fun to be a fundy

photo by Curtis Gregory Perry

This twitter conversation is currently in process:

Me: I think it will take at least 2 generations more to get some of the “old time fundamentalism” on the way out the door.

J: How would you contribute to get that “old time fundamentalism on the way out the door”, being a first generation ex-Christian?

Me: what can we do but engage each other and help people reason and hopefully stop indoctrination in its tracks. WDYT?

J: What if all your family (wife & young children included), friends & co-workers are Christians? How would you make a difference?

Me: that’s my life, so I’m working on it. What do you think would influence you if you believed and a fammembr/friend didn’t? I honestly think that we can make a difference by just being honest and asking questions. encouraging skepticism and freethought

Honestly, I feel a little sad when my mind draws a blank when it comes to the practical ways I can influence things around me. But should I instead feel at peace with a “live and let live” default? I don’t want to press my lack of beliefs on anyone like I did my spiritual beliefs. But I want things to change in this society for the better.

What do you think? How can atheists–especially those surrounded by believers–make an impact on those around them? Do we need to “evangelize” (sorry for poor word choice; it even makes me shudder) in some way? In what ways do you (or do you not) strive to end the cycle of hereditary indoctrination, social/political religious bias, and the other poisons caused by religion? How can we make a difference?

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42 thoughts on “How Can an Atheist Make a Difference?”

Adam · June 24, 2009 at 2:08 am

I don't think there's much I can do. I'm moving the hell out as soon as I can. Then I'm probably going to give tidbits to my younger relatives. My children will be given a very liberal education and allowed to decide for themselves. I just want to encourage more open exploration of ideas. If they choose Christianity I only hope that they have sense enough not to embrace dogma.

    godlessgirl · June 24, 2009 at 3:53 am

    I hope things go more smoothly for you after moving out! That's a really great step forward anyway 🙂

SisyphusFragmnt · June 24, 2009 at 2:22 am

My brother's wife is an evangelical Christian. How I do my part is by buying their kids science and chemistry sets and engaging them in logic-related conversations. I just try my best to get them to think, within the comfortable boundaries their parents have.

    godlessgirl · June 24, 2009 at 2:32 am

    I have two very young nieces, and it's become a sort of goal and hope for me to be "that aunt" that gives them gifts and experiences that make them think.

    godlessgirl · June 24, 2009 at 2:32 am

    That seems like a smart and respectful way to interact.
    I have two very young nieces, and it's become a sort of goal and hope for me to be "that aunt" that gives them gifts and experiences that make them think.

Steve · June 24, 2009 at 2:43 am

I recently put an atheist quote of Bill Maher's on my facebook page. A few hours later I had an email from my sister warning me that my mum was on the warpath because I'd insulted her. I replied with my best atheist-ground reasons for deciding to put it on my profile, and the difficulties I had encountered in my life as a result of the "needs" of other people's beliefs being put above genuine needs for basic human rights they are all entitled to. She showed my mum the reply, then my phone rang. I answered, she just said "Is that Stephen? It's your mother. I'm just ringing to tell you that congratulations, I don't have faith anymore, I no longer believe in unconditional love." Then hung up. I'm only glad I wasn't living with her at the time, who knows what kind of row we would have had.

I removed the quote and decided it would be easier to just let her live in her fantasy world where we all believe, we just don't talk about it, because she'd clearly destroy her relationship with her son before letting him 'evangelise' for the other side. I now treat her as a special case, her faith is a mental illness that I sympathise with her for. She just better not join twitter.

    godlessgirl · June 24, 2009 at 3:52 am

    Oh dear, how terrible. That's an especially poor response. I hope it gets better than that in the future.

    Norlick · June 25, 2009 at 6:16 am

    This might seem a bit mean, but fuck your mum, she's a head case.
    If she's gonna put a delusion before her love for you then she doesn't diserve you as a son.

Rob · June 24, 2009 at 3:00 am

I am "out" as an athiest to everyone but my boss. If I told them the truth I'd lose my job in a second.

    godlessgirl · June 24, 2009 at 3:50 am

    That's the fear that keeps me in the closet right now, so I empathize greatly. Good luck!

      JezuzFree · June 24, 2009 at 4:43 pm

      I am not out of the closet.

      The closet does not yet exist for me. I have been a Christian for almost 30 years and actually still lead an interdenominational ministry with over 900 members. I feel I am standing on a wall. On one side is Christianity and I am a Christian undergoing a crisis of faith, no doubt a serious sin, but a forgivable one. On the other side is atheism and I am a Christian witnessing the evanescence of my beliefs, and considering the consequences of renouncing Christianity and coming out as an atheist.

