September 30, 2014

Dear Christians: Sometimes I miss church

Dear Christians is a recurring column that deals with my intersection between belief and nonbelief. It looks at my personal views of belief and deals with the myths of nonbelief that I was taught growing up. All opinions are, of course, my own. To see more Dear Christians columns, click here.

Dear Christians,

One of the common reactions to atheism is that it would be so easy to just believe. Why do we resist it?

This doesn't really bear out when you look at the experience of atheists. We are the most distrusted group in the U.S. It's entirely possible that it changes based on when you poll--we were quite close to Muslims, and I have a sneaky suspicion that, if you were to poll right this moment, you'd get us slightly ahead of them. So it would perhaps be more accurate to say "we are one of the most distrusted groups".

Why would we choose that? In six states, it's still technically illegal (although I'd add, unenforceable) for us to hold public office.

Then there are the typical issues with being a minority belief group--it's hard to find a sense of community.

When you transition from belief to nonbelief, you give that up, and you have to actively look for it again. When I was a Christian, I had the church. I was able to go there for comfort, for social interaction. I could sit there, secure in my knowledge that I was amidst people that believed the same as me, that felt the same as me.

I miss having people that share a common background. I miss being able to find a built-in family wherever I go.

I miss being able to truthfully answer, "Where do you guys go to church?" without beating around the bush and having to fear the reaction that I'll get on the other side.

I'm not saying this for sympathy, which would be misplaced, but to point out how ridiculous it is to assume that we could just stop and believe whenever we wanted to. Believe me, if I could, I most certainly would. It would be easier for myself, for my family.

But it simply isn't that easy. This isn't a willful resistance of belief. There simply isn't evidence for me to believe.

Many atheists experience a similar reaction. They aren't actively resisting belief. They simply don't see the evidence for the existence of divinity. They aren't angry or out to get God or Christianity. Some would believe if they could.

We simply lack the evidence for it.

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