04 February 2008

A Bright Atheiversary

What with Grandpop's funeral and all, I completely forgot to make note of a certain date. On January 7, 2007, I first officially came out to the world as an atheist on my old blog.

That isn't the date that I stopped believing in God, mind you, but rather the date that I stopped pretending that theism was still a viable option. I can't really name a specific moment when I stopped believing, but I (like Ben) am working on documenting the numerous factors that contributed to my eventual atheism (you'll find a few hints below), so keep an eye open for that.

The occasion of my (belated) atheiversary is as good a time as any to address the matter of The Brights. The day I came out, I also registered as a Bright. It was important to me, as a fledging apostate, that I be able to define my position clearly; naturally, I found a certain appeal in a group based solely on having a clear, concise definition of their worldview. I don't think I ever really bothered much with the term "bright" after that, and certainly after a year I'm pretty well-versed in bandying about the word "atheist" without fear. But having that handhold was important to me for those first few days.

I no longer particularly support The Brights' movement. Whatever you think of the choice of "bright" as a moniker, relabeling ourselves will not make people stop hating us; I feel we need to take a stand and find unity in the terms we already have. That said, I think the Brights have done an excellent job of giving new members an essential tool for affirming their identity by stating their definition clearly and repeatedly. And if that helps some new atheists (not to be confused with New Atheists(TM)) come out, then more power to them, I guess.

Anyway. Here, for posterity, is what I wrote just over a year ago. I hesitate to post it; I wasn't happy with how it came out then, and I'm even less happy with it now. :-P I don't know that I could have done a worse job of coming out... unless, of course, I hadn't come out and all. And that's why I am reposting it here: as a reminder that, even if I'm not always eloquent about it, I'm an atheist, and I'm not afraid to admit it.

Here's to a full year of godlessness, with many more to come!
In Which I Come Out as an Atheist
(7 Jan 2007)

The God Delusion is a fantastic book. Of course, I'd be inclined to say so, since it's precisely what I've been waiting for these past few months.

I can say with confidence now (and feel it is my duty to say) that I am an atheist.

I highly recommend that you read The God Delusion for yourselves. If you've been on the fence about your beliefs, it might help you sort out the different arguments. Even if you have no intention of abandoning your faith, at least you'll know where I'm coming from. Plus, it's an entertaining read; you've got to appreciate a scientist with a sense of humour.

To be fair, Dawkins did not convert me. I had already abandoned religion some time ago, after a thorough investigation of Intelligent Design and an increasing frustration with American Christian fundamentalism. The God Delusion contains much of what I had already known, but organized, clarified, and augmented with details, thus giving me the ability (and courage) to clearly express my worldview.

Last night I registered as a Bright with The-Brights.net. A Bright is "a person who has a naturalistic worldview (free of supernatural or mystical elements)." Brights include atheists, agnostics, secularists, humanists, rationalists, and a multitude of other labels. Please give the site a look; you might very well be a Bright, and not even know it. Or maybe you know you're a Bright, but are afraid to admit it.

This is a hard post to write (I may never be happy with how it comes across, but I must publish it nonetheless). The way things stand today, as a declared atheist, I can pretty much kiss any hopes of running for political office goodbye. I'd have a better shot if I were Christian and openly gay. But that's precisely why I need to come out of my closet. I need to help turn public opinion around. By the most conservative estimates, atheists, agnostics, and those with no religious preference outnumber every religious affiliation in America save Christians, yet we suffer the most political discrimination. Maybe by the time I'm old enough to be president, we'll have changed the public stigma against atheism.

And so I say freely: I am an atheist. I am a Bright. If you are as well, then I encourage you to share the fact. The first step to achieving acceptance is to show the world that we are not ashamed.


1 comment:

joel said...

I think it came out very well, Aaron, and as you say it was good that it came out at all.

I also congratulate you on recognizing reality at a young age--it took me about 30 years longer!