I don’t actually know, personally, very many atheists. Many of my friends are online. That’s a consequence of where I live, in a smallish town where it’s difficult to meet like minded people. I don’t live in an area where I have to hide my atheism, I think it’s just that there are few us us locally and if I’m wrong, there are some, as usual, that won’t express themselves due to fear of family, friends, and even their employer.
That’s sad to me that many of us get to know each other without ever having met. Without ever having even spoken other than on some social media platform. Sometimes, I feel isolated because of this, but I carry on because I know that I’m not the only one that feels this way.
Why is it that so many people reject us? Yes, even our own family members simply because we’ve come to the conclusion that there is no evidence for any god? Even in familes that are not practicing belivers, there are those that think there’s something wrong with a member that is a non-believer.
All the years I’ve been an atheist, as far as I know, I’ve never been discriminated against. I don’t wear it on my sleeve, unlike many believers I know and never discuss religion willingly because I know I will be in the minority of any discussion. That doesn’t bother me that much, with the exception of being attacked by some as being deceived by the devil., or some other nonsense.
As believers have the right to their individual or collectives belief, do I not have the same right for my non-belief? What’s so difficult about that? Why am I either immoral, or amoral for not believing in some supernatural being that no one, not even those that attack, can say exists beyond something called faith?
As many reading this, I’ve lost friends because of my non-belief. I’ve been lucky I guess in that my remaining immediate family members have never ostracised me. Unlike some others I know, That should be disturbing to everyone because, as an atheist, we’re the same person that those friends and family members knew before. I don’t know about anyone else, but I won’t attempt to justify my atheism with any of them. It’s not worth my time and it’s not worth yours either.
I didn’t change as a person, and I want to think that anyone reading this didn’t as well. Some do, and that’s a shame that they believe they have to reject everything that they were to be an atheist. I’m a conservative now. I was a conservative before I was an atheist. I’ve never compromised my beliefs just because I am an atheist. Of course, there are many that would tell you that I’m not, nor ever have been a conservative. Just because my values are different than those claiming to be conservative (and are actually not) doesn’t change who I am.
The bottom lime for me is a question I often ask myself: After everything, would I go back to being a believer? The answer is always no. I left nothing behind and those that claimed to be friends that now reject me? So be it. Those extended family members that won’t invite me to family gatherings. Oh well. I don’t see myself missing much.
Even though atheism is not my entire life, I won’t give up even a piece of myself just to satisfy others. Will you?
7 thoughts on “Being Atheist”
Agreed. It seems like you read my exact thoughts today! I can relate to all of it and I experience the alone-ness as a result of same scenarios. That’s what people don’t understand this is a TOUGH position to hold and I cant change what I believe. I tried for 30 years and at the end of it all I can never go back to pretending again.
If people, especially friends you’ve had for years, walk away from that friendship simply because you are an atheist, were they ever friends to begin with? My view is that no, they weren’t true friends, ever.
If everyone knew the truth about atheism (or any form of free thinking), I would be ok with them making choices based on that. My issue is that the way people act toward us is not based on fact, truth, or evidence. One person even told me, ‘you’re one of the good ones.’ So the rest of you need to straighten up and become one of the good atheists, agnostics, or whatever. I feel so sarcastic today. 🙂
I was always the odd one out, on the outside looking in and yet, remembered well by the others as a compassionate and fair minded “original” person. A classmate once told me I was the only original person she had ever known. I’ll take that.
I have always been Jeanne, no matter what state of belief I was in. We live in a rural area of a small town, on an isolated farm, with only family members dwelling in the houses on our “little kibbutz” as my daughter-in-law named it. All atheists (maybe my husband is a deist, we don’t talk about it) and nearly all their friends are atheists, as are my siblings, with maybe another deist there somewhere. We don’t talk about it.
Lucky situation, with no prying eyes, noisy neighbors or gossiping town elders. Our kids got to choose their friends, rather than be co-opted into neighborhood friendships. We get to lock out the rest of the world when we turn in the lane to come home. It makes a difference when your family is the odd one out.
I have no idea who in town may also be an atheist, and have only met two others in the area in my lifetime here, both of whom yielded to belief after or during personal loss and hardship. Online is where I do my discussion of things atheist with other non-believers and with Christians and some of the friendships with the later have lasted many years. Online atheists in my life tend to come and go, because of my Conservatism. That battle gets so old after a while, but I battled even before I knew I was a Conservative, because of my compassion, fair-mindedness and originality, I guess. Leftists tend to be so intolerant and rather nasty about it.
Maybe I got off easy, because I never talked about my lack of belief to anyone, but then again, our parents in their older years were not particularly religious in a devout, church-going sort of way, minded their own business and maybe there was a deist in there; we never talked about it.
Like I said, lucky situation.
Aside from the ignorance and bigotry which usually seem to be involved, I think that the religious reject us because they perceive us as rejecting their core values. If we don’t believe in what they regard as the source of everything good, how can we possibly be good? And if we might infect others with our doubt, then we are probably evil as well. But like you said, atheism does not mean that any of our values must change.
This is a good read. Thanks for posting it.
I grew up in rural central Missouri and became a nonbeliever on my own, not knowing any other atheists. As a consequence I kept it generally hidden for many years.
Starting in 2009 I volunteered as a State Director and then National Field Director for American Atheists, I stepped down last year. One of my favorite things as a rep for a national atheist organization was receiving emails and sometimes phone calls from isolated rural or small town atheists. I felt as though those were my people and I tried to spend as much effort and time with them as I could.
And in answer your final question: No, I won’t give up even a piece of myself just to satisfy others.
Thank you for the kind words. It’s really not as hard as some make it out to be, being an atheist. Certainly there are those (and I know some!) that have been discriminated against because of their non-belief, but I think that’s becoming more rare – depending on where you live. I’ve written on many occassions that we atheists are no different than anyone else, with a particular exception and that single difference should not stand between anyone. We are no less compassionate or moral than anyone else. We don;t demand anything, even respect. Just acceptance.