The Next Group To Come Out

The gay rights movement triggered the most rapid social change in my adult lifetime.  When I was young (granted, back in the Ice Age), homosexuality was viewed as a form of mental illness, and gay people were largely closeted. Today, 70+ percent of Americans  are accepting of same-sex marriage and supportive of equal rights for LGBTQ Americans. (Leaving the culture warriors with only lesser-understood trans children to demonize…)

Political scientists and sociologists will confirm that the main reason for this rapid turn-around  was a politically potent act: coming out. Coming out took incredible courage when that effort began– friends of my sons were thrown out of their homes, vilified by their “Christian” families, fired from their jobs. But coming out changed perceptions: suddenly, people realized that Aunt Gladys and her long-time roommate weren’t just roommates, that the doctor they trusted, the mailman who delivered their packages and so many other people they knew and cared about were–gasp!– gay.

And attitudes changed.

Atheists need to gather up our own courage, and follow in the footsteps of the gay community. I had a friend–now deceased–who used to insist that, until atheists made their presence known (a la the LGBTQ community), Americans would never see pious religious hypocrisy for what it is.

Perhaps–just perhaps–this recent guest essay in the Washington Post is a beginning. Titled “America doesn’t need more God. It needs more atheists,” the author made her case.

My (non)belief derives naturally from a few basic observations:

The Greek myths are obviously stories. The Norse myths are obviously stories. L. Ron Hubbard obviously made that stuff up. Extrapolate.

The holy books underpinning some of the bigger theistic religions are riddled with “facts” now disproved by science and “morality” now disavowed by modern adherents. Extrapolate.

Life is confusing and death is scary. Naturally, humans want to believe that someone capable is in charge and that we continue to live after we die. But wanting doesn’t make it so.

Child rape. War. Etc.

And yet, when I was younger, I would never have called myself an atheist — not on a survey, not to my family, not even to myself.

Being an “atheist,” at least according to popular culture, seems to require so much work. You have to complain to the school board about the Pledge of Allegiance, stamp over “In God We Trust” on all your paper money and convince Grandma not to go to church. You have to be PhD-from-Oxford smart, irritated by Christmas and shruggingly unmoved by Michelangelo’s “Pietà.” That isn’t me — but those are the stereotypes.

And then there are the data. Studies have shown that many, many Americans don’t trust atheists. They don’t want to vote for atheists, and they don’t want their children to marry atheists. Researchers have found that even atheists presume serial killers are more likely to be atheist than not.

The author focused much of her essay on how she and her husband raised their children, teaching them to distinguish fact from fiction — which she points out is harder for children raised religious. Her children “don’t assume conventional wisdom is true and they do expect arguments to be based on evidence. Which means they have the skills to be engaged, informed and savvy citizens.”

She then shares data showing that fewer Americans than ever report a belief in God–and yet, are reluctant to call themselves atheists.

Among religious Americans, only 64 percent are certain about the existence of God. Hidden atheists can be found not just among the “nones,” as they’re called — the religiously unaffiliated — but also in America’s churches, mosques and synagogues.
“If you added up all the nominal Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, etc. — those who are religious in name only,” Harvard humanist chaplain Greg M. Epstein writes in “Good Without God,” “you really might get the largest denomination in the world.”

She readily acknowledges the good done by good religious people, but then enumerates the injustices done by bigotries masquerading as religious belief: discrimination against LGBTQ+ people, control over women’s bodies, abstinence-only or marriage-centered or anti-homosexual sex education,“Don’t say gay” laws, laws denying trans kids medical care, school-library book bans and even efforts to suppress the teaching of inconvenient historical facts.

And when religion loses a fight and progress wins instead? Religion then claims it’s not subject to the resulting laws. “Religious belief” is — more and more, at the state and federal levels — a way to sidestep advances the country makes in civil rights, human rights and public health.

