I had the opportunity have breakfast with my father today because it’s his birthday, and I hope to have many more breakfasts with him. Like many Ohioans, I planned to move away from here one day, but recently gave up and stayed largely because my parents remain here. The chance to have a regular breakfast with my father is worth more to me than getting out of this [insert adjective here] state. But hopefully every breakfast doesn’t inspire a blog post or I’ll never get anything else done.
There are many downsides to publicly revealing one’s lack of adoption of the local deity(s) err atheism. Most religious adherents seem to think atheism is a way out of responsibility (so you can do whatever you want!), even though it’s quite the opposite. Or the faithful believe it’s helpful in life or business to be a non-Christian, when it almost always is not. Atheists remain the most feared and least trusted group in America. I imagine there are similarities to coming out of the closet, but at least nowadays there seems to be growing societal pressure to accept homosexuality, and sexuality is also a taboo topic in most professional situations. Religion though is often tolerated in the workplace and sometimes is even front-and-center. *cough* Hobby Lobby *cough*
One of the more regrettable downsides to coming out atheist is when people you love dearly feel the need to try to determine what they did “wrong”. There’s (apparently) discussion that ensues too among like-minded family members about factors or triggers or incidents. What caused it? What singular event pushed this otherwise decent human being away from believing in my particular god?
For instance my grandmother PBUH has this theory that mostly involves my divorce some years ago (since remarried, happily). Grandma is pretty sure this scarring event made me turn away from God/Allah, because obviously since this young woman scorned me, I must scorn the regional deity as alas he has forsaken me. This is of course silly (and pretty certain Grandma would wrongly argue God and Allah are two different entities too, but that’s another topic). I’ve never met the atheist who quit believing in their god because of some event. It’s a process to undo the indoctrination unwittingly received as a child and begin to welcome honest inquiry, delve into science and scientific methods, and develop critical thinking skills. Some people never do these all things, and some people do them and still happily cling to their faith beliefs. But coming to atheism is a process, not a revelation. Atheism isn’t something emotional you feel in communion, you don’t “come to it” like you do Jesus or experience something mystical…it’s quite the opposite. It’s a conclusion and a conscious decision following an arduous intellectual journey. It’s why atheists know more about religion than religious people. Most have done their homework. That’s not to say atheism is the only logical conclusion for smart people – many otherwise intelligent people are also people of faith. It just means there’s much more to becoming an atheist than this one time that one thing happened so I hate God. Ultimately I just don’t believe in God/Allah, Krishna, Thor, or any other god that has ever been or will ever be because I see no evidence for gods. The God Theory is wholly unsupported by the evidence. That’s all.
My father was and remains a great role model, a fine and intelligent man who I have and will always respect. He encouraged me to read, learn, study, and think for myself, and I thank him for that. He raised a son that doesn’t require an ever-watchful, angry and jealous (yet surprisingly silent) deity to be a decent human being. It is therefore saddening when the people you care most about have to feel a need to search for reasons for their “failing” – or worse even find reasons to blame themselves – for something that ultimately seems inconsequential to the nonbeliever.
Let’s hope our next breakfast doesn’t generate a blog post! But no matter, I will still look forward to it, because my dad is the best and I cherish any time I get to spend with him.