      Yeah-I would not tell my grandmother either when she was alive. It’s just not worth the heart ache and the worry.

  12. I know this post is more about family than friends, but it still sort of hurts that none of our former church friends ever made any attempt to reach out to us after we quit going to church. We weren’t even atheists at that point, yet it’s as if we had fallen off the map. Other members who left “appropriately” (to move out of town, pastor another church, go off on missions, etc.) were given parties and such. We even heard updates about them once in awhile.

    Us? Bupkis. Nada. Zilch.

    Maybe if we announced on fb that we have since deconverted we would at least get some concern trolls…

    • @MichaelB It’s about friends, too. I’m really sorry to hear that your friends treated you like that. I know it stings.

      If you announced your deconversion on FB, you’d get a lot of people talking (or praying) about you.

    • MichaelB, I honestly thought is was normal for people to act that way when you leave a church. I have never left a church, for any reason, with any kind of celebration at all. It didn’t matter if I was single, married, a mom, heavily involved or just attended weekly services. Whether I moved, went to a different church or dropped out of sight altogether, I never knew anyone to call, be concerned or throw a party. In fact, if they called or emailed it’s because they honestly didn’t know I was gone and they were just going down a church membership list for an upcoming event. I’ve seen this even after a pastor knew what I was doing. Hell, I basically got kicked out of church around Christmas, six months pregnant, and a newlywed from where I married! After all that shit, and all of the hateful words, deeds, and even flat out ignoring me, I’d dust myself off and start attending another church. I have even gone back to some of those churches that treated me so horribly a good number of times. I remember the last few churches we tried since moving here in the Mid-South, my husband told a few preachers directly that we were thinking about leaving Church altogether (not theirs in particular, but all of them), and even leaving the faith. He honestly didn’t say those things in a threatening way, he just knew we were losing our grip on religion. None of them gave a shit. It’ s just how it is. Unless you’re in a Church for multiple generations and your family’s apart of leadership, no one’s going to care. Single or married, my husband and I were both great tithers, attenders, and volunteers, and none of that made a difference in anyone wanting to keep us around by reaching out to us.

      • @Charity Sorry to hear that. I guess you’re right, but to me it doesn’t make it any less sad. These people claimed to be our brothers and sisters “in the Lord” yet couldn’t give a shit that we left. This was a church of maybe forty people. We knew the pastor and his wife extremely well. He was intimately involved in the situation surrounding our departure and knew why we were leaving. But once we weren’t part of their special Jesus club/business/gang anymore, we became nobodies. I’d left churches many times before, for many reasons, but never one that small with that many allegedly close ties. I’m not asking that they stalk us and guilt us into coming back – I’ve faced that before also, trust me – but to just quit talking to us and spending any time at all with us? I’m not saying people of any other walk of life can’t and don’t act that way sometimes, but I definitely saw behind the curtain of the great and powerful Oz that day. As my wife often says, it’s kind of like high school. The popular “in” crowd remembers it fondly (or pretends to) because they never had to face the shit most of the rest of us did.

