Sunday, November 16, 2008

November 16

I've decided to finally get around to making this blog. This is something I've been wanting to do for a long time, but kept putting it off, out of fear of discovery. And while I do have some friends that I can confide in; nothing beats the utter anonymity of the internet. I doubt that anyone will ever regularly follow my blog. I'm not going to pretend like I'm a good writer. But I will be content with any chance visitor that I get. If you read this, please comment.

I don't really know where to begin, so I suppose I will start with how I became an atheist.

I first saw the word Atheist graffitied on a parking sign outside of my first church when I was very very young. Just barely able to read. As well I can remember, the sign read "Atheists are the most disgusting, vile, lazy, selfish..." It continued on with about 20 more adjectives describing the qualities of an atheist, which was then followed by "creatures to walk the earth" or something to that effect, followed by a threat. I just remember looking at that sign and being glad I wasn't an atheist.

I think the first time that I ever questioned the existence of a God was when I was about 7. I was at that age where I was starting to lose faith in the Easter Bunny and Santa Clause. I had been pushing my mom for some time to tell me if they were real or not, and finally she relented and told me there wasn't a Santa Clause or Easter Bunny. Immediately after, I asked her "Mom, are you God too?"

I know - it's not much. But that's the first memory I have of grouping 'God' into the "things that might not be real" category.


When I was 12, I went through a period of time when I decided that I was going to convert to Judaism when I was older. I had trouble believing in the stories of Jesus and coming back from the dead. I wasn't at the point where I was doubting God, but many of the biblical stories stopped making sense to me. For example, I was supposed to read a short passage from the Bible in front of my church. Halfway through, I burst out laughing. It was just so funny. Ridiculous. Of course, I never really considered myself a Jew, I just had plans for conversion later on, when I was in college.

It wasn't until I was 14 that I started seriously thinking about religion. I had already gone through a confirmation, and my vows had felt like sawdust in my mouth. After my parent's had made us switch churches, I had lost my will to go to Sunday School. Sure, I still went. But it wasn't fun anymore. At first, it was hard for me to think about the possibility of there being no God. It was difficult to even hold the thought in my mind. My thoughts would rebel against me, and make me think of something else. But I pushed through, and came to the realization that there was no God. There was no God. I felt faint. There was no turning back now. I tasted the word in my mind. "Atheist". I was an Atheist. The next day (May 3rd, 2008) was the first time I called myself an Atheist out loud. It was the day before the last day of my 8th grade year, and my grade was celebrating by taking a trip to an amusement park. It was on the bus ride home that I first referred to myself as an atheist. I don't remember under what context it came up, but it was then, surrounded by 3 of my friends that I said, "I'm actually an atheist". I blushed, and looked down, waiting for their reaction. Surprisingly, they didn't make a big deal out of it. These girls were some pretty strong Christians, and I was lucky that they took it well. Since then, I've learned that not everyone sees atheists under that light.

Later that year, I went to a week long camp, where I shared a dorm room with two friends from my school. It was at that camp that I met my first atheist, since I had stopped being a Christian. He was a boy, about one year younger than me. I can not describe what it felt like to meet 'someone like me'. It was an incredible week. I felt like I could say anything I want. I could finally be open about my beliefs, and my family would never know.
But it wasn't long after I came home that they found out. See, I had confided in my 2 years younger brother that I thought I might be an atheist (I was gradually easing him into the idea) and he had decided to share that with my parents while I was gone. And they lost little time in confronting me about it over dinner. Oh, that was painful.
Their talk with me could basically be summarized into two things: they didn't like me using the word atheist, and they didn't want me to lose my 'sense of spirituality'.
Through this, my brother just sat their smugly. Since I became an atheist, I've noticed a strong dislike of atheists from my brother. Two instances come immediately to mind:
The first is how my brother would flip my computer screen off, when I watched videos of Richard Dawkins talking. When asked why, my brother would say, "because he's an atheist."
And more recently, I was eating dinner at a restaurant with one of my Catholic friends, an atheist friend who was pretending to be a Jew, and my brother. Of course, my brother, knowing this, immediately points out how all atheists are going to burn in Hell. Much to the amusement of my friend, who began defending all attacks my brother made against him. Watching my brother show such loathing for atheism was hard. He still enjoys randomly bringing up the topic of religion, just to embarrass me.
Somehow, I think that my change to atheism has fueled his religious bigotry. It's disgusting. Some of the tactics he uses against me would make a politician wince. If I could change anything about my brother, it would be to take his hatred of atheists away, and replace it with logic and respect, so that he might someday become an atheist himself.

2 comments:

Kelli said...

You spent alot of time talking about what you don't believe in....I am curious to know what you DO believe in. To me (I am a Christian) an atheist is simply someone who doesn't believe in God....but do you, as a atheist, have something that you do believe in?

Catherine said...

I respect you for seriously thinking about your religious beliefs, or rather, lack thereof. While I admit it saddens me that you have no faith, I am proud of you for standing up for your beliefs. Good job trying to make your brother more accepting of the "other," those who are different from him. May I suggest leaving books about tolerance and acceptance lying around, etc. Since he is Christian, show him Bible passages about Christ's message of "love your neighbor as yourself, including your enemies," and related passages about loving your fellow man. Jesus was persecuted because he was a total hippie. He was one of the most liberal people in the entire history of the world-clothe the naked, feed the poor, etc. Be patient. Love him regardless, set an example of an atheist who is a genuinely good person. Because it seems he equates atheism with sin.