A testimonial

I occasionally put up some of the wackier/more obnoxious e-mail I get from creationists and other deluded True Believers, but I don’t want to give the wrong impression—I also get lots of friendly and supportive email. I just don’t think any of it is quite as entertaining as the crazy stuff. Anyway, for balance, and because he was nice enough to give permission to post it, here’s a message from the sane side.

Dear Prof. Myers,

I wanted to write you a thank you letter, for a couple of reasons. I understand that you must be a busy man, what with the students and family and all, so I hope you at least get a chance to read this, if not reply. I apologize in advance if it seems long. I’m not good at writing concisely

First, let me thank you for your highly enjoyable blog. I really appreciate genuine attempts to explain things in laymen’s terms, as I find most scientific fields fascinating, but am no scientist. It’s very satisfying to read a piece about a new species or new information on already identified animals and understand it. Or least hope I have, I guess. On a related note, your critiques of creationism are fantastic; even to an amateur like me it is clear creationist claims don’t meet any sort of rigorous scientific standards, and it’s nice to know specifically why. It’s also pleasing to get the perspective of a real scientist as to how and why creationist programs are bad for schools and education in general.

Second, I want to personally thank you for helping me realize I need to stop beating about the bush and just admit being an atheist. In the past I suppose I would have described myself as “undecided,” “spiritual,” or at most “agnostic.” I will also admit that I was scared, not only of conceding that I don’t know the meaning to much of anything, but of the negative reactions I would surely receive from friends, family and people I know if I were to say I was an atheist. I started reading your blog sometime late last year and in a strange way all those links to creationist websites, letters and news stories were a big part of this decision. I mean, I didn’t get a lot of exposure to atheism when I was younger, only some benign Christianity (my parents, thankfully, stopped asking me to go to church with them and the most I had to do was join hands for grace at Thanksgiving, Easter and Christmas), so there wasn’t much pressure one way or another. Those websites, letters and links, on the other hand, gave me a lot of exposure to people who would not only disagree with my worldview (they’re free to do so, frankly) but would impose theirs on me by force (which is decidedly not acceptable).

After reading and becoming, I think for the first time in my adult life, acquainted with truly devout Christianity (or whatever), the only logical conclusion I could draw was that the more devout someone is, the more likely they are to act out of sync with the spirit of their religion and the more likely they are to be, as far as I can tell, nuts.

Reading you, on the other hand, led me to the conclusion that the best way to fight these people and their ridiculous ideas that I’m immoral, evil, or leading an empty life or others astray, or communist, or whatever the bogeyman of the week is, is to not to hide what I believe. To throw it in their faces, actually, to be able to say and show why they’re wrong, and why what they’re trying to do is the truly immoral choice.

So, there it is. I’m an atheist. There never was, is or will be a god or gods and any claims to the contrary are wishful thinking at best and outright willful ignorance at worse. Far from being immoral or evil, I’m a conscientious and moral person – and I think about morality constantly. And I don’t need some bearded, invisible man in the sky or contradictory holy book to tell me when I’ve done wrong.

Thank you for helping me say that. I hope the next time you feel angry or upset about religion in the US, it picks you up a little bit to know you’ve reached at least one person.

Matt Beisler

P.S. If, for whatever reason, you felt it would be good to share my letter, either on your blog or just with friends, please feel free to do so. Leave me name attached if you do, though. I’m damn tired of hiding what I believe – and what I don’t believe in. I didn’t write this to get you to put it up on your website, either. I am genuinely thankful, it’s just that you talked about sharing stuff a while back and the difficulties you sometimes encountered when it wasn’t clear what you could do with a link or response.

Also, squids/octopuses are neat and all, but I just can’t get beyond the fact that they are also completely terrifying. They’re so…unearthly.

Now we just have to work on the cephalopod aversion. And the tithing.


  1. Rocky says

    I’ve met so many people who are scared of admitting they are “closet Atheists”, for whatever reason. The truth DOES set you free!

  2. steve s says

    I’ve met so many people who are scared of admitting they are “closet Atheists”, for whatever reason. The truth DOES set you free!

    Posted by: Rocky | July 20, 2006 05:37 PM | kill

    Oh HELL YES. When I started admitting I was an atheist, I had a ton of people coming up to me and saying “Me too, but don’t you dare tell anyone.” a request I happily oblige, because it can be positively dangerous to be an atheist in some places in the south. Not that all such people were worried about physical violence. Most just don’t want to be fired, or have to endure lots of foul looks and insulting questions.

  3. steve s says

    BTW, I don’t think atheism will become a popular thing in the US until it develops social institutions which provide the benefits churches do.

  4. Alex says

    Uplifting AND nothing to disagree with! It’s only the first few posts though.

  5. G. Tingey says

    The USA, socially and religiously is probably a mix of where we were in 1638 and about 1827 …..

    “Gliead” will, of course, drag it back to about 1300 …..

  6. rhys says

    “BTW, I don’t think atheism will become a popular thing in the US until it develops social institutions which provide the benefits churches do.”

    Back in the day, it was called the New Deal. Been there, done that. We just don’t make a big deal out of it, sciting about how moral we are while doing it the way the churches do.

  7. says

    BTW, I don’t think atheism will become a popular thing in the US until it develops social institutions which provide the benefits churches do.

    Wanna try to conquer the museums on a weekly basis or something?

  8. tacitus says

    I think most people who are afraid to admit they are atheists just want to avoid getting into unnecessary arguments and/or upsetting someone close to them, like a spouse or parent.

    Most of the time, it’s simply easier to go with the flow rather than have someone continually worrying about or hectoring you about the fate of your immortal soul once they’ve found out you’re a hell-bound non-believer.

    I personally took the step to being an athiest a few years ago, after moving to America and seeing what the non-wishy-washy brand of Christianity had to offer (i.e. nothing). It was quite a refreshing experience to move past all that doubt, even though I still miss some aspects of organized religion such as the social networking it can provide.

    But I still don’t wear my atheism on my sleeve. If people ask then I will tell them, but my religious non-belief isn’t really much of an issue in my non-virtual life.

  9. Greg Peterson says

    I enjoy telling people I’m an atheist. I can’t imagine I very often fit their stereotypes, and I have a pithy, non-threatening “testimony”: I studies to be a Baptist pastor, have a degree in biblical studies from a conservative Christian college, and worked for Billy Graham. I loved being a Christian and had a great relationship with the church. But at some point I could no longer make myself believe it was true, or real. The lens didn’t work anymore, and I started seeing the world more clearly, and it just doesn’t look like a place with a god in charge.

