As my first blog on this site covered, I am a recently “deconverted” fundamentalist Christian. It was very rough going through the process and especially tough telling my wife who is a Christian and likewise my son who I had raised to be a Christian as well. You wonder what people will think about you, will they sever the relationships? Each day since I realized I was no longer a Christian or even a believer in any deity I started to feel free and at peace with myself and the world around me.
I started writing a book about my deconversion (still working on that) and started to realize that I wanted to be a part of the community that is coming out to normalize deconversion and skepticism. I engaged with others on social media, participated in a promotional video for Dogma Debate and welcomed the opportunity to contribute to the internet community. I am not here to promote my website but I also have started putting together a website that I hope will help be a resource for those who deconvert can go to and even point their religious family and friends to help better understand we are their neighbors, and doctors and military and we are not the evil labels that are applied to us.
But last night I realized that I really wasn’t as bold as I thought I was growing to be as a new skeptic. You see I work in the business world and I have a lot of business contacts on Linked In. I saw a post from someone who was sharing a memorial (because he would have just turned 42) and thank you of sorts to Pat Tillman (former NFL player and solider) who has an amazing story about walking away from a career in professional football to serve after 9/11. The other thing about Pat that doesn’t get brought up a lot in the news stories about him is that he was an atheist. Now the thing is that Pat is heralded as a patriotic hero and role model, but it absolutely amazed me that almost every comment including the original post talked about how he was in heaven and “God needed him in heaven” etc.… You know the catchphrases as we all do.
I kept scrolling to see if anyone at all would mention he was an atheist or non-religious in any of the comments. If you didn’t know anything about Pat you would have thought he was a Christian and his family as well based on all the religious commentary. This is how he is portrayed to fit that ideological message of who “good people” are. His entire family are non-religious and atheists. Pat was killed by friendly fire, 3 shots to the back of the head. Now I don’t want to sound like a conspiracy theorist but to be honest I have questions about his death. His parents had questions and when they did not believe what they were told by the military and wanted to pursue more investigation the response was quite disturbing implying they could not be at peace with his death because they were not Christians. Now there is much more to say about this but maybe in a later blog but I will say that the family was disturbed by how their child was killed and wanted the truth as any family would religious or non-religious.
As I sit and read all those comments and religious catchphrases from almost every commenter I desperately wanted to put my own comment. I wanted to say I agree that Pat was a hero and a role model. I wanted to commend his life and service to our country, but I also desperately wanted to include the fact to say that he was an atheist as was his family. I wanted to point out he is the reason we should never conclude as a society that because someone doesn’t believe in the contradictory claims, faulty science and moral atrocities in the bible that they are not good role models. There are many more Pat’s out there in all walks of life.
But ultimately, I chose not to comment because I realized a troubling truth and a stark reminder that if I posted anything at all about that I risked losing clients and my job. My family counts on me to provide for them, if I was single maybe I would have had the nerve to go ahead anyway but I am not. I realized this battle for normalcy for skeptics and atheists has a long way to go. I also realized that there are those in the community who would scoff at my lack of response and would do so regardless. I wish I was there already but I’m not. In the end it was a stark reminder to me that this will be a long road ahead and I will continue walking it one step at a time and maybe one day I will be able to publicly say without fear of retribution that Pat was a hero, a patriot, a role model and he was an atheist………