Well, well, well. Well, well, well, well, well.


The following is a letter that I just sent. I share it as a post because it says what I would say if I wrote a post. I feel badly that I can't keep the people's identities a secret from those who know them, but it's clear, I hope, that what I wrote is my impression rather than their reality. Once I share my blog address, I know that, forever afterwards, the person I shared it with might actually read it even if he or she never brings it up. Furthermore, I can never be sure but what that person shared it with still other people whom I might write about. I know all this, but I can't let it alter how I write because the point of my writing is to write openly about what's important to me.
 
Brent, when I started going to Resurrection last summer, I never intended to keep my atheism a secret, but I didn’t know how or when to broach the subject. I shared it with you, of course, and a month or so later, I shared it with ___ through my blog. I thought he would be likely to understand my position because he too lives with a fact about himself that many, if not most, people at Resurrection reject him for, however subtly. My father was himself a transsexual, and this gave me another tie to ___. When I gave him my blog address, I asked if he would be willing to get together and talk sometime, my interest being in how he made the decision about when and how to tell people of his transsexuality. He said he would, but when I next saw him, I realized that he must have read my blog, because he seemed nervous and intent on avoiding me, a situation that continues. I was disappointed in him about this since he plans to be a priest, but I told myself that he was only one person.

As the months passed, I came to feel badly that I was flying, as it were, under false colors by letting people assume I was a theist, but I didn’t know what to do. Then, ___ started attending the book group, and he seemed like an open and sensitive person. Also I had spent most of my life feeling as shy as he, so that too gave me a bond with him. One night while we were walking to our cars together, I told him about my blog, and asked if he would like to read it. He enthusiastically said he would. The next time I saw him, he said that he had “tried” to read my blog, and offered that it must be strange for me to be in the book group. Nothing more was said, and I got the idea that he preferred to keep his distance.

A few weeks later, I got an email from the lady who was hosting the dinner for new people. Peggy wasn’t interested in going, and I couldn’t go. I let ___ know these things, and she wrote back that her husband felt as Peggy did about church, and she asked if Peggy and I would like to have dinner with them some other time. I wrote that we would, and, after my signature, I impulsively put my blog address. I haven’t heard anything more from her, so I assume the dinner is off, along with the “loving reception” that the original email promised.

I find it considerably harder to tell myself that it’s only three people than I did when it was only one person. Maybe I didn’t share my atheism in the best way. On the other hand, polls show that Americans hold atheists in the same esteem as rapists, so it seems likely that I would have been rejected no matter how I had broached the subject. You anticipated a better reception, and I wanted to believe you, but my experience with Christians has long been extremely discouraging (when I became an atheist, I was shut out of the lives of people whom had always been my friends). Having shared what appears to be regarded as my shameful secret with three people other than yourself, and having been seemingly rejected by all three, I don’t see the point in continuing. I’m far from needing everyone’s approval, but neither do I wish to go where I am treated like a pariah. Nothing is written in stone here, but for now all the joy of attending church is gone for me. I plan to come to class on Saturday because I have to come out and return some books anyway, but I rather doubt that I will continue beyond that. I know that this is a busy time of year for you, and I don’t want you to feel any obligation to meet with me again even when you have more time, yet if you have any ideas that I haven’t thought of, that would be another matter. Emails are good too. In fact, I prefer them in some ways.

I understand that your vision of a church is that it be a place where people are cemented by values rather than beliefs, and where people can safely come together to share the news of their spiritual journey no matter where that journey has taken them. I, too, would love for church to be such a place, but I think that your goodness might sometimes make it hard for you to anticipate the failings of others. Without meaning to elevate myself to what I regard, in some ways, as your level of virtue, I think this is also true of myself, because, otherwise, why would I have ever walked in the door at Resurrection?

