An Atheist's Wish
I wish I could say I've managed to make some sort of sense of it all in that span of time, but I really haven't. Some of you may know that I decided quite recently to come out of the Atheist closet and start being honest about who I am and what I believe, regardless of the personal costs, which can be pretty substantial in these parts. That's partially because I wasn't very happy being disingenuous and vague about it. It was thoroughly exhausting, frankly. So I decided if I was going to be unhappy anyway, I could at least be unhappy for the right reasons and feel good about the self-imposed misery.
But more importantly I realized that I was fostering an attitude of shame for my boys about our beliefs.
I don't want my children to be ashamed. Of anything. But least of all about something as emotionally and psychologically impactful as spirituality. I really and truly believe that much like sexuality, spiritual beliefs are not a choice. Being ashamed of something over which we have no control is a sad and pointless endeavor.
I was raised in a Christian home. I went to Sunday School, VBS, and church camp every summer. I dutifully learned my Bible verses, I sang and played my flute in church. I went through these motions because I knew it was expected of me and also because I hoped that sooner or later, something would click for me as it obviously had for all the people around me.
I live in a place that is steeped in Christian dogma, where every aspect of life reflects the cultural indoctrination that is so deeply pervasive here. It's like language immersion except with religion. I have read about a jillion books arguing both for and against Christianity. I've read the Bible. Hell, I even read the Left Behind series.
Sometimes I would really LIKE to believe in God, because in ways so numerous that I couldn't possibly list them all for you here without penning my own epistle....it would just make my life easier.
And yet...I don't and I can't. It wasn't a choice. It just happened.
And I understand that at some point in time, it might just so happen that for my boys, the thing that makes sense for them is Christianity. Christians become Atheist and Atheists become Christians. I think the latter is less common, but it does happen. Sometimes what you know and what you feel are drastically at odds with one another. And strangely enough, the intellect is sometimes entirely powerless over instinct and intuition. People have done crazy, senseless, dangerous, reckless, even illegal things because of a feeling; a visceral, non cognitive influence that drives them in ways they don't understand.
So the thought that someone might abandon Atheism because God just feels right for them, isn't such a hard thing to imagine.
My mission these days has changed a little bit. I'm less about figuring this all out, and more about fostering understanding and acceptance between factions. We have SO much to learn from one another, but we can only do that if we are willing to abandon the preconceived ideas and misconceptions about one another. I'll admit I have my fair share of prejudices about Christians and Christianity. But I'm working on them. I really am. I often feel however, that expecting reciprocation in that regard is pretty unrealistic, because many (not all) Christians think it's their Christian duty to assimilate and indoctrinate, rather than understand and appreciate.
BUT...nonetheless, in the spirit of understanding and harmony, I offer you this. A friend recently directed me to this blog; a Christian friend, interestingly enough. Godless in Dixie. Are you kidding me??? There's actually another Atheist in Dixie, he's OUT, he's writing a blog, speaking....and I didn't know about him? A travesty.
On his site is a video about "Invite An Atheist To Church Day". I love that idea. Because it wasn't about converting him, it was about understanding him. I love how these two guys interact with one another in the full length video. No ridicule, no angry jibes, no judgment; just an open and honest exchange of ideas.
In this clip, he speaks about what Atheists wish Christians knew about them. It was so spot on I nearly stood up and cheered at the end. Pay particular attention to number 5. This one is incredibly disheartening to me. I had a good life, a pretty idyllic childhood and two loving parents. I wasn't abused or beaten, I wasn't molested by my Sunday School teacher, and I experienced no tragic life altering events until my Mother died three years ago, long after I'd rejected Christianity. Did I have experiences with Christianity that left a bad taste in my mouth? Certainly, but that was more about affirmation than realization.