Archive for the ‘Belief’ Category

Coming Out

From a friend I learned that someone from formertown posted on facebook about being an atheist. To give a little context, formertown was founded in the 19th century as a religious community, today most of the community are employed by the church or schools. It doesn’t surprise me that there are a few atheists mixed in, but one never knows who they might be. I felt incredibly isolated in formertown because I didn’t know if discussing my true beliefs would result in rejection and possibly also losing my job.  There are/were teachers at the school that weren’t raised in the religion, and I certainly did my best not to disparage it in public, but I felt that at best my work would be subject to additional scrutiny. There are a broad range of religious and political beliefs in the community, but the school has a major part in upholding the status quo, and the more conservative members of the community often have a louder voice, and larger donations. It’s a legitimate concern.

In addition, everyone likes to have an opinion and gossip spreads quickly. Though the opinions of others wouldn’t change my mind, I’m not really wanting to defend my decisions to everyone who asks. It’s one thing to explain my process to a friend, entirely different to have a confrontation at an event (ie. wedding, school, grocery store). While I am curious about how people might react, I also don’t really care about the reactions of random people I barely know, but who know my family tree and think they have the right to give their opinion.

Several of my friends know about the process I’ve gone through to reach my present beliefs, but there are many acquaintances that don’t really know, older friends from high school that have stayed religious and “like” various anti-atheist or pro fox news statements on facebook. I wind up feeling resentful that they feel so confident that I would share their beliefs as a matter of course. Simultaneously I have such admiration for people who make a public stand about who they are and why.

By connecting with the person who posted a public statement about atheism I have also connected with other community members who share my beliefs (I don’t know why seeking an underground network didn’t occur to me while I was in town!) i feel less afraid about making a more public declaration of my stance. One fear of moving away from religion, while thoroughly surrounded by a religious community, is the possibility of losing all community. But I’ve already extricated myself from the community, and live far away from local gossip, so that fear no longer has weight for me.

I’m debating next steps… do I email people I consider friends? Just let it come out in conversation (it hasn’t in past years, soooo). In this age of facebook, it would certainly be expedient to just post a note or a link that outs me, but that also seems pretty passive, though it would get the word out. So that’s where I am for today. Pondering.


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Normally I carefully phrase my comments in order to avoid offending others and leaving space for their opinions. This habit is useful in maintaining friendships with people from a variety of political and religious backgrounds, but one reason for this blog is to practice saying exactly what I believe. Here goes!

I almost started cheering in a gym full of strangers as I saw the news on CNN that Proposition 8 was overturned. Yes, I know the decision will be appealed, but this is still a victory and the precise wording of the decision fills me with hope. I love reading a well written argument, and Judge Walker’s decision is excellent reading.

I strongly believe that human rights are not up for a vote. Citizens of the United States are guaranteed equal protection under the law and Proposition 8 violated that principle absolutely. Churches mark changes in a person’s life, and they are welcome to, but they should not have a say on the rights granted to citizens of the country. How ridiculous would it be if people had to take communion in order to vote? Have a Bar/Bat Mitzvah in order to attend secondary school? The United States chose to recognize partners who have made a commitment to one another by giving spousal rights, this protection must be extended to all partners who decide to make that commitment. If churches wish to add their blessing to such unions, that’s on the church, but churches should not deny the rights of people who choose to marry. Even within the United States religious groups hold different opinions. It is not the right of the many to impose their will on the few.

In many ways the arguments of people supporting laws stating that marriage can only be between a man and a woman, remind me of arguments supporting “states’ rights.” States’ rights supporters were NOT only arguing for their individual state’s rights, but they were imposing their state’s decision on other states by requiring a strong fugitive slave act and punishing people from other states that did not comply. In a similar fashion, denying gay and lesbian couples the right to marry enforces foreign religious beliefs on these couples, while allowing marriage does not force people who are against the idea to change their beliefs. Yes, banning slavery did force federal law on slaveholding states, but this was absolutely justified.  I am not arguing that gay and lesbian couples face the same discrimination as slaves did in the antebellum south, however, denying human rights, and denying rights to citizens of this country is never justified. Ever.

Overview of Same Sex Marriage Debate

Maddow on the difference between a democracy and constitutional democracy

Article summarizing the impact of this decision

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Atheism II

No person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow.
— Alice Walker (via An Effort in Memory)
This quote from a friend’s tumblr really struck me. It sums up exactly why I felt more and more out of place in Formertown. My religion of origin claimed that people of any religion could go to heaven if they did good works (this is a simplification obviously). I thought this was a pretty good philosophy, and it is one of the beliefs I liked the most in this religion, but some people within the religion seemed to believe that it had the very best answers of all the religions in all the world. The implication was that sure, you could belong to a different religion and still be a good person, but why would anyone want to when OUR religion was the very best one? As a student in the religious high school and college I felt encouraged to question religious beliefs because we were taught questioning was preferable to blind faith. Of course, as a result of questioning we were supposed to reach the conclusion that of course OUR religion had all the best answers. There was room to question, but not room to disagree.

In the community many people had different opinions of what the religious doctrine meant and how it should be interpreted, but within the school community I felt strong pressure to conform and toe the party line. Ultimately this felt harmful and led to increasing dissatisfaction with the community and church. Disagreeing with a community mindset or individual church’s culture did not cause me to “rebel” by becoming an atheist, but it did make moving away seem much more appealing.

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