      I have no doubt that I want whatever is best for my children, but "jumping the wall" and letting it be known could jeopardize a few things.

      I empathize with Rob because I have a high ranking position in the corporate offices of a company whose owners are hardcore Catholics, some even Opus Dei members. They respect my "protestant" beliefs, but I can not help wonder if I would suddenly find myself on the next layoff list if I did something drastic.

      My mother left the Church many years ago and, ironically, I guided her back after months of preaching to her. She has now been studying theology for years and is almost an accredited theologian. I do not know if she would react as Steve has described.

      If I were an atheist convinced of religion's "dangers", I would like to positively influence those I love, preferably without losing family ties and/or my job.

      Any advice?

        godlessgirl · June 26, 2009 at 1:43 am

        May I ask if you've read "Godless" by Dan Barker? It's a refurbished update of his awesome book "Losing Faith in Faith" which I own, and I think you might identify with his story very closely. He was an on-fire pastor and evangelist for years before leaving Christianity. The book has been very influential and helpful during my deconversion and confusion process. I wonder if you'd enjoy it too.

    Norwegian atheist · July 24, 2009 at 11:22 am

    As a Norwegian living in what could very well be the most secular country in thw worrd, yet we have a state religion (evangelical lutheranism), it is strange for me to read such statements, that an American atheist may risk her/his job due to his/her lack of religion. Thought that employers have no business what their employees believe or do not believe. Or perhaps the 'freedom' many religious conservatives speak aboput itsn't extended to those who have a different opinion.

gregorylawrence · June 24, 2009 at 6:26 pm

I think we can take some cues from the LGBT movement. Be honest. Be kind. Be compassionate. Be quick to acknowledge even the smallest of positive responses from the other person. Mostly, be an example. A person who has been trained to see atheism as evil may start to change their opinion as they see you, an atheist, being non-evil.

Above all, be patient. It will take time. The victories, if they come, will be small at first, partial things, and maybe never much more. A "we just won't talk about it" detente is progress. Not the progress one might wish for, but it's a start.

    godlessgirl · June 26, 2009 at 1:45 am

    The point you make about being an example is paramount to me right now, even as I'm in the closet with most people. I want them to know that while they thought I was acting like a Christian in morality, integrity, and attitude, I was actually just a normal person making those decisions and thinking those things on my own without God. I hope they see it that way one day.

    godlessgirl · June 26, 2009 at 1:45 am

    Very good thoughts, here. Thank you.

    The point you make about being an example is paramount to me right now, even as I'm in the closet with most people. I want them to know that while they thought I was acting like a Christian in morality, integrity, and attitude, I was actually just a normal person making those decisions and thinking those things on my own without God. I hope they see it that way one day.

Rambling_Man · June 24, 2009 at 9:04 pm

[Formerly You_Atheist_Arms…I got tired of that name]
I am a, live and let live type of person…as long as it is congruent to being a productive member of their society to the best of their ability. Facts are, religious people, in the majority even, live productive lives. What need is there then for me to impose my disbelief? Is it morally acceptable for one to take away one's hopes, ideas and beliefs simply because we believe they are wrong? Isn't it the right of a free person to believe in things I consider delusions if they see fit as long as they live a productively in the society they are in? Plus evangelizing disbelief, in my opinion is dangerous to the individual because if they choose to deconvert because I convinced them of my perception of reality (I am an atheist), that may be bad for their lives. If they choose to be atheistic, it can't be based on my reasonings…they have to come to it on their own.

Now I am all game for conversations that make people think about their beliefs and when they come to their OWN conclusion, maybe even changing, then I'm all game for that, and I hope the best with it. They made that choice, they came to their new beliefs in whatever manner they did…so be it but they did it on their own terms…not because I tried to change them.

The only thing that should be imposed is secularism in my opinion, and secularism does not equate atheism.

Terri · June 25, 2009 at 5:07 am

I was AOG church from 5 years old till 15 when I decided "no more". I had only decided this in my head at the time. But now I am out to friends, family, co-workers, boss…all except Husband's catholic family, which he is not out yet too either. But this is a small town, and I'm thinking it will get to his family eventually.
I really don't care if they know. I just have the mind set that is you are going to believe in talking snakes and noah's ark, then i am MORE than proud to be an atheist!

I'm writing my story soon on wordpress. Will advertise on twitter.
Love you GG! I love your blogs! Hang on there. We will all celebrate your full coming out!

    JezuzFree · June 25, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    I would very much like to read your story on WordPress. Who are you on Twitter?

    godlessgirl · June 26, 2009 at 1:49 am

    mwuah! thank you Terri! I can't wait to read it. Send me a DM or a mention and I'll run right over.