    Or sentiments to that effect. And you know, I’ve never had anyone respond really negatively to that. I’m not telling someone else what to believe, I’m not attacking anything, I’m not even overtly stumping for anything. I’m just saying this is me, this is how I see things. And every time I can remember, that’s led either to a relatively polite conversation of, say, the nature of faith and reason, or a subtle change of the subject to neutral ground.

    In fact, the only time I ran into something truly nasty was when I was in a debate with a theist, held in a church, on the existence of God, and one of the attendees sitting next to my children said he wished he had a gun he could shoot me with. Which scared them a little, but I think made them proud, too. Going through life without ever ruffling a feather is a pretty ghostly existence. Things that matter almost always piss someone off. I can live with that very nicely.

  10. BJN says

    My wife and I put in our atheist Sunday time doing prep work in the paleo lab at our state’s museum of natural history. A little Hendrix on the iPod, an airscribe, the smell of vinac, and an allosaur jaw can make for a transcendental afternoon.

  11. pough says

    …I was in a debate with a theist, held in a church, on the existence of God, and one of the attendees sitting next to my children said he wished he had a gun he could shoot me with.

    Can we safely assume that person was a devil-worshipper?

  12. melior (in Austin) says

    I always wish I had a horror movie sound effect I could play in the background for whenever I tell someone I’m a nonbeliever.

  13. says

    I put myself through a lot of religious study in my late teens, which left me an atheist. Though I don’t own a soapbox (unless you count the blog),I’ve never denied it or dissembled. My favorite reaction, “Oh, you’re not really an atheist!” (In horrified tones, of course.) My standard reply is, “Um, yes.” Followed by them staring at my back.

  14. Not My Name says

    Well, maybe I’m the only atheist that wishes he could go back into the closet. I came to the realization a year and a half ago that I just didn’t believe in God anymore. After two weeks of serious turmoil, I told my wife. After yelling at me about my betrayal, she stormed out of the house and didn’t come back for two hours (first time in eight years of marriage she had done *anything* like that). It took a couple months before our relationship approached anything even close to ‘normal’, and even then was just a thin skein over an extraordinary tenseness.

    So it’s been 18 months, my wife still gets upset every single Sunday when we (we!) are at church. My mother broke down in tears when I told her, and at several points has tried to talk me back into faith (direct quote: “If you really loved your wife and kids, you would believe the same things they did.”) A really good friend of mine basically told me I was going to hell.

    Do I think I could have ‘hid it’ from my wife? No, probably not. But knowing the torment and pain that I’ve gone through (and the fact that divorce *still* may be in the relatively near term future for me, a fact that would have been inconceivable say, two years ago), I would have tried a lot harder than I did.

    In my case, the truth did not set me free.

  15. Rocky says

    I do indeed understand the above comments of “fear for your life” if you admit to being an unbeliever. I have had people become hostile at me after asking what I do/do not believe, and have dealt with it from the age of 14 or so. At times it was real difficult, one girlfriends parents were mortified because their beautiful daughter would be corrupted. (Not so funny ending in that case was turns out “Mr. Bible Thumper had molested both of his daughters).
    Talking with many personal friends, the deep seated fear seems closer to them finally taking the seemingly big step in really admitting to themselves that they do not believe in the “great bearded sky god”.

  16. says

    Modern culture has somehow conflated the label ‘atheist’ with something along the lines of ‘Satanist.’ So while I could claim atheism (that I believed in no god), many people would have the perception that I was claiming far worse–in fact, a perversion of their theism. The perception of something, even if untrue, is as good as reality.

    Thus I prefer the terms secular humanist, or even agnostic. Truth to tell, I see a universe mostly filled with matter so exotic we can’t even sense it directly, so for me the label agnostic is probably more fitting for me anyway–I seek to make no claims of certainty about anything, only claims of probability.

  17. skersley says

    is america realy like that?? in the uk most people are atheists, or ‘not sure’ im actualy fairly anti-religion, so i think i wouldnt last long in america!

  18. ocmpoma says

    Not My Name:

    A couple of years ago in one of my Russian Culture classes at university, we wathced an (American-Russian collabaritive) film (sorry, can’t recall the title) about a young husband and wife during Stalin’s purges. At one point, the young man asks his spouse whom she loves more – him or Stalin. “You,” was her answer. At his crestfallen look, she asks him the same question. “Stalin, of course!” was his reply.

    I would not want such a person for my spouse, and I certainly would not want such a person raising my children.

  19. DrShawn says

    Not My Name,

    Your experience is the same one that I envision for myself if I “come out” to my family. I think I have finally decided that it is simply not worth the torment that I would cause my Mother. I have been more relaxed at telling my close friends that I am an atheist, but I also have gone on to favor what Bruce mentioned. I actually prefer Secular Humanist in any scenario. Plus I like the company I keep in donning that label.

  20. Unstable Isotope says


    Thank you for “coming out.” I think it is important for people to know that an atheist is just like everyone else. I also think there are a lot more atheists out there than the polls show. A very small portion of Americans actually attend church on a regular basis. The fastest-growing, and now third-largest, religious affiliation is “no affiliation.”

    I believe in time, atheism will be no big deal (it isn’t for many people right now), but it takes the trailblazers to set the way for others. Like tacitus above, I’m not obvious about it, but I don’t lie if asked. And like others above, I came by my atheism by studying religious text, and I couldn’t square it with reality.

  21. HP says

    I used to be one of those guys who would endlessly debate things like strong vs. weak agnosticism, and “spiritual but not religious,” and “atheistic” vs. atheist. You know what I’m talking about — these hair-splitting debates still spring up here from time to time. Mostly due to people trying to put distance between themselves and the ghost of Madelyn Murray O’Hair.

    One conclusion I’ve come to in recent years is that it does not matter how I define myself. What matters is how they define me. As has been mentioned here many times in the past, it is already a de facto requirement that political candidates in the U.S. be admitted god-botherers. There is no shortage of people — many of them powerful — who would as soon make it a de jure ban; who would, indeed, strip us of all the rights of citizens.

    If that day would ever come — and I’m not saying it’s necessarily likely — the avowed atheists would be standing in the same makeshift corral with the agnostics, the scientists with the humanists, the materialists, the Marxists, the Pragmatists, the Libertarians, the unchurched, the Unitarian/Universalists, the Buddhists, the Wiccans, the Spiritualists, you name it. Hell, probably the Quakers and the Reformed Jews, too.

    What does P.Z. Myers have in common with Drew Hempel? The Christian Right would gladly throw them both in the same stockade.

