Resolved: No More God Pretending

As a gay atheist (gaytheist?), I’ve made my share of compromises in life. Just to get through the day-to-day, you know. It’s simply easier for me to play a game or portray a desire I don’t feel or pretend a holy devotion over a meal or during a wedding, bowing my head and lip-synching to Biblical passages and even softly saying an “Amen” at the end of a prayer to a God or Savior I don’t believe exists.

I’ve been able to stop pretending to heterosexual desires over the last few years. When I’m not in San Francisco or among friends, I still have to remind myself that even looking too closely at a man I might find attractive could result in physical harm, though the chances of that actually happening are very much diminished now that I favor travel to major cities rather than rural townships where cosmopolitan (modern) thinking isn’t widely practiced. I’m not about to start prancing around in heels and a wig and screaming for equal rights, and not because I think there’s anything wrong with that but because heels are extremely uncomfortable and I have no need of a wig — frankly, I have too much hair as it is.

But the other part of my life that sometimes requires disguising, the part where I try to “fit in” with Christians, mostly, but also the occasional Jew or Muslim or Hindu — though I must admit that the latter mingling usually only involves eating regional foods rather than finding myself at prayer with them — the part where I bow my head in prayer and all that? I’m done with it. I’m done pretending. I’m out of the closet.

I am openly atheist.

The coming Christmas season, a recent article about a lawsuit to remove a statement about God’s help in a plaque regarding Kentucky’s homeland security, my experiences at a friend’s wedding in which the Baptist minister inserted several Jesuses into their vows without provocation (or permission) and a certain dissatisfaction with the Mormon church’s undo influence over my personal liberties has me at the right place at the right time. Friends, I will no longer bow my head for anything other than a glance to see if my shoelaces are untied, or to step around the frequent piles of feces left by our many homeless pals and/or the dogs of lazy, rude people. I am done being polite. No more Mr. Christ-guy for me.

Now, I frequently read or hear things like the following, which was left as a comment regarding the above referenced Kentucky Godlike homeland article, copied here without permission or correction:

As a Christian I’m very offended by the atheists attempt to tear God from the fabric of American society, by their condescending remarks and implications that anyone who believes in God is intelligently inferior to them, and I’m especially offended by the way they talk about the Lord God that I love and worship…I’ve never understood why those who don’t even believe there is a God are so uptight about the mention of one. Why don’t they just laugh, (to themselves), and shake their heads at the millions of “fools” who believe in God and go on. Since they equate God with Santa, the Easter Bunny, cartoon heroes, and other imaginery characters they must be very busy making objections all the time in many different arenas. Atheists don’t get that those of us who are committed to our faith and/or religion can’t compartmentalize when and where we’ll live, walk and talk what we believe. They do however understand their unwavering commitment to their cause which they live, walk and talk wherever they go. They want me to lay off of my stand for what I believe but, if they really want equality they will have to do the same.

First of all, Santa is imaginary? I’m shocked and a little saddened about that. The Easter Bunny is of course imaginary. Bunnies don’t lay eggs! It’s an Easter Chicken! God, however, is totally fake. A man in the sky looking down on the Earth and judging everything we do? I think you’re confusing God with the TV traffic helicopter.

Sorry. I was laughing (to myself) and got carried away.

As it is so often pointed out to me, Atheists, lacking any moral compass whatsoever with which to navigate life’s little trials, have no right to judge or make fun of any other religion. Which is absolutely wrong, of course. We have every right to judge or make fun of anything we damn well please, as does anyone else regardless of their religious orientation.

Rather, what would please us most would be if everyone could all go shut up about whatever it is they believe in and go practice it in their homes and houses of worship.

And leave it there.

Just as you may believe we are openly mocking you and feeling intellectually superior, we believe you are openly ignoring us and feeling morally superior. In truth, neither is actually the case. A belief system or religion has almost nothing to do with intelligence. The belief or non-belief in a god or gods is simply an opinion. There is no proof one way or the other. Can you prove there is a God? Can I disprove it? Does lack of proof mean the absence of a god in the way things work?
My answer to all of those questions is No. But I believe that there is no god above us. Jesus was not a supernatural being. He did not come back to life after crucification. Belief in him is not a requirement to get into heaven, because there is no heaven or hell. No angels. Nothing after death but death. Born from nothing, die back to nothing.

