Say there are two or three levels of atheism – like Level 1, Level 2, Level 3, or maybe Novice, Intermediate, Advanced. Or possibly Apprentice, Journeyman, Master.
And say there were some things you should probably do at each level in order to qualify – in your own mind if nowhere else.
What would those things be?
Here’s my tentative list for the Novice Class:
Go List for Unbelievers, Beginner Level
No, you don’t have to do them all. But you probably should do at least one or two. Then go on from there, at your own pace and comfort level. Think up other things for your own personal Go List.
1. Switch to saying “Happy Holidays!” if it suits you better, and don’t let anyone tell you different.
2. Go someplace private and admit to yourself, out loud, that you’re an atheist. Explain why.
3. Write down one or two (or 20!) reasons why religion no longer makes sense to you, and why you’re giving it up.
4. Stop saying and writing “God” when you refer to supernatural superbeings. Start saying “gods.”
5. Every time you secretly still wonder if God is watching and judging you, deliberately reframe it as “I wonder if the Flying Spaghetti Monster is watching and judging me?” And then laugh.
6. Come out as an atheist to one person, even if it’s only an online friend, or a complete stranger who sits next to you on a train.
7. Write a letter to the local newspaper about a religious issue in the news. Don’t worry, there will be plenty of them – political candidates pandering to religious voters, for instance. Reasonably and calmly state your unbeliever’s opinion.
8. Stop going to church. Taper off if necessary.
9. Join an online community, and contribute! Whatever you can do – taking the time to think and comment about the issues, giving money, giving support – do it.
10. Give yourself whatever room you need at home.
Hey, we all need our families, and our old friends. Nobody’s saying you need to leap into your grandmother’s hospital room and shout, “Granny, I don’t believe in Jesus, so you’re going to die and rot!” If you feel you need space from your family on the subject, it’s probably best if you don’t tell them, or don’t discuss it. You can smile pleasantly at all the god-bless-yous and I’ll-pray-for-yous, and simply decide not to respond.
The Great Big Thing won’t be decided by a breakfast table conflict at your own personal home, but by the massed aggregation of thinkers and voters and wielders of economic clout out in larger society. As long as you think and buy and vote and argue on that larger stage in a way that supports your personal convictions, if you don’t want your family to know, you never have to bring the subject up.
What else should be on this list, and the others? What shouldn’t be on it?