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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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.