Whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing, end them?”
Hamlet Act 3, Scene 3
Why am I quoting Shakespeare? You may well ask! An interesting conversation with an ex-theist friend on Twitter earlier this week brought this quote to mind.
The point under discussion was simply this ‘Is there a difference between ex-theist atheists and born atheists?
My response? – Yes! It is a simple fact that we will never be able to walk in each other’s shoes.
However, the next comment was unexpected:-
born Atheists have never reasoned their way out of the matrix. They will always be outside of it with no benefit of an inner struggle
My response was brief and to the point:
I’ve never been to prison, but I don’t need to experience it directly to know it is a bad place and I would rather not go there!
And here the well known Shakespeare quote entered my head; is it nobler to have suffered the slings and arrows of religion to appreciate your atheism?
An unfair question, perhaps, as our lives have so many differences there is no viable comparison. I am never going to know how indoctrination and brainwashing can alter your lives for many years after you have escaped the mental chains of a religious dependancy. Maybe it is something that will always be with you, I know for sure it makes you a much stronger person than you have ever been.
So here are the main reasons I beleve ex-theists will differ from born atheists:-
- You will always have more inside knowledge of faith to be able to help others acquiring the courage to question their blind belief system.
- Some ex-theists miss or feel the need for ritual and the feeling of church community which I will never understand.
- You will always have a tendency to use labels, ex-christian, ex-catholic, ex-muslim, ex-jew
- Many ex-theists acknowledge they still carry the trauma of religion, which can translate to aggression against their previous religion especially in conversations on social media sites. I cannot have anger for a mythology. I can however suffer bouts of frustration with individuals who perpetuate the myth.
Another statement to cross my path this week was this :-
To make the leap from Indoctrinated-Theist to Atheist lends one greater credibility than being born Atheist…
My reply :-
Religion is sustained primarily through the indoctrination of children and has little to do with reason and more to do with enabling emotional insecurity, created and satisfied by your particular deity. In other words – child abuse.
- As a child your theism/atheism is based on your parents and close family. Initially born atheists are just lucky to have open family units not dependant on theistic values and allowed to grow.
- I haven’t found an atheist yet who has not had a curiosity about world religions; the difference is we read about more than one religion so lack of credibility can be bounced back at ya guys. You would have had to study and made a conscious decision for a certain religion, no?
- Do any Atheists go through life without any knowledge of religion? Either via friends, family, the news or social media? Born Atheists therefore do not lack knowledge of theism.
What is important for ex-theists to remember is, you are not swapping one community for another. We atheists are all individuals with a single thought in common. ‘ We do not believe in any deities”. That’s it…
Friendships and communities cannot be built on one similarity. Rather, you find people of like mind over a variety of interests and, as Atheists, we may have nothing more in common than the basic view of religion. I will say, from my point of view, creating an “Atheist Church” really is not the way to go. Let us instead focus on our humanism and made a conscious decision to, as my good friend Paul from the Quranify Me Podcast says:
be the change you want to see in the world
I am reminded of sonnet 116 by Shakespeare:-
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
or bends with the remover to remove:
O no; it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Who’s worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Unlike religion, freedom from religion is not a conditional love; we embrace change, we embrace freedom, we embrace love and we will always embrace humanism.
I want to see a day when labels such as theist, atheist, ex-theist etc. are consigned to the Dictionary of Archaic Words. Just people… Humankind.
I want children to be brought up free from debilitating fears of mythical concepts such sin, judgement and hell; a world where children are confident, smart and free to be who and whatever they wish to be. Religion has created hatred, tribalism, racism and bigotry and it is time we all were done with it.
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