The best perk of writing a blog is that every now and then you feel relevant and useful.
Myles in Mississippi sent along an email that I’m sure a lot of other atheists can relate to… the third paragraph is especially heartbreaking:
Dear Mr. Mehta,
My name is Myles and I am an atheist in Mississippi. I know that you may get a lot of email and probably don’t have time to read the especially long ones, but I wanted to give you a little of my story, and to thank you.
I am a new viewer of your blog (a follower now), and I recently saw your video discussion with Jay. What you said about how many young people become atheists was exactly right in my case. I am 20 now but I began to doubt the existence of God at around the age of 12 or 13, with no outside help. Like you said I never really had anybody give me any challenging questions about my own faith, but it was at that age that I began to question where I really came from, how the world worked, and why it was that I was a Christian and not a Muslim or a Jew. I began to search for basic answers that were never answered by my parents, Sunday school teachers, youth directors, or preachers. I spent many hours in the library at school and at Barnes and Noble (unbeknownst to my parents) reading everything that I could get my hands on about evolution, the Big Bang, physics, theology, and almost anything science. The answers that I found caused me to renounce my faith and at around the age of 16 I was a full-fledged atheist.
My parents didn’t find out until I was 18 and in college, but the news devastated them. For the first year that my mother found out she continually cried for me, and I’ve had preachers and a few of her friends try to talk to me about my lost faith. Since I live in Mississippi I naturally have no atheist friends. I actually do not personally know one atheist. I go to Mississippi State University and the amount of Christians here is staggering (about 98%). It is extremely difficult to live in a place that shuns your thoughts about religion. I am unable to talk to my family, friends, or any acquaintances about it. It is sites like yours that get me through the day, because it is there that I know that there is still some sanity in the world.
If you don’t already, I just think that you should be aware of how religious some parts of this country are. And I want you to know that your words are making an impact on lives in those regions. Your blog and others is what keeps us in contact with other atheists that we would otherwise not be able to talk to. Thank you.
He wrote me the letter, but I think it should go out to the entire atheist blogosphere — all of you who are writing about atheism as if it’s a normal, rational idea and who do not hide your beliefs.
Myles is not the only person who relies on reason to get him through the day. Surely, there are atheists in his area as well as other places where Christians are in the majority.
This is why it’s so important to come out as a non-believer. The more vocal and open we are, the more others will feel comfortable exploring that option or saying that they feel the same way.