I have a question for those that haven't been part of any religion or haven't believed that there is any god for at least 15-20 years. What has changed since you decided to stop being part of a religion and made up your mind that a god does not exist? Can you see any major improvements? Are we actually making any progress at all? I just like the opinions of people that have been free of religion for several years to see what has actually changed in a bigger interval.

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Well, our new governor (Alabama) in his inaugural speech today said  that if we aren't brothers and sister in Christ, he's not our brother or sister.  So, I guess things here in Bama ain't gotten any better.
For me, losing my religion was a long drawn out affair.  I actually think it happened in stages.  By the end of it I found myself rather disoriented I think, but that dissipated long ago.  I think the biggest changes I perceive are in how society views atheists.  It used to be that when I said I was atheist, people just said something stupid like, "Yeah, but like Christian atheist?"  Atheism itself seems to have become far more mainstream, and with it society has had to start to deal with us way more than ever before.  I'm interested in seeing where this process goes.

"Yeah, but like Christian atheist?"

 

People have actually said that? WOW!!!

I think that a lot of people only used to think of atheists as what I like to call 'disillusioned Christians' or 'Church Haters'.  Many theists just can't imagine that anyone truly believes there is no god, they can only think of it in terms of being angry with god at the moment.
It don't help that so many people proclaim themselves Jewish atheists...
Well, I haven't been an Atheist for 15-20 years yet. But I can already comment on the question of if we're making any progress. I think that is a definite yes! In just the past decade or less it seems much more common to hear of someone being an Atheist, we actually advertise or existence, stats on the number of non-believers in countries is going in out favor (albeit quite slowly). But on a personal level, I think that even though coming out Atheist can still be social suicide, that result isn't as common or exaggerated as it used to be. I also enjoy conversing with others about theology, and I feel that I have done my small part to show some theists that we are good people too, and that Atheism can be a well reasoned destination rather than a knee jerk reaction. That may be the best place to make inroads. Dispel misconceptions, then educate from there.
Is it enough that they know that we are good too? Shouldn't they know that they are bad? Or at least some of them, the ones that actual run the show? I find it odd that we're the ones trying to prove ourselves worthy of their acknowledgment. Not we, other non-believers, because I'm not trying to prove anything to anyone, especially to people I have no respect for.
I see it as baby steps. If they think we are intrinsically evil, they will never listen to what we have to say. However, once we are accepted they may be more receptive. I certainly wouldn't say that they are all bad. Like you said some are, but not all. However it is their belief that can be viewed as bad or as the very least a crutch that is holding themselves and progress back.

I am pondering my answer.  

 

My age makes it difficult.  My awareness of death without an afterlife or god figure was probably around five-years-old.  I probably started coming into my own on personal philosophy, religion in my community, and my lack of religion around the ages of seven to nine.  Some time between the ages of nine and twelve I developed a pretty clear understanding of where I fit in with regards to atheism, agnosticism, and a number of well know religions.  So from twelve to now you can safely consider me philosophically atheist.  That's about sixteen years.

 

The problem is, from childhood to my early twenties, my perception of the world and the culture I live in has changed for a large number of reasons.  It can be hard to tell if, in a decade and a half, the world has changed with regard to atheism, or if it is merely my perspective changed.  Probably a combination of both.

 

My mother was an atheist when I was born.  She seems to have had mixed feelings on raising my brother and I without religion in a predominately religious culture.  She's a pretty strong woman, and has always been outspoken where ethics and morals are concerned, but I think, going back three decades, the idea of religion as a benevolent cultural institution was much stronger.  It's not that people had to go to church or believe; just that a certain amount of lip service and respectability was afforded to religion as a social norm.

 

In this day and age, I think that religion has lost much of its inviolability.  Religious symbols have lost some of their sanctity.  I'm not entirely sure what caused this.  Part of it is that I am part of a generation that seems to value immediacy more than the sense of history and tradition that empowers religious authority.  Part of it is that religion is losing cultural relevance.   Part of it is that we are culturally insular and tepid.  I think that atheism is growing with less passion and more stability.  There is less fire and rebellion to becoming an atheist, which can be a bit dull, but perhaps it is making it more accessible for those who are losing their faith.

 

Religion, on the other hand, is either adapting to the times by becoming more accommodating and considerate of modern needs and values (which is fine by me), or throwing temper tantrums in the face of growing apathy and general disregard towards it.  In the places I've lived, the former group seems to be much larger than the latter.

 

So, that's my rambling reply for the moment.  It's a big topic, and multifaceted too.  I find it difficult to focus my thoughts.

From what you've said, I can state that you're among the luckier ones, that had gotten over the god problem pretty early, and that had support from someone close (your mother).

 

 

There is less fire and rebellion to becoming an atheist, which can be a bit dull, but perhaps it is making it more accessible for those who are losing their faith.

 

When I finally realised that I can't believe in (a) god anymore, it didn't felt like I was doing something rebellious at all. It was very normal and right, and it felt like I was supposed to do that a long time ago. The main feeling was relief. So I guess you're right, it is a bit dull, especially after a while. But that doesn't mean it's necessarily a bad thing. It slowly becomes something normal, natural, just another part of you.

I cant answer this question because even though I have been an atheist the proper amount of time, I am only 29.  I have been atheist since before I knew the word.  I have no idea how things might be different if I grew up believing and then lost the faith later in life.
Well, it doesn't matter how old you are, if you can notice a difference, or that it is no difference between now and ten years ago in how you deal with the world and with other people and how other people deal with you and other atheists, and with the world.

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