FreeThought Fort Wayne

        Be Reasonable

Do it for the kids

Posted by Skeptigator on July 29, 2008

Last week I gave my response to theo’s post on Atheist Evangelism. In it I made specific recommendations for what we as freethinkers can do today to bring about our Utopia now. My recommendations centered around starting, participating in and promoting a local freethought group however that is not the single most important thing I can do.

“I find the great thing in this world is, not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

In fact, I deliberately didn’t state the single most important thing I think you can do because I myself have yet to do it. I think it would be hypocritical for me to tell you what you should do when I haven’t. So at the time I felt pretty good about my post and I still stand by it. But the post bothers me immensely because of what I did not say.

So without being coy anymore, the single biggest thing you can do is Come Out. Stop hiding the fact that you are a non-theist (atheist, agnostic, rationalist, secular humanist, whatever). I suppose I should take a moment to state why doing this is perhaps the best thing you can do,

  • It certainly removes many restrictions you may have for joining, participating or promoting a local freethought group (remember it’s the second biggest thing).
  • It adds one more member to a growing and largely silent population of non-believers (particularly in the States).
  • I believe it creates a self-regulating atmosphere that doesn’t allow the religious fanatics as much leeway in the public realm if they believe there are more non-theists who will be willing to stand up to them.
  • Personally I think you will feel better. You won’t feel so self-censored and all the anxiety that that can bring with

Now having said that, the Internet and it’s relative anonymity has helped many non-theists connect with other like-minded individuals. This has certainly created an outlet for many people including myself. Maybe someone could argue that it’s created a pressure-release that would have otherwise resulted in more outspoken non-theists (I don’t think it would be very good one).

“So… um… yea..  that’s.. obviously that’s the downside” – Mr. Deity (Episode 2)

But enough about the pros, what about the downsides. I list them because I believe each of us works through them eventually. Some of these don’t apply to everyone nor is exhaustive but it’s a decent sampling.

  • Probably the number one issue would family pressure. I’m a born and bred Fort Wayner and so is my family. To understate it, they are religious. Like Benny-Hinn-Join-a-Y2K-compound religious. Like Jesus Camp religious, you get the point*.
  • Some of us have job or career fears. Not an issue for me. Sure the company picnics/potlucks start with a prayer but half of my co-workers are staring at their shoes or smirking at the 145-year-old blue-hair who feels compelled to say grace ( When will she retire already!? ).
  • For others it may be their children. Or more importantly an obligation to protect their children from harassment. If you become a vocal proponent of athiesm, non-theism or secular humanism in this community I would have serious fear for my children.

Clearly my job doesn’t present a problem. I don’t work for religious fanatics (although I have) so this isn’t an issue. Although to be honest my personal life in this regards has no reason to bleed into work, it’s not like I’m handing out atheist chick tracts. My point is that if were to become widely known it cause me any problems.

I have recently realized that hiding the fact that I’m an atheist (or more accurately a Secular Humanist) from my family is tiresome and so I’ve stopped overtly hiding from them. Such as ignoring their friend requests on Facebook (maybe they won’t know it’s me, ha).

“Do it for the kids!” – Anonymous

So bottom line, it comes down to my kids. I fear for my kids. I’m certainly not conspiratorial or think someone will outright hurt my children (although maybe I think that a little) but at a minimum I wouldn’t like my kids to get messed with. Maybe if they were older like in their teens they would be able to handle things better but my two boys being on either side of 10 I’m not sure how they would handle it.

I’ve already had a 6-year-old friend of my 6-year-old son tell him that if they don’t believe in God then they will go to Hell where “they shoot you in the stomach forever and ever”. This is the one thing that a 6-year-old felt compelled to convey to my kids about their religion. Not Jesus love, fear of Hell. Fast-forward this kid 15 years and now we have a problem. I know that’s an oversimplification and anecdotal at best but it goes to my state of mind, your honor.

“What’s wrong, McFly. Chicken?” – Biff Tannen

I haven’t overcome this last obstacle yet. I’m just not sure. I’m at the point where it depends on the day. Today I feel compelled to just be Out! but that’s not to say tomorrow I won’t regret even posting on the topic. But then again only a year ago I wouldn’t have dreamt of Friending my family on Facebook where they will see all the heathenistic blogs, pages, groups and evil atheist friends that I congregate with.

So the greatest thing you could do is to come out. Let me know how that works out for you, I’ll just… umm… you know… sit here and watch.

* I’m not joking

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14 Responses to “Do it for the kids”

  1. Goldstein said

    I don’t want fundies discussing religion with my kids.
    I don’t want atheists discussing religion with my kids.
    In fact, I want you to stay away from my kids.

  2. andyscathouse said

    Dude you are proving his point! LOL I assure you that your kids are quite safe from us. All we are going to do is talk. I wonder if they may be mad at you someday for stuffing BS down their throat.

  3. theodoersing said

    It’s OK, Skeptigator, you can hang around my kids. Of course they’re only 2 and 6, so I don’t know how much you’ll have in common! 😀

  4. @Goldstein
    Nice… um… non-sequitur?