        • Hey, No worries, Michael, and like your wife, I too have always considered church to be like high school, usually worse. Please don’t think that I am undermining you and your family’s pain. Again, I’m very blunt, but at the same time I want to be empathetic. I guess it’s like what’s said on that “Dolores Claiborne” movie “Sometimes you have to be a high-riding bitch to survive. Sometimes being a bitch is all a woman has to hold onto.” I also tend to take the bull by the horns now that I’m not a Christian because I left everything up to my mom, my dad, my younger sisters, church leaders, god, everyone through prayer, etc, while I was a Christian. I was like Reese when he joined the Army on “Malcolm in the Middle”. that kid had to be told everything, and nothing got him motivated. Then he later admits to his superior that he just decided to quit thinking and do everything he was told, even down to taking a dump. I know that sounds so stupid, but so many of us do shit like that for a lover, a friend, the military, a parent, and most definitely, Church! I mean seriously, how can you know the path in finding your real authentic self when you have allowed your brains to turn into cream of wheat? I was past oatmeal.
          Any way, I remember seeing people leave church on multiple occasions where the preacher would call them up, and we’d all raise our hands “this way” to “bless” them in prayer. Then there would be all of these over dramatic tears from the leavers, and the stayers. Sometimes there would even be a “pot blessing” supper in the fellowship hall to send them off with a big ass cake. I think that I even remember some couples and families getting a “love offering” in such instances. Really, Michael, I would think “I have never seen that lavish outpouring of love for anyone I knew personally, and I doubt if I will ever see it for me!” And I never did. Oh, but here’s my favorite…..when you give a Church all of your family’s birthdates, phone numbers, places of work and school, and address, as well as email addresses, and you don’t hear one word from them. Worst yet is when you’re gone from church for a couple of weeks due to travel or sickness, and they say (if they notice to begin with) “We sure did miss y’all!” I have had some people say this to us who not only have all that information, but you can see their front yard from our front yard.
          Yeah, your wife is exactly right. In all honesty, if I had to choose between four years of high school or one year of church I would choose high school. If I had to choose eight years of high school or one year of church I would still choose high school. Whether it’s going back to school at that age again or staying the age that I am now while I attended. Yeah, it was that bad for me.

          • @Charity Amen, sister. To all of it. I am only a year or so into the painful process of finding my true self, as it were. Religion and upbringing robbed me of those formative years of discovering myself and, in a way, I have been going through adolescence and my early twenties at age 40. Worth the anguish in the long run; no fun for the time being. But I guess that’s true of all meaningful things in life, eh? Here’s to being real.

          • @Charity & MichaelB I’m sure this won’t make much difference, but it sounds like letting go was a painful process and people let you down. I’m sorry. I know that, as you pointed out, letting go is freeing. But when you’ve spent so much time and energy on the church, and they don’t even notice or care you’ve left, that sure seems disappointing.

      • Hi Charity–Do you think you would have changed your mind if the church reached out? Or, perhaps prolonged your decision-making process?

        • You know, Debbie, you ask a really good question. Years ago, I think that it would have made a difference, but I could tell during those last couple of years of my Christianity that no matter how nice someone or a church might have been I knew I had to leave. I’m kind of glad that no one was really nice to me as I was preparing my heart to leave. That’s how most of my walk had been I would have been terribly upset if Christians and/or Churches suddenly decided to show me kindness. There were so many “signs” to walk away, even many years ago, and I wish I had. The truth is I wanted to believe in an ever loving God. I longed to connect to my Christian “brothers and sisters”. There is also a horrible stigma placed on believers who quit any Christian Church. They talk about how bad cults are, and I believe that’s where the cults got their prototype for ex-communication. You are often made to feel shameful for leaving. It’s quite common for people to label you as “difficult to get along with”, “quitter”, “Jezebel”, “rebel”,”trouble-maker”, “prodigal” or just a plain old “sinner”. I swear if I hear one more person tells me “there’s no such thing as a perfect church” I think I’ll have to restrain myself from cursing them out! Even when I recently came out to my Messianic Jewish friend she said the same thing! I immediately yelled “Yes, I’m well aware of that, and have known that for a really long time!” To me, it would be like confronting your spouse about something and he says “Oh well there’s no such thing as a perfect spouse in a marriage, get over it!”

          • @Charity Your emotional honesty is refreshing. If I were in your position, and suddenly had church members reaching out and trying to convince me to stay, it would have been difficult for me, too. I don’t like to be confrontational, and I like to see people happy. That can be both a good thing and a bad thing.

            You obviously have a lot of strength. I’m glad you’re here. I enjoy your insights and your stories…

  13. Deborah, Did you see this same, for the lack of a better term, isolationist effect when you lived in the Northern part of America? I grew up in the Northeast and when I lived there and outwardly challenged belief in God, I never felt judged or isolated. Maybe it was just the friends I held. But when I was in University in the south I did see quite a bit of it. Just curious if there is a different mindset amongst people in the North vs the South.

