Followup on “The Post”

Fifteen months ago, I published “The Post”. I feel comfortable calling it that, because to this day people come up to me at events and want to talk to me about “The Post”. I know what they’re talking about, and they know I know what they’re talking about.

“Why I am an atheist and a naturalist” is by far the longest thing I’ve ever written in my life. It took me 30 days to write it. It was also a huge emotional leap for me. Not only was I putting my personal journey from faith to skepticism out there for the whole world to read, I was also dealing with my own thoughts about my upbringing and my struggles with religion in a very intimate way. Sometimes it takes writing about an experience to realize how you truly feel about it.

My expectations for the post were modest. I thought a few friends would read it, and that most would see its prohibitive length and skip on by. I was overwhelmed with the response by its tens of thousands of readers. I made the decision not to open comments on the post, and I’m really glad I did that. People from all over the world wrote emails to me. Dozens upon dozens of emails. Some pithy, but most quite substantial. The people varied: some were fellow out-and-proud atheists, some were still keeping it private, some weren’t sure what they believed, and some were still fervent believers. They were as young as their teens, and as old as 70. But the one thing that was constant was that they were all supportive. Not a single person told me I was going to burn in hell for renouncing God. No one told me I was a bad person for doubting.

We’re conditioned, especially Americans, to treat the continuum of skepticism and faith as a private topic. This artificial public reticence can have serious consequences. The most heartbreaking responses I got were from people who were questioning their faith or had lost their faith, but who couldn’t tell anyone… because they were depending on their parents to put them through school, or because they were afraid their spouse would leave them, or because they feared being shunned at work, or in their local community. This can’t stand. It’s often said that being religious just requires faith. What is gained by pressuring the unfaithful into lying to themselves and to others about what they believe? That’s not faith — that’s fear. This cannot stand. Social pressure doesn’t make believers out of skeptics, it just tortures them with the pain of living a lie. It makes them feel like they have to choose between their loved ones and their own integrity.

Don’t put people in that situation. Don’t make your love or respect for someone conditional on something they can’t change.

And if you’re having doubts, express them. People may surprise you, and you won’t believe how light you’ll feel, unburdened by the contradiction.

Comments

  1. says

    It’s mostly the fear of being shunned by the local public for me here. There are people increasingly renouncing GOD in every corner of the world. Recently in my town people are harassed literally in the name of GOD. There are few people who wants to use the name of GOD for being in power and instil fear in other people. I’m glad to read your post

  2. says

    Imagine my surprise as I’m cleaning up some bookmarks and I run across another post. Not The Post, but quite good as well. I’m glad to know that you had such a positive reaction to it. As I told you before it was quite instrumental to me in shedding the last vestiges of my agnosticism and moving to full fledged atheism. I check back quite often to see if there are any new posts because you so eloquently covered The Post so well. I’m glad there was one tonight. :)

  3. says

    I was hunting for WP Stack and found this. Fair trade. :) As a fervent believer I agree that keeping silent about doubts is a terrible idea. A believer that tells you he or she never has doubts is either lying or disturbed. Paul told us to work out our salvation, and I don’t think he meant gain it through labor, but rather figure it out and understand it.

    As a believer I think you can see where I’d like that struggle to end, but keeping silent about the struggle is counter productive to either direction.

    While I hope you come back someday, I find your posts and tweets to be thought provoking, entertaining and enlightening. Thanks. :)

    I found WP Stack. :)

  4. Philip O. Bartolome says

    Hi, Im was a devout christian, a theology graduate and had been a pastor in baptist churches here in the Philippines. But I left church and christian fellowship 8 yrs ago due to huge discouragement on the god I once held dear and the way churches and its leaders operate. Frankly, I know what I believe and can even defend most of them, and also explain rational ways of interpreting the various literary genres of the bible which other sects failed to do so that leads them to believe what they believe. I didnt only know my beliefs, I felt them, live in them, accept them as totally the only truth in this entire universe. Only recently (though ive not been in church for years), my faith in christian god’s existence greatly wavered and I begin to question if such god do really exist. Plus the thought of a just and loving god tormenting billions of people in hell is just really troublesome and inconsistent with the justice that even a simple mind could comprehend. Im 99.9 percent of abandoning this god idea. As a previous baptist, we strongly believe in “once saved (through genuine faith alone), forever saved”. I wonder how could I be forever saved when I no longer have faith. That doesnt matter now anyway-no such thing as heaven or hell! But even I are surprised by my own self, I never thought a man of strong faith such as myself, would someday be faithless. I said 99.9 percent, because till now, Im still waiting for the sign: “if you do exist, please talk to me or reveal yourself to me somehow, just like you revealed yourself to Apostle Paul, perhaps”…. Anyway, Im happy to have read your blogs, trully im not alone in this struggle. I can have life, I can have purpose, I can have meaning and happiness without this god.

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