While Iâm not exactly a convert, Iâve undergone a conversion of a milder but no less substantial kind. I have a feeling more than a few people can identify with it.
I wasnât really raised with any religion. When I was boy, my family lived next to a Methodist minister. When he asked my parents if my sister and I would like to attend their church, my parents said it was our choice. (Extra points for my parents.) We said yes and went for a while, but it didnât take.
I went through the rest of my life up until about 3 years ago with some very vague, non-committal ideas about God and His existence. Although I know this is Richard Dawkinsâ website, it was in fact Sam Harrisâ The End of Faith that got me off the fence.
By fence I mean this: While I knew there was a word for the feelings I was having (atheist), I never felt like it was okay to say it. One of religionâs most used tools is shame. They use it inside their belief systems, but they also use it to defend from the outside. Theyâve contrived to associate the word âatheistâ with shame. I feel this is where Richard, Sam (although he prefers not to use the word), Daniel, Christopher and many others have done their most important work. Their books have given those of us who have been on the fence simply because it seemed to be safer socially can now come out of hiding. As Bill Maher once said, our growing numbers are enough for people to âstop acting like we are the crazy ones.â
Iâm a college professor in a very conservative city in the western United States. I teach theatre, and in a theatre history class we have to talk about religion and its relationship to art. Recently, when one of my more astute students picked up on my subtext in a lecture/discussion, she asked what religion I was. I said atheist and I was not afraid.