Whatever my faults, if the Christian talk of loving one’s neighbor is to mean anything, I have as much claim to that love as anyone. At the same time, I recognize that tribalism is a strong need within our species, and that church is one of its strongholds. I’ve even noticed that those outsiders whom your own church goes to such pains to help can be counted upon to remain outsiders, thereby allowing the church to see itself as helping its neighbors while at the same time trusting that those neighbors are unlikely to draw uncomfortably close. I don’t mean this as cynically as it must sound, because I know that there are other factors at work here. Yet, would you not say that the people who appear to have turned their backs on me are among those who take their religion the most seriously, and who therefore might have been considered the mostly likely to embrace me? You might ask what I would have liked from them. The answer is acknowledgement followed by normalcy. I wasn’t seeking conversion; I wasn’t seeking to convert; and I wasn’t looking for heartfelt conversations about God or atheism. I instead wanted to be accepted as I am, which is how you have accepted me. If, beyond that, someone had shown an interest in my experiences and views, that would have been wonderful, but I didn’t expect it. Truth be known, I got what I did expect, what experience has taught me to expect.

20 comments:

Elephant's Child said...

Oh Snow.
Brent has accepted you just as you are, which has to be a win.
If your blog scared the others off, then I strongly suspect that they aren't people who would be able to add much that is positive in your life anyway.
Hugs.

Stephen Hayes said...

You mentioned that polls show that most Americans hold atheists in the same esteem as rapists? That's horrible. I'd be curious to know more about this poll.

Paula Kaye said...

I think it is only human to want to be accepted for who you really are. And I, too, feel that there is so much hiding in the Christian religion. May you find peace, my friend!

Snowbrush said...

"You mentioned that polls show that most Americans hold atheists in the same esteem as rapists? That's horrible. I'd be curious to know more about this poll."

I'm shocked that you're shocked because every study I've ever seen paints atheists as at the bottom of the respect ladder, well below Jews, Moslems, blacks, homosexuals, and all other minority groups that I've seen us compared to. The results of the particular study I mentioned were published in the National Journal in 2011. It was a combined effort by the University of British Columbia and the University of Oregon, although a BCer was the lead researcher. Here's a Scientific American article about it:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/in-atheists-we-distrust/

Such polls, along with my own experiences, are why I doubted that Brent was correct when he said that there was a home for me at Resurrection. The truth is that liberal believers hate atheists as much as conservative believers, although, as with their other prejudices, they are blissfully oblivious of their own feelings. Atheists, on the other hand, are not. Here's another article that includes an overview of various studies about atheists. For some reason, there are lots and lots of these studies, and they all indicate that people loathe us.

http://atheism.about.com/od/atheistbigotryprejudice/a/AtheistSurveys.htm

Oftentimes, readers tell me that they're not so prejudiced, and I think that, well, you're here. If you were prejudiced, you probably wouldn't be because most people are extremely prejudiced. Knowing that this is true is a big part of why I tend to not think well of people in general.

TICKLEBEAR said...

To be quite frank, I believe you've made a faux-pas. I've always admired your integrity, but you've stepped in something that will stink for a long time. From my own experiences, Christians welcome all [that fit their purpose] and the rest is cast into fire and brimstone. A Baptist girl knew me for years and we had interesting/challenging conversations, she and her husband even brought me to their church to meet with their friends, up until the day she saw me having lunch with my boyfriend. That is the day she [finally]realized I was that one sheep she couldn't bring back to the flock. Fortunately for me!! Never heard of her since then. May her god have mercy on her... [As if!!!] I don't understand your interest in this endeavor. Surely you could widen your social circle with people that better resonate with your own set of values, rather than conform with.... THIS!!! Since 2014 is coming to a close, my wish for you is to find friends that can truly appreciate EVERYTHING about you, not just tidbits that better suit them.

On another matter, you brought up the subject of someone being a transsexual but wanting to enter priesthood?!? How is that person intending to do that? Becoming a priest, to then become a nun? I find it a little confusing. I have a neighbor who seems a bit confused himself in his acceptance of his transsexuality, but for over a year now, he seems to be going the feminine way, to which I would say "Bravo!! Be yourself!!" But I keep my mouth shut so he doesn't regress due to unexpected exposure. Those are sensitive matters. All this to say that I am perplexed by this fellow who thinks of himself a female, yet, wants to enter priesthood. How is that going to fix his situation?

