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My Hundredth Blog Entry & An Announcement

Foreword & Disclaimer Added 2007-09-14

Okay, in the feedback I've gotten to this (from a blog comment, e-mail, and a especially some real, live conversations), people seem to have a problem with the word, "atheist." Atheist has different shades of meaning depending on who you ask, and in the more popular usage, perhaps I'd be better described as agnostic. In the comments to this entry, I brought up the term, "freethinker," and I'm beginning to think that I might like that even better, since, as I point out in another comment, I think the thought processes we use to arrive at our conclusions are as important as the conclusions themselves. And by stressing the process, and not always the final destination, it allows you to find more commonality with people who came to different conclusions. My point is, if you're reading this entry, please don't get hung up on the term, "atheist." Please read what my actual position is.

I'd also add, that if you read this, and find it very objectionable, and also happen to know where I work, don't take it as a reflection of the others where I work or the company. As far as I know, I'm the only non-believer. Plus, every other week when we go out to eat as a group, somebody always says a prayer (never me, of course).


Doing some maintenance on my blog recently, I noticed that I had 99 entries so far. That makes this entry 100. So, for my hundredth entry, I wanted to make it something kind of special. So, I have an announcement:

I'm an atheist.

Okay, so it's not an earth shattering announcement, but it's something I've been wanting to get off my chest for a while now. It probably comes as no surprise to many people - indeed, my family and many of my friends already know. And anybody that reads this blog and the essays on my main website would have seen how I'd been moving away from Christianity (such as this essay, where I'd finally decided that the Bible isn't divinely inspired). And, I've been leaving comments on other blogs discussing my atheism, even though I wasn't open about it on my own blog. I'd even already received some e-mail from people accusing me of being an atheist long before I actually became one, simply because I accepted evolution.

Okay, first things first, let me get a few things out of the way (by quoting and paraphrasing from other essays I've written). I didn't become an atheist just because I didn't like going to church Sunday mornings, or because I didn't want to have to follow the rules anymore. I don't "hate God" (it's a little hard to hate an entity you don't believe in). I read the Bible. I studied science. I read up on philosophy. I became an atheist because that's the way I think the universe really is. And don't confuse atheism with Postmodernism or Nihilism. I still think there's an objective reality. I still worry about how to be a good person. I just no longer see a god as being part of that.

Second, don't confuse atheism with certainty - I'm not absolutely one-hundred percent certain about anything. However, I'm about as sure that the Earth is a globe that orbits the Sun as I am that the Bible was written by people, and that a God as presented in the Bible doesn't exist. I'm not as certain that no type of divine being exists at all. I don't see an absolute reason why there would have to be one, and I haven't seen any good positive evidence for such a being, so the default position is to doubt its existence. But, I still can't be positive that a god/gods doesn't exist. So, I leave open the slight possibility that gods could possibly exist, but I base my worldview on the idea that they probably don't.

For various reasons, which I'll get to in a little bit, I've held back announcing my atheism on this blog. But, I've really wanted to do it for a while, now. If it was just my normal website, without this blog, and without some of my religious essays from my writing section, I wouldn't have worried about it at all. After all, what does atheism have to do with aviation, or programming, or installing a Koyo radiator in a 1994 Mazda RX-7? But, I do have essays and blog entries that deal with religious themes. Considering that the last time I explicitly stated my position I said that I was a Christian (either here or here - I can't quite remember which was last), even though it's not directly relevant to some of my more recent essays, I thought some people might feel misled were they to find out I was actually an atheist, so I figured it was about time to let them know my true position.

I also wanted to be able to share my thoughts on different matters. I put a lot of thought into leaving behind religion. It wasn't just something I did overnight, it really was a process. And, during the course of that process, I wrote several essays about it. Those essays, not intended for any audience in particular, were a way for me to organize my thoughts on the matter. But, now that I've been an atheist for a little while now, and I'm becoming more comfortable with it, I would like to share those essays. Since that would be kind of difficult to do without being open about my position, that was another reason I wanted to announce my atheism. Additionally, there have been several topics that I would have liked to have discussed on this blog, but steared clear of because they were directly related to atheism. So, after this post, I will be able to discuss those things. (But don't look for this to become an atheism themed blog - the more comfortable I become with being an atheist, the less I feel like dwelling on it. So, look forward to more of the same that you've come to expect from this blog.) So, since I said I wanted to share those essays, I'll take this opportunity to announce a new section on my website, explaining my reasons for abandoning Christianity, and a little about the actual journey I went through:

