I’m often asked by Christians, why do you speak out about atheism? Why run a website or write a book? They accuse me of trying to take away people’s beliefs, to shatter their faith. [That’s atheists, for you. Stomping on their beautiful faith flowers and twisting the toes of our boots in their beliefs.] They seem to think that atheism isn’t a viable opinion in the sea of ideas; it should be kept in the closet to protect the status quo. Atheism is bad to these people and shouldn’t be talked about much less treated as something beneficial.
They think that I speak out because I want to challenge other people’s faith. But that’s not it at all. [Wait. What? It’s not?]
I was raised in a strange family. [Well, I think that’s obvious.] At least, they seem strange in looking back on them. My parents were pretty cool. They let my brother and I explore and question. There really was nothing that was considered sacred and holy that had to be believed. We went to various churches, most of which were nominally Christian. We considered ourselves Christians. But, certainly, there are some brands of Christians that would say we were not Christian.
I spent most of my life, then, believing that I wasn’t really all that different from everyone else. I had some different ideas about god and Jesus, but I still believed in them. Then, one day, about ten years ago, all that changed. I started thinking. I don’t know why it happened; I didn’t ask for it. I didn’t sit down and say to myself, I’m going to start really thinking about what I believe and what I don’t. It was thrust on me, really. [Heh, heh. Thrust. Don’t you thrust that atheism over here! I don’t think that’s the right word at all.] Someone was talking to me about God and it just hit me that I didn’t believe in God the way she did. From that moment on, I started thinking and challenging myself about my beliefs. [The operative word is ‘thinking.’ That’s right, I said it!]
I realized that I didn’t believe most of the things I thought I did. And I looked around at all the people I knew and thought that there must be something to Christianity that I’m missing because they all believed it. So, I decided to read the Bible. I thought I’d find the answer there. I thought I’d come away from it believing like a Christian. [It’s true. I actually thought the book was special. I mean, come on! Look at the thin, delicate pages! Got to have some real special shit in there!] It was in reading the Bible that I realized I was an atheist. It wasn’t a wonderful revelation. I was horrified. Atheists were depicted as immoral; we always seem to be linked with people who visit prostitutes in the Bible. [Those are the baddest of the bad. The atheists, and the dudes who visit prostitutes.] But I still called myself a Christian. I was a Christian atheist. [No. Seriously. A Christian atheist.] I thought Jesus was a great prophet, a wise man worthy of following. He taught us wonderful things, like “love one another” and “turn the other cheek.”
But then I read the New Testament. [Most of it, anyway. Or, part of it. Some of it. The Gospels at least. God, I was bored.] I realized that, just like the OT god turned out to be completely different from the way his followers described him, Jesus wasn’t the great man I’d been told he was. [It’s like they don’t even really read the thing.] He was rude, even to his mother. [I’m rude to my mother, too. So I suppose I get that. “Mo-om, can’t you see I’m a god here?] He spoke in parables so people wouldn’t understand him [I use big words, but it’s not so people won’t understand me, it’s so they’ll think I’m all that. At some point in my lifetime being intelligent got the shaft. And isn’t that just the way it’s been? I find out I’m an atheist and what do you know? People hate atheists. I’m all super smart and proud of it, and what do you know? People think intelligence is bad. They want Sarah Palins instead. Just my stupid luck.] and be saved. Much of what he said was unoriginal, cryptic, or just plain bad. [And poorly written. Snap!]
So, I realized I was a spiritual atheist. I still thought there was more to life than this. [This? Is this all you got?] I thought there was an afterlife of some sort, that life continued, that there was some kind of spiritual realm. But I kept studying and reading. I continued to study Christianity like a person gawks at a car wreck. It’s just fascinating that this big glob of contradiction and violence is regarded as godly and loving by so many people. I also studied skepticism. I finally came to a rationalist perspective. I decided that “belief” is too flimsy. It’s nothing more than wanting something to be true and pretending that it is. I decided that I wanted to be able to know something. And if I couldn’t know it, then I’d rather just not have the answer.
For some reason, I’m not allowed to talk about myself, because what I have to say goes against what Christians consider truth. They don’t like atheists; and they certainly don’t appreciate our outspokenness. So, they say a lot of things about us and ask us all sorts of odd questions. I guess I got tired of going over and over it all. I was tired of explaining to each new Christian that came along what atheism is, why I don’t hate god, where I get my morals, and how I have purpose in my life. So I wrote it all down in a book. I figured I’d give them all the stuff that was going on in my brain: why I don’t believe in god, the Bible, or Christianity; why I don’t think Jesus even existed, and what I really think of Christianity. I also gave them a bit of advice on approaching an atheist if that’s what they want to do.
But, I don’t really see my book or my website or any of the debating that I do on the Internet as having anything to do with converting people to my way of thinking. Sure there was a time there in the beginning where I was out to conquer the world with my newfound evidence for reason. [Ah, yes. The new atheist, suddenly awake from the dreary cover of belief wanting to let everyone know that belief is stupid and they’re all going to just die someday. I just don’t know why no one wanted to hear it.] But I quickly realized that people don’t want to apply reason to their beliefs. They want to believe, and a lot of them really want everyone else to believe too.
You don’t change those people by just giving them evidence. They need belief.
My real goal doesn’t have anything to do with religious people, exactly. It has more to do with other atheists. I realized that we have to start identifying ourselves. We have to stop hiding. We have to shock the world out of their resistance to the idea of atheism if we want anything to change. [I don’t think the world has a problem. Some parts of it, sure.] We have to come out of the closet in large numbers.
And we’re doing just that. I’m happy to say I’m part of a large contingent of atheists with websites and books. Since I’ve started this journey, The Secular Web grew from a few guys in Colorado to a huge storehouse of secular information. [The Secular Web was all that back in the day.] And a few years ago, a couple of thousand atheists marched on Washington. I was there. We have come a long way. My book is just another bit of activism toward the goal of acceptance for nonbelievers. [How’s that working out? Snark.]
The Godless Americans March on Washington