This is the first post in a series in which I intend to explain, philosophize, argue, and even convince myself of a new approach in my own personal life regarding my lack of religious faith.
For nearly two years now I’ve been an out atheist and as a result of a very painful process of losing my faith I have to force myself to embrace a Truth regarding myself – I’ve been bitter, angry, and sometimes hurtful toward other people. Some of them deserved it while others did not and I feel the need to repair my approach to humanity.
The fact is, despite my best efforts and the efforts of my peers, we are stuck here with religion and the religious – the vast majority of whom, due to the nature of faith, will hold on to their faith despite all of the good evidence you and I can provide to the contrary. Religion, as a whole, may one day disappear but not without many more years of scientific discovery and understanding so that all questions in which god can be a hypothetical answer to may be answered – if they ever are.
It’s not that I’ve suddenly forgotten all of the dangers of religion or how it has held humanity behind for ages – I haven’t. I simply can’t justify the effects that my approach have had on myself and others in the last few years. Despite being the happiest I’ve ever been, there has still been this underlying bitterness…even a persecution complex (something I often accuse Christians of) in-so-much that I may often see persecution in places that it isn’t actually occurring. Of course persecution absolutely does occur and yes I have absolutely been a victim of it – but my failure has been in giving those around me the benefit of the doubt.
Lessons of experience
Over the last few months I have found myself associated with two organizations, one of which I am a founding officer called C.O.F.F.E.R of Dodge County – a citizens organization dedicated to working with the local Board of Education to ensure that responsibility is used in the areas of education and finance. Secondarily I am now performing all of the web-admin duties and doing other volunteer work for Faithful Hearts Animal Shelter (501c3) – a local startup non-profit incorporation of individuals interested in building a permanent rescue for abandoned and abused animals in my local area (we desperately need it – but that’s a whole different story, just know that my wife and I are pretty much animal freaks.)
Through this work as well as some of the lengthy conversations I have been having with Christians lately I’ve come to realize quite a few things about myself and about other people:
- I’ve learned that in the past when I thought I was an activist because I wrote a few blog posts about some subjects important to me, or talked about issues with other individuals that all I was doing was moaning about things rather than actively participating in changing the things I objected to. I’ve found that true activism requires getting my hands dirty and learning to work with people that I won’t necessarily see eye to eye with.
- I’ve learned that at times I am unnecessarily confrontational and that stems from a persecution complex I’ve carried over from when I was still a Christian – I often assume what individuals think about me before I give them the opportunity to state a position. I learned this mostly through my dealings with the animal shelter where I have had multiple people contact me saying how much they appreciated the writing I’ve done in the local newspaper and how much they value, despite their own beliefs, opinions and views that are alternative to their own. This revelation shocked me and humbled me.
- I’ve learned that some people are like me – they simply want the Truth. Some people aren’t like me in that they want the Truth so long as it doesn’t hinder their current perception….I remember being there.
- I’ve learned that people, myself included, need fellowship with other people. Since leaving church the times that I’ve spent with other people that are not my wife has been miniscule. Through working with COFFER and the animal shelter I’ve learned that I thrive in an environment where people are present – where ideas can collide and work together to benefit something greater than ourselves and I’ve really enjoyed these opportunities to get to know people.
- Finally, I’ve learned that people, despite our many failings, are essentially good and when given the chance can be worthy of our time, attention, and care.
Goals and Changes
As a result of all the thinking I’ve been doing lately I’d like to work on some goals that I’d like to meet and changes I’d like to make in and of myself.
- I want to continue to develop friendships in my area and abroad with people that I don’t see eye to eye with. Be those differences religious or political I want to continue to value the ideas that others hold dear simply because they do.
- I want to continue to challenge the status quo and the religious and political stances that I most vehemently object to – but when doing so I want to make it an issue of facts, reason, and concern for the potential that dangerous ideas hold – not simply to be right all the time.
- I want to shut up and listen sometimes and only speak when what I say will make an appropriate impact.
- I want for people of any background or status to feel comfortable coming to me with questions or concerns of any nature, like they once were, and to be trusted as an individual that is knowledgeable about religion and other subjects that will appropriately use my background as a means to answer those questions or concerns.
I could probably think of a hundred more goals to pursue but i think I’ll stick with these for the time being and continue to develop my personal relationships around these tenets. I don’t want my atheist friends to think that for any reason I’ve lost sight of just how dangerous blind faith is – in fact I think I realize it now more than ever, but I’m simply trying to find the most effective way to deal with those things and as appropriate as mockery may seem at times it doesn’t seem to get us anywhere in the long run.I’m not saying that every confrontational thing I’ve ever said or done was wrong – I still hold to the idea that I am nearly always appropriate with the things I do and when It has come to my attention that something I have done is over the top I have always been very fast to issue an apology both publicly and privately.
I think one of the best ways to facilitate this approach is to find ways to be involved with the local community, since I am in the middle of the Bible Belt having a presence in the local churches is probably one of the greatest opportunities I can have – therefore I’d like to invite any Local Christian organization (or otherwise) to contact me if you’d be open to a discussion on faith either individually or with your church or youth group. I think something like this would be an excellent opportunity to learn and practice mutual respect for myself and anyone involved
I look forward to continuing my efforts at what I can only call “Positive Atheism” and I hope that others might be willing to join me in doing so.