Let me say first, my title is me being a smart aleck and sarcastic. It is a joke among Atheists because Christians often threaten Atheists with hell and often we reply “If I do not believe in your sky daddy, I certainly do not believe in your ground troll.” Why Atheism is associated with Satanism I am unsure, but Atheists are often lumped into being evil. Since I have no sense of humor it is my strained attempt at being funny, so forgive me. That being said, let me explain why I would want to write about Atheism. My reasons range from personal to the perception of how an Atheist is viewed. I believe the public misunderstands what Atheism consists and what it means to be an Atheist. I hope by giving my story many of you will see that Atheism is not a vile thing because we lack belief in god, any god. For me, atheism is a lack of belief in monsters, ghosts, luck, the clairvoyant, or god(s).
Atheists believe we are all born with a lack of belief in god, but then through our families we are exposed to religion; in my case I was raised as a Catholic. I did Baptism, Communion, and Confirmation, but even though I went through these traditions they held no meaning for me. It was something I did because it was expected. I always had questions. Questions that often were unanswered. I was left trying to reconcile the inconsistencies that I was being taught by church with the rational world around me. So I trudged through this life burdened and ashamed of my questions regarding my faith. I also felt guilt. Extreme guilt over my lack of understanding the religious ideology versus the scientific facts of our natural world. I had very low self-esteem and constantly felt as if I was a failure. I was not a confident, self-assured person. I contribute this to many unsavory things that happened in my life that were less than stellar experiences. I was already on the path of disbelief and then the catalyst that would force me to re-evaluate what I believed.
A significant event in our nation’s history happen on September 11, 2001. My perception of the world vastly changed that day. I was, as much as the nation was, in a state of shock. I kept to my routine for the sake of my children, but I became obsessed with watching the news for any information and like the rest of the world I prayed for survivors. I didn’t realize my obsession until my husband asked me to turn off the television. My world, for 3 days, had consisted of only watching the news and doing things with my children as if I was on autopilot. I tell you this because 9/11 was the catalyst for me in becoming an Atheist.
Once I detached myself from the events of 9/11 I began to reassess my beliefs. It was not a sit down and write a list assessment, it was more of how I started to view the world and put into perspective of what happened on that tragic day. It was an unconscious thought when I decided that I no longer believed in god. I said it in passing while playing a game. “There is no god.” It did not go unnoticed, but nothing was said in the uncomfortable silence that followed, but in that moment the burden of proof no longer existed for me. I no longer had to convince myself. Once I let go I let go of all the prejudices that accompanied that “faith”. Same sex marriage, which I had vehemently opposed became more of a question of equality. I no longer felt worthless as a women. I no longer held those tenements that because of my sex I was the sin of the world.
I was a closeted Atheist for years. Letting only close friends and family know. Well closeted in the aspect that I didn’t speak out on issues that were associated with Atheism. There were brief moments such as what religious preference at the hospital or if I wanted a priest could visit during my stay. I would respond that I was an Atheist. Then the uncomfortable silence would ensue and the look of displeasure. So I kept my voice silent until I was introduced to this internet thing called facebook, but when I became a member, facebook was very much a social outlet for college students. Two years later membership exploded as people from my generation found an easy connection to friends from high school who had moved to other states and lost contact with due to family responsibilities, job, or life progressing to family members who you saw only during the holidays. These people were now more easily accessible. My friends that numbered under 50 were now bursting over 250. I have more through the game apps, but the majority on my friends’ list are people I have physically been in contact with at some point in my life. Facebook became an outlet of communication. Groups used the site as a way to impart information to its members, businesses used the site for advertising and connecting with people on an expanded format. It was through this format that I began connecting with other Atheists.
One such connection was “The Friendly Atheist”, Hermant Mehta. His blog and articles regarding issues that affecting me as an Atheist were inspiring and thought provoking, yet I still kept my secret until after reading an article by Hemant Mehta. In this article he spoke about Atheism and on how many are closeted because of the ramifications it would have upon their lives. Many experience loss of family and friends and their careers are negatively affected too, but what this article did for me was ask me to reach out to those who are the silent Atheists, who think they are alone. Who, because of these ramifications, keep silent in their misery disguised as a believer never truly able to be the person they wish to be. This article propelled me to become more vocal about my beliefs. So that I may reach out to those who have questions or feel as if they are alone in their lack of belief.
My posts now reflected what I believed in. I joined Atheist groups and reached out to others who have the same desire as I do, to belong to a community. I found Toledo has an active Atheist group, Great Lakes Atheists. We have events and last year a convention where Mayor Bell came and spoke on opening day. We discuss issues affecting our community. We wish to be involved in our community in education, charity work, and community outlets. Sounds a great deal like many of you.
So I am an Atheist. Big deal. I respect your beliefs as long as you respect mine, but what I won’t accept is the laws of our nation being influenced by religious beliefs. There are quite a few, but that is for another discussion. My desire is for you is not to look at an Atheist who is trying to steal your freedom, but as someone who wants ensure that freedom is enjoyed by everyone.
Our lack of belief does not make us immoral, unethical, and baby sacrificing pagans. We accept reason and logic of what science teaches. We accept the wonderful world around us as a puzzle that is always evolving. I accept the world and its beauty as a natural creation. Something to be explored in its wonderment. Something that has changed and will change. Is it scary? Not really. I am nervous, but I am also excited to see what we will discover, what I will discover in my life.
Lastly, I believe in living life to the fullest. This is the only life I will have and I want to leave this world knowing I did the best I could. Doing benefit to all not for the promise of an afterlife, but because I want to be remembered as a good person.