Thursday, April 14, 2011

Is it really easier being an atheist?

Note: The following post will use the broad terms of "Atheists" and "Christians".  I do not presume to speak for everybody in either of those groups.  When I speak of "atheists" I speak first of myself and those that I know with the understanding that there are exceptions to every rule.  The same goes for when I speak of "Christians", I speak of my personal experiences as a former Christian and my experience with other Christians.  Do not take the broad statement personal.  If the shoe fits wear it, if not then be a grown up and put the shoe back. Don't get your feelings hurt by insisting on personalizing statements.

One of the common statements I hear and read when people are talking about atheists is that it is so much easier to be an atheist than it is to be a believer.  The thought process behind this is that faith is much harder to hold onto and that it takes more strength of will to have faith than it does to reject faith.  The argument goes that it takes more effort to believe in something than not to.  Some go so far as to accuse atheists of being lazy and that they reject faith because they do not understand it.

As I thought on this I thought how naive.  The person that thinks that it is easier to be an atheist has never understood what it means to be an atheist.  I have been both a believer and an atheist and I would like to make a few comments on the idea that it is easier to be an atheist.  Mind you....this is my personal experience and that is all I can talk about.

What it really means to be lost...

I remember what it felt like when, after several years of searching, reading, processing and finally reaching the logical conclusion that the Bible is not infallible truth and that there is no evidence to attest to the existence of a divine being. I was far from relieved.  I had been raised in faith all my life.  I had trained for the ministry from a child.  I had pastored, preached, traveled to preach in youth rallies and revivals.  I was teaching in a Bible institute.  Everything I had done in my life was somehow related to and directed at the ministry.  I now found myself with my reputation ruined, with m life's plans decimated and with my goals all wiped clean.

I did not know how to react to Sunday mornings.  After years of being forced to go to church and then in adulthood I having embraced it I was at an emotional loss of what to do with my time.  I had spent years studying the Bible and it had become the foundation of everything I did.  In essence the rug had been pulled out from under me and I lacked direction.  I had no idea what I was going to with my life.  I had no idea how I was going to cope with my problems.  I just knew on some deeper level that no matter what, I could never go back.

Did you ever watch the Matrix?  Ok I know, a lot of people see it as cheap sci-fi crap and couldn't get their minds to wrap around the acting of Keanu Reeves but over all I really liked them.  There is a moment in the first movies, (watch th clip here) when Neo walks into the room and meets Morpheus for the first time. As they sit and discuss the Matrix and the trip that Neo is about to make Morpheus plays idly with a small case. Finally he opens it and pulls out two pills, a red pill and a blue pill.  Morpheus offers Neo a final choice:  Take the blue pill and you wake up in your bed and nothing has changed and your life goes on quietly and peacefully.  Take the red pill and you discover the truth.  Later in the movie when Neo discovers the truth he asks Morpheus, "I can't go back?"  Morpheus replies, "No....but would you want to?"  This is how it was for me.  I was lost and without direction, but I knew in my heart I could never go back.

I miss my imaginary friend...

There are days I miss the coping mechanisms of faith.  Sure, they were ineffective and served no other purpose other than to assist one in coping but they were, in their own way, comforting.  I have often said that I am envious of the person that can look at their bills, look at their family problems, look at their problems at work and simply say, "God has a plan, I trust Him to take care of it" and roll over and go to sleep.  The atheist does not have that luxury because, faced with the cold hard facts, they realize that nobody is going to fix this for me, I have to fix it myself.  So to those that say it is easier to be an atheist I remind you that while you are sleeping peacefully, comforted in the non-existent "everlasting loving arms" we are actually trying to fix the problem.

Recently things have been a little difficult with Mandy and I dealing with some problems with my daughter Bethanie.  Those that have followed my blog know my daughter and know what she means to me.  In the last few months symptoms have begun pointing at the likelihood that she may have Asperger's Syndrome, and it has been a bit difficult to watch her struggle with this and not know what to do to help her.  We are progressing with tests and hope to get the assistance we need to help her adapt and grow up through it but for now, thing have been a little rough.  Monday I tweeted that it was one of those days that sucked to be an atheist, it would be really nice to have an imaginary friend to dump all my cares on.  Think of that next time you mock an atheist with how much easier it is to be an atheist.

I miss group therapy...

You know...Sunday morning, we all got together, talked about our problems, passed around prayer requests, passed the offering plates and went home feeling better?  You know what I talking about!  As an atheist I have my family to share my problems with.  Mandy is that center for me in many ways.  I remember growing up being saved by the bell because some Brother or Sister in the church helped us out.  That is a tough thing to replace and frankly I have not yet replaced it and probably never will.  The support network that come with being active in a church is simply hard to replace.  It is not that atheists do not donate and give to help those in need, it is just a matter of fact...we do not interact a lot or meet regularly in most cases so that sense of "family" is not there.  I will not deny that this is a strong point in favor of at least pretending to being a believer, but frankly I just don't pretend very well.

There is no going back...

But then the question is...would I want to?  The answer is no.  I cannot reject the truth that is before my eyes. I cannot go back to what I see as superstition and myth.  Once knowledge is obtained it cannot be un-learned.  I am not complaining or whining, it is what it is.  But I would have to disagree with the sentiment that it is easier to be an atheist, especially in the environment of a nation, or at least a region of that nation, where being a "Christian" is part of your citizenship.  Every where you turn are signs that you do not belong.  From the money we use to the music we listen to and the look of pity and nigh horror.

In no way do I think my journey is over.  I am always open to new ideas.  Should pertinent and reliable information present itself that proved me wrong I will accept it.  I do not pretend to know the future or predict where this journey will lead.  But I do know me.  I do know that facts are what are important to me.  It is for this reason that I do not see me ever able to go back to that life.  Oddly enough, I no longer wish to.


Kat said...

I like one point that you make here: religion isn't just about belief in God, it provides you with a community. Athiests and agnostics just don't have the same support system that churchgoers, "true believers", have.

Personally, I like the idea of a greater power, of things beyond our perception but have trouble truly believing. There are times that I consider the idea of finding a church community that fits me but I think that I would feel too much like a pretender.


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