Religious Essays

So, why have I kept this a secret for so long? Fear, mostly. I've seen several surveys indicating that atheists are rather distrusted in this country; some studies actually indicated that they're the most distrusted minority (like this one - here's a link to another article discussing that study, in case the first link doesn't work; though, I'm sure that how you define "minority" has a lot to do with which one is the most distrusted.) Add to that the fact that I live in Texas, in the heart of the Bible belt, and you might guess that I'm not exactly surrounded by people who would be open to atheism. To be honest, my fear isn't mainly for myself. If I was single, I'd have written about this a while ago. But, I have a daughter, and I'm a little concerned about how people might treat her knowing that her father is an atheist, so that was the biggest reason I haven't been open about this on my website.

There's also the issue of how my family would take it - not my immediate family, of course. I already said up top that they knew. But I'm a little concerned as to how aunts, uncles and cousins might react, especially if they happen to come across it on my blog, and not talking to me personally. (And with me living down in Texas, and most of my family being up in Pennsylvania, that's a pretty good possibility).

But, in the real world, so far nobody who's learned that I'm atheist has seemed very perturbed by it. Maybe this has a little to do with who I've chosen to tell - I haven't yet told certain coworkers and ex-neighbors who go to church every Sunday and Wednesday (actually, I haven't told any coworkers, since religion is a topic that only comes up every once in a while in passing - work isn't really the place for theological debates). Most people who find out, after maybe a brief widening of the eyes, and asking me, "Really?" just seem to move right past it. I guess, they already know me and my character, and I don't go about trying to convert people away from their religion, so whether I believe in a god or not just doesn't make that much of a difference. I've also been surprised by the number of people I know who turn out to be non-Christian, whether they're atheist, agnostic, or still believe in some type of god, but don't buy into Christianity, anymore.

Plus, I think the people that would be most upset by finding out I'm an atheist would be nearly as upset by some of the other things I've written on this blog and website (the aformentioned essay denying the divinity of the Bible, the essay where I support gay marriage, or just about any of the entries from this blog where I criticize Biblical literalism or Christian fundamentalism). And besides, it's not like I have a hugely popular website. I get a few people reading my blog and some my controversial essays, but nothing compared to other blogs and websites, and very little, actually, compared to the rest of my own website. I have a hard time imagining that some person from my town, who knows me just enough to know who I am and who my family is (and therefore to be able to bother my daughter), but who doesn't know me enough to know my character, or at least to confront me directly about my atheism, would come across this blog.

So, that's about it, I guess. I'll repeat the link to my religious essays section, so that if you're really interested in why I'm an atheist, or what exactly my current stance is, you can go read it there.

Religious Essays

Comments

Wow, you are a born again atheist, left God to be an idiot.

Whoooopdeeedoo, 100 posts.

Check out my blog moron, I'll show you what its like beeeeeeeyach!

A nice way to express one's views of the world.
I started reading your blog because Î'm into gyros (actually dreaming of a roadable gyro, to connect to my background as an automotive engineer) and have followed the development of the CC almost all along.

I enjoyed reading your views on creationism and chuckled at the "Massai-foot-simulator" and I dare assume we think in a comparable way.

Although religion plays a major role in society, and thus belief influences us all, I actually think it counterproductive to discuss the existance of gods (or God for those in love with capital letters). Should there be a god (any diety in any form) that wanted us to communicate with him or her, we would have been created with qualified means of communication. Voices in your head claiming to be a god are a pathological state, not divine enlightenment. So the result must be: live your life and worry about god whe you are dead. This is where being Christian comes in handy: all your sins have been paid for by Jesus with his death. In a nutshell; to me it seems more important to be a good person than to be an ardent believer.

Although you call yourself an atheist, I see you actually more as an agnostic. As an atheist you'd BE positive there is NO god, which you don't do.

I started reading your blog because Î'm into gyros ... and have followed the development of the CC almost all along.