    The fundie Christians think we’re all the same, and they’re determined to treat us all the same. Instead we argue about how my beliefs are subtly (even radically) distinguishable from yours in some essential way. If all the people the god-botherers lump together were to stand together, we’d be a potent political force — perhaps the largest interest group in the nation.

    Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what we call ourselves. But since Atheist seems to be the most emotionally potent label, that’s the one I use now.


    One thing I’m convinced of: Fundamentalist faith in the U.S. is a mile wide and an inch deep. It’s mostly tribalism. What happens to the cool kids at school when someone from a rival clique scores a major burn? The formerly cool clique dissolves. If the average fundie were made to feel truly embarrassed and marginalized to be seen in public, God’s stock would plummet.

  22. BlueIndependent says

    Maybe if you showed some more furry, cuddly stuffed cephalopods, especially on Fridays…

    There’s always tomorrow… ;)

  23. Caledonian says

    If all the people the god-botherers lump together were to stand together, we’d be a potent political force — perhaps the largest interest group in the nation.

    Yeah — and if all the people hated by the Neo-Nazis banded together, they’d be the strongest political force on the planet.

    Unfortunately, they have little in common besides being hated by Neo-Nazis, and many positions held by people inside this group are fundamentally incompatible with positions held by others inside it. No affiliation is possible.

  24. DrYak says

    Yes, it is very much a US thing. Of all the countries I’ve lived in (on 4 continents and counting…) only the US has had this all-pervading religious atmosphere to everything. Even though where I lived in the States (Seattle) is a bastion of godless liberalism, it was still a comparatively big part of the culture.

    Admittedly I’ve not lived in an agressively muslim country and those might approach the States in feeling. I did live next to a mosque for nearly a year and the call to prayer five times a day (starting at 6am) drove me nuts!

  25. Carlie says

    Not my name – I’m on the cusp of the same thing, so at least you’re not alone. I was a devout Christian for most of my life, was away from church for several years because my spouse and I couldn’t find one we both liked, and after we went back it just wasn’t quite the same. I relished it for a year or so, because it was like being back home, but then started paying more attention to the sermons. I had grown a lot in those years away, and had learned a lot more, and it didn’t make sense any more. Took a couple more years after that, but finally realized I thought every last bit of it was bunk. (And PZ’s blog helped push me over that edge, too.) I finally told my spouse about it a few months ago, when we were debating how much to give the church for a building campaign. I still soft-pedaled it, and said that I’d go along with what he decided, but that I didn’t really “believe in it all any more. Or, at least, at the moment.” His response was to ask if I had thought I was hiding it, because my discomfort with church had been obvious to him for some time. We didn’t really talk about it any more than that, but it’s been getting harder and harder and harder to stomach it every week. My lid’s about to blow, and it won’t be pretty when it does. (Did I mention that I also have children, and that I teach in the kids’ Sunday school and lead the kids’ worship session? Yeah. Hard to extricate from, to put it mildly.)
    This blog is the only place where I currently show my atheism outright, attached to my name. A few friends know, but that’s about it. And surprisingly, several are people I grew up in church with, who privately wondered among themselves when I would grow up and see the light, but didn’t want to say anything until I mentioned it first. I swear, it’s like there’s a secret atheist handshake or something. I decided recently that I personally can’t go on this way much longer, but am not sure how to get out of it all. (But I’ll never tell my grandmother. It would kill her.)

  26. Bachalon says

    It’s cool to see you get much supporting e-mail. I know I’ve sent you a piece or two.

    Keep up the good work, professor. Your science articles are illuminating. Your take-downs funny. Your personal articles touching.

    Thank you.

  27. Carlie says

    Oh, and my spouse is still devout. Very devout. Taking the teenagers to church camp devout. We don’t talk much anymore.

  28. tacitus says

    Carlie, I sympathize with your plight, it’s not a very comfortable situation to find yourself in. You might want to try extricating yourself a little at a time to relieve some of the pressure without it all blowing up in your face (assuming you don’t want to put your marriage and friendships at risk). Find some reason for quitting your involvement in Sunday School–you need a change, time to give someone else a chance, etc. Or perhaps you can find a more social-oriented role in the church, something that doesn’t require teaching stuff you no longer believe in.

    I wish you all the best.

  29. thwaite says

    Inter-family conflict between Christians and others? Here’s the gospel truth:
    Matthew 10:20-22, advice to the Apostles as they first set out to teach:

    [20] For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.
    [21] And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death.
    [22] And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.

    There may be another even more apposite admonition where Jesus warns that his teaching does not preserve families (a similar warning appears in some other religions). This was the best I could find in the Bible using the handy search engine at U. Michigan

    It’s not easy, I know.

  30. thwaite says

    And while inter-family conflict also happens, my focus was really on intra-family division!

  31. Mr Gronk says

    I don’t want to diss your truly great country, but when I read accounts like those above I feel relieved I’m not American – yours must be the only country in the western world where atheism is seen as abnormal and depraved. Yet most Americans I’ve ever met seem perfectly moderate and tolerant – could it be that huge numbers feign religiosity to avoid this religious Stalinism? If so, then there’s hope: by the 1980s virtually nobody in the USSR believed in communism, yet they dutifully and fearfully parroted the slogans until the whole sad edifice died with a whimper. Hopefully religion in the US will go the same way.
    Incidentally, my wife’s a trained Anglican theologian. We have never argued over religion, and agree to let our daughters work out their own conclusions to life’s big questions.

  32. not zeus says

    Not My Name, Dr Shawn (and others), I stopped believing a long time ago (some twenty years) but few people know. About the time I stopped believing I read San Manuel Bueno, martir, (that’s Saint Emmanuel the Good, Martyr) by Miguel de Unamuno, a Spanish writer. It’s a short novel about a priest who doesn’t believe. His rationale (and one that I’ve adopted) for not admitting his lack of faith (he is a priest, and a quite good one too — the narrator of the novel writes the story in response to a request on the canonization of Emmanuel) for not admitting his lack of faith is that the people in the small, idyllic town where he lives would be crushed. Some people need God, just like others need heroin, crack, cocaine, booze, or caffeine. In the end, it’s a pretty pretentious or cynical view in a way — I’m better than everyone else and my sacrifice is not letting them know what I know — if not a bit dishonest, but then again… we all know what we’re up against.

    I haven’t ‘come out’ for simliar reasons — my parents and relatives. Not sure if I want a partner who is particularly devout. It’s one thing acting for the sake of the parents, it’s another to do it every weekend. On the other hand, I’ve become informed about debates in the church (Dominic Crossan’s books on the historical Jesus in particular) just in case someone tries to sell me some dope called jesus or god.