Norlick · June 25, 2009 at 6:35 am

Just be a blatant atheist.
I can't imagine this being nearly as easy in America, where the country seemingly lives off the bible juice, but then again I get away with saying some pretty fucking brutal things to American Christians.

The problem here isn't that we don't have enough atheists, it's just that most of them are in the closet about it for fear of their whacked out religious peers ostricizing them. Alot of atheists don't even know they're atheists — they shy away from that branding because of the somewhat nefarious stigma that comes with it.

Just be you. If other people are too bible-fucked to accept that, then they aren't worth being your acquaintance anyway.

I know some people like the whole soft atheism shit, and sure it has it's place, but you don't have an obligation to be 'nice' about something that is little more than an irrational delusion.

    JezuzFree · June 25, 2009 at 7:10 pm

    I understand your point, but sometimes it is difficult. At the moment all of my family and friends are praying for my 2 year old niece because she had an accident last month. Her little head was run over by large pickup truck. She was almost killed when her skull was cracked in 3 places, but made it through and it is almost unnoticeable now.

    Every time I see someone they say "we are still praying for her", "God's hand has been so evident", "God is in control and she will return to complete health"… I find it rude to say anything to the contrary. What do you think?

      godlessgirl · June 26, 2009 at 2:13 am

      When my mother lauds God for helping me keep my job or giving my brother a place to live, I say things like "I'm so glad it's working out as we had hoped" or "It is looking good, isn't it?"

      No "amen", no "praise God". But I'm also not causing strain where there doesn't need to be. We all wish for things to work out, but some of us think there's a being that's making things work out or not. Even if I think that's ridiculous, I appreciate the good hopes and wishes.

      Peter · December 13, 2012 at 11:11 am

      Ask them why Gawd put your niece’s head under the wheel of a truck.

mstone449 · June 25, 2009 at 6:59 pm

I try to be someone that be people are attracted to based on the way I behave rather than what comes out of my mouth. I am firmly agnostic and my mantra is "don't lie, don't steal, don't cheat, don't be a dick. Walk through your fear no matter what and Life and the Universe will show up for you in ways you can't possibly imagine." So when people talk to me about god or gods will I tell them that I know nothing of that and that the only thing I can do on a daily basis is be a good human being. Daily I ask myself…..is this action behavior spiritually clean or is it laced with fear, anger, lust or greed?

    godlessgirl · June 26, 2009 at 2:15 am

    Do you believe in a spiritual realm then, since you mention "spiritually clean" behavior? Or is that another way of saying "helpful, beneficial, and uplifting behavior"?

godlessgirl · June 26, 2009 at 1:49 am

I respect your outlook on this a lot.

Granted, when I started to come back to unbelief, it was greatly nudged along by some convincing arguments and debates I witnessed in various forms. I wonder if that sort of thing would be considered "evangelistic" behavior. Most of all, it did make me think. I was not forced to change my beliefs, but I was shown more options than I had previously known.

Mixter · June 26, 2009 at 1:39 am

How can we make a difference? By just being who we are, I think. I don't hide my atheism from anyone. Fuck 'em if they have a problem with it. My mom "doesn't believe" I'm an atheist, but she doesn't push religion on me, so we're cool! 😀 My only daughter (19 yo) is also an atheist. Her dad (my ex) is not. I didn't push her toward atheism; she decided it all on her own.

Mixter

theSensibleGeek · August 1, 2009 at 5:34 pm

Full disclosure: I'm a protestant Christian

It seems to me that to be too bold about trying to "convince" others of your beliefs would cause you to be guilty of the same complaint people have with Christians — that they try to cram their beliefs down your throat. In my mind, the most respectful (and effective) evangelical tools for Christians is to live in a way that agrees with what they say they believe and to lead by example, as it were. Likewise, for an atheist, I think the goal should be to attract people to your lifestyle by being an example to them of how you don't have to be religious to be a good person.

My best friend is a solid atheist, and what I really respect about him is that he has a pretty solid moral compass without needing a religion to tell him what is right and wrong. He screws up morally, just like I do, and just like everyone does, but the example he is of being moral without being religious speaks well of atheists in general, and from a macro perspective, that is what will break down walls.

If someone feels like you're attacking them, they'll retreat behind their defenses. It's not about whether you ARE attacking them. It's about whether they feel attacked. And saying "your beliefs are crap" is going to make someone feel attacked. Baby steps, folks. Baby steps.

    godlessgirl · August 2, 2009 at 6:15 am

    I appreciate your input on this. As for the bit about feeling attacked, that is so true–even for me. If I don't feel accepted or heard, I won't be receptive. And neither will they.