    @andy
    i assume you are feeding the troll

    @theo
    You’d be surprised at how quickly something shiny will distract me

  5. de_tokeville said

    I’m a visitor lurking in the shadows. Never posted before.

    I’m closeted on two fronts. I’m a nonbeliever and I’m gay. Talk about walking the tightrope from hell. I don’t feel free to disclose either of these things in my workplace or neighborhood. And like you, Skeptigator, I’m frustrated that respect isn’t a two-way street here in these parts.

    I don’t crave a nonreligious utopia, however. And I find evangelism patently offensive no matter who’s doing it to whom. Defending homosexuality is a lot like defending atheism in that tthose who lack these trraits do not usually find any empathy with those of us so blessed. Most people don’t have what it takes to be an atheist or a homosexual. I believe these are both capabilities and either you’re born with them or you’re not.

    I’ve given up dreaming about utopia. What I want is simple respect, the same kind I pay to others. Respect for the right to liberty of conscience. How do we get there? Beats the livin’ shit outta me. Like the gay subculture, we have a few loud provocateurs but mostly closet cases. Perhaps we need to do a big parade in Chicago with floats and outlandish themes and shock-value hijinks in order to let off our steam. And show the world our playful side. It seems to be having some good effect for gay people. Within my lifetime I fully expect to be legally wed to my domestic partner; just a few years ago such a thing was inconceivable. And we’ll probably walk down the aisle of First Presbyterian or Trinity Episcopal for the benefit of all the believers in our lives.

  6. A gay, atheist in these parts. Ouch! That’s got to be a world of suck. Not only is respect not a two street it’s a one-way street with a barricade at the end.

    The utopia reference is a tongue-in-cheek reference from my previous post. I’m certainly not deluded that a non-religious world is inherently better than one with religion.And if you read theo’s post you’ll see his opinion on evangelism, religious and otherwise.

    You are certainly welcome to come to our group as you are. You can come out of the closet with us, even if it is filled with a room full of people who are already atheists and even some that are gay.

    And if you want my thoughts on teh homos and some of our members comments on the same, go here.

    http://freethoughtfortwayne.org/2008/06/23/choice-vs-nature-and-something-about-homo-dolphins/

  7. de_tokeville said

    Skeptigator, I checked out the link as you suggested. Some random thoughts:

    A few months ago I got into an ugly dustup with a religious fanatic who was gloating over a dopy newspaper column. It detailed how an insurance carrier specializing in coverage for religious facilities was denying coverage to gay-friendly denominations due to an increased actuarial risk of violence and vandalism. (This was before the Unitarian shoot-em-up in Tennessee last week.)

    He recognizes no one would choose to be gay and concedes that homosexuality is a condition people are born with. The “choice,” he argues, is in the willful disobedience of God: Choosing to act on temptation. He’s one of those closet cases—the most virulently anti-gay people usually are—who argue that marriage is all about procreation and libido should have nothing to do with it. And he has the frumpy wife to prove it. And he holds the Bible up as his proxy to speak for God.

    As for the discussion comparing homosexuality and pedophilia, these are two entirely unlike phenomena. Twelve years on an analyst’s couch have taught me a few things, and one of these is that any adult who exploits an imbalanced relationship for sex is mentally ill and a sociopath. There are in fact plenty of relationships between people of identical ages that are just as repugnant and vile because one party is being abused by the other. Pedophilia, like rape or domestic abuse, is an anger-management problem.

    The same people who hate homosexuals seem to hate egalitarianism in marriage as well. And are slaves to religion. So you know where my antipathy to it all comes from. I’m fortunate to have been raised in a free-thinking family and no religion was ever forced on me. No one ever gave me a hard time if I wanted to explore religion, either. I found it empty and ungratifying even in the least hostile places.

  8. theodoersing said

    Well, I think those insurance carriers should be forced to pay up to any religious facilitie’s claims, gay or not, as long as they are covered for “acts of god”, since god is apparently responsible for hetero and homo sexuality. Leave it to the insurance people to split god’s hairs, the leeches.

    I think I remember the discussion you are talking about concerning homosexuality and pedophilia. If I’m right, I might have made those comments. If so, maybe I wasn’t clear enough in my comments. I don’t mean to imply that there is a link between being gay and being a pedophile. They are two entirely different things. I think I was pointing out parts of the frontal lobe that control different aspects of our thinking and explain why we do some of the things we do.

    I would never insinuate homosexuality has anything to do with pedophilia. Pedophilia is a psychological problem, whereas homosexuality is quite natural and should be universally acceptable IMO.

  9. de_tokeville said

    I didn’t read anyone’s comments as saying that homosexuality is related to pedophilia, theo. My point, in case it’s misconstrued, is that the demagogues think homosexuality is all about having a perverse libidinal taste, and a compelling and intractable one at that; it doesn’t dawn on them that it can be about affection and love. And the married closet cases who think their lifestyle’s going to save them on the judgment day take psychological comfort in the notion that they can be forgiven for little transgressions in a public toilet now and then in their otherwise sexless lives, whereas only an irredeemably evil person would renounce his place in polite society and make himself a pariah for the sole sake of demon lust.