If you are as tired of performative piety as I am, you should really click through and read the entire essay. And if you are an atheist, you should definitely consider “coming out.”


  1. It’s an interesting idea. I don’t disagree with the sentiment but I’m not sure it is more even-handed than those who claim a religion somewhere along the line. I am friends with several elderly nuns, in their 80s and 90s. They accept any sexual orientation. They have been civil rights proponents their entire lives. They have been arrested for civil disobedience. They are truly pro-life and protest the death penalty. They believe women have a right to make their own choices about their bodies. And they draw strength from a deep belief and a trust in Jesus. They don’t proselytize. Their religion is for them.

    Believe me, I detest the Bible beaters who insist I live their demands out and the myriad lawmakers who agree. Actually….it’s the lawmakers I have no patience for. Who votes for these people???

  2. I believe in a “higher power”, don’t know what form it takes but believe it is and has always been based in science. I do pray and “God” is as good enough generic name as any of the others.

    My Aunt Mildred “liked girls”; the family knew this and didn’t care, she always believed she had covered up her lifestyle. She and her friend Gail rented the back bedroom at Grandma and Grandpa’s; I was there one day when Aunt Mildred and Grandma had a loud argument about something and as Aunt Mildred stomped up the stairs Grandma said “Mildred and Gail don’t think I know what goes on in that back bedroom.” I was 13 at the time and had to pretend I didn’t know what she meant. Two years later and Aunt Mildred had her own apartment and lived alone and a new friend. Her friend stopped by to break up the relationship and tell Aunt Mildred she was “leaving the life” to marry a man. At 15 it was harder to pretend not to understand; even then I didn’t understand why they had to hide who they loved.

    “If you are as tired of performative piety as I am, you should really click through and read the entire essay. And if you are an atheist, you should definitely consider “coming out.”

    Does believing in a higher power based in science but pray to “God” make me an atheist? If so I have just “outed” myself here on the blog. No back-patting or grandstanding; not nearly as brave as my 17 year old great-granddaughter who outed herself as a lesbian on Facebook three years ago.

  3. I’ve been an athiest, or a Free Thinker as I like to call myself, for decades now. I wish there was a god. Really, I do. Some one, some thing in charge that you could go to for help/comfort. Some other entity responsible for me and you and everything else. Some powerful guy in the sky who has a plan. But there isn’t, and truthful and honest thought and reason cannot get me to the there that is not there.
    Recently an older Catholic woman lamented that “It’s so hard to be a Catholic these days.”
    I cannot see that it is so hard when all you have to do is let someone else tell you what to believe and how to run your life. No thinking required. No hard decisions to make for yourself knowing that you and you alone are responsible for those decisions. Hard? I don’t think so. Being an athiest is hard, because being totally responsible for yourself is hard.

  4. I pastor a Quaker and am never troubled by the presence of an atheist in our meeting. I have usually found them to be deeply kind and thoughtful.

  5. Thousands of years ago, early humans met ET. To make sense of ET, early humans created god. Our worse invention ever.

  6. 1 if there is no, God, there is no afterlife, and we only have an existence of about 100 years. No spending time with family and friends. No reward for what we’ve done to help others. That sad.
    2. Historically atheism has turned many to the gulags in Russia, and starved millions in the Ukraine grain belt. In China atheistic dictators are currently harvesting organs from citizens that belong to the state who are religious.
    In Germany, a man who chose to hate “ gods, chosen people” since 6 million people to gas chambers. Pastors who are peaceful people like Dietrich, Bon Hoffer finally had to stand up against Hitler and lost their lives and doing so atheist. Usually don’t understand that racism came from Darwin and evolution ideologies. In South Africa German scientist used Africans for their experiments, thinking that people of color, or from a lower race
    Do US Constitution was written by men who were believers in a God, they called for the separation of a church state and sects of religion because certain colonies were beginning to set up church states. Historically the Bible has been according to people who were atheist at one time, like Jordan Peterson foundational book for all society it gives us a moral compass, and directs us to lead lives of civility through laws that are respectful.
    Science today is now pointing more towards the existence of God through their discoveries and understanding, DNA and biological concepts, and also chemical properties and physical entropies. There are 32 laws in physics that require a fine-tuning in the millions of degrees of measure in the realm of science. This is called fine-tuning. Parts of fine-tuning were understood by Einstein who at the end of his life stated there must be a God.