As a fellow atheist, I can only tell you that you will find solace only in other atheists. Those who are adamant about their beliefs will reject you. Others, rare, may embrace you, but only secretly so. This should in no way discourage you of being who you are. But it should definitively be a guideline as with whom you should associate with.

TICKLEBEAR said...

Alright, I've read that study
and disagree with its conclusion.
Since I don't fear God's judgement,
I had to define a sense of ethics on my own and find that I am more emphatic towards others since I see no distinction between Christian and Muslims or any other denominations.
Should there be a god....
I think I stand a better chance than most, no kidding!!
I may rely upon science and human experience, but it somehow seems more real than any other nonsense....

lotta joy said...

Wasn't it Groucho Marx who said he wouldn't want to belong to any club that would accept him as a member?

You want acceptance, and I feel so badly for you.

I have gained acceptance at times (when I felt the urge) through associating with others who share the same interest as I: crafting, sewing, herbs, etc. I was wonderfully enveloped in my church's embrace when I was a christian.

I believe that "whatever you are, be the best one you can". But I was never accepted by crafters because I sewed, or by the church because I was interested in medicinal herbs.

I would not be interested in being accepted at the bowling alley, (I don't bowl) or Planned Parenthood, because the subject - and it's die hard participants, do not interest ME.

If religion interests you, there are many ways to nourish that interest: seminary (you don't have to worry about failing the class LOL), Scientology (but you can't laugh). If you want acceptance by a group, you've got to find one that shares the same interests, even if it's cribbage.

But a church? Not gonna happen sweet man. Not gonna happen there.

I'm about as fond as being around people as I would enjoy being a guest in a leper colony.

possum said...

A question, Snow... how do you define the word 'church?'
Seems to me that attending on a regular basis, and wishing to be accepted as a member of the group, one would of necessity need to embrace that culture and their beliefs. When you openly don't, perhaps they feel threatened by you on some level... or they wonder what your reason is for being there since most folks consider a church as a place of worship of their god.

Then there is MY belief that the feelings you have for the 'church' comes from a distant memory from a past life time, but that is another can of worms that YOU reject.
And, by the way, reincarnation WAS a strong part of most Native belief before the Christians drummed it out of them and rewrote their histories.

rhymeswithplague said...

I can't decide whether down deep you really do want to be accepted by a group of religious people or you just really enjoy (and thrive on) being hated. But I do hope you and Brent can remain friends.

Snowbrush said...

"On another matter, you brought up the subject of someone being a transsexual but wanting to enter priesthood?!? How is that person intending to do that?”

America’s Episcopal Church is very liberal compared to other Anglican churches, at least on the national level. On the diocesan and the parish levels, the degree of liberalism varies, and some people have left the church altogether and formed their own Anglican church in response to what they see as the national church having abandoned the Christian faith. Also, the national church seems ever on the brink of being expelled from the Anglican communion because of its liberalism. Its biggest critics are in Africa where Anglicanism and homophobia are equally popular (the American church has had at least one gay bishop). A transexual could become a priest in the American Episcopal Church, but finding a parish to serve might represent a challenge as only the most liberal of the liberal would accept him or her. I don’t know how I myself would feel. I know a little of the hell that my father went through, and I know that he identified as a female from the time of his earliest awareness of gender, but I also know the hell that I went through because of growing with him as my male role model. I’m weirded-out by transsexuality. When every gene in your body says that you’re one gender, and your mind says your another, what IS going on, and how is society to respond to it? My belief is that no transexual will ever be accepted by the large majority of people as occupying a gender that he or she wasn’t born into. If people find fulfillment in changing their apparent gender through hormones and surgery, fine, and if they want to get married, fine, but in all honesty, I simply can’t bring myself to accept assigned gender, and I have reservations about them raising children because of what I went through. Maybe my father’s problems were entirely with society and not with being a transsexual, but I know that growing that way sure messed with me. It didn’t make me for a moment doubt my gender, but it very much made me uncomfortable with even the word “man,” because the signals I got about what made a person a man were so confusing.

Snowbrush said...


"As a fellow atheist, I can only tell you that you will find solace only in other atheists.”