Shelley · August 24, 2009 at 4:40 pm

I found the perfect thing to do!

I am 42, I was a young mother of 3 wonderful boys. I never once took them to church the way I was taken. I never told them they were "sinners" or spoon-fed them ridiculous stories of an ark that held every fricken animal on the planet or scared them with tales of "the end times".

I realized a long time ago that I did not believe in god. I tried agnostic, but no. I am an atheist knowing the correct and full definition. My life was all I needed to come to this realization and I refused to raise my boys with the notion that there was something wrong with them right from the get-go.

They are grown now and I am very proud of them. They are caring, intelligent, talented young men. I taught them to think…not what, to think.

    godlessgirl · August 24, 2009 at 9:26 pm

    "I taught them to think…not what, to think. "

    What a fabulous way to put it! That is the way to not indoctrinating your kids.

Jake · May 23, 2010 at 12:40 pm

I’m ever so slightly confused as to whether this entire conversation is “pro-logical thinking” or “anti-christian” thinking? I only ask because being anti-Christian does or atheist do not guarantee logical thinking at all. Secondly, is the conversation about ways to avoid kids and getting indoctrinated and having an idea crammed downed their throats. Because seeking to shape minds to be anti-something and giving them toys and things to prompt their thinking to resemble yours or to less resemble something you disagree with…well, that’s exactly what you are accusing Christianity of doing in the first place. Just because you think Christianity is poison doesn’t mean that the venom yields the antivenom. That’s as ignorantly ridiculous as…oh, say… talking snakes and arks. Maybe what the world needs is “Christians who think” not “people who think they’re Christians” or “people who think Christians suck”. What a combo thinking people would be with a mindset of unconditional love, charity, and selfless sacrifice. Jesus isn’t poison. Ignorance is. Regardless of which “side” you’re on

SandCityD · March 13, 2012 at 5:55 pm

Dear Godless Girl,

Fist thing first! DO NOT HIDE YOUR ATHEISM! How can you expect to influence others when you still have not been honest with the world about what your beliefs are (other than in this anonymous blog)? And for the person who stated he’d lose his job if he came out as an Atheist to his boss… That’s called religious discrimination, and at least in the United States, it is illegal! Forget about being accepted (Americans trust Convicted Rapists more than they trust Atheists). Just be true to who you are, be confident in your beliefs and you will influence the people around you!

Second, I believe that Atheists need to better define what they hope to accomplish. Making the world a better place by reducing the influence of theism is great, but what does that actually mean? And how can it be translated into rational planning, strategy and tactics? In my opinion, too many Atheists are concerned more with and expend their energies on converting believers to non believers. This is a waste of time… It ends in intractable arguments based on beliefs that neither side can provide evidence for. It almost always ends in disrespectful and emotionally charged arguments that benefit no one, and can end friendships…

Instead, I believe our time as Atheists is better spent organizing, collaborating and supporting each other and Lobbying our governments to end religious indoctrination in our schools, government agencies and societies in general. By some estimates, there are 850 Million self identified Atheists world wide! If we are fist and foremost not ashamed or scared to identify ourselves as Atheists (some places this canbe very dangerous), those around us have no choice but to be influenced by the shear numbers… There are a plethora of Atheists groups around the world focused on raising issues that are important to us as Atheists (at least the ones we agree upon). Join one, get involved, and have your voice heard! GOOD LUCK 🙂

Judy Saint · March 13, 2012 at 6:01 pm

We must be visible. That’s the best we can do right now. Let people know we are good neighbors, friends, coworkers, volunteers, relatives, etc. Once they get to know a few of us who are atheists their opinions and their trust of atheism will change.

I often wear a t-shirt that says, “Ask an Atheist”, another that says, “Question Everything”, and “Skeptic” and some others. I have a magnetic bumper sticker on my car, “Good Without God” and a license plate frame that says, “Atheist”. I speak up if someone is talking religion (politely, but I don’t sit back and “respect” their faith anymore. I just mention facts.) I show up at atheist meetings locally, and will attend the Reason Rally in Washington, DC.

Be visible as an atheist. Don’t back down. Their “faith” is following principles without reason, which deserves no respect. Speak up.

mothmantis · March 13, 2012 at 6:25 pm

I’ve been struggling with this same problem for a while. In my experience, the best results I’ve had have been in disproving the “Angry Atheist” stereotypes. It’s not easy to refrain from defaulting to attack mode when I see science denial or superstition-based decisions being made, but to steal an old Sunday School saying: Honey attracts more flies than vinegar.

