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Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Scarlett Letter Campaign or yes, I too am an Atheist...

Many bloggers have been posting the Scarlett A from the out campaign (see here for list of blogs). What does this signify? It signifies that the "coming out" of atheists, the public acknowledgment on non-belief. I have been an atheist since my early teens. Raised a catholic, I really tried hard to believe, attended church (grudgingly, usually bribed with breakfast at Village Inn or the donut/Belgian waffle/omelette bar of Governor's in my hometown of Bettendorf, IA) but during my confirmation period nothing made sense in bible. This was well before I was into science, which didn't happen until about 2001. In fact, I nearly failed chemistry in high school (luckily a C and an F average out to be a D, whew!) and graduated only taking a course called "Basic Science". Now I am a PhD student studying evolution and ecology of deep-sea marine invertebrates...

But my confirmation period occurred concomitently with my rebellious period. Rebellious to me meant reading alot of philosophy, both the well-established classics and the modern beat, punk and hip-hop of the late eighties and early nineties. The more I got into reading, the more I began thinking, which we all know is a dangerous thing. I started getting very much into the history of religion. This turned me off even more as I learned of the systematic abuses of religion towards non-believers of a particular faith but also to a particular faith's own followers. In my midwestern idealistic sheltered world, I learned that Jesus' teachings were of love and equality, that Moses wrote down God's word as 10 commandments and the lessons of the various books highlighting how to live good decent lives and practicing random acts of kindness in God's name. The reality that exploded before my impressionable teenage eyes was far more brutal and gruesome. It was one of pure and utter hypocrisy, manipulation, greed, and severe brutality.

I understand that the majority of religious believers are great people who practice their faith in earnest and pay heed to good teachings of selected passages in the Bible. But reality depicts a organization profiting off the welfare of its congregation in absurd ways. This is far beyond the "problem of evil". This relates to a very human condition - power, authority, control. It is because practice doesn't align itself with preach that I cannot believe in God. An atheist knows there is not a God, as opposed to an agnostic who feels it cannot be proven either way. I know there is no God by the actions of those who purpose to be the bearers of God's words. It is a very painful thing to know too. I want to cry when I talk about it. Deep in my heart it would feel so good to believe. The practice of religion and religious ritual can be a very joyous experience. I feel inspired watching the devotion and hearing the choirs practicing at night when I was in Fiji, a country very devoted to practicing the good in the "good word". The mere idea of an afterlife is beautiful, if false. To be reunited with loved ones in the Kingdom of Heaven would be a experience... to die for. But reason cannot allow me to have faith. Mark Twain once said "Faith is believing what you know ain't so."

This is all to say not only that I'm an Atheist, but proud to be one. I am proud that I can see the smoke and mirrors, the games, the lies, and see the atrocities for what they are. I am proud that I have taught myself the ability to reason out social and philosophical problems without throwing up my hands in the air and mentally giving up saying that its God's will. I am proud that I came to this decision on my own accord, though originally out of rebellion to authority from an awkward time in my life, I did my research and genuinely wanted to believe. It hurt my parents and grandparents when they learned I became an Atheist. These are the people I loved most in my life and I was confused that I could see through their religion and they couldn't. I am proud to know and love science, which has taught me that because we know not an explanation for something today does not mean we will never know it. This is why I support the Out Campaign and will proudly display the Scarlett A on this blog.


  1. From a swedish atheist:

    I don´t understand how educated people can believe in any God.

    I am glad you are a proud atheist, this means there are still hope for the world.

  2. Jim, thanks for the tip off. Its great! I've read reviews of Parenting Beyond Belief in Free Inquiry and other Humanist zines. I'll have to get it (after I pass my comps).

    Aydin, I might do a cover of Freakwater's Gone to Stay. A beautifully sung ballad with the chorus:
    "There's nothing so pure as the kindness of an atheist
, simple act of unselfishness that never has to be repaid.
    And there's nothing so sure as a razor blade above your wrist
    When you think you just can't stand it, that you're gonna leave empty handed
. Do you still dream of being saved"

    Or just make my own invert atheism song. Perhaps titled "Even the spineless know there ain't no God".

  3. Blackout, Thanks, though I am a militant optimist I do have hope for the world. There was an article in Free Inquiry about "The Rise of the Nones" in their Dec 2003/Jan 2004 (Vol. 24 issue 1) by Otis Dudley Duncan. He noted the number of respondents to CUNY's American Religious Identification survey who chose "No Religion" over a religious preference rose from 8% in 1990 to 14% in 2001. The article is certainly worth checking out. He also shows concurring results from 6 other national poll series. Part 2 addresses more of the why. Both fundamentalists and catholics (i.e. me) lost the most members during that time.

    Anyone feel free to email me for a pdf of both articles.

  4. FYI:

    Duncan, O. D. (2004) The Rise of the Nones: a paleostatistical inquiry part 1. Free Inquiry, Dec 2003/Jan 2004: 24(1), 24-27.
    Duncan, O. D. (2004) The Rise of the Nones: a paleostatistical inquiry part 2. Feb/March 2004 Free Inquiry, 24(2), 29-31.


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