I’ve been active in atheist groups. Back when the O’Hair family ran things, I used to write for American Atheists and was even on their masthead as a non-resident editor. I was also the de facto leader of a CFI Meetup atheist group here in Eugene. I actually don’t find it particularly interesting to hear groups of atheists sit around and talk because it always seems to result in some kind of left-brain disputation from which everyone goes home believing exactly what they did before they went to the meeting. I support the FFRF with contributions, and I strongly believe in the complete separation of church and state, but when I meet another atheist, I don’t think to myself, “Hail, fellow, well met.” I think that it might be true that most atheists are probably more left-brain than I. When they gave up believing in God, they gave up religion (my wife is that way), but while I found that giving up my belief in God was a necessity, I didn’t likewise find that it was possible for me to give up religion because I identify religion with meaning. Most atheists don’t. They say they find meaning in work, family, or whatever, but I’ve never been able to be satisfied with these things. To me, for life to be worthwhile, there has to be more. It can’t come from the supernatural, but I divorce religion from the supernatural.

"Should there be a god.... I think I stand a better chance than most, no kidding!!”

I think a lot of atheists probably feel the same. I know I do. Pascal’s Wager was one of the stupidest pieces of sophistry that I’ve ever come across.

"how do you define the word 'church?' Seems to me that attending on a regular basis, and wishing to be accepted as a member of the group, one would of necessity need to embrace that culture and their beliefs.”

Your question goes to the heart of the matter. Many, if not most, Christians would agree with my readers who say that I don’t belong in a church, but many of these same Christians (though few of my readers) also say that gay people—among others--don’t belong, and this raises the question of who is to decide who belongs and who doesn’t belong, and what standards are they to use? Clearly, there’s no unanimity about either question. I frankly wonder who pushes the boundaries more—me or that transexual I wrote about. I might well be hated, but he no doubt provokes a more visceral level of disgust, so maybe we’re even. In any event, my definition of church has been influenced by the writings of an Episcopal bishop who doesn’t believe in the supernatural. He would hold that church should be a place of sharing and discovery that is open to all people regardless of belief. This is the definition that I would hold for it. I don’t know if Brent would go as far as that bishop, but I know he welcomes me, at least. He did answer my letter, by the way, but he asked that I not put his response online. Suffice it to say that he still wants me at church for as long as it suits me to be there.

Snowbrush said...

"If your blog scared the others off, then I strongly suspect that they aren't people who would be able to add much that is positive in your life anyway.”

I try to tell myself that, and I think it’s probably true, but as Brent points out, my blog is “pretty strong,” and therefore might not be the best way to broach the subject. I guess I’m just no good at introducing new swimmers to the water gradually.

"I, too, feel that there is so much hiding in the Christian religion.”

Especially when you get into the gnostic writings and discover beliefs that are the exact opposite of much of what passes for Christianity today.

"You want acceptance, and I feel so badly for you.”

I don’t know that this is more true for me than for anyone else on the level of individual acceptance, if only because I tend to ascribe other people’s rejection of me to their limitations rather than my own. What I do want is a sense of belonging within the context of a stable and long-lasting organization, yet I don’t know if I could ever, within myself, feel that I really did belong no matter what the organization gave me (at age 65, I never have, so it isn’t looking good). You might say that, this being my goal, I’ve chosen a very odd place to go about it, but as I see things, no matter how it comes out, I’m doing what I need to do.

"I can't decide whether down deep you really do want to be accepted by a group of religious people or you just really enjoy (and thrive on) being hated. But I do hope you and Brent can remain friends.”

If I liked being hated, I could easily accomplish the task more effectively. If I leave the church, I probably won’t be seeing Brent anymore because we’re not “friends” in the sense of being people who hangout together, and I don’t know if we ever could be such friends even if he didn’t have such a busy life. What I could wish for Brent was that he was as open to learning from me as I am from him. He’s a superbly well-educated man, and I would gladly spend hours listening to him talk, yet I know some things that he doesn’t, it being my impression that clergy people don’t tend to come up against atheists much, nor did they learn anything about atheism in school. I was thinking just last night that the world needs a set of encyclopedias on the subject of atheism because the field is just that vast. What I write about it is almost entirely subjective, but it is also a scholarly pursuit, or at least it deserves to be.

kj said...

