Re: [humanism-174] question for all

From: Mark T.
Sent on: Sunday, August 26, 2007 2:42 AM
I was fortunate enough to be brought up in a liberal, non-religious family. I remember questioning the existence of God at a very young age- not because my parents brainwashed me in any way... I think they just encouraged me to think my own thoughts on such matters. The neighborhood where I grew up was filled with "pious" Catholics- overall I guess they were mostly nice people, but I was exposed to their hypocrisy often. They would sanctimoniously march off to church every Sunday, but then do things like toss around the "N" word the rest of the time. This made me even more cynical about religion- and I've continued to see that sort of hypocrisy to this day. Still, there have been numerous times when I've felt like an outcast because of my non-belief- but I did reach a certain point when I realized that I should be PROUD to be the outcast... proud to be able to form my own thoughts, not have somebody else do my thinking for me... proud to NOT feel the pressure to conform.
But I do think I've had it easier than most Atheists & Agnostics. I understand your situation 100%. I have a feeling that MOST of the ones who feel as we do haven't "come out" yet, and perhaps NEVER will... And many people around you who might pressure you to "conform" probably have good intentions- they would want what THEY think is "best for you".
My best advice would be:
Try not to let anyone cause YOU to be "on the defensive" about your beliefs. Give 'em a gentle "offensive" instead, if you can. For instance- if someone says, "You don't really believe in God? How could you not believe in God?"... You might say, "Well, how is it that YOU'RE so sure that there IS a God?".
I should mention that I haven't "come out" to EVERYONE, either- generally I avoid the topic with anyone over age 70 or so, out of respect for my elders... unless, of course, if they are "one of us"!

On 8/25/07, sylvie williams <[address removed] > wrote:
You know, up until just a few short years ago, I realy wondered if I was the only one that doubted there being a god. I wondered if something was wrong with me. Even my mother and my mother's family who did not go to church ultimately believed in god. As a child and a young adult, I did'nt dare admit to anyone what I was thinking. I was an only child and and known by everyone that new me as "the french girl". I always felt like a bit of an outcast as it was.  Anouncing that I may not believe in god was all I needed to rid me of whatever friends I had. A couple of years ago I saw Bill Maher on The Larry King Show. He talked about being Agnostic . It was the of first time that I remember hearing someone talk about what I had always been thinking. Then, Larry King said that he was also Agnostic. I could'nt believe that well known and respected people were actualy saying this on national television. I got very excited, ordered the transcript of the show, and showed it to my husband, telling him that this was excactly how I felt. I thought , wow, I'm not crazy, I'm not the only one. Some realy important , intelligent people feel this way too.Then I started reading up on it,and then I found you guys. I want to "come out" and I will. I will get some shocked looks.I will get some friends/ co-workers that will say, What? You don't believe in god? How can you not believe in god? As I said before I'm not quite ready for the debates, as I know most of my family, friends and people I work with are strong believers. If some are not, than they also have not "come out" yet. I do know that I will remain silent to the parents of my son's friends, as he is also an only child and it is important to me that he keeps his friends.I know this all sounds crazy, like I'm hiding some horrible secret, but I am fairly new to this freethinking freedom thing and people do judge you in so many ways. I am very proud to be in this group and think you guys are awsome. Thanks to Mark and Micheal for what you wrote. You all make me feel so comfortable. Don't mean to get too mushy, sorry.        I do often wonder how many people realy think the way we do and don't say anything to anyone though.     Sylvie

Michael <[address removed]> wrote:
sylvie williams <[address removed]> wrote: Wow, you realy hit the nail on the head for me, as I have only told my husband that I am agnostic. I've only realy viewed myself as one for a couple years. I'm a little nervous to tell others, most of my friends and family are believers as far as I know. I don't know if I'm up for the debates yet.
I think your situation epitomizes the reason this group was founded.  There is a great deal of antipathy towards the non-religious/Atheist/agnostic in the world.  People do react with hostility, bigotry, and misunderstanding when you express yourself as such.  It varies on the person, and on the community you are in, but the reactions are far more likely to be unfriendly than accepting. 
Why is this?  Does openly and comfortably expressing ones intolerance epitomize the teachings of Christ?  Does acting in this manner lend its self to the supposedly free and open society we so frequently and proudly flaunt?  No.  But to many christians, muslims, and jews, that does not matter. 
My conviction is that people are not defined by their beliefs, but by their actions.  The very fact that we all feel uncomfortable having the beliefs that we do is a condemnation of our society and it's "values".  I believe strongly that this intolerance needs to be countered.  It is not just the social aspect of it that concerns me.  That ramifications of this notion that non-theists are undeserving of the same respect and consideration demanded by theists is significant.  This mentality allows them to dismiss any (and often all) ideas put forth by the non-theist.  We cannot begin to cite every example of this being so, but there is one that stands out as deliberately malicious.
The deliberate dismissal of scientific contributions in favor of pr-established religious convictions.  Our school curriculum's, textbooks, grants, scholarships; our governmental spending on medical research, infrastructure, trade, tariffs, tax cuts, economic and scientific funding; our coherent understanding of history and the origins of our and all species; all these thing are under continuous assault.  In all of these cases, those who take the religious standpoint at best hold a tenuous and sporadic understanding of the issue at hand; at worst, the deliberately misconstrue and ignore the most basic facts, choosing instead to portray the most immature and inaccurate reduction of the idea in the most beneficial light to their cause.
I feel that liberal and moderate theists, freethinkers, and the non-religious, as well as our governmental and communal leaders have allowed this nonsense to continue for far too long.  I am glad to see that people are beginning to push back against the tide of arrogant religious stupidity, but I also see the need for a more decisive adjustment of our position.  I feel that if we can ever hope to see an improvement of our status on this planet we need to stop playing by their rules.  We need to stop acknowledging their uneducated beliefs as if their were somehow legitimate.  We need to require them to demonstrate a clear and cohesive understanding of any topic they seek to dismiss.  We need to force them to have a reality check with their own consciousness; they must be made to see that bigotry is bigotry, not matter what you believe.  Morality is absolute, and it is high time those people who claim to hold a monopoly on it start to practice it.
So, Sylvie, I believe you should not fear the consequences of your coming out to your friends.  I do not know them, their personalities, their backgrounds, or their religious convictions, but it strikes me as unlikely that someone like yourself would manage to make friends with a bunch of stark raving mad fundamentalists.  In all likelihood, you will probably be surprised by their reactions, but your revelation is unlikely to alter your relationships very much, if at all.  People tend to modify their convictions around their relationships, at least in appearance (case in point, you).  Even if they are, lets say, disappointed in your admission, it is unlikely this will have a permanent adverse effect on your relationship. 
Give it a shot.  What's the worst that could happen?  You lose a friend or two?  If they are willing to cast your relationship to the curb over something like your opposing religious beliefs, would you really want to be friends with that person in the first place.  Better yet, ask yourself; would I really have gotten to be close friends with an individual who thinks that way? 
Sorry about the rant, btw.  This is something I take very seriously.

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