Hello all. I'm a college grad and a former missionary who once was quite convinced God was real and was helping me. After I got back, as I thought about what I really believed and what I'd experienced, I saw that, while God could be there, I had never seen anything happen differently from what would happen if there was no God. Since then, I spent a lot of time keeping to myself, and not really researching the issue because I was afraid what I would find.
It's been a slow process of reading more atheist blogs, coming to terms with what I really believe, and now posting on a forum for the first time. I want so badly to talk to someone in real life, but everyone I know would try to help me back into the faith. I don't really have many friends and I'm very shy so it's hard to meet people.
I have all these reasons that I say I turned away from my faith -- I've never seen evidence of a god, the bible is illogical and inconsistent, religious people don't seem more moral or more happy than anyone else, prayer doesn't work, what about creationism and biblical anti-gay teaching? But I'm not necessarily happy at getting free, or angry at what I used to believe. I feel like other atheists I've read about who called their deconversion "like getting a painful divorce."I still don't know what I believe. I'm half afraid that if I come out to my real-life friends, all these good reasons will sound dumb when I say them out loud. Most of them really believe in miracles, you know. I'm just looking for some support. I'm in the middle of Iowa about two hours away from the nearest good atheist group, from what I can tell. I want to know that what I'm going through is normal and expected, or hear how others have made it through this same kind of issue.
"thinks the NAM (New Atheist Movement) is juvenile"
True, but maybe that's a good thing. I've been an atheist for almost 50 years, but I welcome young, enthusiastic atheists excited to make a change in this world - and this is a sorely-needed change.
Im interested in your friend who has been an atheist since before the "movement".
I've been atheist since long before the movement. I was never religious. The only difference between pre- "New Atheism" and today is that atheists are much more vocal about the transgressions of religion in society.
Just like Cara's friend, for most of my life, since I did live in a communist country, my atheism was never on my mind. My country was not dominated by religion while I was there, but moving to Canada has forced my hand, and I have become much more vocal about it. I was always open about my lack of belief, and was always willing to discuss or defend it, but since moving to North America, it has just grown.
"New Atheists" don't look to Dawkins as a leader, they look at him as an accomplished atheist that is in the spotlight, and gives them a voice they don't have. They see people like Dawkins, Harris and the rest as evidence that they are not alone, and that it is perfectly fine to not believe. There are plenty of atheists who disagree, and even dislike Dawkins.
There is no system. We are the cliche "like herding cats." We may agree on some things, but we disagree, and sometimes vehemently about many others. There is no doctrine for us to follow, or rules that only atheists need to abide by; unless you are a part of the A+ movement.
He's very "live & let live" and thinks the NAM (New Atheist Movement) is juvenile.
Hey Cara, I can very well understand the "live & let evil happen" philosophy myself, I don't blame anyone for subscribing to it. And that's what it is, but usually people are either unaware, or not honest enough to admit it to themselves. Some people, including me, adhere to this way of thinking because we have become disillusioned and simply do not care enough anymore to actively pursue what little shred of faith we have left in humanity. Others do because they don't realize the implications. Most of us however do, because all it takes is a little common sense to see the obvious.
Saying any anti-theistic movement is juvenile is the equivalent of saying a movement against violence, misogyny, racism, the corruption of human knowledge, and child abuse is "juvenile," which while in itself is not juvenile to suggest, but clearly a very uninformed and naive stance on the issue.
As for making it a non-issue. It's always a wrong comparison when people bring up something like "we don't even need words for atheism, we don't have a word for not believing in Santa either." True. Yes, we have no anti-leprachaun movements. No anti-Santa movements. No anti-garden gnome movements.
But then again, garden gnomes don't fly planes into buildings. They don't stone women to death. They don't circumcise babies or sacrifice animals. They don't force people into worshiping cruel gnome-gods with the threat of eternal torture.
If everything were as simply reduced as that, we could also say we don't need words or movements for anti-crime. Yet we know crime is a harmful thing, and so we have "law enforcement."
It's just not the same, and suggesting so, again, displays an immense lack of perspective. Superstition is currently easily one of the main causes of evil in the world. No matter how PC you want to be, this is indisputable. And to want to fight against that is not juvenile, it's noble, and platitudes won't change that.
As for atheism having or being a system, I believe you got that wrong Angela. It's not as much a system in the religious and traditional sense as it is just that, thanks to science and common sense, we all tend to agree on a lot of things. We all agree women have the right to choose, that hurting others should be avoided, that evolution is true and that there is no adequate amount of evidence for the supernatural. That's not because we have a doctrine that our parents force-fed us every Sunday, or because a prophet told us. It's because we adhere to common sense, and science. It's no surprise when we end up with similar answers and stances on things.
We all agree women have the right to choose, that hurting others should be avoided, that evolution is true and that there is no adequate amount of evidence for the supernatural.
