Stephen Fry, a prominent humanist, has posted a short, 3 minute video that explains how he finds meaning in life despite not believing in a higher power or God and why he’s happy even though he doesn’t believe there is a “grand design” for our world. Check it out – it expresses non-belief beautifully!
I started questioning my faith about six years ago, but it was only in the last few years that I fully acknowledged to myself that I simply didn’t buy the whole premise of an all-seeing, omnipotent god. But I continued to give lip service to religion, mostly out of years of habit. Like saying “excuse me” or “thank you,” saying “bless you” or even “I’ll pray for you” was so ingrained in me that the phrases popped out repeatedly whenever a friend or acquaintance was in distress. I’ll be honest, when it happened, the response from others was always gratifying. They were appreciative and grateful, so I didn’t backtrack or correct their assumptions. After all, why would I want to cause them distress? And I knew that if they knew I didn’t believe, they would be distressed, appalled or both. I wasn’t willing to upset them with the revelation about my crisis of faith. And I didn’t want to have to explain myself or get into a philosophical debate. And I feared that my relationships with others would suffer.
I don’t know if I’m a coward trying to avoid a confrontation or I’m being compassionate to friends and family who would be terribly distressed that I was no longer in the Christian fold. Quite simply, I didn’t want to talk about it. I feared that I would lose friends or that they would try some kind of intervention. I was afraid they would think less of me. I was afraid of disappointing them. I knew I didn’t believe, but I couldn’t give up the “God Habit” that had been a major part of my existence for most of my life.
I live in a typical U.S. Town in a mid Atlantic state. It’s large enough to offer plenty of options for socializing and small enough to seem intimate; about 15,000 people. There are social clubs for an impressive range of ethnic groups Ranging from the Sons of Italy to the Slovenian Club, but the predominant social arena remains church. I’ve lived and worked here for 15 years and when I stopped attending church, many friendships faded because we simply didn’t see each other anymore. I tried to keep them going, but when I no longer attended church events and wasn’t interested in worshiping with them, most people did a slow fade. It’s natural, I suppose, but I was hurt and felt isolated when my social opportunities narrowed dramatically because I was no longer a believer. Did it hurt? Yes. Do I think it was their intention? No. But it certainly illustrates the divide between believers and non-believers.
I’m an atheist. There, I’ve said it. I’ve probably been an atheist for years, but it took me a long time to admit it even to myself, and I’m certainly not going to admit it to the world at large, or even my little corner of it. It would rock my world in a number of unpleasant ways, not the least of which would be the shock and disappointment I’d see in the faces of my own family. But over the last months I’ve come to realize that I need to talk about WHY I’m an atheist and why it’s so hard for me to be my real self in a community and a country that’s predominently Christian and darned proud of it. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with Christianity and I have a great deal of respect for those who do believe. To be honest, I wish I had their faith. But I don’t. I can’t.