Posts Tagged ‘invisible minority’

Who’s The Better Atheist?

 Lately my husband and I have debated about which of us is a better Atheist.

He is from a country where religion is less central to society and there is little pressure to have any belief. Many people there probably walk around their whole lives without ever having to think about or discuss their beliefs concerning a deity. He has always been an Atheist, although he never felt the need to label himself until coming to America, where the assumption of belief is part of the dominant culture. 

I however, am deconverted from a devout belief in god. I also grew up in rather conservative parts of America.

We often discuss the extent that religion is institutionalized in American society. The differences in our previous programming are evident. He doesn’t fully appreciate how most Americans view non-belief. He is proud of our non-belief and does not hide in any closet. He sees it as the most normal thing in the world.  On the other hand, I, the VisibleAtheist, am more cautious.

Visible is a notion I aspire to, not one that I have accomplished. I walk more gently when I am on “hallowed” ground. I know that some people WILL be uncomfortable if I inject the ‘A’ word into a conversation. And sometimes, I just need to get some work done, need to advocate for my child in a delicate situation or don’t feel like watching others squirm when I am trying to make friends. He is perplexed by my relative timidity in such situations.

I also have a profound respect for the few positive roles that religion plays in culture. I don’t know whether this sympathy is rooted in my personality or my religious past. Maybe it comes from a bit of both. However, my husband is more in line with the New Atheists in that he believes all religion is harmful, even in the context of culture. Perhaps this is part of his personality or comes from never being part of the “The Fold”.  Perhaps it’s a bit of both for him too.

On The A-Unicornist a fellow blogger referred to “Cultural Atheists.”  Adding this term to my lexicon gave me a framework for deconstructing our tension on the issue.  The definition of a Cultural Atheist according to The A-Unicornist is a person:

“who hails from a place where there is far less (if any) sociocultural pressure to accept supernatural magic as infallible truth. Thus, they tend to treat theistic claims about reality the same way they treat any other claim about reality – as claims whose credibility is contingent upon evidence

It reminds me of the different ways that Atheists often incorporate or claim Atheism as part of their identity. In my research I found that those who deconverted generally held their atheism very dear, were sensitive to societal exclusions and defended non-belief with passion. Anecdotally, I find that those who have always been Atheist are less connected to their non-belief as a part of their identity.  In short, I am more sensitive to just about anything having to do with religion and he is much more matter of fact in his knowledge that this is the way and the truth.

When we got married almost a decade ago I expected some cultural adjustments for each of us, but I never expected we would argue about who was a better Atheist. I guess it could be worse.


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An Unsolicited Reality Check – From The Plumber

Last week my daughter proudly flushed the toilet paper holder down the toilet, which she saw as a great experiment. After a full week of wishfully thinking that the toilet would just start working again, we finally called the plumber.  He is nice enough and after 15minutes we have water that responds to gravity again. I feel relieved that the bill is not twice the amount. Ok, “bye bye and thank you very much”.

Not so fast.

Our homes are meant to be a safe place where we can protect our loved ones from  violence, war, god, racism, bad wine, etc.

But then the plumber walks in and bursts my bubble while I am still in my pajamas. This stranger reminds me that our world is full of people who assume everyone is like them, one of the majority – part of the club. Of course someone as respectable as myself, with a nice yard and a decent car in the drive, has to be part of their club. Certainly not an immoral non-believer. They are so sure, in fact, that they are comfortable making small talk about god and race in a stranger’s kitchen!  

Out of nowhere this plumber decides to talk about a hill of crosses nearby that seems to upset some people. He, however, is pleased to have them as a reminder of the “sacrifice and loss that makes god so sad”… I give an awkward grin and move toward the door. (BTW, I  have no idea what the crosses stand for, but my guess is its a pro-life statement).

But thats not all. Oh No. He decides to explain how the “cross hill” is in a nicer neighborhood than mine. He realizes that this may be rude, so he backtracks saying “well Oakland is getting better all the time. Its becoming a lot more White.” My mind was spinning, thinking of my two eldest children, who happen to be Black. He was insulting my babies and had no idea. I somehow doubt he would have assumed I was in his club if I wasn’t White like him.

Now, I know my husband would have handled this better, with some very dry, witty response in the style of Eddy Izzard. But I just felt like my personal space had been invaded by a racist religious freak and I just wanted him out. Oh, and of course the irony of a racist Christian do-gooder is only lost on him.

It is often in the most mundane times of life when I am rudely reminded that the comfortable bubble I have fashioned for myself is fragile. I am reminded of why deconversion was hard, partly because most people assumed I was a believer. Anything else would have been aberrant and socially unacceptable.  Of course it is those times when I’m caught with my guard down that I wish I had taken a firmer stand.  So, after this man comes into MY kitchen sullying MY home with HIS beliefs, I am left feeling both wronged and GUILTY because I didn’t make him aware of how misguided he was.

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