Friday, November 2, 2012

On being an atheist

When I started this blog about a year ago, I was trying to still balance myself between the atheist and Lutheran labels (hence the name of the blog). I didn't believe in Christianity any longer, but I still felt some attachment to the church I'd been involved with for years, and felt that I should probably expose my children to religious education to a certain degree. I no longer feel that way. I don't go to church or take communion, and my children know how I feel (and they don't express any longing for church, either). We talk about religion, but my children are picking up my anti-religious bias, which is perhaps unavoidable.

What about my family? Well, the interesting thing is that when we moved here three years ago, it was taken for granted that we would go to the family church, where everyone else goes. But I was too ill for a long time to attend regularly, and when I felt better, I realized no one else in the family was going, either. They don't even go for Christmas Eve services, which was the family tradition for a long time, and no one talks about religion any more. As far as I know, they're all still believers-- but far from devoted ones. I suspect my husband's death undermined their belief, too. Under the circumstances, I really don't feel a need to explain myself to them. That old saying about letting those without sin cast the first stone seems to apply here. If they ask, I'll tell them, but since two of my children have not been through confirmation classes, it seems that they surely must suspect at this point. Perhaps they really don't want to know for sure.

I do sometimes consider the path that led to my deconversion. My husband's death was a major factor, certainly, exacerbated by my pastor's feeble efforts to explain that the evil in the world, and by extension his untimely death, was due to original sin (which made no sense, as no Lutheran I know believes in the literal truth of the Garden of Eden story). My daughter's intelligent and skeptical questions forced me to look at what I believed, and to find it lacking in logic. My long illness kept me away from church and gave me time to reflect, without having religion shoved down my throat every week.

But perhaps the most important factor was that we moved, which led to switching churches. I admit that I loved my old church. We had a lot of friends there, who supported us through my husband's illness, and I greatly enjoyed singing in the choir. (I am a solid but not spectacular alto, with a voice that sounds better in a chorus than as a solo.) We never attended the new church enough to feel that we belonged there, and I never got involved with the choir due to my illness. I wonder if it would have been as easy to walk away if we still attended our old church. I worry that I would still be nurturing strong doubts, but perhaps pushing them down into my subconscious, just so I could continue with the fun of singing every week. In short, I worry that under other circumstances, I would be a hypocrite.

Then again, maybe I'm not giving myself enough credit. Maybe eventually I would have walked away from our old church, too. I like to think that's the case, anyway.

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