Just over 23 years ago, I left my little Midwest town to head for the west coast. Everywhere I looked, it was "god this," and "jesus that," and always a sprinkle of hell, fire, brimstone and eternal damnation. The negativity weighed heavily upon me, to the point that I'd feel great depression and despair. When I left, I figured that I'd never encounter any of these people again.
Enter the world of Facebook.
Unlike MySpace, where strangers gather each other to boost friend counts, Facebook is the site where people who once knew each other get together. All it took was for a handful of people to find me. Before long, I would be re-connected with over 100 of these people. I would often comment, "Wow, I have more friends from high school now than I had when I was in high school."
In high school, I wasn't sure that I was an Atheist. Really, I had no idea what I was, short of the fact that I wasn't a believer. I hadn't adopted any labels. To the contrary, I just kept a low profile and never talked about it. But now, I know where I stand. I know who I am. This is a big part of growing up; figuring out who we are.
Little battles would ensue after I'd post links on my profile to news stories, like when the pope said that condoms in Africa are a bad idea because they spread AIDS. People would get offended that I would challenge the pope and try to fight me over it. It would usually end with them deleting and blocking me. That's okay. I want to weed those people out, as they're incapable of logical thought.
The ones who were worse would want to keep me around just to "save" me. One wrote, "It is so sad to me that you don't have jesus in your life. I'm going to pray for you tonight. You know you're going to hell and that's a fact." Then we'd have a talk about the difference between beliefs and facts, which would end up with them thinking they had won some kind of battle. The debate between beliefs and facts is like the fight over apples and freight trains. It's worse than apples and oranges.
Talking (writing) about Atheism on my Facebook profile has helped me weed out those whom I don't really want around. But it also had a surprising twist.
Someone wrote to thank me for talking about Atheism. This was something that I never expected from anyone who was born, raised, and STILL lived in Indiana.
Long story short, she wrote to tell me how she was trapped in a cult for over 30 years (those were her words). The cult in question was Jehovah's Witness. She described many things in great detail, and would tell me what was too painful to discuss. The bottom line to it all was her thanking me for talking about it, because she didn't feel alone.
I directed her to the Think Atheist website and we are still writing back and forth.
Today, we're very fortunate to have the internet to connect us all. I recall feeling like my friend in school; outcast and alone. Today, I know for a fact that there are others out there like me, who don't believe in a god, yet live exemplary lives. No longer is there an illusion of a majority pressuring me into going with the flow. No longer are non-believers hiding in a closet, hoping that nobody finds out.
While I was happy to rid myself of the bible-thumpers (who weren't really good friends to begin with), I'm the happiest hearing from someone else from where I was raised, who feels inspired by my philosophies and writings. I am going to encourage her to write on Think Atheist, and I hope that she does. When comparing experiences, I know that my experience was hard, as the outcast who was never a believer. However, she WAS a believer (or was forced to say she believed) and had to fight her way OUT of the whole situation. It involved intense pressure, guilt, and the ultimate alienation of immediate family and friends.
She's one brave person.