Saturday, May 3, 2014

Keeping Atheism in the Closet

I get bombarded with all sorts of articles on Facebook, and every now and then I stumble upon a gem. This article goes over the phenomenon of keeping Atheism and Atheist in the closet. My personal expedience coming out as a non-believer  is not far off from the stories mentioned in the article. I try to avoid talking about religion but when it does come up I get plenty of "I'm praying for you", "just go to church more", and "you were a Christian when you were younger". I'm not the type that rubs my Atheism in your face. In fact what I enjoy is dialoging, sharing, and learning why others believe what they believe. I'm more interested in the person than the beliefs themselves. The article made a great point as to what drives this uneasiness that believers have of unbelievers:
“For many families, being religious is less about spiritual beliefs, and more about family identity. More than anything else, going to religious services is a family togetherness activity, or even a family duty. As Sally M. says, who was brought up Catholic but has been an atheist since childhood, says, “The whole family has always treated church like a chore, so they probably assumed I was claiming atheism to get out of wasting my Sunday. If my mother had to drag herself and the rest of my siblings out of bed, there was no way I was getting out of it.” And some believers may think that participating in religious rituals will somehow draw atheists back into belief.
 I don't attend church because it doesn't speak to me. Some have said that I need to "let the Spirit in" and then I'll believe, that if I "let go" or "stop trying too hard" that the spirit will flood in. But no matter how I've approached this nothing happens. The only person I will attend church with is my wife, I do this out of love, support, and respect for my wife's beliefs. When I do attend with her I am as respectful as possible but I will not lie about my beliefs, or lack thereof. (Thankfully, and surprisingly, that awkward conversation has not happened. I guess most church goers simply assume everyone else there is a believer.)

So why are believers so uncomfortable with unbelievers even existing? I believe it's because they've been taught not to question their beliefs by fellow believers, pastors/priest, and even scripture itself, that when they meet someone who has wrestled with these questions they begin to question the religious aspect of their identity. I believe the more inclusive and accepting of others the person is the less likely the believer will feel threatened by non-believers. If a belief held by your religious community keeps you in fear of those outside of your group is it really worth it to keep that belief? Did you really choose to follow that belief (Note: I'm talking about a single belief not a religion, or religion as a whole.) or are you only believing out of fear of being excluded or out of tradition?