"Surely you could widen your social circle with people that better resonate with your own set of values,"

I have to agree with this, snow. i have a good bit of experience fitting into groups and causes different than my own. I've been mostly successful, but at this point i ask myself why I would bother. my tribe consists of family and friends and community who either share my values or are tolerant of differences. i spend little time trying to fit into difficult places, unless i do so for a cause I believe in.

your comments about transsexuals. I share a different view and I'm not sure you speak from fact. you probably know that in hundreds of thousands of cases the gender of babies born with both genitals has in the past been decided by a doctor solely on the basis of surgical efficiency. for many years parents were not consulted and the physician choice was, of course, wrong 50% of the time. not to mention on an imaginary line of gender characteristics, we all stand at different places. why would you need or choose to hold a person to his or her birth gender if they wish or become otherwise? especially if you don't wish to be held to a standard that is not who you are or wish to be? i wonder if that transexual person became uncomfortable because you too quickly assumed there was something you shared (rejection)--maybe a stereotype of your own.

i think it is no surprise that this letter to brent has been written. since you've been reasonably sure that you would write it sooner or later, the question remains" will you do this again, elsewhere, and if so, why?"

there are so many open minded and interesting people in the world. there are people whose intelligence can give you a run for your money (like right here!) you'd not find me in a church, even though i believe something

p.s i was surprised to see the negative opinion of atheists. i googled it to be sure your information was correct. what's with that? i don't even think my catholic mother ever felt that way.

love
kj

Linda said...

You, an atheist, go to church. The "church" is the body of Christ, part of the god-head. How you can think to participate and be accepted is beyond me.

I have never told anyone how to get to my blog. People ask when I mention I have a blog. These people mean nothing to me. Why would I want to share what I think or do. Oh, I am in a writing group and various other endeavors. When I take a picture and people ask why I want that picture or what I am going to do with it, then I mention I want it for my blog.

Actually, there is one person I met on the internet that I want to deny access. Another I met on another group and really wish she were not around to read my blog.

People in real life are only nosey about my blog. It would not draw us closer, only separate us more. There is nothing shocking. People would only ignore me as they do you when they read your blog.

Why don't you join the Kiwanis Club? They do good and mostly have educated or accomplished members. Just leave the atheism out of your discussions.

I wish I could talk to you in person. I do believe you could converse about other subjects than atheism. I don't mind you talk about it, though.

CreekHiker / HollysFolly said...

I'm sorry that the Christians you've met aren't that inclusive. But I'm not surprised...so few in. My experience can accept others as they are

Chartreuse said...

"...why would I have ever walked in the door at Resurrection?" Why indeed! I can't, for the life of me, understand your motive in joining such a group. It strikes me as deeply suspect, almost pathological - even though I guess I'd have to say I'm an atheist if I were willing to use that term. But I always prefer to call myself a confirmed rationalist. I think the members would be justified in expecting anyone who comes along regularly to believe in some god - or at least be looking for some kind of connection with a supreme being. In my experience, when Christians use the word 'values', a connection with some form of Christianity is always understood. And I really couldn't blame anyone for suspecting your motives in joining a group obviously predicated on Christian beliefs. I'm not defending their bigotry. But I would certainly always anticipate such bigotry - because when it comes to religion, belief is really a synomym for bigotry. To me, your actions are much harder to understand than their reactions, even though I've read your rationale before.

Snowbrush said...

"why would you need or choose to hold a person to his or her birth gender if they wish or become otherwise?.”

