I'm sure many of you come from Christian and Jewish lineages, and are aware of the queer senses of guilt that accompany them. 

As atheists (or secularists) are seldom unified as cultural groups, and scattered across populations, I find that we carry the social identities of our affiliated groups (e.g., Southerners, Americans, Christians, college kids). That is, we are members of social groups that do not share our own thought processes and beliefs (ever heard of an atheist neighborhood?). Just about every major population on the planet is saturated with stupidity, and thus I think we all share a sort of 'Guilt' where by being an atheist we judge our own groups, and thus feel guilty for be associated with them....

For example: every time I read international coverage of American populations (maybe it should be called 'American Guilt'), have a casual conversation with a fellow southerner... etc. 

I mean, I'd be lying if I didn't admit watching Fox makes me want to move to northern Europe.


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I guess that I am lucky, I am an expat, have dual nationalities, and am and have always been an Atheist.
My friends are either Atheists or Agnostics, and I have absolutely nothing to do with any born again nutter. I have catholic friends whom treat me with respect and never have tried to push their religion on me. My closest friends are all of the same persuasion as I and consider what they see going on in the US today as lunacy... I have pretty much advanced to the point that I stay away from anyone who doesn't live here or is just passing through.. As far as living in Northern Europe, they may be to your liking, but I would much rather live in the tropics and enjoy the weather that allows me to take a swim day or night pretty much year around...

Last Nites Sunset

Whoa. Another dual citizen. Cool. :-)
CPO USN Ret. Taran, nice to meet a shipmate.... Welcome to Nexus..

here is a photo site I put up for my family while I was in the States taking care of my mom... feel free to peruse and download anything you might like, no charge....
HM3, ex-nuc grunt corpsman who served with 3/3 and did a stint at NavHospOrlando. Always good to meet a shipmate.

My pics are at http://www.flickr.com/photos/knowprose/ - need to get back out there with the camera. :-) Download and use anything you like, too. CC licensed specifically for that.
Doc, may I call you Doc? I am an old Twidgette an ET Spent my entire career in the Pacific with the exception of being stationed at Cecil Field for a few months back in the very early 60's when I called in a favor to get back to Asia... Spent 5 years in the Nam to keep from having to return to Conus... Guess that I am asiatic to the core... Found that I could get along a whole lot better with people who were of the minorities and had that special feeling of humanity and equality about them and they were honest, and taught me all about their culture while trying to understand where I was coming from and where I planned on going.... I owe the Pacific Islanders and the Asians big time.. They pretty much made a man of me, they did show me that race and heritage had nothing to do with being a man or human...

Perhaps one day you might come to Tahiti for a visit.... I for sure would like that.. Photography... Navy.... Dualie.... Shipmate... You my brother, brother
Been a while since someone called me Doc! :-)

I was a Nuc ET - got my crow that way, managed to keep it. Still have flashbacks of the ANSPS 64 (?) radar system we had to troubleshoot for finals.

And the family business in Trinidad is electrical motor rewinding, I helped my old man with the solar company in Trinidad, worked with Honeywell on inertial nav systems.

So yeah. Photography, Navy, Electronics, Shipmate. Brothers. :-)
Is it guilt or instead wishing for a feeling of belonging? I'll explain.

My background is really diverse. My father was an East Indian from Trinidad and Tobago. My mother, a European mix, perhaps with some Native American (uncertain). They met in New York. I was born in Milwaukee. We moved to Dayton, Ohio when I was 3. There, my parents caught the Jehovah's Witness virus. Thus, no birthdays, no Christmas, interesting stories for children and wearing an annoying suit and bow tie on Sundays. Weird stories, too, for frightening children - like houses having spirits, etc. Lots of fear. As a child, I remember that there was a lot of fear in those teachings.

Age 9. Parents divorce. I go to Trinidad with my father, his family is predominantly Hindu. Oil and water, but family pressures assured that I had a grounding in Hinduism (though I dodged quite a few bullets). The rituals seemed silly, I said so. A few of the wiser leaders in the Hindu community instead discussed the philosophy with the young intellect. The philosophy was ok. The rituals were not. And, oddly enough, a visiting Swami explained to me that the rituals were to embed the philosophy into those who didn't like philosophy. This made sense. Multitheism? No, not really, each one of the 'idols' is a different aspect of their Holy Trinity. Eventually, though, they ran out of answers.

Meanwhile, I attended a Roman Catholic high school, and ended up being friends with Muslims. So, some of that, some of this, etc.

Returned to the U.S. where Christianity is as good as Law (despite the best efforts of good people). Joined the Navy. Put 'RC' on my dog tags for no really good reason. Stepped foot in the chapel once: When required to in boot camp. Did a stint in the Far East. Had some fun with Buddhist philosophy. Started calling myself a Buddhist. Indian side of the family was appeased; Buddhism originated in India (!). European descended side of the family didn't care at the time.

Got out of the Navy. Lived unaffected by religion. Father got ill, went to Trinidad. Still called myself a Buddhist. I might have even thought it, too - I even went as far as reading the Tibetan Book of the Dead.

Work took me around the Caribbean and Latin America. Saw what happened throughout the former (maybe not) European colonies. Saw how language and religion were used for control, to divide and also to aggregate. Powerful tool, those. Claimed my atheism not long afterward. Returned to the U.S., one of my nieces is married to a deacon of a Church here in Beloit. Fun ensues. I'm sure that they pray for me.

