Over at Facebook, resident believer and promoter of a sort of academic approach to belief Julie Ferwerda posted an update in which she says that — after researching Islam — she gets why people become atheists.
Mind you, she isn’t giving up on God or her faith. Over the past couple years, Julie is changing the way she looks at religion, and the way it has been manipulated by human hands throughout history.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t agree with Julie on her stand for belief. Whether you call it religion or faith or promotion of god, Jesus, the holy spirit, whatever, I don’t find any good reason to believe in deities.
What I agree with her on is the idea that as she’s researching. Through this research, she’s becoming more empathetic to other ideas, ones that stand to challenge hers to their core.
Many Christians don’t do what Julie does. Many Christians claim not to understand one iota of atheism. Or if they do, they claim they were atheist once, and they designate themselves the messengers of fear to the rest of the group.
“Don’t be an atheist. I was, and it SUCKS!!!”
This will be a crass metaphor, but for many Christians to claim they were once atheist is the equivalent of a heterosexual claiming they were a homosexual without actually sealing the deal with a sexual encounter. Someone maybe thought through some ideas of what it might be like to kiss a member of the same sex. They might have dillydallied on a gay porn site.
But to take the dive into atheism and then resurface as a bettered Christian … bollocks.
Atheism doesn’t require you to stay an atheist. We have no exit gauntlet. There’s no penalty. But to really question makes resurrections and deities extremely difficult to come back to.
I find a connection with Julie. I see her updates on Facebook, and I appreciate the updates that often challenge her base of believing friends.
When I saw her update, I wrote:
Try wiping the sinister grin off my face.
It wasn’t to say, “Ha! You’re on the road to atheism.” It was to say, “I followed this path, and I appreciate your openness about it, and appreciate you spreading that message.”
When I was searching and researching, I found little to no help in my friends and family. No one I knew dared go the lengths that I was going to ask the questions I was asking. When I grazed the surface during conversations with my dad, close friends or my brother, they’d never heard of half the books I was reading.
They were often offended.
They made it feel like a pejorative to question.
I’m still a chicken to write and post to Facebook my thoughts on life. That’s what this blog is for.
And frankly, I have better conversations now with those same loved ones, since I started the blog and they read it, than I ever did before. That’s the power of communication, the power of expressing vulnerabilities, and the power that our conversations might reach the blog have on people.
I hope Julie sees my response and this blog post as more of an encouragement. I want others to be encouraged by her brazen efforts to challenge her long-held position on belief.
I don’t care about proselytization for atheism. Atheism is a hated community. In some regards, it’d be much easier if I didn’t call myself one. Agnostic would probably make many of my loved ones more comfortable. Hell, loved ones would prefer liberal Christianity, I’m sure.
Appearance of ignorance
There’s one more thing that Julie said that struck me. She said that the atheists she knows must look at her, read her, or hear her and think she’s ignorant for some of the things she says. And while atheists bitch and moan about statements from ignorance, I have to say, the idea that Julie made that statement, separates her from 99.999999123421% of believers.
Keep up the good work, JF.
I hope more people follow your lead.