If someone wants gender re-assignment, I wouldn’t oppose it or anything that logically followed from it, e.g. marriage. I would also treat such a person as respectfully as I treated my father in his bra and panties, which I didn’t know he wore until he fell off a ladder, knocked himself out, and my mother wouldn’t allow the staff at the hospital to undress him. Later, he told me about his transsexuality, and I told him that it made no difference in my affection for him, which it didn’t. However, what I hold in the one sphere, and how I feel in another are sometimes at variance. In this case, if I asked someone out on a date, and learned that she had gone through a gender reassignment, that would be the end of me dating her. Me being weirded-out by her transsexuality wouldn't mean that she was in the wrong, and I wouldn’t use my feelings to control her life. In other words, your assumption that I would force a person to remain within his or her birth gender is completely wrong. I don’t really know what’s going on with such people. I just know what I feel and think, but I would never make my feelings and thoughts into their legal reality, and I wouldn’t treat them disrespectfully because of what I feel and think, because why should I!!! I don’t know how I would feel about the whole thing if not for my father because I grew up with the sentence in my head, “There is something WRONG with my father.” I knew there was something wrong with him, and everyone else knew it, and it was extremely painful to me to feel embarrassed for him—and therefore for me--when he and I were around other people. He was a mess. I loved him, but I also pitied him and grew up feeling that I was the victim of whatever the hell his problem was.

"the question remains" will you do this again, elsewhere, and if so, why?”

I can’t answer that. My best guess that I’ll content myself either with giving up any thought of church, or else I’ll go to the Unitarian Church and hangout with all the other atheists.

"i was surprised to see the negative opinion of atheists.”

But then you’re not an atheist. Whereas people know it’s no longer acceptable to be open about their hatred of black people and, to an increasing extent, gay people, there are still those whom it is okay to hate openly, and I’m among them. You really ought to look at an issue of Freethought Today for endless examples of the abuse that atheists are subjected to, especially in the South, but in other places too. When a girl in your area opposed the overt practice of Christianity in her school, she was treated shamefully and threateningly, and when the FFRF tried to send her flowers, they had to go out of state to find a florist who would deliver them. Now they’re suing those florists under the “equal accommodation” law.

"The "church" is the body of Christ, part of the god-head. How you can think to participate and be accepted is beyond me."

You accept the view of the right-wing as being the proper view, and I don’t. In my view, church could be/should be a place where people say, “I believe in,” rather than, “I believe that,” and they shouldn’t be too concerned about what the “in” means because it is only in this way that Christianity can be anything more than just another tribal division in world that’s filled with tribal divisions. Liberal churches are very much moving in this direction, and so it is that I have found support from Brent who feels as I do about what church should represent. You do know, of course, that we all are forced to finance religion, so if it’s going to force us to pay for it, then, by god, it should give us something for our money no matter who we are.

Snowbrush said...

"I do believe you could converse about other subjects than atheism.”

Well, I just wrote a post about my cat. Of course, he’s an atheist too. The little shit even made me put a picture of Jesus in the bottom of his litter box. When I refused, he bit me, so I had no choice but to obey him.

"People in real life are only nosey about my blog. It would not draw us closer, only separate us more. There is nothing shocking. People would only ignore me as they do you when they read your blog.”

They don’t seem to like you much anyway—or, at least, you them. I get that you’re very angry at religious people about their religion. You’re in Alabama. I moved from Mississippi because I felt so angry at the way I was treated, yet even there, I had friends from among the other misfits that the good, God-fearing, Southern people despised. I wish I WERE near you so we could talk, but also so I could give you some support. Here, there are at least three or four atheist groups in town, not counting the Unitarians, which aren’t specifically atheist, so I certainly wouldn’t need to join the goddamn Kiwanis if all I wanted to do was to find new friends.

""...why would I have ever walked in the door at Resurrection?" Why indeed! I can't, for the life of me, understand your motive in joining such a group. It strikes me as deeply suspect, almost pathological”

Well, you’re a bit late to the discussion, but Linda has been here all along, and although she seemed to get it at one point, I think she must have lost it. Anyway, I’ll repeat what I just told her: "You accept the view of the right-wing as being the proper view, and I don’t. In my view, church could be/should be a place where people say, “I believe in,” rather than, “I believe that,” and they shouldn’t be too concerned about what the “in” means because it is only in this way that Christianity can be anything more than just another tribal division in world that’s filled with tribal divisions. Liberal churches are very much moving in this direction, and so it is that I have found support from (Father) Brent who feels as I do about what church should represent. You do know, of course, that we all are forced to finance religion [I was speaking to her as another American], so if it’s going to force us to pay for it, then, by god, it should give us something for our money no matter who we are."