  7. My best friend and I often discuss the hypocrisy and bigotry of organized religion. As older adults we both stopped attending the same quaker church within a few months of each other.

    My friend was, very unfortunately, raised in a fundamentalist church that only preached hellfire and damnation in order to control the parishioners. Even though she stopped attending that church after high school graduation, it took her more than forty years to recover from being brainwashed into believing she was going to hell no matter how good she is or how well she behaves.

    Thankfully, I grew up within the Methodist and United Church of Christ denominations with sermons and Sunday School lessons that focused on loving one another. While I felt free, even as a young child, to question what was written in the books of the Bible and I frequently did, she would never have dared to be so bold as to question anything. The main difference I noticed between the Methodist and UCC denomination sermons was that the Methodist pastors frequently preached about giving more money to the church while the UCC pastors never spoke about money.

    The straw that finally broke the proverbial camel’s back for me to continue attending church was when congregations all across the United States were contemplating and voting on whether to accept homosexual people. I saw no reason to even be considering such nonsense and was shocked by the hate-filled words spilling out of fellow parishioners’ mouths at that time. I was done and so were millions of people all across the country.

  8. JoAnn, you’re not an atheist if you believe in an HP. I believe atheists believe nothing is pulling the strings in the cosmos. They are the antithesis of believers in Higher Powers and certainly wouldn’t pray.

    I also believe in an HP – one of order from the cosmos — energy—more of Eastern persuasion than Christian. When I describe it to others, Christians call me an atheist. I guess any non-believers or agnostics are atheists in the eyes of true believers.

    Whatever! 😉

  9. Cut to the chase…God, no God…makes little difference. What makes a difference is what we do, how we act, how we treat others – morals, decency and the like. As those continue to go down the drain…the Godded and Godless are hand and hand in it.

  10. I am a Christian, but I am Episcopalian. That gives me the freedom tp roam about thinking of many different explanations for whatever I encounter. My principal thesis is that no one can know what “God” is. He might be (but probably isn’t) a white bearded old man floating in the atmosphere or he might just be the Higgs-Boson. Theoretically, this really doesn’t matter to me. I decided to be a “Christian” because, as I told the priest one day, I’ll follow the guy who calls for love and kindness. I read the Old Testament as being more of a guide to life in a primitive society. If something seemed to cause illness, it was deemed an abomination. Although I can’t say what sort of illness might be cased by wearing wool pants and a cotton shirt. If some act of nature was beyond understanding, it must be a supernatural thing.

    A young neighbor recently lost her father to cancer. She came to me in tears and asked “What happens when you die?” I told her I really didn’t know, but that her father would be with her as long as she remembered him. Hokey as that may seem, I heard a sermon from an old priest at a Celebration of Life. That old priest reminded the congregation the energy doesn’t die. It changes, so the energy that was our friend, still lives.

    I like the fact that Atheists will come out. I personally, love the Ron Reagan Commercial, but there are a lot if Christians who also believe that there’s too much intertwining of government and religion. The “Christians” who believe wholeheartedly that we are a “Christian Nation” learned the wrong lesson from the story about taxes and the coin. Instead of understanding that the coin with Caesar’s image was the state, they think that if they put “God” on money or license plates or whatever, then it is all God’s.

  11. I have the feeling that the majority of priests clergy I have encountered of late are performing and do not actually believe. The priests love the ritual and helping aspects of the job, and don’t know what else they would do if they left. The protestant preachers I see when family coax me to their services seem just to be salesmen, begging for money to grow or maintain their churches and pay their own salaries. No charitable activity in sight. Just a job in theater.