    Take it easy

  33. can I be anonymous now? says

    God. (oh, sorry). It’s like we need an AA support group – atheists anonymous. Only, of course, with the opposite goal of most *fill in the blank* anonymous groups. Embrace the atheisim!

  34. can I be anonymous now? says

    God. (oh, sorry). It’s like we need an AA support group – atheists anonymous. Only, of course, with the opposite goal of most *fill in the blank* anonymous groups. Embrace the atheisim!

  35. can I be anonymous now? says

    God. (oh, sorry). It’s like we need an AA support group – atheists anonymous. Only, of course, with the opposite goal of most *fill in the blank* anonymous groups. Embrace the atheisim!

  36. can I be anonymous now? says

    God. (oh, sorry). It’s like we need an AA support group – atheists anonymous. Only, of course, with the opposite goal of most *fill in the blank* anonymous groups. Embrace the atheisim!

  37. Matt T. says

    Man, that’s weird. See, I just got back home after a visit with my folks, and my mother and I had a convorsation that, eventually, came to this very topic. Specifically, my faith, or actually, my lack thereof. My folks have recently started going back to church on a very regular basis after years of extremely sporadic visits by Momma and absolutely none (outside of weddings and funerals) for the Old Man. The catalyst was that the little country church my Momma went to when she was a girl reopened, so my folks are going.

    My folks are getting along in years. My dad just turned 60 yesterday, and they’re both completely honest with the situation. It’s a social thing and it’s a comfort as their mortality becomes an increasing likelyhood. They’re both older, as I said, and not in the greatest of health. My (maternal) Mommaw is gonna pass soon, as is my (paternal) Pappaw.

    Anyhow, the convorsation. It started as we were watching some special or another on the Book Of Revelations. As it was going on, I’d add in tidbits of information and at times just before the special said the same thing. I told Momma that I’ve always been fascinated with the history of religion, though I take no stock in the actual faith. Funny thing is, I wound up defending a person’s faith or need for religion. Everyone needs someone to tell them things are gonna be all right, and for a whole lot of folks, that’s all religion really is. It’s not an instrument for social change or even a spiritual journey, just a comfort in a cold, dark, lonely, hard world.

    I told Momma I understood why some folks go to church or temple or synagouge or what have you. I also told her that while I can’t, in all intellectual honest, say there is without a shadow of a doubt no Supreme Being or Great Force whatsoever – I just can’t – I seriously doubt there is. Frankly, there’s no need for it whatsoever. The universe ticks right along and doesn’t give a damn how we try to measure it or how we try to explain it.

    I find that liberating, personally. Not in a “do whatever you want” sort of way, though. More like there’s no boundaries, no rules except for what we set for ourselves. There’s no end to our possibilities, both as a species and as individuals. I think ol’ Socrates was right in that good comes from knowledge, the knowledge that what happens to the least of us affects us all. That’s liberating to me but frightening to many. The very best of faith, religion, spirituality, it seems to me is just a way of protecting ourselves from having to make that leap. Comfort in cold iron bounds, but the funny part? We don’t even need it.

    So, philosophical agnostic, practical atheist. And Momma doesn’t believe me. Oh, well.

  38. Uber says

    The great sadness of some of the marital stories above is that nothing really changed between the couples EXCEPT an opinion on the supernatural.

    How sad is it to have something beautiful end because of something like that?

    You truly have my thoughts. And as an aside the number of closet atheists and practical atheists I am more than sure exceeds by 10 fold those who openly admit it.

  39. Marc Buhler says

    A year or so ago, confronting some door-knocking JW’s one weekend, I described to them the difficulty of having no “faith in god” because then there wasn’t someone taking on my burden of sin or to “walk through the valley” with. While I have lived much of my life without religion, making that statement brought home to me that all the horrible things in the world – how people can torture others, illness of many sorts, accidents, war and so forth, all become a burden that I have had to accept as a part of life around me. I’ve argued evolution hundreds of times with such missionaries, but this time I felt that each of us must bear our own cross and was struck by how fraught with risk that seemed. While the nature and complexity of life evolving is amazing, the possible outcomes for any one individual can be terrifying. There is of course also beauty in life, love to share, one’s talent to express in whatever way and the potential to reach a natural end to one’s life, but it is a very hard thing to ask others to give away their faith in god and to walk the path alone as I choose to. My argument for understanding evolution however continues to grow and it is somehow reassuring to think that the very cells of my body have been doing what they do for thousands of millions of years and that this process continues on in my two children. (Note as well that earlier comments in this thread brought tears to my eyes – being atheist does not mean being living without feelings.)

    (signed) marc

  40. Gentlewoman says

    I don’t mind telling people I’m an atheist if they ask. I live in a Bible Belt state, and people always seem to want to know ‘what church do you go to?’

    My sympathy goes out to those who are in these troubling family situations. My family was not fundie, or even terribly religious, although they do identify as Christians, so I did not have to face that pain.

    I’ve only volunteered my atheism once, when a particularly annoying and virulently fundie woman decided for some reason that she wanted to be my best friend forever. Worked like a charm, she doesn’t even acknowledge me when I say hello to her in the halls of our apartment building ;) YMMV, sometimes they want to ‘save’ you.

  41. says

    I don’t call myself an atheist because I don’t like labels. I’ve never been shy about responding when people ask about my beliefs — in my youth I decided that “man created god” — but I rarely have such conversations. (My father also warned me never to argue politics or religion.)

    I would guess that few people know that I am (horrors!) not-a-christian. I sometimes wondered how some people would react. “What about your parents? Isn’t your father a christian?” And I would have responded, “I don’t know. We never discussed it.”

    Well, a few months ago, I was on the phone with my father who was patiently listening to me rant about theocrats and creationism. He asked me the question: “Are you a christian?” I said no. He thought about it and said, “I don’t know if I am either.” (We determined that he did not regard the resurrection as fact, and I explained that for many people that is a deal killer.)

    A few weeks ago, I traveled to Florida as my dad was dying. (He hung on for his 85th birthday.) I wondered whether there was going to be some kind of service. What kind? Maybe his wife and her kids would feel compelled to have something — for appearances. But that did not happen. He wanted to be scattered at sea. And everyone was on board, so to speak, with what he wanted. For me it was very comforting that there was no arguing, no negotiating, no discussion about whether we needed to “do something.” We plan to get together in the fall and have a memorial party with his friends.

