Growing up was confusing for me. Until my father committed suicide when I was only six years old, I had attended a Methodist church and Sunday school. I learned about, what I thought was, the unquestionable wisdom of the Judeo-Christian God. When my father died, my mother returned to the faith of her upbringing, the church of undeniable power, the Roman Catholic church. As my brother and I were only 5 and 6 years old, we naturally accompanied my mother. She soon realized that we missed the Sunday school that we had been attending, and so enrolled us in the Catholic equivalent. This set us on a path to receive the sacraments according to the Catholic faith. These started with our Baptism; I am among the relatively small percentage of the population that remembers my Baptism. I grew to believe what I was taught, and so I was a practicing Catholic for a number of years. I even considered becoming a priest, albeit a brief consideration before learning that priests weren’t allowed to marry; even at a young age I knew that I wanted to be a father and husband.
Fast-forward a number of years to my first marriage and the birth of my son. I was still a believer, although I didn’t attend church very often. I even insisted that my son have a religious name, Christian, but his mother wouldn’t go for that being his first name. I didn’t re-adopt atheism yet (we are all born atheists until our guardians subject us to one religion or another), I persisted believing and even attended church again for a while after my first marriage fell apart and I was forced to live with family. I refer to this period of my life as my search for self.
In the midst of my search for self, I began to explore my faith and attend college on a personal mission to educate myself. It was while attending college that I realized that I was actively searching for faith in something, and I found that I could only put my faith in things that could be reasoned out and proven. I found that I was a much better student than I had been when in K-12. I also learned that there are many creation stories, and science doesn’t agree with any of the religious ones. I came to think of myself as a skeptic; belief is simply an explanation without any evidence, or at least minimal evidence. I guess it was around this time that I began referring to myself as an atheist, although I’ll come back to that later.
Not long before my graduation, a visit with my doctor led to me being diagnosed with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (SPMS). This has really been a detriment to my educational goals; I had planned on becoming a college-level teacher, but that requires a Master’s degree and a lot more school. Alas, I will be taking a different route.
We come to my current situation: trying to live on disability and be a productive member of my family. Oh yeah, I got married again (to a fellow non believer too), and am stepfather to my wife’s son and father to mine. My wife knows how important my lack of belief is to me and supports me in my quest to spread reason and logic. I try to use any platform I’m given to spread knowledge, more precisely to spread my belief system to any and all who will listen. I don’t want to confuse anyone; I am NOT an evangelical atheist, although that type of nonbeliever certainly does exist.
Since I have come to be known as an atheist, I have lost many friends and even some members of my family actively avoid the topic of religion with me. Although they may avoid it, they are no longer in any doubt of my skeptical nature. As I have gotten a little bit older, and perhaps a little bit wiser, I don’t wish to alienate my friends or family. My best friend, for example, is a recovering alcoholic, firmly embedded in the predominantly Christian Alcoholics Anonymous. We have come to a silent agreement to focus on our friendship and avoid the unpleasant subject of religion. Although he knows of my views and I am aware of his, we simply do not discuss them.
One place I can and do discuss my lack of belief is in online discussion groups. For a person such as me, this is a safe place (for the most part) to discuss my views. For the first time in history, nonbelievers have a way to gather together and share our opinions without serious fear of repercussions. There are other venues where skeptics can gather together, although sometimes these can be hard to locate. One such place is the monthly meetings of skeptics, known as the Freethought Association of Northern Michigan. Obviously, this is a local, small group, as I assume most such groups are.
Needless to say, there is not the danger now that there was in the middle ages. I’d like to think that people are more civilized now, but I believe it is because our society has grown beyond that type of behavior and laws are in place to protect minorities, such as nonbelievers. So far, we have remained peaceful for the most part. I would predict that a time will come when the situation will be reversed and believers will be in the minority, though the believers had better hope that nonbelievers have more decency and forgiveness than believers have had for their hundreds of years in relative power.
This is far from a call to arms; instead it is a call to remain peaceful. There are certainly believers among the scientific community, but I think this is simply due to them following traditions rather than actually believing the nonsense that religion spews forth. No doubt there are exceptions; I have known those among the scientific community who ardently believe. I would say that if anything, nonbelievers should admit their lack of faith in the supernatural freely and openly, and not be afraid of using logic and reason to combat the incredulous claims of religion. Just remember that in its death throws religion is likely to inspire its flock to lash out at any who oppose it. Together, nonbelievers can prevail through the use of logic and reason.
Tim Myers is an amateur writer who seeks to educate people on religion: its fallacies above all else.