  12. If 70 % are accepting the right for gay unions/marriages and 85% believe in a god, then why do you need more atheists that might, … well act like Darwinian Nazis and turn on them? There is no moral compass, no judge. To me more atheists seem dangerous.

  13. We progressive Lutherans say that while the Bible is not all “literally” true in the way that facts and data are true, it’s all “literarily” true… In the way that poetry is true, in the way that fiction is true. It shows us the truth about our own inner lives.
    The spirituality and morality of scriptural story and metaphor is a treasured legacy of ancient wisdom, bequeathed to us by our ancestors.
    It frees us to be truly human, truly alive, filled with hope for whatever lies beyond death, and literally able to live in community with one another and with our own limping selves.
    Give me that kind of religion, please. You can keep the hateful, prejudicial, homophobic religiosity that masquerades as if it’s the faith that Jesus modeled.

  14. It’s a little odd when you think about it. The hyper-religious are still almost exactly as atheistic as I am. They also think the thousand other gods that everyone believed (or believes) in are ridiculous. I just have one more on the list than they do.

    John S, atheists don’t need a god to tell them what is good and decent, what is right and wrong. And neither do religious people. The simple idea that it is better to decrease suffering and increase happiness seems pretty obvious. The notion that religious people need a god to keep them from doing terrible things is scary to me. I guess it’s good that _something_ stops those people from acting but still… That said, as far as I can tell, religion_doesn’t_ actually stop people from behaving horribly. A lot of the time, it seems to give them permission to do so, as long as the object of the terrible act does not believe similarly.

  15. M, there is a whole community for exactly the people you describe. It’s called “The Clergy Project.” It is a little like a self-help group, but more than that. My father joined them before his death. Many of them don’t really know what to do. They don’t believe anymore, and obviously feel fraudulent about preaching, but they don’t know what else to do and they still care deeply about the people/community they minister to.

  16. I’ve been out, here, and out in my life forever.
    From what I have seen, and read, atheists are among the most caring people, and when they say they care it is certainly sincere, not that others can’t meant that way, as well.
    Yes, the bible holds many stories about how to live in concert with others, but it also presents some gore and intolerance.
    My spin on religion and the things that Peggy referred to in her last paragraph is “Garbage in, garbage out.”
    there are a lot of folks here, in Florididia, showing number stickers, and other signs that say “Jesus is the answer,” which leads me to think what is the question, “Who is your favorite fairy tale character?”
    Then there is also the “Just Believe” thing, saying that you had better not think for yourself, or question.

  17. There’s more to a person’s life than what they think. Studying religion scientifically and comparatively is freeing. Today in this country we can confront and question authoritarianism in all forms and that’s a freedom that keeps us going toward a new way of being organized. Searching for truth doesn’t seem to throw out the life force. a higher power, prime mover, alpha & omega etc. Accepting our reality and acting humanely to all including ourselves is a goal on that path.

  18. My parents were raised differently– mother in a rural Methodist church that her father helped build; and my father in an entirely unreligious and disrupted family. Church and religion were not part of our daily lives, although I was encouraged to attend Methodist youth services as a teen (I did, primarily to meet girls and have access to the car). But later in my teens, in despair over my beloved grandmother’s pending death from cancer, I sought advice from the young minister of that rural church. Long story short, after hearing my anguish and doubts about the existence of a god, he said in essence that children require and enjoy believing in Santa Clause, and many adults require the structure and moral concepts of the church. The idea of eternal life is also highly motivating. He said that he thought I was not going to need the church, that I would build a good life taking advantage of the best moral concepts of Christianity. The subtext was: there is no God. To put it mildly, I was gobsmacked. It took months to come to my own conclusion: I did not believe in God, or gods, or any organized religion. Further study of the history of religions only solidified my beliefs. No experience with any religion or religious people has changed them.