  42. says

    I don’t offer it up in work situations because of the nature of where I work and how often I hear about the prayer meetings, bible study etc.. If someone asks however I won’t lie. In my social life I’m a blatant atheist with no problems adding my skeptic views in when a friend or family member says something ridiculous based on faith instead of facts.

    I’m shocked Jason hasn’t piped up with some inane comment. This post seems tailor made for some of his stupidity.

  43. Rey says

    No, Jason only shows up when we’re behaving badly to wag his finger at us. This thread has been pretty civil and respectful.

  44. anon says

    I think of the old saying, “It’s harder to be kind than to be clever.” I think a person should be able to be their authentic self to their spouse or children, but for the most part, why hurt people who love you just to make a point? There are times to take a stand, but freaking out one’s aging grandmother, etc, is not one of them. It’s a tough line but we all have to find a way to be true to ourselves without causing any unnecessary grief. I know what’s true in my heart and in the end, nothing changes that.

  45. Interrobang says

    Canada’s deep south has things in common with the US’ deep south — we’re hip-deep in fundies around here. A family of them moved into the attendance district of my high school when I was in Grade IX, and by the time I graduated, probably about 95% of the 1100 students had converted. They all knew I was an atheist, and I’ve never been the diplomatic or tactful sort, so it wasn’t actually uncommon for me to get in shouting matches with people. By my graduating year (Gr. XIII in those days) I could barely go a day without someone running one of the classic lines on me: “Our church is having a potluck supper, would you like to come?” “You know, I really worry about you, because you’re not saved and you won’t go to heaven when you die…” and so on.

    Some people were also convinced that I worshipped Satan, and I could never quite get some of them to understand/believe/accept that I didn’t believe in that particular supernatural being, either.

    I’ve been an open atheist since elementary school, so I’ve gone through a lot. My parents know and they say I have “weird ideas.” Then again, they say that about a lot of my ideas. Heads, you win, tails I lose… At least they’re nonpracticing United Church of Canada members (the denomination Robertson Davies described as “the oatmeal of religion”). It could be much worse.

  46. says

    HP writes: One conclusion I’ve come to in recent years is that it does not matter how I define myself. What matters is how they define me.

    Same goes for me. I’m done pretending it matters to anybody what the difference is between a “resolute agnostic” and a “hard atheist” anymore. America’s gonna hate me for being an atheist no matter what I insist on reminding them it would be more accurate to call me.

    (And yeah, PZ, you’re one of several bloggers who are responsible for my increasing radicalization on the subject in recent months. I’m now more annoying than ever before, thanks to you.)

  47. Numad says

    Reading this I’m glad to live in Quebec, where the religious cheerleading is ubiquitous yet fairly benign. After all, it’s hard to avoid getting the impression that the Catholic Church is propped up by apathy around here.

  48. says

    geeze…i must hang around with the righ crowd or something cuz no one could care less if you’re aetheist, religious, cult, spiritual or whatever (except if you’re fanatical or try shove your beliefs or non-beliefs on others).

    but i forget about the bible belt areas, especially in the states….that’s really insane that people have to fear saying they’re atheist!!! wow, what a drag.

  49. Poison P'il says

    This looks like a good spot to ask my question(s) — setting aside the Author of the site, who should probably recuse himself:

    (1.)Is this blog considered a fairly good source of evolutionary theory? I stumbled onto it accidentally, while looking for images of “marella” and that weird five-eyed thing from the Cambrian era. I’ve been reading now for hours, and am alternately amused, edjicated, and astounded.

    [By all acounts, I am a God-fearing mathematician / statistician / jazz musician with a penchant for watching good b&w films (ancient and modern), quoting Marx (Groucho and Chico, not Karl) and Allen (Steve, not Gracie), examining the phenomenon of Information (coding, both artificial and natural, and both sides of the “form v. content” issue), and fooling around with creating mathematical formulae to describe “discrete” probability sample spaces, among other stuff.]

    I kind of suspect this site is atheistically-oriented, but that isn’t a “necessary hypothesis” when one is trying to figure out the workings of the universe, no? As the slings and arrows can’t possbly be personally directed — I don’t think I *should* find any such thinking disturbing.

    (2.) Are there other sites that you-all would consider good fonts of evolutionary thought (I’m setting aside the obvious sources such as Gould, please; I’ve got his stuff)?

    (C.) Finally, and again *completely seriously* and not ironically: where can I get a list of great atheistic scientists? I’ve got my own little list going, but want to broaden it a bit.

    Thanks, and to all of you posting — well, the vast majority — you seem like well-tempered, intelligent sorts. I’m pleased to run into your thoughts. I hope you all are as pleasant!

    Regards, and my Deep Admiration to Prof. Myers for the creation and maintenance of this site.

  50. says

    PP: (1) yes, but PZ isn’t trying to give a comprehensive overview of evolution or anything like that. (2) If you’re looking for bloggy ones, the obvious place would be “The Panda’s Thumb”. If you want a more general information source, try http://www.talkorigins.org/ . (C) I don’t know offhand of a list of great atheistic scientists, but the large majority of notable scientists these days are atheistic. Trouble is, most great scientists are too busy doing great science to keep the world informed of their religious beliefs and disbeliefs.

  51. windy says

    Canada’s deep south has things in common with the US’ deep south — we’re hip-deep in fundies around here.

    Is it noticeably more religious than the rest of Canada? I’ve only been in the rural parts of Southern Ontario (was an exchange student there more than 10 years ago) and it was pretty thick, but then I didn’t get around much. I should try to visit the less fundylicious parts of Canada some day :)

  52. valhar2000 says

    I dare say that I am fortunate, compared to many who have commented here, in that I have been an atheist for almost as long as I remember. I never had to fight to remove beleifs and pre-judices that had been instilled into me, as many of you have, nor did I have to fear loosing social standing by doing so, as many of you do.

    When I was a child, given how pervasive religious thinking is, it seemed to me that there must be a god of some sort, although obviously not one related in any way to organized religion, but I soon realized that that idea was to me in every way absurd, and that by eliminating it from my mind things in life could make much more sense.

    My parents did have to fight off religious feelings in their youth (and my father reverted to them during the last days of his life; a development that, while disappointing, was understandable) so they were kind enough not to unload that kind of useless weight on me. I have lived my life in an environment populated by people who beleive in religion but where the principle of separation of church and state (and by extension of church and life out side of it) was taken seriously by everyone, so I could live out my atheism and develop it without undue interference.