    • @Joe K I have found the atmosphere here in north TX to be more religiously-charged than any other place I have lived (Austin was not as bad as Dallas). But then, too, there are readers from the north who say they have similar problems…I guess it just depends on the people and the size of the town??

    • LanceThruster

      I’ve dealt with Southern California god-botherers whose zeal is second to none. Many treat atheists like lepers, and atheism as something needing to be “cured.”

      • Well, maybe our xtian nation would like to donate Hawaii to the lepers, and we can all move there.

        • Hahaa…this made me chuckle. If that happens Deb we’ll be in our own little ‘heaven’ :)

        • Yuck, as gorgeous as it is, (I took my header picture there while I lived on Oahu) you’d still have to kick out all the meth labs, car theives, chop shops, and even more, the gobs and gobs of religions and religious folk that are there. THEN, I’d move back to Hawai’i.

          A great post indeed, Debbie. I’ve come out twice since the end of this June. The first time was not so good, the second was actually pretty great. Can anyone explain to me why those to whom we come out to, no matter how we do it, feel the need to make it about themselves? I want to write about those experiences this summer, but for now, I was just wondering why that is. It’s as if we don’t have the right to have a different belief system or philosophy, and when we do we aren’t being sensitive to their feelings. It feels as though they believe that they have a right to be broken hearted, sensitive, judgemental, and give unsolicited advice whereas we should feel some sort of shame for the changes within us, and are too immature in making such a swift decision. As if we’re just immature jack asses who make snap choices and are doing so to get back at them or god even. I have known of only a few people who became nonbelievers in college or even sooner in life. SO MANY of us held on as young as little kids until our 30s, 40s or even later in life. There is nothing selfish or swift about that. If anything, I’m jealous of those who caught on at an early age. When I was their age I thought college kids did that because they were at secular colleges with liberal professors. However, when I look back at that time in my life I still felt the same as they did while I attended a super religious Bible school and had very faithful and dedicated teachers who were Christians. I just didn’t have the insight, courage, money or emotional support to drop out after a year of the drama.

  14. A rather melancholy post this time, Deborah. And greetings from France, the land of atheist Catholics. ;-) We fit in quite nicely.

    Honestly, I don’t look so much back at the generations that came before me as I do towards those that will come after me. I take solace in knowing that our children will not be burdened by the same superstitions and racked by the same guilt that I was for so many years.

    The ship fading in the distance? That’s the Ship of Fools.

  15. @ Deborah Excellent post, but my view of this is far different.

    I am not standing on a shore watching them wave good-bye to me with dissatisfaction and sorrow on their faces. Rather, I hopped off that crazy train and they look confused to me as they continue to chug down the track. When it came to my family and friends, I took any slight they handed me an opportunity to educate them on why they are slightly nuts… or full blow bat-s**t insane about this. I’ve seen the glimmer of doubt, real doubt about the god and religion, shoot across faces as I lay out the reasoning why the entire concept is bonkers.

    Forcing them to defend their beliefs, as they so often did to me, was fun to watch. It also made them very, very angry because it is hard to continue to defend irrational beliefs and thoughts when one is saying it out loud. Crazy sounds crazy regardless of who is speaking. Thus, I would say to anyone who faces an antagonistic or disapproving family to turn the tables on them. Show them the same level of disappoint and watch how they react. In the midst of the hissy fit family and friends will throw while you use logic against their insanity, remind them that this is exactly what they do with their derisive comments and snide remarks (since it doesn’t matter if what is said with a pleasant or sad tone: what they say is still snide). The only difference is that you (or me) has logic and reason on your side.

    It is priceless and well worth the effort (at least I think it is). [I admit that I am not afraid of conflict or debate regardless of how heated it becomes. I do understand some folks just don’t have the stomach for it, so my advice is not for everyone.]

    • @Derrick I have noticed that you and I take different approaches. I guess it depends on temperament. It’s funny because, before I read your message, I just received an email from a relative that was forwarding a letter from a psychic. (Yes, they know I’m not a believer.) I can only imagine how you would have taken this person down. I just deleted it and avoided the conflict!

