July 27, 2015

Bricks in the Wall: Exploring milestones on my spiritual journey to no longer being particularly spiritual

Recently, I've been dealing with more of the ramifications of "coming out" as an atheist. After taking some time to consider it, and reading Coming Out Atheist by Greta Christina and Mom, Dad, I'm an Atheist by David McAfee, I decided the best way to do this was to be nonchalant about it. I felt comfortable enough about my nonbelief to begin to just...live it and stop worrying so much about what other family members would think about what I was doing. I saw it referred to as the "No Big Deal" method.

So far, it's looked a little like this:


  • I changed my religious views on Facebook.
  • I began openly commenting on the various atheists and humanist organizations that I follow on Facebook.
  • I began sharing things that I found interesting...even when they dealt with atheism or with religion in a negative way.
  • I posted about activities with our local freethought society.
  • I didn't back down from saying we have no intention of finding a church in our new hometown.
  • I quit worrying about who saw various atheistic tomes on my book shelf.


And it hasn't been terrible. My grandmother was pretty upset, leading to a conversation with another family member, who also came out as an atheist. My mom is none too pleased, and seems to be discussing my atheism with everyone in the family but me. An uncle has made sure that everyone knows that "freethought society" means a group of atheists (...). A cousin spent the family beach trip this summer making sure that I understood exactly what Christianity says and that it's not (in his opinion) oppressive (thoughts for a later blog: why does being an atheist automatically make some Christians assume that I don't understand Christianity somehow...???). My other grandmother said she'd rather I were a Buddhist than visit the local Unitarian Universalist congregation, because at least Buddhists are peaceful (...?).

But on the whole, I've let these ride because I am not looking to create conflict. My goal isn't to deconvert my family, or to win them over with my brilliant rhetoric. I spent a good deal of my younger-than-now years trying to convert people to Christianity, and I don't feel the need to be an atheistic evangelist, although I am more than willing to have conversations with the people that have expressed an interest in doing so.

As I've delved more and more into this process, though, I've begun to really dig into what led me down this path, and I plan to explore that in more depth in a series of posts I'm tentatively titling "Bricks in the Wall".

Much like the ship of Theseus conundrum, it's difficult to tell where our personal identities come from. I no longer, for instance, identify with the me that was anti-choice, pro-birth, anti-feminism, virulently conservative. I no longer identify with the me that was against marriage equality, the me that believed that homosexuality was a sin and that if I just prayed hard enough, the transgirl at my high school would see the light. I no longer identify with the me that didn't believe in evolution or the me that didn't understand how anyone could be an atheist when there was such an overwhelming proof of God all around us.

But none of those changes happened all at once, or by themselves. They were all built up, bit by bit, by smaller changes. At one point did I stop believe that homosexuality was a sin? I can't give you a specific date or time or really even a true range. When did I accept that evolution was the truth? No idea. It was little by little.

And in the end, it begs the question: Am I still the same person? I'm the sum of those experiences, to be sure, but at what point am I so distant from that person that I am something entirely different? Is there a point?

In Christianity, there was a marked before and after. I listened to countless testimonies of people who were drunkards, who were drug addicts, who were abusers, who slept around, who did all of these things that (at the time at least) I considered entirely morally reprehensible--and every story culminated in a final truth. Rebirth. Redemption. Every one had a marked "this was me then but I am not that person now".

I suppose that is, in a way, what I am exploring here, and what I will explore in these future posts. That is what I am seeking--the ways that I have grown in the past, in hopes that I can continue to learn and grow in the future.

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