Adventures in Atheism: Absens Communitatis


(Cross-posted from my Google+ account.)

I suspect everyone knows this already, but I’m an atheist.  What does that mean?  I don’t believe God or Allah or whatever other deity others subscribe to.  That’s pretty much it.  I’m not interesting in preaching about why atheism is the RIGHTEST WAY EVAR or how you should subscribe to my version of morality or why believing in God is just super dumb.  To be honest, I just don’t care.  If you believe in God and it works for you, then have at it.  Please.  Worship God.  Go about your business.  Do the religious thing.  Just leave me alone with it.  Don’t make laws based solely on your religious tenets and don’t look at me like I’m some heathen who will eat your children’s souls just because I don’t subscribe to your version of a particular religion.  That’s pretty much my opinion on religion in public life:  there shouldn’t be one.

But that’s a much larger discussion.  What bothers me about being an atheist is the lack of community.  When I say that, I’m fully aware that communities exist, but in my experience, those communities are part of the side of atheism that, well, I just don’t want to engage in.  My lack of
faith is mine.  I’m not interested in wandering around talking about the problems with religion or bitching and moaning about this thing or that thing when it comes to atheism, or even talking about my atheism with other atheists.  I only bring it up when I feel I need to.  A lot of the atheist (or atheist-friendly) communities I have tried to be a part of have followed that line of thinking as a dominant mode.

Yet when you look at some of my religious friends, they have a network of people to rely on.  People who have their back at all times.  People who become part of an extended family (not all religious people are like this mind you, and sometimes this “extended family” ideology is lip service, not reality).  I don’t have that.  I don’t have home group.  I don’t have a close-knit group of like-minded individuals each standing up for one another, pushing each other to succeed, and so on.  Sometimes I wish I did, but to have that right now, I’d have to give up something more:  my values.  Because it would require me to sacrifice 50% of what I believe to become part of a community I don’t agree with — not because they believe in God, but because they believe in a version of God that inspires me to fear, not to love.  It would be a community that would require me to condemn my mother, if not explicitly, then implicitly, and to reject LGBT rights, social democracy, and equitable distribution of wealth as a relationship to labor (i.e., that someone performing a service we all use shouldn’t have to worry about starving or taking care of their children), and so on and so forth.

And that’s just not something I can do.  I have the values I have because I’ve spent a decade thinking about them (as part of my near-decade-long-journey to atheism).  I didn’t take them from a book or let someone make up my mind for me.  I didn’t accept the status quo because that’s just they way it is.  I had to think really hard about each and every thing that I believe in (and still do) to come to conclusions based on a secular criteria (one might call it a humanist criteria, but that’s a word with a lot of different meanings — basically, if I am for something, it is because the benefits to society are greater than if I am against it.).

I won’t pretend that I have it all figured it.  I think life is supposed to be about constantly interrogating yourself to become a better person over time.  Life has meaning, even if that meaning isn’t attached to heaven or some kind of communion with a deity.

Anywho.  I’m rambling and complaining.  Time to get back to all the work I’ve got to do…

About the Author:

Shaun Duke is an aspiring writer, a reviewer, and an academic. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Digital Rhetoric and Writing at Bemidji State University. He received his PhD in English from the University of Florida and studies science fiction, postcolonialism, digital fan cultures, and digital rhetoric.

3 thoughts on “Adventures in Atheism: Absens Communitatis

  1. I assume that if you don't have a religious community, you can always build some other community of friends or people with similar interests. Start out by tricking them into joining an origami club, then start inviting them over to dinner, then board game them into the early morning. I guess it's harder work than automatically bonding on matters of faith, but how else do you get by?

    By relying on your internet friends?

    Oh. Wait.

  2. I'm not sure I have the same connections I did with my Internet friends as I once did. Part of this, I think, has to do with the fact that I'm simply getting older, and the folks I used to talk with all the time (on YWO, for example) have moved on or formed little cliques (in my mind, anyway).

    As for real life: You could probably blame my antisocial nature and my obsession with politics for an inability to connect. I don't have many close friends in Gainesville (a handful), and of those friends, most have their own universes, or we're not on that kind of communal level.

    Origami club? Ha. Riiiiiight. You forget, I'm like a friggin hillbilly now…

  3. I am too preoccupied with my real life to post on YWO, though I never really was a good fit there anyway. And who knew the passing years would turn me into an old man?

    The reasons you are describing are the reasons I ascribe to my own religious philosophy, which I describe as "ritualism," where I reject the goal of my religion (salvation/having a relationship wit God), but accept the means (good works and the church community). In other words, I'm in support of organized religion and against spirituality (where as man people are the other way around). To be honest though I'm kind of a lapsed ritualist, because I haven't been to church in a while…

    Unfortunately, my sham of a lifestyle is not for everyone, but there actually are liberal religious communities that do fulfill the role, such as Unitarian Universalism, which places focus on humankind's search for meaning without being preoccupied with what that meaning is. From what I've read it's an ecumenical, pluralistic, spiritual religion that attracts nondenominational Christians, atheists, agnostics, pagans, deists, monotheists, polytheists, and pantheists, without concerning itself with theology and differences is dogma, doctrine, or creed. Maybe a community like this is something you can look for?


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