2007-05-05

Religion and My Life

Although I live within the “Bible Belt” of the most religious first-world nation on the planet, I have realized that religion only very rarely affects my daily life. If it were not for my sustained interest in freethought websites, podcasts, organizations and books, then the topic of religion would hardly ever arise in a typical day.

My immediate and much of my extended family are practicing Catholics, but they seldom discuss religion at all and really never with me. My friends rarely raise the topic. My co-workers have almost always remained professional and not spoken about it. I see religious programming on television, but I just keep flipping through the channels. I drive by plenty of churches, but they're no different from all the stores I never visit. I spend money without ever looking at In God We Trust, not even encountering it at all most of the time since I use my debit card for almost all transactions. It's been ten years since I've been asked to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and say that this is one nation under God. I've only ever had one religious proselytizer come to my door, and although he was very annoying, the encounter was fairly brief and has not happened again.

In light of this, perhaps some readers will wonder why I am interested enough in the topic of religion to write this blog. There are several reasons:

First, religion is a fascinating concept. It addresses the questions of where we come from, where we are going, and how we should lead our lives here and now. I believe the answers that religions provide are almost always dead wrong, but they are interesting nonetheless.

Second, religion is the principal virus of irrationality in our world, affecting the majority of people around the globe and in my own country. This irrationality often leads to poor decisions, injustice and misery and I hope that writing against it will contribute, even if in only small way, to a better world.

Third, religion made my life absolutely miserable for several years before my deconversion. It was primarily through internet resources that I was able to break free from my old beliefs and I hope that other doubters will benefit from my own thoughts.

Fourth, religion still affects my life sometimes, especially in the area of dating. Many people refuse, or are at least reluctant, to date an atheist even if they themselves are otherwise essentially apathetic toward religion. I certainly don't expect my blog to change this situation in even the slightest, but it generates additional antagonism in me toward religion, motivating me to write. Dating is difficult enough without having to worry about irrational beliefs in invisible beings. Religion also still affects my life by affecting politics.

Fifth, religion is a topic that I feel that I understand fairly well and can discuss intelligently at length. It's something of a compromise for me between philosophy, which is too abstract, and politics, which is too concrete, both of which interest me to a certain degree but neither of which I really feel qualified to address. I simply enjoy writing and I have more to say about religion than about any other topic.

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2 comments:

vjack said...

Interesting post. As another bible belt atheist, I'm surprised to hear that you don't experience religion as having much of an impact on your daily life. I don't typically go around broadcasting my atheism or anything like that, but I still feel affected by religion on a daily basis. There are visual cues for it everywhere, and I do not seem to be able to escape it in conversation.

I wonder if some of the difference has to do with Jacksonville, FL, being much larger a population center than where I live.

Secular Planet said...

Visual clues are indeed everywhere here, too, but they don't really affect me much. There are Jesus fish on many, many cars and more recently there are lots of bright yellow bumper stickers with the words "I Believe" and a eucharistic monstrance. I asked my sister whether they've been selling them at church, but she said no, so I don't even know where they're coming from.

As far as conversation goes, it might just be that I personally luck out in people not talking to me about religion. My experience doesn't seem to match that of other local atheists that I encounter.