9.22.2011

Ask A Humanist: Reflections On Leaving Faith In The Bible Belt

"Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism and other supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity." - American Humanist Association


Since March of 2011, I have been writing and posting periodic missives about my long, slow departure from religion. I believe I left it long ago, but it wasn't until the last several years that I became comfortable with speaking openly about this aspect of my life.

Partly, this series has been a way to address many of the questions I've been asked by people here in the Bible Belt, where so many people assume everyone else belongs to a church congregation.

I also wrote many of these posts because, although there is no shortage of books about non-belief, there are not many which address the real-life impacts that leaving religion can have -- on our families, our neighbors, our children, and our emotions.

This page collects parts 1-6 of an ongoing, meandering stream of undefined scope, and will be updated as new posts are written.




Vol. 1: What Happened To Make You Angry At God?
As someone who is not religious, I often struggle with how to describe my lack of religion. I have returned to The Bible Belt after being away for a decade, and it is not uncommon to be asked, "Where do you go to church?" In this region, stating "We don't attend church" is often interpreted as "We haven't been invited to church yet," and more inquiries about your brand of faith are likely to ensue. I'm not keen on labels, especially to describe my lack of participation in something ("non-stamp collector" comes to mind). But people like to put a label on things (and people). For lack of a better term, and because the shoe seems to fit, I will often refer to myself as a Secular Humanist. Continue Reading...




Vol. 2: Aren't You Denying Your Children the Opportunity to be Religious?
Many people who were brought up in a major denomination are no longer affiliated with that denomination. Secularity is growing in all regions of the country. These people are otherwise normal people, and like religious folks, they are creating families. When their children reach the age where they start to be introduced to religious ideas, parents have to make some choices, and that presents some challenges and is a source of anxiety to many. Continue Reading...







Vol. 3: What About Death?
Human beings are both blessed and cursed in that we evolved the cruel awareness of our own mortality. We are cursed in that this awareness, combined with our fierce instinct of self-preservation, is the source of a great deal of fear and anxiety. Yet we are blessed in that we can truly understand the great fortune we have been afforded by our very existence. This awareness also allows us to truly understand the value of each day we are alive. Continue reading...







Vol. 4: Isn't Humanism a Faith?
If one follows a particular code, and aligns oneself with a philosophy that has a Web presence, a Wikipedia entry, and a presence in the public sphere, then isn't that just like any other faith or religion? That's a perfectly fair question. Continue reading...





Vol. 5: Why Do You Care What People Believe?
They used to say, "Never talk about politics or religion," but for some reason, those are the two things that fascinate me most. Religion and politics are hopelessly intertwined in America, and each informs so much of American culture, that it's difficult to get too far in a conversation before we're off and running down a path that might have been avoided in more refined times. There are times, if I voice frustration with a particular religious belief, when someone will ask, "Why do you care what people believe?" or any number of variations: "What happened to live and let live?" or "Can't you just be happy that people find comfort in their beliefs?" Continue reading...




Vol. 6: Isn't It Sad To Live Without Faith?
Many find it inconceivable that someone could find happiness without God and everything that accompanies belief in God: the promise of eternal life, the assurance that events in our lives are occurring in accordance with God's plan, and the feeling that an all-knowing, loving entity is looking over us and protecting us. Certainly, they think, without these assurances, life would be joyless, meaningless, and cold. Much of these insinuations are due to misunderstandings about the nature of non-belief. Continue reading...




Vol. 7: Isn't It Hypocritical For A Non-Believer To Celebrate Christmas?
As a non-believer, I've heard many a wisecrack from my Christian friends as the holidays approach. They're all in good fun. There are good ones about decorating the 'Darwin tree,' singing science carols, or toys being delivered by Sagan Claus. While these are just friendly jabs between friends, they say a lot about society's attitudes on religious rituals, customs, and appropriation. Continue reading...





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