    And now, thanks to what I have learned to this day, I stand proud and declare that there is no god, that there is no spirit that binds, animates and guides all living things, that there will not be an arbiter that will “make it right” when we die, and that whatever happens to us collectively is our own fault, and no-one else’s. It is scary, but also quite exciting!

    I fell for those of you who have to face such overwhelming odds simply because you are mature enough not to beleive in faery tales. I cannot even begin to imagine how hard it must be to stand in your shoes; for what it’s worth, you have my moral support.

  53. says

    Having grown up in Britain, the question of religion didn’t tend to come up that often. Of all the people I knew before I was 20, I think one was Jehova’s Witness, a couple were Catholics, maybe two or three Anglicans. Of those, no more than 2 went to church on any regular basis. No-one else ever expressed a religious affiliation, though it’s quite possible they simply didn’t feel the need to talk about it.

    So being an athiest wasn’t a big deal. Especially as the Anglican church has always been focused on not offending people, so it’s quick to stand up for people’s right to not believe.

    And then I married an Amerian, and moved to America. She’s a Southern Baptist, though not a fundamentalist, though they aren’t thin on the ground around here. She’s less devout than the rest of her family, only attending church once a week, and not feeling guilty if she misses that.

    But suddenly I’m surrounded by people whose first assumption is that I’m a Christian, and who ask what church I attended back home / over here, and are quite shocked when I tell then I don’t believe. It’s a new experience for me.

    Like a lot of people here, I don’t see the need to advertise my athiesm, but, equally, if someone asks about my faith, I give a simple, direct answer. I try to respect the beliefs of those around me, though I do my best to correct factual errors and I try to expose bad logic when it’s especially egreious, and I expect others to do the same for me.

    Once in a blue moon, I go to church with my wife (Christmas, Easter, if she’s performing in the bell choir, things like that), or I’ll go to Sunday School with her (which can be a lot more comfortable, though I do find myself biting my tongue a lot). When we are at my father-in-law’s house, I join hands with everyone when they say grace.

    My wife still gets people asking her why I’m not at church, every now and then. But for the most part, people are happy to accept that I don’t believe, and I’m not going to believe, though it sometimes takes a while for them to get their head around the concept.

    Anyway, I guess I was lucky to grow up somewhere where faith or the lack of it was a non-issue, and moderately lucky to be living somewhere whre people are prepared to accept the existance of atheism. I know it could be far worse…

    Interestingly, as Britain is an officially Christian country, the state primary school (up to age 10) that I went to had classes on Religious Education. These were just as mandatory as classes on maths or English, but the focus was on “this is what the Bible says” and not “this is Truth” – to be honest, I’m not sure that the teachers had any great belief. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that there are maybe a half-dozen literalists in Britain, in total. The idea that the Earth is only 6,000 years old, or that Revelations is anything other than proof that St John of Patmos liked his mushrooms will get you odd looks, even from the most devout congregation…

  54. Marc Buhler says

    Poison P’il,
    While the Talk.Origins web site mentioned above is a great resource (I would suggest that you go explore the FAQs, creationist’s claims and other pages) if you want to carry on discussion about things there is also the usenet newsgroup “talk.origins” which you can read either with software for displaying threads and messages in such a group or via the web using “Google Groups” at this link http://groups.google.com/group/talk.origins

    Let me just warn you that this group has hundreds of readers and some very dedicated regulars on both sides of the creation and evolution debate and hundreds of messages get posted each day, including quite a number from people best described as loons or “net-kooks”. Still, there are some scientists in several different fields and a large number of educated lay people who are happy to help you grasp new ideas or find resources that can help answer your questions. While most discussions develop with several people exchanging messages over the course of a day, some threads can get quite heated and it is not unusual to see many dozens of messages added to a thread in just a day or so. There is a page on the T.O. web site with advice about posting, and there is an archive (Posts of The Month..PoTM) where a message or two from each month that are voted the best example of what T.O. is about are available. (The Jan. 2006 PoTM was mine.) Reading some of these would give you a grasp of the range of discussion in this group, and there is also some interesting reading in the “feedback” page on the web site. Note that the T.O. Archive is recommended by a number of bodies like the AAAS and the NCSE.

    (signed) marc

  55. kamensind says

    Welcome to the club, Matt.
    Here’s a neat little bumper sticker you might obtain now that you’re out of the closet:

    My mind is not for sale or rent to any god or government.

    has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it. One caveat: if you’re living in the deep south, you need to get used to evil stares from fellow drivers.

  56. says

    Wow. I am so blown away by the similarities between agonizing about “coming out” as atheist and “coming out” as gay. The language is practically identical. “I don’t want to upset my grandmother,” “I don’t want to break up my marraige/life/social circle,” etc. etc. etc. Interesting. Just wanted to point that out. Maybe some folks going through terrible family situations could get some advice/guidance from sources on coming out of the “gay closet,” which is frankly probably better decorated than the atheist closet. Just a thought.

  57. says

    At his crestfallen look, she asks him the same question. “Stalin, of course!” was his reply.

    There is much discussion in some circles about our national “civic religion.” Those discussions are especially active in legal and political circles where separation of church and state is an issue.

    And ultimately, I think there really is a sort of civic religion in the U.S. Sadly, for fundies, our national religious belief is ultimately and completely at odds with what usually passes for religion.

    American civic religion is captured in one moment in Mark Twain’s novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Huck and Jim are on the Mississippi, on a raft, and Jim is asleep, and Huck is thinking. Huck thinks about the adventures they’ve had, the scrapes they’ve been in, and how Jim has saved his life. Then he thinks about how Jim is a slave, owned by somebody else, and how the preacher in town says people go to hell if they don’t prevent slaves from running away. Huck considers the humanity of Jim — that he’s a good friend, a good father and husband — and in the tension, he decides that, ‘okay, I’ll go to hell then,’ and not turn Jim in to the authorities as an escaped slave.

    There is that Martin Niemöller poem about the Nazis coming for one group and then another, and the author’s not standing up for the persecuted group because he was not one of them — you know the thing. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_they_came…)

    This thread is loaded with high irony, and I hope I’m being clear here: People here talk about standing up for one another, which is after all the highest and best behavior we could have. We’re talking about standing up for one another against the crazy religionists. In expressing atheism here, there is a lot of demonstration of exactly the qualities that the religion, especially Christianity, should engender, but usually doesn’t. Huck was a better man than the preacher; America was called to a higher morality in that moment in the novel, by Twain. This thread is loaded with people who have answered that call, and yet found the call took them to atheism.