Boundaries are difficult. At least in my experience. To use an Internet example: I can post Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins on my Facebook wall to my hearts content, my friends can post Scripture on theirs, and we can ignore each other. I know what they believe, they know what I believe. But as soon as I cross the line from being assertive to aggressive about what I do and do not believe then their mind closes instantly and I become, in their mind, a miserable, bitter, god hating blasphemer, and zero progress gets made.

Occasionally someone will approach me with questions, and those are the times I feel like I’m making a difference. Not as a confrontational firebrand, but as a reasonably happy, easygoing, decent person that generally makes more good choices than bad, and who just happens to believe in things like altruism, reciprocity, honesty, and generosity, but not things like prayer, an afterlife, supernatural entities, or faith.

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SurelyAlive · August 25, 2012 at 10:45 pm

I just have came across this page and i find it very interesting. may I ask what made you all loose faith in God?

    Peter · December 13, 2012 at 11:21 am

    I was raised very Catholic, but also scientifically-minded. I was taught to think, and taught to think Catholic. One of these had to go, and by age 5, when I realized that Santa was fake, I also realized it was all fake. I pretended on the outside until I was about 11, when I stopped letting my friends think I was theist. By 21, I came out to everybody.

Venus H · March 9, 2013 at 1:41 am

Surely Alive asks “what was it that made us lose faith in God?”
Well Surely, to be honest I never had any faith in God…..I had faith in my self, in my parents, grandparents, family, etc.
I was not raised on any one religion, but raised to choose to go to church, Sunday school, if I wanted. So up until I was, oh, about 10 or 11, I went to Sunday School with one of our two neighbors whom attended Church and all church functions regularly. The very next door neighbors were Pentecostal, at times I attended with them. The other neighbors were Methodist, and most of the time I attended church with them. Two very, very different Churches. By the time I was 9, I had some questions about the God story, and the Bible itself. Me being me, I asked them questions. You should never ask a Priest, or very religious person “where did God come from, How did he get here?” Well I am 49 now and still have yet for those questions to be answered. Also, the one that people use often…”you’ll go to hell for that!” okay wait!! Did you not just tell me that Jesus, God’s son, died nailed to a cross, to save us from our sins. Does this not null and void Hell? and Why? is there only one small part in the Bible about Dinosaurs? Weren’t they here before Christ?
So, it is not that anything made me lose Faith in God, it is just that I never had any to begin with, where the fictional story about God and Jesus is concerned. If something, or someone is so Loving and Great, then I would think that they would not let children get raped by there own families, or children and people be homeless and starve. Or let that kid enter into an elementary school and murder 20 children ages 6 and 7 and 6 adults. Someone or something so Loving and Great would not allow something so horrific to happen.
Also would like to say to those of you who are too afraid to stand up for what you believe in and for who you really are, should find a way to be Honest with your loved ones and Family, and your selves, because you aren’t really helping anyone or any cause when you are too afraid to come out into the open. and, I am very sorry for you, to have been raised with the fear of their God instilled in you knowing that it is a facade and you being adults still can not break away from fear of your parents. I thank my Family for raising my siblings and I on “How to Think, and Not What to Think!”
We are all born with a natural, “Law of Nature” a natural instinct of what is right and what is wrong. We don’t need a Church or story to tell us about it, or what is right or wrong. I suppose some people, with out the confidence within themselves would need something to believe in, I guess a story of contradictions is better then none. Aaaaaaaa Not for Me. Me, Myself, and I are the only ones that within me, I must be right with. I am Atheist and I am Not Afraid to Say So, Anywhere. Peace Out

モンブラン 万年筆 · October 22, 2013 at 8:43 pm

特筆すべきはまず、バランスの良さです。

Joseph · March 22, 2015 at 4:38 am

To make a difference? I guess the first thing to do is to get together. Form, join groups ( like groups in meetup.com ). The important thing is to invest time as a group. Be bloody organised. Just like how serious the theists are in their group meetings, prayers etc we too gotta be serious enough in the meetings to get some productivity out of it. I don’t think we need to wait for Richard Dawkin’s to come up and preach. We could just do stuff in groups, which would make the society a little bit more better , like organize blood camps, beach cleanups, collecting money for charity and disaster management cause etc.
Without getting together it’s gonna be real hard to make an impact. Rather than spending time to explain to others what we really are I guess the best thing to do is to get out there and do our part in the society. People should be able to understand what our ideals are, and that we don’t require a god to be good.
If we start making a small difference I am sure it would be a lot more easier to get more atheists to open up and come forward. Atheists need something to look up to – maybe like a group of energetic people who are actually doing stuff, rather than complaining that people aren’t recognizing or accepting them.

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