How long have you considered yourself an Atheist?
I struggled with hanging onto my belief until I was about 15, then it completely disappeared. At age 18, a friend introduced me to the term “atheist,” and I realized it described me. That was 11 years ago, when I had a name for it and started calling myself an atheist, but the beginning was sometime before that.
How do you prefer to describe your non-belief?
I don’t really prefer to describe it at all. I think it should be a non-issue. If pressed, I’ll say I’m an atheist, because I am, but then I usually need to explain that. I usually end up saying that I’m an agnostic atheist, which is someone who thinks that the existence of a god cannot be proved or disproved, and also that it’s entirely irrelevant. Anything that can’t be shown to exist really has no bearing on how I live my life, so it might as well not exist.
By that point, they’ve usually stopped listening anyway.
Can you describe a personal event or discovery that had a major influence on your non-beliefs?
There wasn’t a defining moment like you see in the movies, where my loved one died, and I decided that God was a big meanie who didn’t exist. It was much more gradual.
I remember having a lot of questions about religion as a kid. Questions that weren’t being answered to my liking. Stuff like, “If Heaven is up, and the world is round, which way is Heaven?” Not really deep questions by any standard, and they probably wouldn’t change anybody’s mind, but they got my 8-year-old brain thinking. So when it came to church and Sunday school, I was kind of approaching it as an outsider. I didn’t absorb the teachings as easily as my peers. And during my (Methodist) confirmation, at the moment I declared publicly that I believed in Jesus Christ, my head was swimming with contradictions. At the time, I didn’t know exactly what I believed, but I was certain it wasn’t that.
In college I took a lot of Eastern religion and philosophy courses, trying to figure out if I believed any religion, or if it was just Christianity. Nope, none of it. I also remember sitting in class and trying to picture what it would be like if Christianity was taught to me like these other courses were. “Some people believe…” instead of “It is written…” That was a big factor in how I eventually viewed it. I even read the Bible all the way through, to make sure.
All in all, I had a relatively easy transition. My family was supportive, and at the same time they took it like it wasn’t that big of a deal, which helped. But even the smoothest transition is a little rough. I felt like I was losing a friend, but in the end I realized he was never there to begin with, and that made me feel better.
Why did you join Seattle Atheists?
I joined Seattle Atheists for a number of reasons.
As much as I think it should be a non-issue, the fact is that it’s not. Not enough atheists are upfront about what they believe, and for that reason, we’re often underrepresented, misrepresented, and despised. I wanted a place where we could be rounded up, and represented in numbers. I wanted a place where these atheists, not motivated by some cosmic reward, could go out into the community and be nice and help people just because it’s awesome to help people. I found these things.
But most of all, I want people to understand what I mean when I say, “I’m an atheist.” I want to show everyone that being an atheist is just as normal as being tall or having a dog. It’s just a regular thing. It’s not something to be scared of. We can disagree, and still not hate each other. Too much hate in the world stems from misunderstandings.
I’m an activist so that, in the future, we won’t need activists.
What do you consider to be some common misconceptions about atheists?
I think a lot of people think we’re anti-God, or mad at God. I don’t think many people understand that we really truly do not believe in it. Unless I’m being asked about my belief, I don’t even give it a thought anymore.
I think people are scared we’re going to try to convert them, or that we want people to stop practicing their religions. I have no interest in that. I actually believe that not everybody is cut out to be an atheist. Religion works for some people, if you want to pray, that’s cool. Just leave me out of it (and please don’t use it to justify hate).
I also think that some people think “Atheism” is a religion. They think we have some sort of code of conduct or secret worship rituals. That, to me, is the same as trying to classify not-loving-asparagus as a religion. I don’t necessarily have anything in common with other people who are indifferent to asparagus, and it doesn’t really affect my day-to-day life, apart from not craving asparagus all the time.
What is the meaning of life?
You’ll have to figure that one out on your own. That’s the unfortunate part about being an atheist, it doesn’t come with a ready-made philosophy attached. Of course the bright side is, you get to pick your own. I choose to supplement with a bit of Humanism and a bit of the famous campsite rule: try to leave the world a little better than you found it.
What are 1 or 2 of your favorite atheist-related websites?
Friendly Atheist. Hemant represents us well.
Blag Hag. Jen’s cool (and now, she’s local), and being an atheist is just a piece of her blog, which I like.
Beyond that, I don’t really read a lot of atheist-related stuff. My interests lie elsewhere for the most part. Comedy, art… You know, fun stuff 🙂
If you could have a serious discussion or debate with one living person in the world, who would it be?
I can, and I choose my friends. While public figures can be interesting, I don’t think I have to go very far to have a great conversation. I know many people who I believe will change and are changing the world.
Share a favorite quote:
I don’t really do quotes, but if you’re interested here’s a couple thousand.