Those would be the things I do share with other atheists, even the "Humanist" ones.
@kOrsan - 'It's no surprise when we end up with similar answers and stances on things'.
Oh yeah good answer, and maybe thats why I think theres a pattern or system to it.
@Cara - Our atheism should be a non-issue.
I Know, and your friend has been able to achieve that. Why the heck cant we? - me included ...
@Mike @Milos. Do you guys remember Madalyn Murray O'Hair?
@kOrsan I absolutely agree with all you say. I hope you didn't take what I wrote to mean *I* thought the NAM was juvenile.
However, I have been a little disenchanted lately because of "movements" like A+, and all the infighting. That whole debacle has been the biggest turn-off, and extremely discouraging. For a while, I'd put so much faith in the Skeptic community, thinking they were more capable of critical thought and objectivity. I suppose the lesson is we shouldn't have faith, period, because disappointment is inevitable when dealing with humans. Regardless of how religious or irreligious people are, they can still be guilty of group-think; they can still be too passionately invested in a cause to look at an issue objectively.
Atheism is not a system, and that's what confounds efforts to have a unified mission. Sure, we can agree on some things (like the fact evolution exists, and maybe that religion is harmful), but it becomes difficult to agree on how best to promote teaching evolution or help religion to phase out.
I personally like the method of being kind, productive citizens that undermine misconceptions about those who don't believe there's a god... rather than trying to make sure road-side memorials are taken down, or suing over things like "In God We Trust" being printed on our money. I think Christianity is part of our heritage, in the same way Greek mythology is part of Greece's heritage. It would be a tragedy to deface all religious structures in Greece to prove a point. All the alters and temples there are gorgeous works of art! And, like it or not, Greeks used to worship Zeus (etc), and we shouldn't try to wipe all evidence of that fact off the earth. We can appreciate it without believing it's true.
Anyway... I've run into a lot of atheists that totally disagree with me. Lots. I feel like ya win more flies with honey, but maybe it's not really an effective way to gain human rights. *shrugs*
My foray into western atheism came in the mid to late 90's, as I lived in Serbia before that. I do remember her, but I never really went out of my way to learn much about her until recently. I was very young when she was heading American Atheist, and not on this continent. :)
Like I said, where I am from, religion was not a big deal. The whole christian right issue we face here was completely alien to me in 1996 when I came to Canada.
I have been atheist my entire life, but until I came here I never really had a reason to argue for my atheism, or to really defend it. In school we were taught evolution in science class, and religion in history, right alongside Zeus and Odin.
I am not as old as Mike, hell he has been atheist 20 years longer than I have been alive! But I can give you a view from two different points. One from someone who has been atheist their entire life (I did entertain the idea of religion when I was younger), and another from someone from a different country and culture living in the west.
What the "New Atheist" movement did for me was point me in the direction of people like Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, and Madalyn Murray O'Hair. They were unknowns to me, and they gave me the opportunity to study up on the effects of religion on the western world and gave me some new arguments that I did not consider.
I did spend a good amount of time studying ancient history; it is one of my favorite topics, and studying mythology is what always pushed those "doubts" out of my mind.
I, too, went through the phase you are in, where you are not sure what you believe but you seriously doubt what you once believed. One thing that always got to me and pushed me off the fence into the "I definitely don't believe in God" camp was the thought that, if the Christian tradition didn't exist and I had never been raised with that worldview, would I even have an inkling that a God might exist? No, probably not. So why hold onto any of it? If there's no independent evidence pointing me in that direction, the only reason I might still believe in a vague notion of a creator God or benevolent father is because it's a vestige of my old belief system, and I've already discarded that belief system as false.
There's another point you might arrive at later, the one where you become unafraid to think of yourself as an atheist (even if you're still hesitant to tell other people). That point, for me, came after reading Sam Harris' The End of Faith. I'm a sucker for philosophy and he's got a philosophy background. That book not only fully convinced me belief was silly, but made me kinda mad about it. Much like you, I didn't feel any anger or ill will regarding my old faith at all (and still don't, for the most part), but this book opened my eyes wider.
I'm surprised how much "reaction" I'm feeling in myself right now. Like force of habit or tradition (or longing for when belief was simpler) is fighting back against me saying out loud (here on the internet, not to people I know) that I'm possibly atheist.
I did order a couple books, I'll have to remember that one. My local public library is really low on atheist resources, although you can easily find books that argue against atheism.
I've been battling with my faith for years. I was exposed to several belief systems/religions to really accept any of them. I felt as though I was in limbo for the better part of my younger years. I am slowly getting back to me and actually thinking about what I truly believe. My brother is a hardcore born again Christian and I wrote him a six page letter letting him know what I thought about the bible and his Jesus. It was the most difficult thing that I've done in my life, but it was liberating. That letter solidified what I had been feeling deep down inside for so many years. I am free.
How did your brother react?
I want to know that too.