    More recently, I’ve been fascinated by findings from the new Webb space telescope (the placement of which is truly one of the greatest human accomplishments in history, and should be regarded with awe and gratitude). To test the telescope’s abilities, early on the astronomers picked an “empty” piece of sky, having no or few stars in it. Prolonged exposure, rather than revealing the edge of the universe or light from the Big Bang, showed… more galaxies. Many more. So, we live in a universe so vast, with galaxies (not just stars) so numerous as to test human imagination. We now know that many stars have planets, and some might be capable of harboring life as we know it. The notions of all religions are ridiculously hubristic in light of the reality: Earth circles a minor star in a minor galaxy of a universe with uncounted hundreds of trillions of stars. Our planet is so inconsequential to the universe that to conceive we humans as the focus of a god God’s creation and favored organism is more than I can accept.

    The fact is that Earth is our home, our only and forever home; when we have finally screwed it up beyond its ability to support us, well, we’ll die out. And the universe won’t care. The great tragedy is mankind’s apparent inability to tolerate each other and live in peace. The daily news reinforces what fools human beings can be– even purportedly “religious” people. If we want to go to Heaven, we’d best try to create a Heaven on Earth.

    Recommended reading: “Man and His Gods,” by Homer Smith. Little, Brown, and Company, 1952. This book was very influential in my group of literary friends in college.

  19. JoAnn referred to a higher power based in science. I don’t know what she means because I don’t know any scientists (and I have three degrees in science) who would agree with her. Some of them believe in a higher power, but do not relate it to the science they studied and practice. Just because scientists do not know everything about everything does not mean that there must a higher power.

    Now, on another track. The folk tales found in essentially all cultures are just that: tales. The most common one in our culture is a book compiled in the sixth or seventh century BCE, largely from the literature of the Sumerians, who lived a couple of thousand years prior to the efforts of the Rabis to codify their beliefs. One tribe of Bronze Age Bedouin accepting some of the stories of an earlier tribe of Bronze Age Bedouin. A scientist would not accept that effort as a proof of a higher power.

  20. Pascal; I view the evolution of life as a scientific power of the highest form. We continue to evolve for the most part as we learn healthier, safer ways of life and live longer; I believe that evolution happens in our brains as well as physically. Neanderthals were a larger human form with larger brains and should have survived longer but cavemen survived long after they were obsolete. This is all in general of course; individuals are making different decisions and different life choices at varying degrees, not all evolve as better human life forms and we now face Climate Change and Global Warming which is causing different forms and levels of evolution as we attempt to adapt to these changes.

    In 1955 I lived in Fredericksburg, VA for nearly a year; the landlady was a town leader and relic from the past. She and her mother were responsible for restoring Kenmore, the home of George Washington’s sister Betty and her husband Col. Fielding Lewis. Miss Annie took me with her to the home a number of times; listening to the tour guide was educational. Everything was smaller; ceilings lower, doorways smaller, furniture such as beds and chair heights shorter because people were smaller then; they also had shorter life spans. While we have evolved from pounding clothes on rocks in river and creek beds to automatic washers, progress does not always mean improvement. The muskets found in all homes for hunting food and protection from wild animals has evolved to AR-15s in too many homes. We are going through a frightening phase of devolving into a time of cave-man tactics by our own government intent on arming all homes with assault level weapons for protection from one another. The cavemen have outed themselves in the guise of elected lawmakers intent on terrorizing us into submission under their dictatorship control.

    “Just because scientists do not know everything about everything does not mean that there must a higher power.” Nor does it mean there is no higher power.

  21. People make the gods they want or feel a need for, often in their own image. I suppose this has been going on for as long as there have been people.

    I’ve always been a lesbian and an atheist and never, for one minute, felt guilty for either. However, there have been times when I concealed, or least didn’t advertise, both out of self protection. Sheila, your point is exactly right.