Aha! So that's who you are. I saw a couple previous comments of yours, and wondered if you were another Alex that I already knew, or if you were somebody I'd never met personally. Now I know.

Although religion plays a major role in society, and thus belief influences us all, I actually think it counterproductive to discuss the existance of gods... So the result must be: live your life and worry about god whe you are dead.

I agree with you to an extent. That's about the point I'm at now. I doubt there's a god, but then again, there just might be. But, I'm sure (well, about as sure as I am about anything) that this life is real. So, instead of getting all wrapped up wondering about which religion might be right, I'll just do my best to be a good person and enjoy this life. And when I die if there does happen to be a god and we do have an afterlife, well, like you said, that'll be something to worry about then. And you always have to consider, that maybe there isn't an afterlife. Perhaps this life really is all that we get. And in that case, it makes this life all the more precious. And, it makes you realize that people who are living in horrible conditions right now (third world countries, starving children, etc.) might not get a second chance at a better existence, so we really need to do our best to help those people now.

On the other hand, we've seen what extreme religious faith can do. Look at al Quaeda in the Middle East, abortion clinic bombers in the west, the Protestant/Catholic violence in Northern Ireland, the discrimination against homosexuals & bisexuals. I'm not saying that those problems are solely caused by religion, but getting those people to question their basic foundations for why they're doing what they're doing might not be such a bad thing.

Plus, there always the desire to know "The Truth." I mean, what does it really matter to us here on Earth, whether the universe began expanding 14 billion years ago, or whether Lucy was our direct ancestor, or even whether the Earth is round or flat. It really doesn't make a big difference, except for our curiosity, to know why things are the way they are. I wrote about this in a previous entry (Knowledge for Knowledge's Sake), so I'll just quote one sentence, "In the same way that some people may find beauty in a painting, others can find beauty in a deeper understanding of the mysteries of our universe." So, that's the other reason I wonder so much about whether or not there's a god.

This is where being Christian comes in handy: all your sins have been paid for by Jesus with his death.

I don't want to attack what you're saying, because everything you've written seems very sensible, so just consider this a polite discussion. But doesn't that seem a bit like Pascal's Wager? The main problem I have with that, is there are so many mutually exclusive religions, all of them promising a nice afterlife if you follow them, why pick Christianity in particular?

In a nutshell; to me it seems more important to be a good person than to be an ardent believer.

I agree completely. If only more people thought that way.

Although you call yourself an atheist, I see you actually more as an agnostic. As an atheist you'd BE positive there is NO god, which you don't do.

The funny thing about words, is that they only mean what people think they mean. So, that's why I spelled out my position, instead of just saying I was an atheist. Really, the atheist/agnostic distinction seems pretty minor to me, so I don't get worked up about it, but I prefer to call myself an atheist. Let me explain. The more I read about this as I was going through my "deconversion," the more I saw that the people that described themselves as atheists weren't positive. In fact, in the U.S. at least, where most atheists were raised as Christians, and only became atheists after intense self reflection, most atheists seem to realize that they might be wrong about anything, not just the question of gods. So, their worldview is based on differing levels of certainty. You're never really absolutely certain about anything. It's not that there isn't an objective reality, but you realize your limitations in studying the universe and trying to determine that reality. In practice, there are things of which you're sure enough, that you don't really question them except in a philosophical sense - like the old question recently made popular by the Matrix movies, of whether everything is just an illusion. So, that's why I prefer the term atheist. I'm not positive, but my gut feel is that there isn't a god. But just show me some good evidence, and I could be swayed.

Maybe a better term would be "freethinker." In fact, that's what I'd really like to see - not to label and group ourselves based on whether we think there might be a divine power or not. Our understanding of the universe is bound to change. What we consider to be facts now might not be so clearcut in the future (consider what Einstein did to physics). So, while we'll always strive to get the facts right, the important thing is to get people thinking for themselves. Don't accept anyone's word as gospel without doing a little research and demanding some evidence. It doesn't really matter at all to me if people believe in a god or gods, as long as they came to that view based on sound reasoning, and not just accepting it as fact because someone told them so at Sunday school. And we should always be ready to admit that we might be wrong.

Whew. This reply might be longer than the original post. Anway, Alex, thanks for your comment. It's nice to know that somebody reads this blog, and I always enjoy constructive discussions.

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