My atheism does not mean that I have no moral compass. I simply don’t need a book to tell me how to live my life. I agree with many of its precepts, but I do not believe in its essential ones regarding unquestioning faith in an unseen supernatural being and His control over all things, blind obedience to a church, or anything that requires me to simply accept things without proof of their reality. In short, I have no faith.

Like explaining homosexuality to a homophobe, explaining atheism to a Christian is a nearly impossible task. Believe me, I’ve tried. I actually enjoy discussions about religion and faith and belief, because most of my friends understand that religion (unlike sexuality) is a choice. No one is born Christian. You may be raised Christian, or become Christian, or accept Christianity. Jews, I believe, accept that they are born Jewish, as long as their mother was Jewish, too. However, you may also convert to Judaism. You can’t convert to homosexuality, though some believe (wrongly) that you can convert to heterosexuality, but that’s really called “lying to yourself.”

But comparing religion and sexuality is bound to end wrongly, so let me bring this all back to my central point and simply state that if you see me at a wedding or a graduation or a commencement ceremony and someone asks me to bow my head for a prayer and I resolutely do not, you’ll know why. I’m not intending to protest anything. I’m not being stubbornly obstinate. I’m not making fun of anything, and I’m not behaving in an inappropriate manner.

I am simply refusing to lie anymore. Pray for me.

Not that it’ll matter in the least.

December 3, 2008

8 responses to Resolved: No More God Pretending

  1. alison said:

    This post really hit home for me with regard to some things I’m going through at work. As an atheist myself, I’m finding it difficult to deal with some of the religious displays that take place in my office (and I work for the state).
    Thank you for writing this; I knew I wasn’t alone, but I’m awfully glad to be reminded of that fact.

  2. You go, Lance. The God I believe in doesn’t need me to bow, doesn’t care what cartoonists draw, and thinks that most places of worship are frightening mediocrity factories. But maybe that’s just me.

  3. Michael said:

    I stumble on the same issue in other contexts. What should an atheist say when someone sneezes? I don’t believe in God, but I find myself saying “bless you” anyway because it seems rude not to say something and what else would you say? When conveying sympathy for someone who has suffered a death in the family, “you are in our thoughts” seems shallow (where “you are in our prayers” might offer some actual comfort if you know the person is religious). In both situations, I usually say the words while acknowledging to myself that the religious content is empty.

  4. Lance said:

    The sneezing thing is based on superstition, anyway. Something about a sneeze being the loss of part of one’s soul, rather than the result of an irritant in one’s nostrils. So saying “God bless you” is weird, anyway. Why not say that when you fart or belch? Though it’s considered rude, I often say nothing. Or, admittedly, in a mocking tone I might say “God bless you!” like someone’s old aunt. The death thing is a bit more challenging, but I go for the emotional rather than the religious. “I’m sorry for your loss,” or something similar, because anything you say can’t possibly convey what the other person needs or wants, anyway.

  5. Sara said:

    I can’t believe no one has mentioned “Gesundheit” as a response to a sneeze. I thought that was universal but perhaps my Wisconsin roots are showing?
    Also, “you are in our thoughts” is only shallow if you don’t mean it and “you are in our prayers” is definitely shallow if you’re not going to pray.

  6. Jessica said:

    Your still here! You were my first blog, 10ish years ago. I can’t remember how I found my way here then, but every so often I think about something you posted, your writing stuck with me.
    Anyway, congrats on being out as an atheist. I’m in an antagonistic place right now, I admire your courage.

  7. I am not sure why you couldn’t bow your head during a prayer out of respect to the beliefs of those you are at “a wedding’ to support. I always attend the gay pride parades and cheer for those I am there to support as a Catholic breeder. Adversarial reactions are as adversarial actions are, in my humble opinion. You get what you are looking for. Try looking for respect.

  8. David said:

    That, and the whole “separation of church and state” thing is meant to protect the rights of the minority, keeping the majority in check. That Kentucky case involves government property. I’m sure Christians have good intentions, but those pave roads to places nobody wants to go. You hit the nail on the head with the moral superiority accusation.
    My trouble comes with expressing atheist views to my family. Standing up for your beliefs is great and all until your mom believes you’re going to hell.

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