    That guy getting f***ed by Stalin didn’t realize it was better to make love with his wife? He’s already missed his salvation. Most of the critics of the good people on this thread missed it, too. Ironic.

  58. Steve LaBonne says

    Some people were also convinced that I worshipped Satan, and I could never quite get some of them to understand/believe/accept that I didn’t believe in that particular supernatural being, either.

    My teenage daughter gets that one from time to time. She finds the goofy illogic of it quite amusing.

  59. George says

    I will probably never get beyond this stage with my parents:

    Mom: We have a new minister at church.
    Me: That’s nice. [inaudible sigh]

    Last time I was in church was for a baptism and I could barely contain myself when the minister intoned:

    “Do you renounce the Devil and all his works?” [inaudible guffaw]

    I keep my atheism to myself. If someone asks, I won’t hide the fact that I’m an atheist, but I’m not going to make an issue of it.

  60. Stwriley says

    Poison P’il,

    On the atheist scientist front, this link will take you to a very interesting paper by Dr. Norman Hall on the connection between science and non-belief. He’s a fascinating fellow and the paper (actually the transcript of a speech) is brilliant. It might also amuse you since it mentions both mathmatics and jazz. It certainly addresses the question of faith and science quite well.

  61. says

    I have no conversion story (I was an atheist since when I was old enough to reason), but I do have some similar situations. I married a religious girl. At first I was pushy with my atheism, but that didn’t go over too well (lots of tension, her crying that I was going to go to hell, etc). Then I resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have to follow along with all this to not rock the boat. That’s how I ended up going to church almost every Sunday and biting my tongue a lot. But now that’s starting to hurt my brain too much, so I’ve started throwing in little doubt/skepticism-inducing comments here are there whenever she or her family talk about religious stuff, or point out situations where I think the same as them but for secular reasons. I don’t know how well it’s working but it is saving my brain somewhat.

  62. says

    Do you notice one common refrain here? It’s the atheists who restrain themselves and go along for the sake of familial harmony. Why should that be? It’s not us that have the kooky beliefs in super-ghosts or talk to invisible people.

    I wouldn’t advocate giving spouses and grandmas rhetorical beatings, but I do think it’s important for both sides to talk about it, and if it’s necessary to maintain a relationship, recognize the other person’s position and even compromise. Too often in these relationships, though, compromise means the godless partner goes to church every weekend, he or she will shut up, and the kids will be raised in some faith.

  63. speedwell says

    I never told my parents I am an atheist. At the time that I “deconverted,” Mom was dying of breast cancer and her only solace was the church and her children. Dad is a bitter, jaded hypocrite of a Jewish-heritage agnostic who thinks he has to “front” as Christian for the sake of appearances, even to our family.

    But at Mom’s funeral, the whole family on her side got together and–surprise!–I found out they considered my immediate family “weird” because we were the religious type. They thought religion was nonsense and avoided us. That day I might have lost Mom, but I gained my whole family.

  64. Steve LaBonne says

    I did not and never would have have married, and now that I’m divorced will not date, anyone who is religious in more than a very vague way. It’s like smoking to me- something I’m just not willing to deal with.

  65. Poison P'il says

    Thanks, to marc and g, for the tips. I’m pretty sure (being all growed up and all) that I can winnow out any “kook” statements from the more centered ones at the talk.origins resources… Now I’m off to take another look at time dilation and the Big Bang (the mathematician in me likes to study functions and models when they are stretched to the breaking-point)…


    “The god an atheist does not believe in is usually not the God of the Bible. Unfortunately, the god of the “believer” is also often not the God of the Bible.” — Schroeder

  66. speedwell says

    “The god an atheist does not believe in is usually not the God of the Bible. Unfortunately, the god of the “believer” is also often not the God of the Bible.” — Schroeder

    Ironically, the God of the Bible is not the God of the Bible, either. That is, the God of some parts of the Bible is not the God of the other parts of the Bible.

  67. says

    PZ: If your analysis is right, then I’m very lucky. My wife spends as much time defending my atheism as I do; she goes to church, I stay home and watch TV, except for a couple of times a year. Since we’ve been married, she’s modified her position on evolution to “fossils are created by the devil to mislead us” to “God used evolution to create the world”. She’s never tried to convert me, though she has said (more than once) that she hopes I’ll convert.

    We have a child on the way, and have conspicuously avoided discussing what part religion will play in its upbringing. I don’t think either of us are looking forward to that conversation. Though I have managed to convince her that the baby’s room should be decorated with dinosaurs…

  68. says

    In my defense, the main reason for me going to church (originally) was because my wife sucks at navigating and needed me to drive her, though now it’s more entrenched. Now I rebel by making sure we’re 20 minutes late, then I often go to the bathroom and miss another 5 minutes. Frankly, it’s better than listening to the pastor talk about faith healing or some other woo.

    For raising kids, truth wins on an even playing field. While you can’t outright tell your kids that religion is wrong (you will likely be murdered by your spouse), expose your children to science, history, and different cultures as much as possible, and hopefully they’ll figure it out on their own.

  69. says

    Numad: Greetings, fellow Quebecer! I’ve noticed that at least in Montreal the CC is feeling not too propped up at present. Have you seen the advertising they’ve put up, explaining to people what “hostie” and the like really means?

    Poison P’il: Let me share the recommendations of the others for the talk.origins archive. (I’m not a biologist either and have learned from it greatly.) You’ll get a lot of evolution stuff here too, just less systematically and interspersed with other matters.

    Ethyl: Both homosexuality and lack of religousity are discriminated against, so it is not surprising that people hide them both and don’t know how to deal with the social pressures.

    Ed Darrell: Good that you should mention Twain – for you Americans (or indeed anyone), wondering what to do about your unbelief, here is a fine role model! Though, I wish he weren’t such a cynic sometimes. (Some of it is needed, I think.)

    Steve LaBonne: That’s another issue. How do you deal with smokers? I sometimes half wish I was allergic, then I actually have more of an excuse to tell people to refrain. Fortunately one of my dear friends who does smoke has sworn up and down she will never smoke in my presence … I guess I just deal with this as part of my general intellectual evaluation of someone.

  70. Carlie says

    As one of the many “coming out sucks” stories, thanks to everyone who offered support for it. I had never thought of it as being parallel to coming out gay, but I guess there are a few surface similarities, with the added bonus that the fear of “catching atheism” really is a threat, unlike the common response-to-the-announcement fear of “catching gay”.

    I’ve been reading all of the responses trying to think of something constructive to contribute, but I just can’t. It’s all too sad and depressing.

