Why Did I Come Out as an Atheist?

There is No God

In my recent post Evolution of an Atheist, I described my life journey from being a devout Christian to being an avowed and “out” atheist.  Since then, I have posted atheistic/agnostic content somewhat more frequently on my social media outlets, but it’s still not something that I focus on extensively.  Whether or not that will change, I don’t know for sure, but at the least, I will be blogging about it occasionally here.  The reason is simple: there are a lot more atheists out there than most people realize, but our voice is still relatively small in comparison with those of various religions and believers.  We need each and every one to know that they aren’t alone, that there are growing communities where they are welcome and will be supported, and that together we can make a difference in reducing the influence of religion in public life. 

Being Openly Atheist Isn’t Easy but Getting Easier

It’s especially not when you live in the Bible Belt, as I do here in Charlotte, NC.  Nor is it easy when pretty much every single person in your family is a Christian (except my wife and younger daughter, whom we’re raising to think for herself, and she can make up her own mind when she’s old enough).  I know that our older daughter struggles with the idea that she thinks she won’t see her parents in heaven.  Heck, I’m still getting used to the idea of stating my beliefs publicly at all, because Christianity is still the accepted norm in the USA.

What is making my stance easier in the last year or so, though, is that I have found an increasing number of support groups, both online and in person, and begun realizing that there are a lot more of us than I had ever realized.  The Pew Research Center 2015 Report on Religion in the USA highlighted the changing religious landscape in the USA, with the only group with increasing membership being the “Religious Nones,” as they’re often called.  Atheists grew to 3% and agnostics grew to 4%, and as David Silverman argues in his 2016 book, Fighting God: An Atheist Manifesto for a Religious World, agnostics are really atheists who just won’t quite admit it.  He also argues, rather convincingly IMO, that many of those who claim a faith only do so because of tradition, such as secular Jews or lapsed Catholics.  If one accepts that position, the actual number of atheists is even larger than that.

On top of that, the 2016 Reason Rally is taking place this weekend in Washington, DC, bringing a lot of additional awareness to our existence.  I am very disappointed that I couldn’t go this year, but I’m hoping that they make it a more regular event so I can go to the next one.

Excellent Reading on Atheism

Besides becoming aware of how much religious belief is shrinking in the US and around the world, I’ve also been reading a lot more books about critical thinking, skepticism, atheism and how religion is not only not beneficial for mankind, but actually harmful.

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I find these books quite illuminating, particularly since I didn’t actually come to be an atheist through reading such books; I became an atheist because I studied the Bible and Christianity in an effort to deepen my faith.  Kinda backfired there, eh?  Of course, that’s how a lot of people become atheists – they wanted to learn more about their Christian faith, but the more they did, the more absurd they found it to be.  A particularly interesting recent story is that of the (now former) Christian metalcore band, The Order of Elijah, whose story you can read at the Facebook link.

Not a Firebrand Atheist, Just Raising Awareness

As I’ve discussed in an earlier article, My Daughter is a Christian – and I’m Not, one of my biggest challenges in writing about atheism and my journey out of Christianity and faith in general is maintaining the very important relationship with my daughter, Natalie.  I do know that these articles upset her, because she really can’t understand how I could abandon Christ.  For her, Jesus is her Savior and Lord, and she’s unable to do anything except through Him.  I understand that belief and used to believe the same.  Now, though, I see that as a sad thing, a denial of her own wonderful abilities and developing strengths.

But while I don’t want to hurt her, nor do I believe it’s right to censor myself.  She talks openly of her faith in her life, and that’s fine with me.  I’m certainly not going to argue with her, insult her, or do anything like that.  I love her and she’s my daughter, that’s all there is to it.  What she believes or doesn’t believe will never make me love her less, and I sure hope she feels the same.  If she ever wants to talk about it, I’ll be glad to, but I will never push it on her.  I do expect that she will extend the same courtesy when I write and post stuff about atheism.  Obviously, I hope that one day she will understand that religion is a delusion, too.

My goal in writing, however frequently or infrequently, is to raise awareness that atheists are all around you.  They are in your schools, at your work, in the government, on the playgrounds, etc.  They are good people living good lives; they just do it without any need for god.  Everyone can be an atheist, and frankly, I think that would be a good thing.  Hopefully, my family and friends can recognize that I’m still the same person as before, just without the need for a deity or the associated beliefs, and that most atheists are, in fact, much the same.

Atheist Resources, Websites, & Social Media

For a more in-depth list of organizations around the world, Wikipedia has a fairly comprehensive list: List of Secular/Atheist Organizations

 

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  • Michael Penner

    I really appreciate how you’ve described your journey here, as I think a lot of people (myself definitely included) are having a similar experience as we embrace free thinking. It’s encouraging and instructive to read about your challenges in this regard. And of course the photos are always amazing! 🙂

    • Michael, I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed the article and thought process. As I described, it hasn’t been easy for me, and finding lots more agnostic/atheist resources has been very reassuring. I should probably add more, but those are good to start for sure. I’m certainly open for discussion of anything if you’re interested.