Hey all. I've in the past few months really embraced the idea of being an atheist. I tried for a long time to reconcile the differences between the logic of science (I'm a science teacher) and the dogma of Christianity. After a while, I gave up and just let logic speak for itself.
I've honestly never felt more relaxed in all my life as now that I've given up the silly notions of Christianity. And I'm thrilled to discover this website because it's just a nice change of pace to be around like minded folks.
The hardest part, and this could be coming from this still being fresh to me, is not being an ANGRY atheist. I catch myself being angry that others still drink the deity kool aid. I know people who will purposefully ignore information, evidence, and logic just so that they can wallow in the ignorance that their faith encourages. I hope it gets easier to not be bothered by this. I don't want to be angry and I also don't want to alienate my friends by talking to them like they're idiots.
Thank you all again for just existing and being here.
Hola BrandonEl - I just joined A/N, so I'm a bit late to respond, but I was particularly caught up in your situation. I was also born and raised in the Bible Belt and have lived here most of my life, so I appreciate the pickle you're in. You have your work cut out for you . . . :-) I think you'll be OK. But I think you'll have ups and downs with the "angry" part. I have been atheist since I stopped believing in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, and, until recently, like you, I kept finding myself getting angry whenever I encountered the willful ignorance you're describing. The last presidential primary season was the straw that broke the camel's back for me and I started doing some research to see if I could figure out what was going on . . . "It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional Syst..." by Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, "The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science--and Reality" by Chris Mooney, "The Authoritarians" by Bob Altemeyer, "The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Rel..." by Jonathan Haidt and "Authoritarianism and Polarization in American Politics" by Marc Hetherington and Jonathan Weiler among others. From my reading I got two things that have helped me understand and deal with the closed-mindedness, holier-than-thou, my-way-or-the_highway, I-get-to-tell-you-how-to-live-your-life willful ignorance you talk about. The first thing that I got was that all of those symptoms were part of a worldview called authoritarianism. Estimates vary, but it seems to be between 20% and 30% of the population. It is the authoritarians who make up the extreme right wing of the Republican party and are the religious fundamentalists. These are the people we hear about and who get in our faces. They are the ones who have the need to impose their beliefs on others.
That they are not a majority means that I have found that there are people who /*are*/ religious, but are quite comfortable with the fact that not everyone shares their religious beliefs. Some are quite open-minded and enjoy religious discussions without being threatened by them. So those are the people I try to identify and be around. (I don't think religion will ever go away, so I've resigned myself to that).
The second and most wonderful thing I got out of my reading was finding out about a way to talk to others without alienating them. Rather than trying to do a too-short and incomplete and probably inaccurate review of Haidt's book, I would urge you with everything I have to urge that you read through it. It is very, very insightful about how and why authoritarians are the way they are and how to interact with them in ways that are non-threatening and which allow for true dialogue.
This doesn't mean that I have found a solution to "the authoritarian problem," but I /*have*/ found out how to avoid a considerable amount of misery and frustration . . .
If you are interested in what makes these people tick, I would highly recommend the books by Altemeyer, Haidt and Hetherington and Weiler. Altemeyer is a social psychologist, Haidt is an evolutionary psychologist and Hetherington and Weiler are political scientists. These books are by scientists who are talking about the latest research and data, they are not pop psychology. They are purposely directed at non-scientific readers, and are interesting reading (as opposed to trying to read a journal article).
Also, as an introduction, you could look at an article I posted on Daily Kos titled "Authoritarians at the Gate." Though the discussion was on the political situation in which we find ourselves, the situation and the solutions are the same with the religious right . . . And that's a problem for non-fanatical religious people of all faiths as well as us atheists . . .
Good luck in "your new life." From the very short time I've been here, it looks as if you're in good hands . . . It seems to be a /*great*/ community . . .