Something Easter-related came up and I was ignorant about the religious rituals around the event. I admitted this. It was a completely casual exchange which ended in me being asked if I was asked if I was an atheist and instead of saying “Yes, I’m an atheist” I mumbled and bumbled and said something along the lines of “Well, um, sort of, I, I wasn’t raised religious, I guess, I, um…” and I have been kicking myself ever since. “So you’re kind of on the fence?” the other person said, and I responded with “Um, I guess, yes.” Let me make this clear. I’m not on the fence. At all. You see, I didn’t know if the person I was speaking to was religious or not and I panicked because I feel like being an atheist is something that a lot of religious people look down on. In this particular exchange, I was speaking to somebody with whom I want to make a good impression. So some irritating little part of my brain decided that being labelled as a fence-sitting agnostic was safer than revealing the fact that I’m a total non-believer. An atheist. *doomy music*
I’ve been thinking about it non-stop since it happened, dying a little bit more inside each time. I even contemplated emailing the person in question and clearing it up. Of course I wouldn’t do that, but I’ve thought about it. I feel like I betrayed myself and everything I stand for. In between the cringing and self-hatred, I’ve also been trying to figure out why I did this; why I didn’t feel like it was ok for me say that I’m an atheist when religious people, generally, feel so confident in revealing their faith. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that throughout my life (particularly my school life) I’ve been told by many different people that Christianity is right, that you’re not a good person unless you “let Jesus into your heart”, that faith is something to be proud of and to sing about and to put on t-shirts. I’ve been conditioned to assume that I’ll be judged negatively if I haven’t accepted Christ as my lord and saviour. Of course not all Christians think this way, but I can’t help feeling a sense of unease about how my lack of faith is going to affect my relationship with them. I worry that if I say that I’m an atheist, they’ll think that I’m dismissing them as people simply because I’m dismissing their faith.
I’ve been an atheist since I was capable of thinking for myself. I began to define myself as such in middle school, when I was about thirteen years old. My parents never told me what to be. I went to Christian schools, but that was mainly because all the local public schools happened to be that way. My parents never told me not believe in what the teachers told me. They never steered me one way or the other. They simply let me go out into the world and make up my mind for myself, which is something I appreciate and respect them for immensely. I don’t form any of my convictions lightly. I think, I read, I observe, I question…
Anyone with half a brain cell knows that morality and religion are not the same thing. I’m a good person, and I know it. There’s really no reason for me to feel ashamed of being an atheist. I’m not ashamed. If anything, I’m proud. And yet I couldn’t admit to it. I feel a bit sick about it, and weirdly guilty. I owe it to the free-thinkers of the world to announce myself without fear, without shame. (I did it in the title of the blog post. See that? It’s a start.) I promise that I will be honest next time, even if it will negatively affect my relationship with the person asking me the question. If they can’t accept me for who I am, then maybe they don’t deserve to have anything to do with me. Because, actually, I’m awesome, and anyone who disagrees can suck it.
*cries pitifully into my egg-mayo sandwich*