I had someone inside The Clergy Project point out that if my wife ever saw the post I’ve been making, it would make things awkward between us. Sharing the intimate moments of our darkest time might not be something she’d be to happy about.
It got me thinking; what if I could write in such a way that if she read this blog she’d leave with a better understanding of who I am? So I think I’ll title these posts “Dear Love”.
If she doesn’t ever get a chance to read this, perhaps some of you can use these posts to explain to your loved ones that atheists aren’t what others think we are.
I’m probably not what you think I am.
I can only imagine how strange it must be for me to tell you I’m an atheist. It might conjure up images of angry bloggers, scientists, or those activists trying to ban Christmas trees at airports.
That’s not me.
I’ve never read a book by Richard Dawkins, I’m not a huge of Pen Gillette, and I like Christmas trees. Honest! I can only imagine what you’ve heard about atheists through the years via sermons, Facebook posts, news reports, and angry cable news celebrities that claim people like are what are destroying America.
Oh, and if you ever been on Reddit…yeah… that’s not me either. (I’m looking at you r/atheism)
As you begin to try to understand me, you’ll be tempted to look around at the other atheists you’ve heard about. You will then naturally associate them with me. All of their pitfalls, all of their jerks, all of their activities, all of their “beliefs”. You will naturally assume that I must be like them, but I’m not. As an atheist I have virtually nothing in common with any other atheist in the world.
Let me help you understand.
How much do you have in common with the Roman Catholic nun who sees the Virgin Mary on a piece of toast? How much do you have in common with the Charismatics who roll around the floor barking like dogs claiming it’s the Holy Spirit? How much do you have in common with the Westboro Baptist Church nuts who protest at funerals with signs that say “Thank God for dead soldiers”? Nothing. You have nothing in common with those people. You are nothing like them. And yet these are all Christians. If someone who knew nothing of the bible looked at all these people and concluded that you, as a Christian, must be like these other people, they’d be dead wrong. And yet for as little as you have in common with those other Christians, I have far less in common with other atheists.
All an atheist is is a person who when asked “do you believe there is a god?”, we answer “probably not.” That’s it. That’s all. There is no political requirements, there’s no agreed upon set of rules, there’s no secret club or handshake. All of atheism is summed up in one answer to only one question.
There are atheists who are socialists and some that are libertarian.
There are atheists who are gay and some that are straight.
Some serve in the military while others are pacifists.
Some used to be religious while others have never stepped foot in a church.
As atheists we come from all walks of life. We are as different in our personalities and opinion as the rest of humanity, and I have nothing in common with like 99% of them. But more importantly you should understand not just what I’m not, but also what I am.
I am a person. I am a human being with love, hurts, dreams, fears, success, and failures. I want to have friends, I like seeing movies, I love [local sports team], and I’m so glad we finally got a big enough TV to watch them on. I love grilling, and beer, and philosophy, and skiing. I love playing the music of my teen years way too loud in the car while singing along. I love the fact that I’ve gotten old enough to not care if someone sees me.
And I love you.
I love how your hair smells. I love your laugh. I love how you are terrible at trash talking when we go to games together. I love that you *think* you’re hilarious. I love how you need to snuggle with me, and in my absence our children love filling in for me. I love your ability to tolerate people you despise, while simultaneously having the worst poker face on the planet. I love that you love shoes. I don’t love shoes, but you sure as heck do. I love that you’ll watch shows with me that normally you would’t ever think you like, but you try it, and sometimes you’re pleasantly surprised. I love how crazy fast you are at math and puzzles. I love that your big dog person. I love that you love me.
Being an atheist simply defines what I am not, but it doesn’t begin to describe what I am. You already know who and what I am. I am still the same person who I have grown with you to be. I don’t want you to define me as the man who doesn’t believe in God. Define as the person who believes in us…and in beer…and in the [local sports team] THAT FILLS US WITH HOPE EVERY FREAKING YEAR ONLY TO LET US DOWN IN THE PLAYOFFS. Define me by the love for our children. Define me by my work ethic. Define me for my sense of humor, or taste in unusually food, or my penchant for snorting when I laugh to hard. Define me by the patience I have had as we worked out our problems. Define me by my love.
I understand for you that God is the defining characteristic of your life. But honestly, you know my father…yet we’ve never judged him for being an atheist. You know how much our children love my brother, but we don’t let his differing religious views define him in our eyes. You and I have always managed to love people for who they are and not what they believe. I only ask that you do the same for me.
And I think you already do.
Just remember, don’t think of me as an atheist. Because that word conjures up images of people that I am not. Think of me as you have always thought of me. A person who loves you.