"I think the members would be justified in expecting anyone who comes along regularly to believe in some god - or at least be looking for some kind of connection with a supreme being.”

I think that most liberal church goers would agree with you, but the rub is in defining the word “god.” If believers say that they expect everyone who wants to come among them to believe in God, no matter how defined, they’re reduced to making their faith into a matter of acquiescing to vocabulary. That’s exactly what lodges like the Masons do because they tell you upfront that they don’t care what God you believe in, just so you call something by that word, as if the word alone is meaningful. This means that if you revere nature, for example, and call it God, whereas I revere nature but don’t call it God, then you pass the test, and I don’t.

"But I always prefer to call myself a confirmed rationalist.”

To me, your terminology sounds religious, as if you’ve gone through a ceremony by which you were confirmed in rationalism instead of a ceremony through which you were confirmed in a church? I’ve never understood why people avoid the word atheist if that’s what they are. I simply think of words like naturalist, humanist, and rationalist as euphemisms for atheist because, here anyway, if you tell people that you’re an atheist, you might take a lot of heat, but if you tell them you’re a humanist, rationalist, or naturalist, they’re going to know that you’re not one of them, but they might not realize how evil you actually are. At least, that’s the hope, although I think it's a delusion. Say what you will, they’re going to know you don’t love their God.

Chartreuse said...

You're right that I'm late to the discussion and probably haven't read all the posts and comments of recent times that might have covered these issues in some detail. I guess I'm an intellectual dilletante. But I just want to tell you why I don't accept calling myself 'atheist'. I will freely admit to not believing in god, if I'm asked. But I don't like to define myself primarily as something negative - i.e. a non-believer - since I do believe in quite a lot of things that words like 'humanist' imply. Thinking about this, I was suddenly struck by the fact that I am OK referring to myself as a widow, and choose that term rather than 'single', even though 'widow' seems to suggest something negative too (i.e. that I'm a non-partnered person). The difference, I guess, is that what I'm missing when identifying as a widow - i.e. my late husband - is not a being whose existence I never accepted in the first place. On the contrary, my self-identification as widow is a testament to the fact that this other being existed, was greatly loved and is very greatly missed in my life - all of which seems to me to warrant my continuing inclusion of him as part of my self-identification. But in the main, I guess I just don't dwell on these matters in any kind of depth, as you obviously do. I much prefer gardening. That gives me as much access to the mystery of life as I seem to want or need. But Merry Christmas to you anyway. And I am happy to wish you the spirit of Christmas minus the Christ-bit. I can accept a festival of joy and good fellowship in whatever form it takes, no matter the origins (which are quite likely pagan anyway!)

Snowbrush said...

"I guess I'm an intellectual dilettante.”

I am too. If I had gotten a doctorate, it would have to have been in the general studies category, something that, to my knowledge, doesn’t exist.

"don't like to define myself primarily as something negative - i.e. a non-believer - since I do believe in quite a lot of things that words like 'humanist' imply.”

I see your point. I think that most atheists—at least the ones who join atheist groups—like the term just as much as former smokers like being known as non-smokers. They see it as indicative of freedom, in the one from addiction and in the other from superstition. If I were to define myself as other than an atheist, it would be as a philosophical materialist and mechanist, I suppose, because I view the universe as being like a physical machine in which everything happens as it must, right down to the tiniest detail of what you and I do. In other words, we can’t even alter the number of milli-seconds we spend brushing our teeth on a given occasion, and I couldn’t have written this response the least bit differently.

"what I'm missing when identifying as a widow - i.e. my late husband - is not a being whose existence I never accepted in the first place.”

People often say that atheists are mad at God, but the truth is that atheists are angry at the negative influence of belief in a non-existent being known as God. Just as the word widow wouldn’t be used in a society in which all women were widows, the word atheist wouldn’t be used in a society in which all people were atheists. Such labels only have meaning when another label is conceivable.

"I much prefer gardening.”

You’re talking to a man who has 24-potted plants under two long grow lights in his bedroom. If either my plants or the cat had to go, I would keep my plants.