a reluctant atheist

I'm an atheist who wishes she wasn't. Life would be so much easier!


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The Hypocrisy is All Mine

 

I’ve written in the past about why I’m so impatient with lip service Christians, judgmental Christians and others who profess faith in a loving God but who do lots of things that are antithetical to a loving, accepting existence. But if I am going to criticize others, I have to admit to my own flaws. I’m a hypocrite as well. I pretend to be something I’m not in order to “blend in” with the Christians around me.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t attend church and sings hymns (although I still miss the uplifting music and beautiful songs). I don’t identify myself as a Christian – primarily because in this part of the country, it’s pretty much a given that you are some kind of Christian. If you aren’t, it’s assumed you are Jewish. So I keep my mouth shut and soldier on in my community, keeping my beliefs under wraps.

The real hypocrisy happens primarily on social media. When I’m not writing about my beliefs on this blog, I’m on Facebook to keep track of my grown children and grandchildren, old friends from my hometown, and new friends where I live now. I post nearly every day and I see dozens of posts on my wall every day; many of them are asking me to “Say ‘Amen’ and Share,” or request prayers for loved ones who are sick or going through a difficult time.

7191146 - group of girls and senior woman praying together

When friends bow their heads to pray, do you do the same or do you step away?

I confess that I didn’t know what to do in these instances for the longest time. If I don’t reply with my promise to pray for them, they may feel that I don’t care. It’s obviously not the right time to tell them I don’t believe in God, prayer or angels (why add to their grief?). But sending back a message that says, “I’m praying for you and your family,” seems glib and diminishes their beliefs. It’s not my mission to convert those I love to atheism. If they find peace in their God, who am I to take that away from them? To me, their belief system is harmless until it becomes bigotry or judgment of others.

I’ve tried lots of ways to respond to requests for prayers. “Healing thoughts are headed your way.” “You are in my thoughts.” “Please tell your husband/wife/child/parent that they are loved.”  I’ve never found the ideal response. If I can help in some way, I often say, “Please tell me what you need from me and I will do all I can to help.” Taking action in some way is in some small way my answer to their prayers.

How do you respond to prayer requests? Do you keep your atheism to yourself or take the opportunity to educate true believers in the folly (in your opinion) of their ways? Am I a hypocrite for not revealing my lack of faith to those I know and care about, or am  I preserving my relationships with those I love?

 


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It’s Pastafarianism, Baby!

As an atheist, I obviously don’t subscribe to a religion, but if I had to choose one, the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, sometimes referred to as Pastafarianism, would be the one. Yes, it’s satirical. Yes, it’s meant to poke holes in the logic (or lack thereof) of many other religions, but it’s also peaceful, irreverent and fun. You don’t often get to say “fun” when you’re talking fundamentalism. Also, no one has ever been injured or killed in the name of the Spaghetti Monster.

Check out their website: Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, where you’ll learn that a colander on your head and greeting other members with a Pirate greeting (Argh!) are two ways to show your belief in Pastafarianism. Some people will be offended, pointing out that it makes light of others’ beliefs. It does. But in a way that’s not judgmental, and certainly not violently or aggressively, like so many other religions do. You’ll never see a Flying Spaghetti Monster rally that devolves into use of pepper spray or hurling racist insults.

In fact, the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster first began as a protest against the concept of Intelligent Design. The Church of FSM’s website says, “Some claim that the church is purely a thought experiment or satire, illustrating that Intelligent Design is not science, just a pseudoscience manufactured by Christians to push Creationism into public schools. These people are mistaken — The Church of FSM is legit, and backed by hard science. Anything that comes across as humor or satire is purely coincidental.” Browse through the site and decide for yourself – I think it’s a gentle way to point out the many problems inherent in other religions.

FSM

I want to be touched by his noodly appendage

If I had to have a deity watching over me these days, the Flying Spaghetti monster would be the one I’d choose. He (she?) seems to be pretty chill, and won’t condemn me for being too much or too little of a Pastafarian. He also doesn’t demand funds, expect me to act in any way like a zealot, and is totally benign. The FSM is in, fact, quite cheery and welcomes all.

