I feel so bad for you closeted atheists. I was lucky. My parents were both gone when I declared that I was a “devout” atheist. I was so shocked, yet happy, to first hear someone say that. I love describing myself that way now because I know it will rankle all those fundies out there who truly believe in a heaven and a hell. Especially those who expect to shame you or scare you into their belief system. However, because you’re still in the closet, I know you can’t afford to be so cavalier. Some people may take years to come out of the closet. Some people may HAVE to wait for a while. I know it all depends on your situation. I can say that the sooner your journey is over, the better you will feel about yourself and the life you have in front of you.
First, I refer you to my blog post, “My Apostasy.” If you haven’t already read it, that will tell you my story. Maybe it will give you some background about how I came to be an atheist. And maybe you will have a laugh along the way.
Second, I’d like you to read something that when I first read it, it seemed so radical. When my wife and I first moved to Hollywood, we tried to explore that mythical thing called spirituality. Since we knew we were not into organized religion, we studied various fringe spiritual groups and decided it was all silly mumbo-jumbo. Have you ever heard of the Hare Crishners? Theosophy? Wicca? Chanting? Ridiculous. Gosh, why not look into Voodoo!
Sometime in 2000, I discovered secular Humanism. And while researching that, I found the Robert Green Ingersoll, Thanksgiving Proclamation. When I read it I felt as though I had found what I had been looking for. No rules. Just freedom. I wanted to stand up and shout hallelujah (that’s a little joke).
A HUMANIST THANKSGIVING PROCLAMATION
by Robert Green Ingersoll
When I became convinced that the universe is natural–that all the ghosts and gods are myths, there entered into my brain, into my soul, into every drop of my blood, the sense, the feeling, the joy of freedom.
The walls of my prison crumbled and fell, the dungeon was flooded with light and all the bolts and bars and manacles became dust. I was no longer a servant, a serf or a slave. There was for me no master in all the world–not even infinite space.
I was free–free to think, to express my thoughts–free to live my own ideal–free to live for myself and those I loved–free to use all my faculties, all my senses, free to spread imagination’s wings–free to investigate, to guess and dream and hope–free to judge and determine for myself–free to reject all ignorant and cruel creeds, all the “inspired” books that savages have produced, and all the barbarous legends of the past–free from popes and priests, free from all the “called” and “set apart”–free from sanctified mistakes and “holy” lies–free from the winged monsters of the night–free from devils, ghosts and gods.
For the first time I was free. There were no prohibited places in all the realms of thought–no air, no space, where fancy could not spread her painted wings–no claims for my limbs–no lashes for my back–no fires for my flesh–no following another’s steps–no need to bow, or cringe, or crawl, or utter lying words. I was free. I stood erect and fearlessly, joyously, faced all worlds.
And then my heart was filled with gratitude, with thankfulness, and went out in love to all the heroes, the thinkers, who gave their lives for the liberty of hand and brain–for the freedom of labor and thought–to those who fell on the fierce fields of war, to those who died in dungeons bound with chains–to those who proudly mounted scaffold’s stairs–to those by fire consumed–to all the wise, the good, the brave of every land, whose thoughts and deeds have given freedom to the sons [and daughters] of men [and women]. And then I vowed to grasp the torch that they have held, and hold it high, that light may conquer darkness still.
CARROT & STICK + GUILT
Life everlasting in heaven if you follow the rules. Hell if you don’t. And lots of guilt to keep you in line. Religious folks will use every form of guilt and bent logic possible to make sure you follow all the rules the way THEY understand them (even if that isn’t what it says in their “sacred” book). They want you to suffer along with them. If they have to follow those silly rules, then everybody should.
If you’re just beginning your journey to freedom, I have to tell you something that made a lot of sense to me. Yes, I’m an atheist, but more importantly, I’m a secular Humanist.
If you haven’t watched any of my videos yet, please do. In 2003 I founded the Red Bank Humanists here in NJ. Many of our members were willing to talk to me on camera and discuss what Humanism means to them. Your homework assignment is to watch all the videos on my video page and listen to these good people. That’s what they are. They are “Good Without God,” as we say.
Now I know you might still need to be in the closet, but while you’re in there, first learn about Humanism, and then learn about all the ways the devout religionists attempt to challenge your disbelief. They can show such outrage. If you don’t have your protective shields up, they will confuse and confound you.
I repeat: Yes, I’m an atheist, but more importantly, I’m a secular Humanist. I say this for two reasons: 1) religious people just hate the word, atheist, 2) Humanism is such a positive thing. Read these:
American Humanist Association Definition
I’m Spiritual, But Not Religious (Bronx Cheer)
To be continued. . .at your request.
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