    History shows very clearly that people of every religion and no religion can be kind, loving, ethical wonderful human beings or vicious, cruel, dishonest and downright evil.

    Many good points from thoughtful responders today.

  22. Cultural Anthropology says that we remain “attached” to the cultures and times that we lived in through school, at least until we turn 18 or so.

    My family lived in a village of about 10K population in central NY from about the end of WWII until 1960.

    My grandfather was a strict Republican businessman who left his roots in a Pennsylvania Dutch family very early (probably before 8th grade to make his way through life on his own), married into a wealthy Herkimer family, and thereby gained the confidence of his in-law families’ high local standing.

    You can bet that he latched onto his newly found status with a “death grip,” including local regard in the local Dutch Reformed Church.

    His daughter, my mother, broke with family culture by marrying the son of an immigrant family following his graduation from the Naval Academy that Spring, an embarrassment so great that my parents chose not to be married in her father’s Church.

    When my parents returned to Herkimer (when I was three), they tried to lock me into my maternal grandparents’ high local standing. Still, I sensed half-heartedness from those attempts under such different cultures that, as a middle child, I rebelled against local culture from the start.

    Consequently, I searched hard for my cultural identity early in life.

    Now, I’m agnostic to religious culture. In other words, what shows up from around all life’s twists and turns catches me without any surprise.

  23. I believe that a power much greater than me powered the big bang. I certainly don’t believe in a “personal god” I can pray to or who “has a plan.” I really don’t care if that makes me atheist or not and frankly, I don’t care. Religious labels do more harm than good. And I don’t care what you believe – that’s your business. But I certainly do prefer that others keep their religious rules from interfering with my life. That is the height of arrogance. None of us are a god, that’s for sure, although many want to pretend to be one and not just on TV!!!

  24. Well, Sheila, you opened Pandora’s box for sure.

    I take a neutral stand, myself. I practice “Don’t Know” mind. But I am also fascinated by religion and Eastern philosophy, ashtanga yoga, Buddhism, mysticism, Elaine Pagels, Krista Tippett, and on and on.
    Obviously, I am a Unitarian-Univeralist. I can believe in one god, no gods, or many gods, and still be welcome.

    Oh, and I have found that meditation is a key to my happiness and stability. That the mind is an incredible gift. It really is hard to believe that the fact we are aware is just a coincidence. As Lao Tzu reputedly said, from wonder into wonder, existence opens.

    I think we are innately “religious beings” or maybe spiritual beings. We are aware of our own being, and that we are going to age, we are going to get sick or fatally injured, and we’re going to die. There’s no way to avoid it. And, we also know we are going to lose everything we own, everyone we love. But still, deep down, there’s this nagging longing to be rid of hate, suffering, and we feel there’s just got to be some meaning to our existence. Who’s in charge and why are we here? We have to know.

    I mean, why is there such evil in this world? Why must someone be on top of the heap, beating the breast of down? Why can’t we get it together and focus on this beautiful world that is so incredible, focus on keeping it beautiful and making it a better place for all to live together in peace.

    Silly me, we are evil and guilty and sinful because we ate the apple, thereby knowing the difference between good and evil.

    If we were perfect, we wouldn’t be here.

  25. I was raised Catholic, but educated in both public and Catholic schools. As an adult, I lapsed and returned more than once. Ultimately, I left the hypocrisy, patriarchy, exclusion and criminal behavior behind. I miss the comfort of ritual and community.

    My thinking about religion has evolved to an admission of ignorance not likely to ever be explained in concrete knowledge. Energy and memory are both science and human capability. Basically, if you treat others as you wish to be treated, you and they both benefit if your intentions are benign.

    So many comments today resonate with my own life experience. Uncertainty can be freeing, allowing open exploration of all kinds of ideas and experiences. Maybe the journey is what really matters.

