If I were a christian I could pick whatever kind of beliefs I wanted and then choose a church and jump in.  I'd have plenty to do.  There'd be friends to spend time with. 

If I were a christian I could be eccentric or different and still find a niche where I belong.

If i were a christian our house would often be filled with guests, people showing up just to talk, people hanging around when there's trouble, people to listen when I need someone to talk to.

If I were a christian this town would not be such a hostile place.  I could move about and be a part of the activities without knowing in my gut that if I shared what I really thought I'd be immediately disliked or rejected, or worse.

If I were a christian I'd have someone in the deep, dark night I could talk with too, a god who is supposed to listen and care.

If I were a christian I'd have hope for myself beyond the day I die.

If I were a christian...

...but I'm not.

I am not a christian so there's no option to find this or that group where I can fit in and belong.

I am not a christian so there's nobody to invite over for drinks and conversation.

I am not a christian so this town is a hostile place.  Maybe not on the surface, but the hostility is there, waiting, ready to pounce the minute I declare my disbelief.

I am not a christian because I can't believe in fairy tales.  I can't ignore reality and focus on fantasy.  I can't live in a world that is fake and dishonest.  I can't tolerate the hatred and bigotry that goes along with religious belief.

I cannot simply choose to believe something that is not real.  I can't believe in something that obviously does not exist.  I cannot believe in a god.

I am not an atheist because of all the foolish, hateful, ugly things that religion does.  I am not an atheist because I did the research and proved that the bible is a bunch of fables designed to be confusing and manipulative by horrible men who wanted to control people.  I am not an atheist because religion is obviously and ultimately useless.

I am not an atheist by choice.  I am a reluctant atheist.

I am an atheist because I am awake and aware.  I am an atheist because I must live as close to reality as I possibly can.  I am an atheist because I recognize the value of life, of human life, and of our planet and no greater force has ever done more damage to the planet, to humanity, to the human psyche, than religion.  I am an atheist because I cannot turn off that part of my brain that hungers for truth.  I am an atheist because I am cursed with the absolute necessity to live in this moment, in this reality, in this day.

There are often times when I wish very much that I did not know things that I know.  There are times I envy people who can escape into a fantasy world and live there in their head.  There are times I miss the friendship and fellowship I once had when I was deluded and ignorant of reality.

There are times when I am totally pissed at myself for not seeing past the bullshit when I was young.  There are times when I would like to reclaim the life I wasted being a religious zealot, charging at windmills and bashing my head against rocks.  I have wasted so much fucking time!

There are times in the night when I stare into the darkness and miss the idea that there's a god who listens.

There are times I struggle with the thought that when I die that will be it.  There are times I am infuriated that I was indoctrinated with the idea that there is life after death.  There are times when my gut twists because of all the beliefs I ever had the hardest one to let go of is the one that said I was more than the man in the mirror.

There are times when I feel very, very alone.

I sit back and observe people.  I see that they, almost all of them, live in some kind of fantasy world with a reality defined by their own beliefs, a reality of their choice.  It's confusing, frustrating, maddening, not being able to take part in that fantasy.  

...but I can't.  I am who I am, things are what they are, and I am merely an observer, apart and alone, watching humanity self destruct and destroy the planet and rape the future because of their cowardly fear of reality and their choice to live in a religious fantasy.

And I can't do a godless-damn thing about any of it.

And that sucks.

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Comment by Ted Gresham on February 17, 2012 at 4:13pm

Thanks, M.  No, I wouldn't go back.  I can't live a fake life.  I really can't understand how so many people can do that.

Comment by Ted Gresham on February 17, 2012 at 8:17am

Hi, Tom.  Thanks for your comments!

Let's hope with more powerful toys people still don't succeed in wrecking everything.  People are doing a pretty damn good job at screwing up the planet and the future.

What am I doing?  Well, besides plodding along dragging my ass behind me I am trying to do a few things.  I help take care of our kids, of course.  They're top priority.  I've signed up to volunteer for the National Atheist Party of Texas and I'm trying to get a group together for Recovering for Religion.

Leaving this town isn't as easy as it sounds.  I'd be out of here and parked on a mountainside somewhere near Taos or Santa Fe if I could.  Unfortunately it ain't gonna happen.  I'm old, screwed up, and unemployable, and my wife is solidly attached to her job.  I could take off and wind up on benefits or find a little job and live by myself, probably, but I don't want to leave my family.  And they need me, too.  So, I do what I can do.

Thanks again!  Appreciate your thoughtful remarks!

Comment by tom sarbeck on February 17, 2012 at 4:32am

"...watching humanity self destruct and destroy the planet and rape the future...."

Ted, humanity has been doing this for eons and haven't succeeded.

- - -

"...when I die that will be it."

What are you doing to make the time you still have more fun, and not hurtful to others?

- - -

"...miss the idea that there's a god who listens."

If you'd had a god in your life, he/she/it wasn't as mean as the gods many people have had in their lives.

- - -

"I have wasted so much fucking time!"

What are you doing with the time you still have? I answered this one when I realized that religion had been a medicine and the church a hospital.

- - -

"I envy people who can escape into a fantasy world and live there in their head."

Without a shred of guilt, I occasionally escape into some most enjoyable sexual fantasies.

- - -

In a church your thoughts, eccentricities or differences would frighten any "friends" away. Not wanting to lose them, you would put a leash on your mind.

I would move away from the small town you now live in. I went to the University of Florida (in what had been a farming community) and told people I could live any place where there's a large public university and an all-night restaurant. I like big, noisy cities most of all.

Comment by Ted Gresham on February 16, 2012 at 7:38pm

Thanks, Bruce.  Kind words and good thoughts.  And indeed you are right.  On the one side I am indeed only "the man in the mirror," in that all that I see is who I am, there is no eternal something hidden within.  But also, as you say, there is more to the person in the mirror than the image.  (Good thing, considering what *I* see, lol)  It is for that reason I struggle to drag my ass up and be who I should be.

It is in facing the world as it is that is the encouragement for me to stand up and BE what I am, a non-theist, an atheist, without hesitation, so as to disprove the stereotypes tossed around in the religious community that we are somehow less than human or less than valid or "evil."  There is good in knowing life is precious and deserves all we can give it.  Noble words not always so easily lived up to but they are my goal.  If there is evil it lies in the hearts of those bigots and haters who would ...should I use the word... crucify those who reject their myths merely because their power base and position is threatened.

Ain't it the way it is?  We are so scattered.  I am thinking we should find a way to come together in places for times of support and fellowship.  Damn hard with the cost of gas.  It would go far, however, in furthering our cause if we could do something like that on a far smaller scale than costly conferences and massive rallies.

Thanks, again, Bruce!

Comment by Bruce Griffin on February 16, 2012 at 6:46pm

Ted, it sounds as though you and I have traveled the same road, and arrived at the same destination. I will differ with you on a couple of points. You are much more than that reflection in the mirror, much, much, more. You must be the one to seek and to learn what else is there. That you have the backbone to state what you have here says a lot about the man behind the reflection in the mirror. Keep looking, there's more. And for what it's worth, if I didn't live a thousand miles away, I'd be happy to hang with you at your house or mine.



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