I recently came out to my family and friends as gay and atheist. Throughout all of it, I have received an overwhelming amount of unexpected support. But, in every family, there is at least one bigot.
I have an uncle who, when I came out as gay, instead of rationally discussing it with me, decided he was going to start screaming Bible verses at me in front of the whole family. He ran off afterwards. I’d hoped that it was over and that he would just leave me alone, but he will not.
First, I started getting messages on Facebook telling me that I have “chosen” to lead a very wrong and sinful lifestyle. He said that he “loves” me, but I am going to burn in hell for “choosing” to be gay. He said I am a dark person and I am just angry at God.
I tried to explain to him that I did not choose to be gay and that I am not angry at God because I do not believe in him. He completely ignored this and just started spewing hate and bigotry again. I finally just blocked him from Facebook because I had enough of it.
Fast forward a few days. He found my blog that I write about atheists. He started to comment on the posts telling me I’m a horrible person, I am choosing to live the wrong lifestyle, that Darwin was an idiot atheist who didn’t know what the hell he was talking about, and saying that science has proved there is a God, etc. [Click headline to read more…]
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Note: Letter writers’ names are changed to protect their privacy.
Recently my sister called to tell me that despite neither she nor my brother-in-law being religious people, and despite the fact that they both reject the idea of Jesus as a supernatural figure, she and my brother-in-law have decided to attend church regularly. Obviously, if that’s what they want to do with their Sunday mornings, that’s their business. My concern has to do with one reason my sister gave for wanting to attend church: they are planning to have children soon, and she wants to raise her children with a religion.
She said she wouldn’t care if they chose to leave the church when they got older, but seems to think that some sort of religious foundation is necessary. The other, somewhat more baffling reason is that she wants to make it easier for any of her children who would want to have a religious wedding in the future, since a friend of hers had to attend a lot of classes before getting married to a Catholic man, as this friend had not grown up Christian and was never baptized.
I realize the ultimate decision is theirs, but as a concerned sister and aunt-to-be, what can I do in this situation to help mitigate the harm I my sister will be doing to her children by allowing them to be indoctrinated this way? This seems as irresponsible to me as if she’d told me that she was anti-vax.
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My background: My name is Elliot and I am a 28 year-old guy living in London, UK. I am a teacher and have considered myself an atheist for the last 8 or so years. I am open but not preachy about my beliefs and encourage my pupils to make up their own minds. However I recently ran into a crisis of “faith”.
Last weekend my girlfriend’s 21 year-old brother committed suicide. It was not without warning as he had had over 10 years of mental health issues including chronic depression and had made 4 failed attempts in the past. Despite this it was sudden, and she was understandably devastated. They are not a religious family, however in her grief she asked me: “where do you think he is now?” I was at a loss for words as I have never really had to combine comforting someone with an expression of my views. To tell her that he is nowhere anymore, that he simply has stopped being, seemed callous and uncaring. I went with “he is in a better place” (kind of an an opt out) as I figured that not existing anymore must be better than 10 years of depression.
My question is this: How do you convey to someone, about whom you care deeply, that the person they have lost is simply dead? Nothing more? How do you make this sound okay? Religion, despite its delusions, does give people who choose it much peace-of-mind (assuming they are not considering the hell option) and I was wondering how I could convey this through atheism.
Any advice would be very welcome.
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I wrote to you back in 2009 when I was in the 8th grade and you really helped me and I wanted to thank you for that. I just recently rediscovered your blog and I figured I would write to you again. I’m now a senior in high school and in the time since the 8th grade I’ve completely reassessed my faith. For a little while I kept trying to be Christian, and for about a year I was. I feel like that was good for me though. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think it’s a very unwise thing to completely disown one’s faith in middle school. I have, however, come to the conclusion that I am an atheist, and I honestly do not see that changing. I’m just worried about any fallout caused by this, and I don’t quite know how to approach certain situations that I face on a near daily basis. I’m trying to get some answers to questions preemptively in hopes that when I’m faced with these situations (either once again or someday in the future) I will know the best way to handle them.
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