A Year Of Freedom

Facebook’s activity log provides a unique glimpse into our own pasts.  While parusing back in time, one event stuck out to me on my own timeline: June 14,2011.  On that day, I changed my religious views from “Christian” to “Pastafarian”.

No one noticed.  It had been a normal morning, but in my bed, I had admitted to myself that I was an atheist.

I wondered if God would find me out.  I wondered what would become of my dozens of Christian T-shirts.  I wondered what to do with this beautiful, terrifying fact.  Darwin, upon figuring out his theory, took 15 years to research every nook and cranny of reality before publication of the origin of species, and I decided to follow suit.  I knew I would not be satisfied with myself unless I could answer every question posed to me, from myself and from others.

I therefore dug my heels in and researched, all the while continuing to attend Midtown and play in church.  I was “closeted” as the saying goes, afraid of the ramifications of going public, and afraid of my friendships, parents, and life.

I slowly realized God was a delusion.  3 years ago, I was arguing on facebook about the validity of Dawkins’ God Delusion. 2 years ago, I was coming to terms with the fact that my altruism, my sexuality, my humanity was not sinful, but was a product of evolution, and 1 year ago, I realized I had been wrong: Christianity was false, there was just as much evidence for Jesus rising from the dead as for Mohammad flying in a chariot or Joseph Smith talking to Moroni.  There was no rational reason to trust it anymore.  I have written about this at length in other places, so I will not repeat myself.  What I do want to do is take note of the many things I’ve learned in the past year.

Queer Culture is Beautiful

From the Daily Gamecock

In the spring, I went to Birdcage, USC’s drag show.  I cried.  Not a little tear, but actually bawled my eyes out.  The women (who are anatomically male) who danced and performed, as well as the men (who were also anatomically their compliment) were beautiful, with a beauty that cannot be described with words.  These were people completely freely being who they were.

Freedom of sexuality was one of the best things I gained after deconverting.  Realizing that there is no such thing as ‘sin,’ that there are no standards by which anyone deserves to be judged, afforded me new eyes with which to recognize beauty throughout the human spectrum, whether it is a man who likes men, a woman who likes women, an anatomical male that is mentally female, one who does not desire sex at all, everything.

My bigotry and belief that homosexuality was a ‘sin,’ like lust or anger or pride, fell away instantly upon deconvesion, and opened up a world of possibilities for me to explore, to see the beauty that is humanity.

Feminism is Not Evil, Gender Roles are Bullshit

When you are in Christianland™, certain realities are indoctrinated, and one of the most fundamental was that of gender roles.  According to Paul (and thereby literalist pastors 2000 years later), women are to be servants of their husbands and give them ultimate authority, who are purified by childbirth, while men are to be studly breadwinners and natural leaders, who take their problems before God and serve as the spiritual bastion of the relationship.  Also, feminism is the devil.

This small-minded stance took much longer for me to realize and break free from than did my bigoted homosexuality.  It took months of struggling to realize what “privilege” really entails.  Even still today, I am constantly confronted with my own complacency over feminist issues, over reductions of females to their functions, rather than their whole humanity.

When I first read about Watsongate, I thought it was incredibly stupid.  Some guy asked a girl back to his room for coffee. I would do that.  So what if she was in an elevator?!

Then I kept reading, about privilege, about Schrodinger’s Rapist.  I realized that the sum total I’ve ever felt sexually threatened might as well be a negative number.  I read PZ Myers, I read Greta, i read Natalie Reed.  I listened to Sikivu Hutchenson when she came to our school.  I subscribed to the Godless Bitches Podcast.  I listened whenever the feminists I knew opened their mouths.  I accepted criticism, and realized I was small, and yet I could help.

I’ve by no means arrived, but I have learned that gender roles are mostly horseshit, or at least the notion that you have to fall into some kind of specific role.  I can stay at home and be barbie.  A female can be Ken.  It doesn’t freaking matter.  I am happy for the changes, for my mind growing and opening to the fact that I was misguided and wrong.  And I will certainly say stupid things, after having been unaware of my own misogyny for 26 years, but I’m learning.

I’m Not Always Right

This one should come as no surprise.  I was 100% wrong on the God question, and I’ve been wrong on quite a few things since.  I may be wrong in my approach, in my conclusions, in my (weak) philosophical underpinnings.  In fact, I probably am.  And that’s why there is beauty in the truth:

Sometimes I Don’t Know,

and that’s alright.  I didn’t know about the backfire effect, and yet continually engaged in conversations thinking I could make a change.  I thought I knew about white privilege, cis privilege, and other privileges, but I didn’t.  I thought I understood liberal theology, gnosticism, the rise of the Christian church, and I didn’t.  And that’s alright

The foundation of my worldview is that I can be wrong.  This is skepticism at its foundational level: A withholding of belief until sufficient evidence can be provided.  I have a natural tendency (along with other humans) to always think I’m correct, or that I know more about a subject than I really do.  For those reasons I must consider my own shortsightedness.

