Hi, my name is Josh and I am an Atheist and that’s okay.
I need to preface this with a disclaimer. I in no way hate or look down on people who have a true and honest religious faith. By this I mean people who have no desire to use faith and religion to hate, abuse, exclude, or harm other people in the name of their GOD. People who use religion to justify fucking over other people can go to hell (irony intended). Thankfully I have actually met very few people in my life that fit this repugnant classification. I know many people who use their faith and religion for positive and progressive reasons. I respect people who gather honest and pure joy from their faith and use it to make the world a better place.
I also need to add that I have just as much disdain for Atheists and Agnostics who treat people of faith like idiot children. Nobody can KNOW if there is a god, or an afterlife, or a magical world just beyond our ability to perceive. I will be the first to admit that I do not know, I just know that I do not believe in a singular being that looks down on all of us and controls the universe. I believe there may be life forms or entities more highly evolved than we are, in fact I think in the vastness of the multiverse that this is a given. But they are not god, they are not gods, and they are not in control of my life. I do not know what comes after death but I do believe that it is likely that the human consciousness transcends the physical world in some way. I don’t think we ascend to heaven of we are good and descend to hell if we are bad.
But the minorities of believers and non believers happen to be the most vocal. And they happen to be the most offensive.
When I was little I loved Jesus. I loved the church. I was a vessel filled with faith and the light of the lord. My great grandmother was the one who took me to church and she was the one who told me the stories. One of my most treasured memories from childhood was sitting on my Grandma Kathy’s lap while she read to me from an ancient cream colored leather bound bible. I have never seen one like it since I was a kid. The book was filled with beautifully painted illustrations and more importantly maps of the biblical world. It was those maps that gave me my love of geography and it was the stories my grandmother told me which infused me with a love for history that has permeated my life ever since.
I was a child of the lord. I would spend my Sundays in church classes doing crafts and learning morals and values. I sang the songs and I acted in the plays. I would spend my summers LOVING Vacation Bible School and being filled with love and the light of the Lord.
My family, my mom’s family not my fathers, is very Baptist. My father’s family is tangentially Catholic but my Dad and my Paternal Grandmother left their faith long before I was born. I was baptized Lutheran as a compromise between my Great Grandmothers. Ironically I have worked for a Lutheran institution for the last four years, I don’t tell them I was baptized in their faith in the years before my memory coalesced. I was raised in the Baptist church for about 9 years. I am not going to lie, those were good years and I loved my time in the church.
When I was approximately 9 my family splintered from our church.
I will name no names in this tale.
Nearly my entire family attended the same church. It was the same church My Great Grandmother had attended for decades. One summer, I think it was summer but I could be wrong. I am nearly 40 cut me a fucking break. One summer my cousin got pregnant at the age of 14. If this happened now it would not be much of a big deal but in the mid 1980’s it was a major scandal in the family and in the church.
I wasn’t there when it happened but I have heard the tale from several family members over the years. During the service the Pastor called my cousin up to the front of the church. I can only think that my family assumed that the Pastor was going to offer the support and love of the congregation, after all isn’t that what Jesus would do?
That is not what happened.
My cousin and my family were humiliated. The Pastor made her stand in front of all of those judgmental motherfuckers and our family and apologize for being a whore. That may not have been the exact wording but that is what it amounted to. In the parlance of today the Pastor of our church Slut Shamed my terrified cousin in front of everyone.
Evil mother fucker.
I did not lose my faith because of that. I was too young at the time to understand what had happened. All I knew was that my Great Grandmother, one of the kindest and gentlest people I have ever known, left her church and never went back. It didn’t sunder my faith then and there but it was the incident that lodged seeds of doubt in my mind and heart.
As I got older I grew farther from the church. I could not reconcile what I had been taught as a child to what I learned as I grew. I am a man who is fundamentally curious and when I was in high school I read and watched everything on religion I could get my hands on. Remember kids there was really no internet in those day. The more I learned the more questions I had, the more questioned I answered the more doubts I developed.
I can’t tell you when the break finally happened but I know it was after the birth of my first child (bio child) and before the birth of my second child. There was no EVENT and there was no MOMENT I just knew one day that I what I believed in was the strength of the human heart and the power of the human mind, not the powers of some man in the sky. Later as I accepted my sexuality, my feelings on the rights of women, and my acceptance that organized religion has done a lot of damage to match the admitted good religious INDIVIDUALS have accomplished I knew I could never believe a god again.
These are a few of the things I have come to believe as a man.
- I believe in the goodness of the human heart
- I believe in the cleverness and power of the human mind
- I believe there is an answer to every question
- I believe there is a solution to every problem
- I believe the capacity for evil in the human heart is as real as the capacity for good
- I believe in the laughter of children
- I believe in the loyalty of dogs
- I believe in the honesty of cats
- I believe in the vileness of clowns
- I believe in Science
- I believe in art
- I believe in hard work
- I believe I could possibly be wrong and that the Westboro fuckers will all be laughing while we burn in a lake of fire … unlikely but anything is possible
I am not a militant atheist. I don’t think that the world would be better without faith. But I do not need or want organized religion of any kind dictating my life or the lives of anyone else, believers and nonbelievers alike. Men and women decided what is right and what is wrong. We decide how to live our lives and not some man in the sky.
And if I am wrong and there is an all knowing God?
I doubt he or she would approve the public Slut Shaming of a scared 14 year old girl.