  71. quork says

    (2.) Are there other sites that you-all would consider good fonts of evolutionary thought (I’m setting aside the obvious sources such as Gould, please; I’ve got his stuff)?

    The Panda’s Thumb is excellent, you’ll notice that PZ cross-posts there. It’s a group blog, with other people-cross-posting as well, so you can follow the links and accumulate an excellent bookmarks file.

  72. Marina says

    Funny, I grew up in Soviet Russia. And, of course, Atheism was an official ‘religion’ back then. It was very shameful and actually dangerous to admit faith or church attendance. Not many opportinities for church attendance anyway.

    Now I’m here and it’s all upside down. Crazy.

    I’m sure atheism will spread though. In a 100 years or so there will be more of us. European countries came to that and America will come in time.

  73. thwaite says

    Poison P’il,
    Never overlook the obvious: the en.wikipedia (online encyclopedia) has pretty good and very convenient articles covering most aspects of evolutionary biology – follow the links from that overview page.

    Also of interest for more didactic presentations: the home pages of the American Museum of Natural History and the British Museum; evolution.berkeley.edu; and television’s pbs.org/evolution has good videos, natch.

  74. says

    I’ll add my voice to wintermute’s. My Christian wife is entirely understanding about my (recently deconverted) atheism; she isn’t trying to convert me or put the fear of hell into me. We too have a child on the way, and we’ve had at least some of the necessary Conversation, and it doesn’t seem to be too unpleasant so far. I’m sure there are “mixed” couples where one partner does all the accommodation, but I’ve not seen anything yet to indicate that it’s always the godless heathen atheistical partner who accommodates. But then, I’m in the relatively tolerant and skeptical-minded UK; I expect things are on average somewhat different in the US.

    I’m inclined to agree with King Aardvark about children, by the way. No need for either partner to go saying the other’s position is insane; just be honest with the child. Both partners should then expect the truth to win out :-).

  75. Numad says

    “Numad: Greetings, fellow Quebecer! I’ve noticed that at least in Montreal the CC is feeling not too propped up at present. Have you seen the advertising they’ve put up, explaining to people what “hostie” and the like really means?”

    I haven’t, but I’m not surprised that the CC is aware that its base of support in Quebec is mostly illusory. What does surprise me is that they’d leave the cover of the “every baptized person in Quebec is religious” notion far enough behind to advertise like this.

    Is this recent enough to fit the whole “new evangelization” pattern?

  76. DrShawn says


    This thread is great for me, and I’m sure so many others agree. I too appreciate the similarities between religional and orientational “coming out”, and I’ve had some great discussions on this with the few friends that I’ve trusted enough to reveal my atheism to.

    From some of the comments above, it is clear that many of you have never known what it was like to be raised from day one with the fear of hell and satan hanging over you. For ten years (K-9) I was placed in a Southern Baptist private school. Everything to the faculty and pastors was evil. If it had to do with secular society, rock music, or Darwin, I was not allowed to associate (or be caught associating) with these things. Paddling (that is spanking or physical punishment with a “paddle”) was the norm and each teacher had his or her own paddle design of choice. On a daily basis I don’t know what I was more afraid of, going to hell for eternity or getting beat on the ass with a duct-tape-covered Crickett bat. Needless to say that all our “science” books were produced by the Bob Jones Univ. press which espoused the round-earth, young earth, and six (24 hour) days of creation by god. Don’t forget, Darwin was the devil!

    Looking back I am surprised that I have escaped that life to become the scientist and humanist that I am today.

    Poison P’il: go to wikipedia’s Secular Humanism page, and at the bottom is a list of famous espousers that should help you add to the list (Asimov, E.O. Wilson, Bertrand Russel, Sagan, etc.).

    PZ, I’m dying to send you a copy of one our supplementary texts that I still have from those days it is a softback booklet entitled “Science and the Bible” three articles by Lee Grady. Let me know if it would be okay to send you a copy.

  77. says

    This thread consists of pure insanity, I tell you. Since in the future I hope to be employed anywhere, Christian institution or no, I won’t indicate which direction I think the wind blows … but if someone could offer some advice on how to sell them on, say, this dissertation chapter, I’d appreciate it. I can’t shake the feeling the gig’ll be up before I walk in the door …

  78. Carlie says

    Wow. Now that I’m up in the librul northeast I forget how easy it is to be out-Baptisted by someone, but damn. That’s harsh. A friend I grew up in the church with and I were talking about our (relatively) newfound perspectives on the lot, and realized a lot of it really was mental abuse of minors. At least we had the “escape” of public school to even it out a little. I’m really impressed that you got out of that heavy of indoctrination.

  79. DrShawn says


    Thanks for the words. Even I forget out here in Colorado that I actually came from that (it was in central Florida where I grew up). Unfortunately, it has only been recently that I came out of denial about how abusive and f’ed up my past was, and now I’m in a turmoil. See, now I realize that what my Mom put me through growing up (every morning started with James Dobson’s radio show) actually constitutes abuse. So I feel a pull for my own sanity to confront her on this, but in confronting her, I would be (at least to her) partially admitting my “un-pardonable” sin of turning my back on god.

    It is a tough spot to be in, but for now, I’ll go on and only have myself to acknowledge the horrible abuses I witnessed, done in the name of Jesus at that school (and at home). It may be getting time to write a book, cause boy do I have some stories that would make your head explode.

  80. Carlie says

    DrShawn – it is difficult. The friend I mentioned was in counseling for quite awhile and finally figured out that she was screwed up more by her hyperreligious mother than by her alcoholic abusive father. I didn’t have nearly as bad an experience as she or you did, but I was able to let go of a lot of it when I decided that my parents really didn’t know any better, either. They did the best job they could, having been brainwashed themselves. The hardest part is realizing how much gets ingrained that you don’t even realize. I had felt like I was “over” religion for a long time before noticing that I still had a lot of the thought patterns.

    Colorado, though – isn’t that the home of Dobson and his consortium? Kind of a frying pan/fire environment.

    You should write a book. Someone needs to do an expose on what fundamentalism can do to a person.

  81. Carlie says

    Slightly different, but has anyone else read “Running from the Devil” by Steve Kissing? Great book. Boy grows up in the early 70s, develops epilepsy, thinks he’s possessed by Satan and becomes super-religious-guy to try and get rid of it, without telling anyone. Even when he was finally diagnosed, he didn’t believe it, and was convinced Satan had his number. He’s got a really interesting take on religion. I used it in an STS class (science/technology/society) as a counterpoint to “The spirit catches you and you fall down”.