Reality is Beautiful

Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too? – Douglas Adams

As a Christian, my mind was limited to black and white: there is truth in the bible, and there is everyone else who gets the most fundamental questions of reality wrong.  Muslims, Jews, Atheists, Buddhists, Hindus, the ancient Greeks, Romans, Philophers, cave men, cultists: Wrong.

Now, I realize that humanity exists in color.  History exists in color.  Societies, cultures, reality, religions, metaphysics, our minds, our sexuality, our morality, our ethics, everything exists in color.  And I am free to explore, to paint with all the colors of our human experience, and to “see beyond” the black and white of right and wrong.

The irony is that my own parents accused me of thinking too black and white, when in reality I can finally see the world for what it is.  I can appreciate the history of India and the cultural interaction of Hindus with Muslims.  I can recognize the beautiful depth of societies as they coalesced throughout ancient history, through the Egyptians and Assyrians on through Rome.

I can also see with clearer vision the psychological underpinnings for why people do things the way they do, and why religion is so powerful.  I can view Evangelicals, Liberals, Catholics, Muslims, Cultists, Scientologists, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and others through the lenses of delusion and psychological leanings.  I can understand “Woo” and Karma, meditation and Yoga, through the lens of agency detection.

And I can be proud of the friendships I have, the love that I give and receive, and the family that struggles to accept me.

I Will Die

When Christopher Hitchens died, I made a weak attempt at answering questions about death.  I won’t repeat what I said there, but I will summarize: without an eternal life waiting after, it makes this life much more precious.  It makes every sunrise more beautiful, every kiss sweeter, every hug more sobering.  It makes every word spoken more lasting, every word written more necessary, and every breath more worth breathing.
I’m thankful for the way I’ve spent my life, even the years spent with blinders on to the world around me.  I’m glad for the friendships that have continued past my deconversion, and continue now despite my vehement anti-theism.  I’m glad for the people whose life I’ve changed, who I’ve supported through their own deconversions.  I’m thankful for the opportunity to engage in dialogue, to help people see with more open eyes the world around them, and for my own eyes having been opened by theists and atheists alike.

I’m proud of this past year, and though it is the 27th of my life, it has been the first year I’ve felt truly alive.

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  • Carole

    I think this is beautiful. I support your exploration of truth.

    On a side note, I was a pro-gay, feminist, live-in-the-moment, surrealistic christian in south carolina. they do exist, I swear.

    Now my exploration of truth has brought me to an “I don’t know” – but I don’t think anyone REALLY knows about what happens after death. Or all the miracles in any holy texts. And that’s OK. Life, love, and people (can be) beautiful.

  • B4touring

    My question is why did you put this:

    “I can view Evangelicals, Liberals, Catholics, Muslims, Cultists, Scientologists, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and others through the lenses of delusion and psychological leanings. ”

    One of these is not like the other.

    • http://CoffeeShopAtheist.com/blog Patrick

      Sorry, when I said Liberals here i was referring to Liberal theology (as opposed to fundamentalist/evangelical theology). Though Republicans, Democrats, Liberals, Conservatives, Libertarians and all politics can be viewed through the same lenses of our psychological leanings and propensity towards being mistaken.

      Thanks for that catch!

    • http://CoffeeShopAtheist.com/blog Patrick

      Sorry, when I said Liberals here i was referring to Liberal theology (as opposed to fundamentalist/evangelical theology). Though Republicans, Democrats, Liberals, Conservatives, Libertarians and all politics can be viewed through the same lenses of our psychological leanings and propensity towards being mistaken.

      Thanks for that catch!

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  • Ezra David

    Well, I am not an atheist and there is only one thing I can in what you have said. I would rather live believing in God and die knowing He don’t exist than living my life not believing Him and die knowing that He exist.

    Moderation Note: Irrelevant link to kitchen tables removed

    • http://CoffeeShopAtheist.com/blog Patrick

      That’s a fair position. I’d rather follow truth, but to each his own.

      However, your belief in things that aren’t real can be costly of time, resources, emotion, and happiness, that I would prefer not to give up just because I wished that Santa was really the one delivering my presents.