      • @ Deborah Mitchell I think I might misrepresent myself at times. I am not looking for the conflict or the debate (some would say “fight”), but rather I don’t shy away from it when another brings it to me. I am content to go happily on my way until someone thinks it is necessary to impose his or her views on me. What it comes down to is this: I am staunchly against bullying, and religious folk tend to be the worst violators. They like to dress it up in phrases of care or concern (I am only worried about your soul/salvation/redemption), but it is bullying. It’s them trying to delegitimize one person’s views in favor of their own. This is when I kick into action and argue back.

        In the case of someone sending me an email about a psychic (and my sister did this once on her search for spiritual meaning), I simply asked whether current religious tenants view this as a form of black magic. It’s amusing to watch people backpedal by saying it was only for amusement. It always cracks me up when theists resort to mysticism when it is clearly against the dictates of their religion. When called on it, the hypocrisy is almost alarming. I think it just goes to show most theists don’t fully understand their own beliefs.

        • LanceThruster

          I became involved in the “fight” through church/state separation issues. I long for a world where religionists aren’t pushing their sectarian agenda via the government.

          APPRAISE THE LORD! Tax the churches!

        • @Derrick I think I understand your position. What you’re saying is that you have good boundaries–you don’t want to provoke anyone into an argument, but if someone does approach you, you’re not afraid to call them or their religion out…. I respect that approach.

  16. LanceThruster

    I will admit that I could easily be wrong on the existence of God(s) as the words of one of our illustrious founders will attest to.

    “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

    xD

    • @LanceThruster Love your quotes, except I would amend Franklin’s quote to read: “Bear is proof Horace (or Ra) loves us and wants us to be happy.

      It appears the early Egyptians invented beer since there are records of them using it to pay a certain caste of laborer who worked on the pyramids. I say give credit where it is due.

      • LanceThruster

        @Derrick – I will be glad to bend a knee to the Egyptian god of choice. In fact, I think I’m in the presence of one of their cat gods now.

        http://www.ancientegyptonline.co.uk/cat.html#gods

        Oh great Egyptian cat god, if thou dost wish me to partake in thy sacred beverage at this very moment, indicate thine approval by giving me no sign.

        Thy will be done.

  17. Just wanted to say bravo on a brilliant post! I’m kind of like Sandy where I don’t always have time to read “all the comments previously made in response so I don’t know if my thoughts are repetitious” but I am on the sidelines cheering you on! It’s a treat every time you post and when I have time I always come back around and read the comments because the discussions you inspire are fascinating.

  18. Debbie, I just want to thank you and everyone who comments on this blog of yours. All of you have really helped me in so many ways, even on this entry. I have to admit, having our own paradise, ie Hawai’i would be nice.(We could take over all the islands, I call dibs on Kaua’i!)

  19. Perhaps it is not to be unexpected that choosing a different (or non) religious path than family and friends opens a chasm. One of the roots of word religion is “ligare” which also gives us the word ligature. Religion is, thus, that which binds us together. Cutting those cords is liberating, but being free can result in being lonely.

  20. Theresa sent me the link to Morgan Spurlock’s program that Adrienne suggested earlier.

  21. Filipe Colebrooke

    _Thank you for your wonderful insights, i just wanted to share something with you that i got off facebook, i am sending a picture attached to it and the quote that came with the photo. Here is the quote, “Why would you consider this book to be an “intelligent” read?

    Can you honestly give this kind of moral guidance to your children if you are a parent? What does it say about your “critical thinking” skills? or do they not matter to you as a parent charged with equipping your children for life as an adult? Do you expect your children to perpetuate this kind of silliness without question because you derive a certain comfort in NOT knowing how the universe works? – Why would you even be proud of your inability to comprehend a rather simple “lie”?” > > Deborah Mitchell posted: “One thing I learned about being honest about > my religious beliefs is this: it does put an emotional distance between > us and them. The thing is, for those of us who grew up in religious > families, when you express your doubts you become an outsider. ” >

  22. Yes, I’ve lost a number of friends since I started being open about my non-belief.

  23. Very insightful post – I enjoyed reading all the comments.

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