I was talking to my therapist, trying to explain what it's like for me, an atheist, to make connections in a meaningful way with most of the people I know. It's not that I don't relate to them in many ways, I just can't seem to get past a superficial level for fear that I might offend, or alienate them. Things are further complicated by the fact that for years I'd tried to fit into the religious and conservative mold of the majority of my family and friends. Yup, I'd hoped and tried to be a good christian.

It was during my struggle to recover from addiction that I finally accepted that there probably wasn't a Higher Power, and that I'd better figure out how to cope with reality if I wanted to have a sober, productive life. I started to notice how self-deceptive and dishonest my life had been, and I began to discard the rigid and unrealistic morality I'd tried, and failed to live by. For months I attended regular 12 step meetings and I learned some important lessons in the process. I'm grateful for the things I learned in NA and I'm glad there was someplace for a sick, hopeless addict to go for some comfort, understanding and direction. While it's possible to self-identify as an atheist in a 12 step group, in my experience it prompted some very vocal and dogmatic defenses of God and I turned to other resources to maintain my sanity and sobriety.

I know the feeling of isolation that comes from being an addict. Oddly the way I feel now isn't much different. I couldn't be up front and open about my using, and I don't feel comfortable about being openly atheist. This may be a misinterpretation on my part, and sometimes I feel just as dishonest now, as I did then. I do know that when I encounter someone whose beliefs, or opinions differ from mine, I don't assume that they're in thrall to some demonic being, and I rarely have a burning desire to convert them to my point of view.

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Comment by Cheryl on November 23, 2008 at 1:43pm
Hi Dawson.... I live 15 minutes away from you. It is almost impossible to meet a non-believer in this area. I am glad to have you as a friend!
Comment by Dawson Gould on November 12, 2008 at 2:25am
Saint Filian,
Thanks for the comment. My sojourn in the land of the fundies has included some not so pleasant experiences. The change in my beliefs is recent enough that I'm still trying to sort out the implications. As far as characteristics go, I suspect that to many people I come across as a little prickly when the subject of faith comes up. I hope it's just part of the process of deconversion and not a permanent attitude.
Comment by Saint Fillan on November 11, 2008 at 10:52am
I cannot pretend to know your specific situation; I don't know the people around you. All I can do is share my own experience.
I have always been an "out" atheist. It has never cost me a friendship. I have not felt the need to debate others on the subject of religion since I was in my late teens/early twenties. At which time, I felt the need to debate everyone about everything, because, like most young people, I was right and everyone else was an idiot!
I live in a very religious area of the US. My nonprofit work life has had me involved with a lot of churches and religious groups. I speak at churches. I attend church sponsored events. I work with church leaders to organize outreach projects and service learning experiences. I don’t walk around with a bullhorn proclaiming my atheism, but I make no effort to hide it, either.
For me, it has just never been a big deal. Whenever I have known people for a long time, and they find out I am an atheist, they are usually not surprised. I love to talk to people about their religious views. I am never disrespectful, but I am unwavering in my world view.
The only time I have ever really clashed with anyone over religion, was when my father was dying, and all of his “friends” wanted him to be saved...but that is a discussion for another day.
My atheism is just another characteristic of mine, like my brown eyes, or my love of music, or my sense of humor. It does not define me completely; it is just a part of me. It may be a part of me that some don’t like, but they don’t “disown” me over it.
I hope you can find a way to be yourself, be happy.
Comment by Clarence Dember on November 11, 2008 at 9:15am
"Consuetudo contra rationem introducta, potius userpatio quam consuetudo appelari debit."

"A custom introduced which is contrary to reason ought rather to be called usurpation than a custom."
Ballentines Law Dictionary
Comment by Clarence Dember on November 11, 2008 at 9:00am

I feel what your saying Dawson. I finally settled on Ayn Rand and Objectivism. Life is a journey, but only for those who are conscious. Enjoy.



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