Do I feel guilt? No. Of course, my grounding isn't in any one religion, but it's interesting to consider this: I do not feel guilty because I have no one to cause me to feel guilty. I'm 39, I've studied various religions and I'm untethered from imaginary friends aside from the people I correspond with on the Internet (lol).

But do I belong? No. Of course, given my ancestry and appearance (depending on where I am, people mistake me for one race or the other). I'm used to 'not belonging'. But it's good to find like minds, like people - even as an INTJ, I appreciate humans off and on and simply knowing that there are people out there makes me feel better. Probably something to do with evolution, but there it is.

So which group would you affiliate me with? Which group do I affiliate with? I don't, you see. I'm me. It's a big world. I'm used to that. So the whole concept of guilt about religion, race, culture, etc., is foreign to me.

But I do want to belong. Who doesn't want to be liked by at least one person?

Because of my own background, I wonder if the 'guilt' isn't just a malformed feeling of being untethered from what one grew up with. I didn't grow up with any one thing, but I do feel untethered at times - thus I found this site.

I could be completely wrong, and I have no problem with that - I lack the prerequisite experience to know the guilt of which you speak - but I'm curious, and I honestly wonder whether the 'guilt' feeling isn't simply an estrangement from people and ritual that one is comfortable with.

That said, I look forward to other responses. I expect I'll learn something. :-)
First off, I'm not sure Northern Europe is the best place to go anymore to escape it.
I would say that the "guilt" as you see it is simply leftover from religion, it is after all one of their chief weapons(amongst their weaponry are...................). Being saturated with stupidity seems to be de rigeur these days, and obviously no single group has a monopoly on it, although the South would be so much better off if they'd just realize that they did in fact lose the Civil War.
The guilt is something intrinsic to the religious experience. If you had nothing to feel guilty about, why bother with that much irrationality? Something like the opposite of the adage about buying milk when you have a cow or vice-versa. Without guilt over absolutely nothing, what else does religion have to sell except forgiveness from a non-existent being for guilt promoted by the belief in that non-existence. It's a big pile of bullshit premised upon an even bigger pile of it. Atheism is simply acknowledging that you have the power to just turn all that nonsense off. It's more like kicking a bad smack habit, you feel shitty without it for a while, then you should realize once it's out of your system, you're way better off.
Guilt is the hangover from religion.
As for the social aspect of it, if you're a former junkie, would you want to keep hanging out with junkies after you kick the habit?
The very idea of homogenizing atheists is a lot like herding cats, it may not work too well, but they don't stop being cats if you try.
Reading international coverage about Us puts you ahead of most Americans already. You already know that most of them take a rather dim view of us as it is, yet we persist in making it worse. Which is getting into a whole other topic. i.e.- Sarah Palin, the Noah's Ark museum, the tea party, DADT, Bush.....it goes on, but any one of these things should be a source of rather deep embarrassment, yet this country seems to revel in the sideshow. Go figure.
Absolutely nothing exciting over here. I was raised Catholic, but I never really was Catholic. I have vague memories of being a non-believer at the age of 5 or 6 (kindergarten CCD), but I didn't really have a name for it until my teens. About the only residual effects I have are cursing like a Catholic still.

With most other potential groupings, I'm more of an outsider. I'm here in urban North Carolina, but I'm originally from the suburbs of Chicago. When I run into the southerners around here (you have to head at least 5 miles outside of a major city to notice them), I feel no associated guilt and have no troubles with mocking them.
I'd love to live in an atheist neighbourhood.

I can't stand the fact that at work I am constantly bombarded by Christmas this time of year.
Disrespected, and judged for it:

"You mean you won't be celebrating Christmas with your daughter? Of course you will. Of course you would. Why wouldn't you? You mean you don't exchange presents?"

"No, I was born and grew up in the Jewish culture, my husband and I are atheists and we are bringing up our daughter to understand the different religions in the world and respect all holidays of all cultures. We do not celebrate Christmas. We take her away from the commercialism and go winter camping. She loves it. We have a great time."

"Why not?"

"I'm not Christian." My chest tightens. I walk away. My boss sitting there not commenting, but giving me strange looks, as the secretary stairs at me in disbelief.

I just stood looking on, feeling like I had to explain through the guilt of being different....

Why did I need to do that? Why do I bother typing here? I guess because we all want and look for approval. Or perhaps it's because I am unleashing a lot of stress to the void.
That's tough. I don't have children, but if I did I imagine I would have similar problems. As for the discussion with the secretary... that potentially falls under religious persecution. In future, you can point out that Jehovah's Witnesses also do not celebrate Christmas before you walk away. I do. If I'm feeling snarky, I'll ask them if they've celebrated the equivalents in other religions, like Divali or Eid. (Probably not, fasting is involved!)
Well one thing I think people mistake my first post for was that I was venting about some kind of atheist neuroticism that torments my soul. I feel the same guilt that you do, but I assure you, it's not because of some subconscious 'want for approval'. Indeed, it is because we are built by evolution to desire positive social reaction and belonging - but that does not mean there is some part of you that secretly wants their approval - it means the 'guilt'/'discomfort' systems in your brains are wired to shoot off during those ostracizing interactions. Thus the guilt may never subside, but knowing what it is makes it something to laugh at. Sometimes I catch myself with a large dose of guilt coming through in interactions like yours - in those moments, I become aware of it, do not act on it, but just laugh and the irony of what we are, and no matter how much you change your beliefs, you're still human, all too human.


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