Is It Safer
To Tell Them
We're Just Not Religious?
I've been following your website on and off for about two years now. I'm proud to say I am a non-believer.
I have to say though there is a feeling of being stigmatized because you don't believe in something. I was raised Jewish. I'm still in college and I am living at home. I don't look down on my parents for being Jewish at all, and in fact I'm proud of my heritage. I just don't believe in the god or in organized religion.
My boyfriend isn't Jewish either, he's atheist. He's gone through several different beliefs and finally settled on nothing. I think my parents will get over him not being Jewish -- eventually.
I wonder if they'd like him better if I said he was Christian. I think it might be safer that I tell him he's just not religious than being atheist or Christian.
Which is the worser of the two evils? Hah!
Keep up the website! I know it's enjoyed much by many people!
"Screws just fall out all the time, the world's an imperfect place."
-- John Bender (The Breakfast Club)
"It's 106 miles to Chicago, we've got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark and we're wearing sunglasses."
-- Elwood (The Blues Brothers)
From: "Positive Atheism" <email@example.com>
To: "Karen G."
Subject: Re: proud atheist
Date: February 26, 2004 2:20 AM
I can't tell you which is worse. History has known theists to stop slitting each others throats for just long enough to enjoy a lovely afternoon at the auto-da-fé, standing side-by-side in full concert, and then go at it again the very moment that the flesh of the former atheists ceases its quivering.
Okay. Back to the twenty-first century (or the twentieth, really).
My Mother would simply chime out, "Oh, we're not religious," when pressed to disclose the genus and species of wasp that constituted the bulk of our diet. Neither of my parents ever paid any closer attention than this to the subject of religion (and thus the subject of their own atheism). As a result, they have been warmly welcomed, enthusiastically loved, and wholly respected in whatever social situations they've found themselves.
My parents now live in Southern Utah -- polygamist country, yes, but wholly religious, to be sure! Mom jokes (half-jokingly) that she now has a foolproof method for avoiding the crowds at Wal-Mart: they pack up at ten O'Clock on Sunday morning and shop while everybody else in town (except the poor Wal-Mart employees) are at Church! Well -- this is a good way to avoid the shopping crowds just about anywhere (even in Portland, Oregon, among the most atheistic cities in the United States). But Mom tells me that they literally have the entire Wal-Mart to themselves where they live.
My point in all this, however, is that the only thing my parents have ever said to anybody regarding the family's religious heritage is "Oh, we're not religious!" And she said this only after being asked very pointedly, as if it would be socially awkward to continue ignoring the question or to pretend not to hear it (or to change the subject by recapping a the most recent statement of the preceding topic, or whatever).
Mom's emphasis is not on the word not, but on the word Oh. She isn't emphasizing the "not" as if to show disdain toward religion or to say, "How dare you presume I'm religious!" as that modestly popular lapel button engine asserts in regards to a number of "alternative" outlooks and lifestyles. (Religious faith is the alternative outlook, as far as I'm concerned: religious belief is later tacked onto one's natural outcome, whereas atheism, the simple absence of religious faith, is that natural outcome.) but showing surprise at the question itself:
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"Those who are not theists are atheists."
This definition is favored as a generic
self-definition for our social class by a
majority of the atheistic social critics,
philosophers, writers, and reformers who
ventured an opinion on the subject.
We recommend the popularization of this
definition as a potential means to reduce
the stigma that is leveled against atheists
from virtually every side.
Don't let antagonists tell us who we are!
-- Positive Atheism Magazine
THE GENERIC ATHEISTIC VIEW, IN ITS ENTIRETY:
"My conclusion is that there is no reason to
believe any of the dogmas of traditional
theology and, further, that there is no
reason to wish that they were true. Man,
in so far as he is not subject to natural
forces, is free to work out his own destiny.
The responsibility is his, and so is the
-- Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), from
"Is There a God?" (1952), being the
opinion of one-fifth of the world's
and one-seventh of America's adults
THE LIBERTY TO MAINTAIN A VIEW DEFINED:
"The legitimate powers of government extend
to such acts only as are injurious to others."
-- Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), from "Statute for Religious Freedom" THE MEANS FOR MAINTAINING THAT LIBERTY URGED:
"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain
a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty
-- Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), from
"Historical Review of Pennsylvania"