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Topic: This is why

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Subject: This is why
Date Posted: 12/16/2008 2:55 PM ET
Member Since: 7/19/2006
Posts: 1,947
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I'm an atheist. I have been pretty much my whole life, even before I knew there was such a thing as an atheist. I don't go looking for things Christians have said or done that might offend me, and then get myself all worked up. I don't think that's a positive outlook or a healthy way to live. I also try to not get all worked up about every little offense that is brought to public attention. But, when Christians start getting really in my face about how great their beliefs are, or how unacceptable my beliefs are, there is one memory that plants itself in the forefront of my experiences with Christians and greatly influences how I react.

When I was a sophomore in college, I had to take a required class for my major. The professor was also the chair of the dept at that time. I didn't particularly like her, but I didn't have any real reasons for my feelings. This was a fall semester class, so as the class was finishing up, Christmas celebrations were also ramping up. The professor was (is) a very religious, and openly religious, woman. In one of the last classes of the semester, she was having a discussion with everyone in class (and it was the beginning of class, not a group of people who were hanging out after class) about what people were doing for the holidays and whatnot. She mentioned that she would be washing feet at such and such a church, if anybody wanted to come and have their feet washed. I wasn't participating in the discussion, because I was a quiet member of the class and I didn't have anything to contribute to that discussion anyway. But, after she mentioned the feet washing, she got started in an anti-nonbelievers rant. She said she thought it was a horrible shame that all the students at the college were not required to attend church, if not year round, then at least at Christmas. It really offended her that we were not required to attend church. She thought student behavior would be more positive and things would be better on campus, if church attendence was required. I had to speak up at that point. I wasn't rude, or mean, or aggressive. I simply said, in a sort of joking way, that I was glad the school didn't require church attendance. She asked why, and I told her because if the school required church attendence, then I wouldn't have chosen to attend the school. I'm not sure if I came out and said I was an atheist, but it was definitely implied. She looked right at me and told me, in a very holier-than-thou tone of voice that perhaps if I was required to attend church just maybe I could be shown the horrors of my ways and I could become a better person. 

That is what I was told by the chair of my academic department in college. I can't tell you how offended I was, how hurt I was. How dare she, in front of an entire class, in her position as my professor and dept chair, demean my beliefs. Especially when I said nothing negative about hers.

Since that experience, I've many times been told that I'm a sinner, I'm going to hell, I don't have any morals, I'm a bad person. I've had all the mormons show up at my door and be appalled that I don't believe in any god at all. I don't go around broadcasting my atheism. There aren't any symbols I wear or display that make my beliefs obvious. I don't start conversations by saying, "hey, guess what, I'm an atheist." I don't hide it, but I don't broadcast it. So, pretty much every time I've received a negative response for my beliefs, it is because someone who does believe brought up the subject and put me in a position where I did not feel comfortable letting my beliefs go unclarified.

So, that is why overt symbols of Christianity displayed on gov't property do bother me. Because your overt symbols of Christianity represent a religion with which I have had very few actively positive encounters. Your overt symbols of Christiantiy represent a religion, the members of which have repeatedly told me I'm a sinner, I'm going to hell, I'm an immoral person, and I'm bad. These members have told me this based on no other information than that I am an atheist. Yes, I've known very kind and considerate Christians who wouldn't dream of saying such things to me. But, the negative experiences came first and were stronger than any of the positive experiences. And those early experiences are what colour my current reactions more than anything else.

Everyone please feel free to share your own experiences that help explain why you react the way you do.

Date Posted: 12/16/2008 3:30 PM ET
Member Since: 6/25/2007
Posts: 5,637
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Last Edited on: 2/2/09 12:11 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 12/16/2008 5:28 PM ET
Member Since: 6/2/2007
Posts: 527
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"Everyone please feel free to share your own experiences that help explain why you react the way you do."

I'm going to ask first so that there are no mis-understandings. Is this an invitation for all and any to share thier experiances and reactions? Even the extremely spiritual and religious? Or where you hoping for strictly agnostic and atheistic perspectives?

Understand that I'm NOT asking this to be snide or mean. I just want to be sure my post would be welcome in this thread. :) If not I take no offense. Just don't want to step on toes with my experiences, reactions and thus, perspectives. :)

 

Date Posted: 12/22/2008 12:21 AM ET
Member Since: 1/9/2006
Posts: 6,638
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Last Edited on: 1/20/09 7:20 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
L. G. (L)
Date Posted: 12/22/2008 1:06 AM ET
Member Since: 9/5/2005
Posts: 12,412
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I suspect BC just hadn't been back to the thread. :)

Date Posted: 12/22/2008 1:09 AM ET
Member Since: 1/9/2006
Posts: 6,638
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Last Edited on: 1/20/09 7:20 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 12/23/2008 10:25 AM ET
Member Since: 7/19/2006
Posts: 1,947
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Sorry! I got busy and forgot to come back and check.

Kris, thanks for asking. I had to think about it. Initially, I had sort of intended the thread to be a place for those who don't believe to share their experiences. After reading the Christmas threads, and the thread about the Atheist sign, it felt like a lot of those who believe didn't really understand how the symbolism came across to those of us who don't believe. I honestly thought that it was just a simple misunderstanding, and that if those of us who are having the "bad" reactions could explain part of the reasoning behind those reactions, we could help everybody understand why we get so up in arms about seeing all these Christmas symbols everywhere. But, really, it's important to understand everybody's reaction. So, yes, feel free to share your experiences that will help us understand how you react and why.

Date Posted: 1/4/2009 11:38 PM ET
Member Since: 12/25/2008
Posts: 79
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As a Christian, my perspective is that many christians devote themselves to preserving religious symbols in American institutions at the expense of the genuine communication of the love of Christ and the reason that He came to die.  I'm for displaying the Ten Commandments, Nativity scenes, even Christmas trees wherever they are welcomed, but I would miss the point of the Gospel if I took a "suck-it-up-it's-my-country-too" attitude toward people who do not welcome those symbols.  The heart of the Christian gospel is that the Cross changes--redeems--people, and I can't communicate that message to anybody if I'm caught up in bitter arguments about whether or not I can say "Merry Christmas" at the DMV.

Date Posted: 1/5/2009 3:01 AM ET
Member Since: 12/19/2005
Posts: 5,091
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She looked right at me and told me, in a very holier-than-thou tone of voice that perhaps if I was required to attend church just maybe I could be shown the horrors of my ways and I could become a better person.

I'm afraid I may not have been able to stop myself from saying "Well, it doesn't seem to have worked for you." 

Then I would have had to transfer to another school, because there was no way I was going to survive in that one.  So it's a good thing she didn't say it to me.

I've mentioned (but it's long since buried) that I am a Taoist.  Does that mean that I believe in God?  Well no, not really.  Though in conversation I will sometimes use the word "God" as a short-hand because otherwise I have to spend an hour translating what I really mean into words that I think that the other person will understand, although I know in the end that they won't really.

Any way, the reason I believe it is because I feel that there is a profound and intimate connection between myself and everyone and everything else.  That really, viewed correctly, there is no "me" and "you" that we are all one.  There have been a few moments of clarity where I knew it to be true, when I could feel that connection palpably.  It's too strong a sensation to deny or to explain away as hallucination or melodrama.  I know it was real, so I know it to be true.

But I don't know that I have in any way answered your question.

L. G. (L)
Date Posted: 1/5/2009 11:55 PM ET
Member Since: 9/5/2005
Posts: 12,412
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Kari wrote:  I'm afraid I may not have been able to stop myself from saying "Well, it doesn't seem to have worked for you."

And this is why, exactly, I love Kari... :)