The Atheist Life is a Lonely One -or- 9/11 Sucks Big Time

I knew today would be hard. The anniversary of 9/11 always sort of hangs like a dark cloud over my head, although this year seemed to be a little harder than most. Since my deconversion, my utter anger at the stupidity and violence committed in the name of religion is stronger. When I was a Christian, I saw the 9/11 attacks as a holy war and I was convinced I would eventually become a martyr for my side, and now although I still see it as a type of religiously-condoned war act, I can't help but be angry at the ignorance of people and fearful for the future.

But what was hardest for me today wasn't remembering the horror of what happened in 2001 or seeing flags at half-mast. It was what happened on Facebook, as lame as that sounds. Late last night (early this morning), I posted a picture that has become somewhat famous in nonreligious circles: the Twin Towers, still standing, with the words "Imagine No Religion." I copied a verse from the song "Imagine" to go with it, as my way of memorializing the day. I expected to get some flack about it as I always do whenever I make my thoughts on religious matters known, but I didn't expect it to go as far as it did.

The first response I got was from my sister, who early in the year "re-converted" to Christianity after several years of dabbling in Wicca and other New Age types of spirituality:

Thinking that this is it... All there is... No afterlife... No divine intervention... That is what makes me wish I were never born. Reiligion (sic) isn't the enemy. Crazy people that think they are religion - that's the enemy.

My answer: There is so much to this universe and this life...believing there is an afterlife seems selfish and unnecessary. The very fact that we are here is amazing, and I don't need to buy into a bunch of weird spiritual woohoo to see that.

Sad thing is, religion is the enemy. Demanding that we respect the unqualified and outrageous beliefs of others is exactly what gave those 19 young men the ability to do what they did, as they believed they were commanded by their god. If there is a god, which is highly unlikely, he is a bigger asshole than Hitler, Stalin, or Pol Pot could have ever hoped to be.

Then I got more comments from my sister's mother-in-law, who is a former pastor (now retired) and my best friend who is also an atheist:

Mother-in-Law: Religion is defined as man's attempt to reach God, so whatever you believe is your religion. This being so, how could anyone else's beliefs, religion, affect you? It is their ACTIONS which affect us, and also show the world what our true beliefs are. It has been the actions of hateful people who have caused the hurt and anger in the world, but if we believe in LOVE, then we our actions should show this to the world.

Best Friend: Lets be open to ideas. Careful not to turn atheism into its own form of militant religion. I ♥ you! And a side note....they weren't following their religion....and what they believed they were doing and why is very complex and something man made, not religion made...

To which I quoted a few verses from the Quran wherein Allah calls for the destruction of non-believers. My sister, who I also consider my best friend, replied with this:

And yet all believe in the 10 commandments more than a few verses. Which includes, thou shall not murder. It's not the religion it's the people. You are so up in arms about religion you are becoming a bit of a bigot.

I was dumbfounded. My own sister called me a bigot? That hurt a lot. And not only that, but as the day progressed she said she's finding it harder to be my sister (as if she has a choice...) and that our relationship is strained because I'm so adamantly against gods, religion, and the supernatural. It is not in my nature to hate, and I do not believe in discrimination of any where does she get off calling me a bigot? Why is it so hard for her to agree to disagree with me and just have a debate without name-calling? Her mother-in-law was a lot more open to me and seemed willing to disagree but still keep the discussion civil.

I knew that being openly opposed to religion wouldn't get me any easy friends and would probably turn a lot of people against me. I expected that, just not from my sister who I love so much and who has been a wonderful friend to me. I don't want to lose my relationship with her. I just don't know what to do. I feel lucky that some people from here and another forum I'm on answered my call for help and came to back me up...but now she thinks that my "friends" and I are attacking her. I feel really alone...and now I don't know if I can ever come out to my parents, because if this is what I'm getting from my liberal Christian sister who lives thousands of miles away, what might my conservative, evangelical Christian parents, with whom I live, do?

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Comment by Chris on October 14, 2009 at 1:45am
9/11 wasn't about religion. Religion was just a tool for a political end on both sides. Remember that George "W" said we are on a Crusade! He cranked it up a notch and won the congregation to fight an illegal war against Iraq, while ignoring Afghanistan. It got him re-elected.
Comment by Brian Bradsher on September 15, 2009 at 9:24am
I totally understand your pain. I have been open with most of my family. I have a lot of family on my facebook and I post Dawkins and Harris videos. I never get a response because, sadly, the only person that is remotely prepared to sit at the table is my brother, a pastor. We have always had a great relationship and could talk about anything. We tried to talk about science, but he was not very knowledgeable about biology and such.

We don't talk much now, but its good when we do because we don't discuss our differences so much.

I really upset someone at work that I've known for 7 years. He is a pastor as well. He made a comment about gay people that bothered me. We were at work, and though it is frowned upon, his honesty compelled me to be honest back. He said homosexuality is an abomination. He looked at me and, believing I was still a Christian, asked if I agreed. I just said, "Actually, no I don't." The look of shock... no, terror was now visible. So, as disappointed as he was, he knew that if he discusses what he believes unashamedly, others may do the same. Perhaps he will be a little more careful in the future.

I don't know what to say other than, I understand.
Comment by Kristi Leitholt on September 12, 2009 at 6:06pm
Thanks Emekan. And Nate. And everyone. I love knowing that I have a place I can come to when things get tough.
Comment by Emekan A'dem on September 12, 2009 at 5:59pm
Hi Kristi!


I second Nate, you have A/N! :D I just came forth to my parents about my atheism, and I wanted to smash my head against the wall - they just couldn't understand that it's not a "phase" someone goes through. My dad was like "My god is watching you and guiding you, even if you don't acknowledge him, and he'll be waiting for you when you decide to submit" AHHHH! I don't really like to cry, but it was easily one of the most cry-inducing moments of my life. It's so frustrating to try and talk to non-accepting family members who either won't try to see where you're coming from, or simply...can't.

But keep reaching out to us when you feel like this.
Comment by Nate on September 12, 2009 at 5:49pm
You're not alone, no matter how much it feels like you are.
Comment by Kristi Leitholt on September 12, 2009 at 5:22pm

And an antacid.
Comment by Nate on September 12, 2009 at 5:11pm
It's a good thing she's in Germany right now. The only sort of contact I have with her is through the internet.

Right. But she's obviously causing you distress, even from a distance. So it's in your best interest to see how you can change that. She's just following the script that's been given to her, so don't take it personally. Beneath the brainwashing, the sister that you love and that loves you is still there.

Hang in there.
Comment by Kristi Leitholt on September 12, 2009 at 5:03pm
It's a good thing she's in Germany right now. The only sort of contact I have with her is through the internet.
Comment by Nate on September 12, 2009 at 3:55pm
This will sound harsh, but if your sister is toxic, it will contribute to your health to limit your exposure to her. You already knew that, but most of us have been programmed to accept a lot of abuse from others because it's what's expected of us. You can love her from afar without subjecting yourself to her mistreatment.
Comment by Rich Goss on September 12, 2009 at 3:21pm
Thinking that this is it... All there is... No afterlife... No divine intervention... That is what makes me wish I were never born. Reiligion (sic) isn't the enemy. Crazy people that think they are religion - that's the enemy

The above sentiment has always gotten me mad. The ingratitude of it. Life is meaningless. So what? That doesn't mean we can't have a great time.



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