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A former member
Post #: 3
One of the biggest problems I have is coming out with how I think about myself, that I am agnostic, particularly to those that I love, my family and my friends. I once came out while taking a course on depression at xmas at a hospital. When I did I explained to the participants as we were told to as an introduction to ourselves, that I celebrated xmas as a way of reconnecting with my family. That it held no religious significance for me. My mother had recently died and my concern was that I wouldn't be able to connect as I had in previous years when she was alive, the pain of her loss would overwhelm me. The venom and hate that spewed from the mouths of theists, the other participants, was overwhelming. All of my family members and some of my friends are theists in one form or another. My Dad was formerly a catholic priest, who left the priesthood to marry my mother, goes to church regularly and even participates in converting non-believers. While at family get together's, I'll act the part of a good christian. Mostly at the genuine fear that I will lose their love if they knew that I didn't think as they do. For the most part I think I have the support of my siblings. I guess it's my Dad and my best friend who recently converted and who is dying of cancer that really concerns me.
One other challenge I have is being honest with myself about how I should approach people of faith. Because I think that a person's belief, for or non-existent, or how they think, is deeply tied to their mental well being. How people think in the freedom of their own minds, should be left as is. Your thoughts?
Matt
mussels
Burnaby, BC
Post #: 33
Hi Andre,

I grew up in a very religious community. Although my own family's religion was what you would call "moderate" Christian, even my family perceives having no religion at all as simply incomprehensible, akin to having no hair color or no birth date. Religion is just something all people have.

And the general public feel even more strongly about it. I occasionally notice on Facebook, etc, since I've reconnected there with many of the people I grew up with, that many of them honestly confuse the notions of atheism and satanism and/or paganism, assuming that if a person claims to be an atheist or irreligious, that it must mean they worship Satan, wood nymphs, sun gods, or who knows what instead, and then provoking the kind of vitriol and hate that you mentioned above.

Long story short, I've never come out to my family or childhood friends. I'm not sure if it's worth the ensuing discussion to do so, but then when I read things like Richard Dawkins' assertions that this kind of attitude is precisely why atheism is so misunderstood and/or underrepresented, I feel a little guilty.

One of the freedoms I initially found in atheism was the freedom not to feel compelled to proselytize, but now, like you, I'm not sure what stance atheists should take regarding approaching people of faith, and that maybe there is an obligation after all, not necessarily to convert them, but at least to help clear up some of the misunderstandings about being irreligious.
A former member
Post #: 4
Thank you for your thoughts, I too have been following people like dawkins, hitchens, harris and the atheist community of austin on youtube. I agree with sam harris stance on naming irreligious people nothing as it is more of a way of thinking critically, using reason, asking for evidence, and being skeptical of claims than being a non-theist, akin to calling someone who doesn't play golf and making up a community of non-golfer's. If there were a dummy's guide to engaging the general public, by these authors, it would be really helpful.
Sheri D
user 7765673
Burnaby, BC
Post #: 6
Hi,

I, too, come from a pretty religious family. I have missionaries and ministers in my extended family. My husband's family is catholic on both his parents' sides. So we are surrounded by religion. Most of our friends though are non-religious.
It is hard admitting to your loved ones that you don't believe in what they base their lives on. I don't want them to think I believe they are stupid. I know for them believing in the supernatural makes sense and gives them purpose and even happiness in their life. I do not want to take the happiness away from them but I do want them to understand that I feel the same sense of purpose, etc with not believing.
Hmmm...for us to come out to believers, they may feel we are trying to take away their god. On the other hand, for believers to come out to us, they believe they are giving us a god. Therefore, their cause seems a lot more positive in their eyes. So how could we communicate non-belief in a more positive way? What can we give?
I don't want to give others an imaginary friend. I would rather give them my love. Give them the choice to decide what is right or wrong for themselves with realizing that the choices they make will affect others. They can make it either a heaven or a hell on earth. I believe most people will try for heaven. Give them the idea that everything is connected at an atomic level...and that is super-natural. ;)
Matt
mussels
Burnaby, BC
Post #: 36
To me personally, and thus to people I know and care about, the greatest gift of atheism is freedom.

- Freedom from having to worry about whether you and those you care about are going to heaven or hell or anything else in the end. Freedom to question everything in life without fear of real or metaphorical lightning bolts.
- Freedom to live life the way that is most "good" and most fulfilling to your personally.
- Freedom to spend your Sunday mornings, Friday nights, or whatever other time they way you want to. Maybe it's still hanging out with the same community you were anyway, but maybe you'd rather spend time with loved ones who don't go to church, or go enjoy nature, or have breakfast with friends.
- Freedom from the guilt of doing some things that religion says are wrong but your heart says aren't hurting anyone else.
- Freedom from a lot of psychological and logical gymnastics which any intelligent religious person's brain goes through day after day to reconcile religious tenets with science, nature, and just observed reality in general.
- Freedom from the grief that comes after a terrible thing happens in life and having to reconcile it with "God's plan." You can simply say accidents happen. Life is sometimes random and unfortunate. But it doesn't mean that the victim either deserved it, or was sacrificial collateral damage in some kind of grander scheme which you're supposed to be happy about.

Unfortunately, freedom is a tough gift to give people, especially people who've never known it.
marty
marty
Group Organizer
Burnaby, BC
Post #: 60
I'm an atheist and I'm okay
I sleep all night and I work all day

Make fun of monks, I eat my lunch
I go to the lavat'ry
On Wednesdays I go shopping
And have eucharist for tea

I cut down priests, I skip and jump
I quote Leviticus
I think that true believers
are not quite worth the fuss.

I cut down trees, I wear high heels
Suspendies and a bra
I'm glad I'm not a catholic
Just like my dear papa
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