In the words of Bobby Henderson, who wrote the “About” section of the FSM website, “Let me make this clear: we are not anti-religion, we are anti- crazy nonsense done in the name of religion. There is a difference.” I whole-heartedly agree with him.

May all the Flying Spaghetti Monster’s people say, “Ramen!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Agnostic? Atheist? Believer? Who Am I Today?

Some days, I’m an atheist. Other days, I’m an agnostic. But I lean more toward atheist because I can no longer wrap my head around the thought that there is some kind of mystical “other” or “God” that transforms our lives in so many ways and who has control over our entire, vast universe. Sometimes, however, some kind of miracle occurs and I wonder…What if?….Could I be wrong?….Am I missing something?

I’ve had people who do know that I’m no longer a believer tell me that an agnostic is simply someone who can’t commit. But I disagree! It’s not that I CAN’T commit to either believing in God or believing that there is no God. Rather, I admit that I JUST. DON’T. KNOW. Some days are like that. Agnoticism is modest – we know just how much we don’t know. We aren’t going to espouse a creed, faith, manifesto or believe system – or lack thereof – until we know more. And we are willing to admit that this means we may never be fully atheist or fully religious.

While the article is  out of date (it’s from 2010), author Ron Rosenbaum clearly explained the differences between most agnostics and most atheists in his article, “An Agnostic Manifesto.” If you know what you don’t know, but aren’t sure whether you’re agnostic or atheist (it’s okay to not be sure, despite what radicals on either side of the fence say), I encourage  you to read Rosenbaum’s article.

Do you always identify as atheist or agnostic? Does your world view (or view of the universe) shift from time to time? I’d love to hear from any of you who feel like I do that belief and non-belief can be fluid over time and circumstance.


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Let’s All Go to the Easter Charade!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but I can tell you that Easter this year was probably one of the worst I’ve had to endure yet. I had already called my parents and told them my husband and I wouldn’t be coming “home” for Easter, but that didn’t stop the questions from them and many of our friends:

“Did you go to church?”

“Which church did you go to?”

“How was the sermon?”

I feel like such a schmuck as I sidestep the questions, giving vague replies so that I’m not out-and-out lying, but it still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. I hate lying to people I care about, but the very reason I do lie to them is because I care too much to distress them with the truth.

If I tell them I didn’t go to church, they will want to know why, and I will either have to make up another lie, or I will have to tell them the truth – that I don’t believe in God. I imagine how my mother would react. The crying; the horror; this disbelief. I just can’t do it, but I’m left feeling slightly dirty and very dishonest. I hate this duplicity and the annual “Easter Charade” For me, Easter is the worst holiday of the year, even worse than Christmas, because it focuses more on the miracle of the resurrection and is a more spiritually focused holiday. Christmas is an overwhelming jumble of religious, secular and commercial where details like Faith and Belief can get shuffled aside. Put simply, it’s easier to fake it at Christmas.

Once again, as I listen to Easter music in the week leading up to Easter Sunday, I’m reminded of how much I miss the music and ceremony of attending church. Liturgical music is uplifting, inspiring and comforting all at once Iand I miss hearing it and singing it. Occassionally I attend services with my parents when I visit them and I always sing enthusiastically. I love the hymns and I sometimes feel something that might be a remnant of my old faith. I discover that I still yearn for that sense of certainty and belonging.

The odd thing about lying to my family and friends about believing in God is that it bothers me a lot more than most people would think. Let me assure you, just because I’m an athiest it doesn’t mean I don’t have a moral compass. In fact, I find that I hold myself to a higher standard these days. I believe that I have to strive to be a better person and to do what is right because I need to better myself in order to better the world. And without God putting restrictions on our behavior, the only thing that can hold us to a higher standard is . . . ourselves!  Some people refer to this as “Humanism.” I don’t know enough about humanism to judge yet, but I’ll be reading up on it in the coming days. If for no other reason than to find a label for my belief system now that God no longer exists for me.

So if you’re a believer, would you want to know if someone you loved was atheist?  And if  you’re a closet atheist like me, do you feel guilty about “faking” your beliefs?

 

 

 

 

 


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The God Habit

 

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.

 


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Why I’m a Reluctant Atheist

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.