Sunday, June 24, 2012

You have questions? I have answers!

I recently received this series of questions on my Facebook wall and thought it would be a good idea to share the answers here. Thanks for asking them, Shane, and I hope I have answered them clearly enough.

Hello, Lori,

So far from what I can discover on your blog, Lori, is that you haven't been an atheist for an extended period of time. I like to ask new atheists a few questions to see how much in common I have with them. Perhaps you can ask these questions of your readers.

1. When you outgrew your need for faith did it emotionally hurt you? Did you mourn the passing of your faith? The short answer is yes. I did feel hurt emotionally. I did mourn the loss of my faith. Losing my faith hurt for many reasons. One of the most painful things was losing the support and close relationship I had with my family. I am not sure I will ever regain that. Even recently at a family gathering, I felt like an alien or, more appropriately, the black sheep, when everyone had to pray over the meal and many conversations revolved around church. I just don’t have much in common anymore with my flesh and blood family. I love them all very much, but I feel that being an atheist has put a huge wall up and I am not sure it will ever come down. Outside of my family issues, I also feel that when I started reading and seeing that I just did not believe in a deity any more, I went through what I feel was mourning. I often felt angry (if you read my blog you can see evidence of that), depressed, went through some denial, and in general felt a huge upheaval happening inside me emotionally. Change is sometimes painful. My entire world view began falling apart. I had to rethink things like the afterlife, morality and so many other things in which I believed. I firmly believe the change and emotional turmoil I experienced (still experience at times) was normal and I would not ever go back to blindly following a faith, god or religion without concrete evidence. I think it is important to note that I feel like a more fulfilled and complete person now, without faith in a god, than I ever did when I was religious, Religion and faith, for me, caused doubt, distrust, lack of questioning authority, feelings of confusion, and I was in a state of constant unhappiness and darkness. I felt that my core belief of treating other humans with love was NOT a part of Christianity. I feel Atheism more closely aligns with my core values. (See question number 5 for more elaboration on this)

2. What were the key factors for you to conclude that neither god nor gods exist? This is a tough question for me and is really the main reason I wrote this blog. There were several factors and the transition was gradual as I began reading and studying different religions. When I attended classes to obtain my degree, I learned about a variety of different religious views and cultures. Learning these things made me begin to question things like: Who has the “real” God” and who are we to say another religion is wrong and ours is right? I also began to see that there were hundreds of thousands of different branches of different types of religion and most of what I experienced and saw was people locking themselves into a certain doctrine- based on the way THEY interpreted their holy book- and then they would surround themselves only with people who felt exactly the same way and criticize and belittle anyone who didn’t. That seemed very “un-Christ-like” to me and I began thinking a lot about things like…who really is right? The conclusion I came up with is that religion is a crutch that people use to exclude others. Many religious people also twist the Bible around to cater to their own fears. The way some Christians (and other faiths) treat people treat LGBT people is a prime example of this. I do know that many people use religion as a way to feel comfort about death and to feel closer to loved ones who have died. They find it easier to believe the people that they love are waiting for them in heaven. I understand that, to a point, but I also I think there is a time when people need to grow up and face the reality that when we die, we are gone. It is natural and the way it is supposed to be.
Another factor that turned me away from religion and god was the fact that rich people had a god who answered their prayers. Poor people didn’t. Kind of like Santa Clause. Santa likes the rich kids. But the poor kids? Screw them! Same idea here. Rich people have everything they need, simply because they are fortunate enough to have the money to buy it. But they say things like “Thank god! We got a new car this week,” But that same god neglected to make sure that the homeless family in downtown Jacksonville got food. When you ask religious people about this they say ignorant things like “god works in mysterious ways.” Well, your god is an ass hole then! This kind of thinking led me to believe that there is NOT any evidence of an all-knowing, all-powerful GOOD deity, because if there was, he/she would be kind and not allow bad things to happen to innocent children.

3. Now that you're an entity that values reason over faith how has your life improved? How has your person-hood evolved? I feel that my life has improved because I no longer worry about things like heaven, hell, or an afterlife. I do not worry about which religion is the right one to follow. I follow none of them. I feel free and happy to be able to wake up each day- glad that I am still an inhabitant of the earth and I can make a difference every day in THIS life. I have taught my kids to question everything and to read and study on their own and to value evidence and logic. I do not blindly believe everything I am told. If I question something, I research to find answers. I read a variety of books, blogs and articles and feel that I am constantly evolving and learning more about the world- based on science and reason- not on what I was told as a child or on what an outdated book tells me to do/be.
4. For the sake of argument let’s say we both decided that the individual written about in the Bible named Jesus existed. If you could converse with this person now what would you ask him? Hey Jesus, what’s up? :) Can you believe this crap? These crazy nuts in this day and age are using your name and influence you had to have an excuse to be ass holes! How do you feel about that? What would you REALLY do? Haha!

5. In your own words please tell me what does being an "atheist" mean to you? I know the word atheist has negative connotations to many people. But to me, being an atheist means that I am good and kind for the sake of being good and kind. I do not expect a reward in the afterlife. I believe I am a moral and ethical person who listens to my own instincts. If something feels wrong to me, I don’t do it. So far, this is working for me. I don’t have to follow a book to be a decent person. I just have to decide each day that I am going to try to make a difference, try to be kind and understanding to others, try to accept people and love them in spite of their flaws, try to give to people less-fortunate, try to continue to be a positive influence in the lives of my children, try to take care of the body I have, try to live this life to the fullest. I have always strived to live with what I call “the big picture” in mind. When I am lying in bed dying, whenever the end of my life is close, will I be able to look back and be proud of who I was and how I treated people? At this point, fancy diplomas, big houses, expensive cars, money in the bank, how far up the corporate ladder I climbed and many other things that seem so important in life just will not seem as important to me as leaving behind a legacy of goodness, kindness and love and knowing that I passed that on to my children. Am I perfect at it? HAHA NO! Some days I struggle. Some days I want to give up. But, I can honestly say that living life with the big picture in mind is a much healthier way to live than trying to score points with an imaginary deity in the sky.

I can think of more questions to ask but I think that is a lot to think about. I really am interested in reading your answers. I've been an atheist for 12 years now and I've never once regretted my decision nor have questioned my decision to disavow faith. You and I both share common experiences on our treks to becoming atheists.


Thanks Shane! I am glad you encouraged me to write in my blog. I always feel better when I write. :)

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