  26. I often wonder what living on the earth would be like if every person was healed. If every person truly felt safe, loved, and seen/accepted who would they be? What would they do? What kind of paradise would it create? If anything gives me hope about belief in The existence of Jesus it’s his supernatural ability to heal and protect beyond what any human can because I think it’s those miracles the human race desperately needs.

  27. Interestingly,

    Publications like, or Live science, posting articles of enhanced understandings. Basically one of them is, there are two times the water in and under the Earth’s crust than are in all of the oceans at present, and, a lot of it is freshwater. This was after everybody said that whole flood thing was a joke where did the water go? As the above mentioned atheistic publications lets us know. Also, all of the new branches of the evolutionary tree. There are supposed new understandings after it was supposedly all figured out 100 years ago. The goal post keep moving. The odds of a single amino acid forming on its own, let alone all of the amino acids that form all of the proteins that exist in living organisms. There really is no calculation high enough because it’s infinitesimal.

    Is this planet and all its life, all it’s diverse life, a one-off? Because, that would be more believable than all of the ETs out there kidnapping folks!

    I see scientists pounding square pegs and around holes, finding a fossil and claiming that it must be a one-off because it doesn’t fit into the narrative. Well, which is the one off?

    Even historical figures that were mentioned in scripture, like Pontius Pilate. They claimed that he didn’t even exist until a couple of years ago when they found coins with his name and likeness minted on them. King Herod was another one that was claimed not to exist until his name was found in ancient writings.

    Or, how about the Socratic philosophical beliefs? Or the Platonists philosophical beliefs, or the Aristotlein, or the Epicurean philosophical beliefs, or the Stoics, or the Cynics, or the Skeptics! All separate lifestyle beliefs, and much adopted by Judaism and later on, Christianity. The Christian portion was around 325 AD at the Nicene council directorate which is put together by Roman emperor Constantine.

    We talk about fairy tales, but then we love to believe in fairy tales that we choose to enjoy. We don’t like fairy tales that can undercut what we want to believe. In most folks minds, they create the type of God they want. Folks look to have their ears tickled, they want permission slips, not actual limits. Kind of like driving 20 mph in a residential area! Who wants to go 20 miles an hour? The Jews did well when they followed Moses. Interestingly, they found horse bones and chariot wheels and human remains in the Red Sea. Was that a one-off also?

    I would rather come to my own conclusions by my own research, and Not leave things to someone else’s conscience.

    The nice thing about being a free moral agent, I everyone can choose to believe what they wish. Of course, there are consequences to choice, one way or the other.

  28. Compicateder and complicateder as Pogo might opine. I don’t know the author of this quote but I like it very much “God created man in his image, and man promptly returned the favor.” Sir Terry Pratchett in his book ERIC wrote “The gods of the Disc have never bothered much about judging the souls of the dead, and so people only go to hell if that’s where they believe, in their deepest heart, that they deserve to go. Which they won’t do if they don’t know about it. This explains why it is so important to shoot missionaries on sight.” Sir Terry was a rather aggressive atheist.

    In my early life there were a long series of churches and denominations. There were also immediate experiences that shaped my theo/cosmology. Some good, some soul crushing, some miraculous, some mystical. By 17 I had looked enough death in the face that it has been a constantly recurring theme. I have “been” Church of Christ, Nazarene, Baptist and some I don’t remember in the early days. I eventually landed with the Methodists and nearly became clergy. Now I am a member of both a Mennonite church and a Congregational Church.

    At 80 trips around the sun I am still wrestling with “God”. While there have been times when I was mostly certain about God, it has become much more hazy. Much of what others have said here resonates.
    With science, experience, and study I have mixed information.
    About God:
    1. My life has been touched in ways that push toward belief.
    2. Looking at history the world and my life; God has much to answer for.
    3. We really know nothing demonstrable ABOUT God.
    4. I am not sure about faith; where it comes from; what mine is now.

    And yet I pray.

