I have officially been branded a “militant atheist.”
Coming out as an atheist has paralleled coming out as a gay man in many ways!
First was self awareness:
“I don’t believe in gods.”
Second was naming it:
“I don’t believe in gods; therefore, I am an atheist.”
Third was subtly purging references to gods from my life:
“Oh My Crap!”
“You’re in my thoughts.”
Fourth was telling people:
“I don’t have a religion. I don’t believe in gods.”
“I am an atheist.”
Fifth was discovering others like me:
“Really? Me too. Lets have godless lunch some time.” (Atheists are all about humor!)
Sixth is living openly:
“I think we should be good for goodness sake.”
“No, I don’t thank gods. I thank the people who helped me.”
“Everything doesn’t happen for a reason, but anything can happen and we can learn and grow from all experiences.”
“Wholesale slaughter, natural disasters and painful life threatening diseases are not part of a godly plan. They’re horrific occurrences brought on by very bad, sick people, climate conditions, or genetic variances.”
But, just like being out as a gay man, being out as an atheist is considered an act of war on established, acceptable civilized society and culture.
“Living openly” is the same as “shoving it in people’s faces” and being “militant” (when you possess and espouse the minority view, that is.)
Man and woman holding hands in public? Normal, acceptable expressions of public displays of affection.
Man and man holding hands in public? Outrageous activism, pushing their “lifestyle” and “sexual preference” (cringe) on an unsuspecting public.
Wearing a cross or yarmulkas, saying “I’ll pray for you” or “god bless you”, sending holiday cards that say “Jesus is the reason for the season” or displaying a manger scene almost anywhere? Normal, acceptable expressions of your faith.
Put a Flying Spaghetti Monster decal on your car, wear a t-shirt with the Atheist symbol or indicate you prefer secular holiday music? You’re a militant atheist shoving your beliefs in everyone’s face.
State, unequivocally, “There is a god”, and that’s you’re religious freedom, freedom of speech and belief.
State, unequivocally, “There is no god”, and you are an asshole who is disrespecting other people’s beliefs and mocking their religion.
Unlike many other dichotomies (men/women, gay/straight, black/white) it is much harder for atheists and theists to find common ground because their fundamental beliefs about the origins of life, nature of the universe, reasons for our existence, and basis of our “morality” is at, for the most part, complete odds.
The best and only way we manage to get along is to ignore each others beliefs. We know where we stand, we accept or overlook it as a condition of our friendship or acquaintance and we enjoy our time together without bringing god into it.
But sometimes, I just can’t bite my tongue. When bad things are blamed on “gypsies thieves and queers” for being godless or insisting in the maintenance of the wall between church and state; when people believe forcing prayer in school will turn our children into law abiding, god fearing, adult respecting, perfect behavior automatons and stop gun violence and jay walking; when religions insist their stories are original and their beliefs are not only the original but only right way; when evolution is touted as a whacko theory and creationism is being taught in school as legitimate science; when people insist god was always in the pledge, on our currency and this is and always has been a Christian nation; if people thank god for something I, or others, did to help; and when I am told it doesn’t matter what kind of person I am or how I treat people, if I don’t believe in gods I am going to hell; then the polite blinders come off and I step up to the plate.
If that makes me a militant, so be it.
So here’s what you can expect from me, if you are my friend:
If you offer, publicly, a theory on god the universe and everything, and I disagree I may respond accordingly.
If your argument starts with “but god/bible says…” I can’t have a rational discussion or debate with you, because I recognize neither as relevant or authoritative in the secular, rational, reasoned, legal world However, If we’re discussing the existence (or lack thereof) of god, then, by all means, have at it.
I will not pray for you or offer you prayers that will never come. I will talk to you, listen to you, hug you and help with food, money, shelter and ability when and where I can.
I will not go to church with you, but I will go to hospitals, gravesides, and the DMV with you.
I will not join you in saying grace, but I will sing karaoke with you, join you in laughter and offer words of support and gratitude as needed.
I will not thank god for your help, I will thank you.
I will not blame god for your illness and beg him/her to take it away. I will do what I can to comfort you, keep you company, and provide your needs as I am able.
I will not pontificate about heaven or hell and long for a better existence in the beyond. I will marvel at the world and people around us and do what I can to make the world we live in, here and now, a better place.
I will not see you in an afterlife, but I will spend as much time as I can with you here and, if you go first, I will cherish memories of you in mind and heart for as long as I live.
I will not pretend to understand why or how you continue to believe in gods,miracles, magic, prayer and the like, but I will respect your right to believe as you choose, so long as you return the courtesy.
And, when all is said and done, I will do all this because it is the kind of person and friend I choose to be, not because a book told me to, I fear punishment or I hope for reward.
I will try to be good for goodness sake. I hope that’s ok with you. If not, so be it.
But, please understand, I don’t want or need your god to make my life complete or purposeful. I have a whole world, universe, society, bevy of senses, rational inquisitive mind, healthy conscious and loving heart to make life all that I want and need it to be.
And I don’t need you to reject your gods to be in my life. I just need you to accept me for who I am.
It’s really that simple.
Peace, Love and Pride!