    You know, this got me thinking. I wonder how many atheists are actually our enemies? They’re lusting to bust out but just can’t because they’re afraid of being shunned and humiliated and they hate those who are doing what they don’t have the courage to do. Think it could be some of the same dynamic here? I can’t imagine there aren’t people who sit in churches harboring grave doubts about what they’re being spoonfed. People who might be very defensive and nasty toward those who threaten the houses of cards that are their lives.

    One of the arguments the demagogues like to use is that we’re okay with taking away the rights of pedophiles; homosexuality is just as perverted, therefore those people don’t deserve full rights as citizens either.

  10. theodoersing said

    The analogy between closet atheists and closet gays seems logical enough. I would venture to say the majority of adherents in all major religions maintain a superficial supernatural belief. Many are going through the motions or are in it for other reasons or worries (family and such). I could see how some would be jealous of those of us willing to show our heathen faces in public. Honestly, I’ve never given it much thought before. I’ve never had the displeasure of hiding anything out of fear or concern for safety.

    As far as I know, I’ve never met an atheist atheist-hater. I would have figured for an atheist to be active in church there had to be something big keeping them there. Perhaps the lure of money or control or net-working. I had never considered fear of one’s atheist-ness leaking out. 😀

  11. de_tokeville said

    It’s quite possible that this would be a complete misapplication of the same logic — much like the arguments that homosexuality can be equated with pedophilia. But that sort of reasoning isn’t much different than the gateway drug chestnut. You know, everybody who ever did heroin or crack or meth has smoked marijuana. Yeah, well I’m betting they’ve all tried Campbell’s soup and Mountain Dew at some point as well. But the majority of potheads, in fact, just smoke pot.

    Both atheists and homosexuals hide for the same reasons — disapprobation — but we aren’t necessarily persecuted for the same reasons, except insofar as dissidence of any sort arouses conformists’ rage.

    I often do wonder, though, how much a cynical schmuck like Pat Robertson or James Dobson believe about the shit they’re peddling. “Pay close attention to that man behind the curtain,” says this “friend of Dorothy.”

  12. dystressed said

    @detokeville
    I am out to my family for the gay thing, but closeted for the atheism, ahem non-belief.

    From one friend of Dorothy to another, it’s better to be amongst friends at FTFW than lurking in the shadows.

    @Skep
    No, I’m still not ready to come out on the atheist front. I’m still trying to be respectful of my parents’ feelings. Since they don’t think I’m going to heaven anyway, they might be okay, but knowing the rest of my family, it’s a big ole can o’ worms I’m not going to open yet.

  13. @de_tokeville

    I’ve never thought of the atheist-hating atheist, or perhaps put another way the closet atheist Christian who acts out vehemently against atheists to cover his/her own doubts. I shall ponder this.

    As for my use of the pedophilia thing it wasn’t an attempt to equate the two but was used as an example to illustrate the poor quality of the “It’s Natural” argument.

    As I mentioned in my post as well, I have noticed the shift within the Christian communities regarding the naturalness of homosexuality and that being gay is not a sin but “acting” on it is.

    @dystressed

    Like you, my immediate family would probably take it in stride though I’m sure my mom would get the vapors for awhile. My extended family (grandparents, aunts and uncles) on the other hand… boy, I don’t know maybe your extended family would beat mine on the crazy meter but I doubt it.

  14. agnohumanist said

    Great discussion, folks. Interesting topic, and an important one. Long ago I decided I wouldn’t lie about my agnosticism/secular humanism, but I certainly don’t go out of my way to advertise it either. Some members of my family–kids, wife–know where I stand, but most others do not. Among friends, only a few know. It’s amazing, really, how infrequently the topic comes up. Partly it’s because in my community most people just assume you are a believer. And, I must admit, in my case my sincere attempt to become a believer for about a year or so–including actually joining a church–misled those who knew about it. It wasn’t long after I joined that I just couldn’t play the intellectual twister game any longer. The things they expect you to believe and the inane rituals that go along with it (and the political views of so many believers) sent me sprinting back to the skepticism that had been my intellectual foundation for all of my adult life. That was about three years ago, and I have felt better about the decision to be a full-fledged freethinker with each passing year. Finding the freethought group, of course, helped in that regard, as it certainly adds to my comfort level to know that there are others of similar views–and not just to know about them but to meet with them and discuss freethought issues. Reading books by Dawkins, Harris, Sagan, and others certainly provided some solace too. Also, as Theo pointed out recently, living without religion provides a darn good bullshit detector for many other aspects of life, a handy device in these days of political and corporate propaganda. BTW, another reason, I think, for the topic not coming up very often is that many so-called believers have their own doubts and don’t really want to engage in a serious discussion of religion for fear of where it might all lead.

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