  29. Much that is attributed to divine intervention is actually the result of chance. I am bemused by the individual who attributes his survival of, say, a mass shooting thusly: “By the grace of God, I made it out unhurt.” But what of the 25 or 50 of his neighbors who perished in the gunfire? Why were they denied the same godly grace? Seems to me the height of chutzpah to claim that you, the survivor, were chosen by God for survival. As for prayer, it boggles the mind to think that an almighty God, who must be terribly busy managing the affairs of an enormous universe, would single out one human being and grant her request. Pray enough, and once in a while, the wish will apparently be granted. It’s a human tendency to remember a seemingly granted wish, while forgetting the much greater number not granted.

  30. Kathy M, “atheist” is explicitly _not_ a religious label. 🙂 Atheism does not come with a holy book, set of beliefs, doctrines, rituals or maxims. It is a simple description regarding a person’s answer to just one particular question.

    John Peter Sorg, although we may love some fairy tales, that doesn’t mean we believe in any of them. Presuming otherwise is wrong. I also don’t believe in fairies, as it happens.

    I’ve always found this Epicurus (341BC – 270BC) attribution interesting:

    “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
    Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
    Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
    Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”

  31. I am a retired pastor in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and a regular reader of your blog. As a pastor, I often said that there are a lot of good reasons to be an atheist (so much evil, suffering, and injustice in the world; the irrational opposition to scientific discoveries by many Fundamentalists; the hypocrisy, exclusivism, arrogance, and oppression that has too often characterized religion, etc.) I have also said that there are a lot of bad reasons to believe in God (mercenary reward; “fire insurance” for the hereafter; using religion for political, economic, and social goal which are not for the common good, etc.) If my only choices were Christian Nationalism, Christian Fundamentalism, conservative Evangelical Christianity, and atheism, I would become an atheist. Fortunately, I do not have to make that choice.
    There are many theists who define religion more in terms of how one lives than what one believes. My wife Susan and I belong to a church with this mission statement: “We are transformed by God’s radical love to build a welcoming church, a just community, and a sustainable world.” Everything our church does seeks to fulfill that mission of self-giving love. Under the radar, there are Christians and those of other faiths all over the world who are trying to live lives which reflect the unconditional and indiscriminate love of God. What passes for much Christianity in the U S today is a blasphemous rejection of a Jew who incarnated a message of love, justice, and peace. Their Rambo Jesus is a disgraceful caricature of the one who called us to love even our enemies. I long for the day when those who “believe” and those who “do not believe” can join hands and hearts to make this a more just and peaceful world.

  32. Ron Zorn I like the mission statement of the church you go to. Thank you for sharing your view as a retired Pastor because I often wonder what pastors think about various topics.

  33. Ron Zorn, I love your approach and totally agree. Its all about living love, not what you believe.

  34. Hunter, when I was 13 (now 62) my next door neighbor and her two young daughters were killed in a traffic accident. They were driving from church home through a green light. A woman who whise child had been shot by a pellet gun in his leg pulled onto the shoulder, passed four parked cars and destroyed their car and their bodies. The “all things happen in god’s time” never worked for me after that day. However, the pastor at their services wrote I. The bulletin that week that, accidents are just that- accidents, the result of human mistakes. That’s the part of each person having their free will to decide how to act in each and every minute of their life. When I returned to school a friend was drama queening the whole “she offered me a ride! I could have been in that car!!!!” I had no patience then nor now- because I knew Charlotte would not have been in that intersection had she been taking her home. Her house would have put them on a different path, because her route that day would not have been logical. The other thing I learned- adults go not have the right to overreact and drive emotionally impaired. That too played its role that day. Synchronicity arrives and it just it- there’s no good or bad, it just is. And then 7 years later, my own brother died in a car wreck, driving emotionally impaired with lots of alcohol. I am grateful there was no other human harmed. We humans have a way of screwing with other peoples lives until we take the time to learn to act ethically and consistently within our own beliefs, whatever they may be.

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