A Newer (And More Laid Back) Brand of Atheism

Religiously speaking, this is an unusual time in our history. Secularism is clearly on the rise, and yet religion maintain a stronghold over our society and politics. That science has boldly answered so many “mysteries of the universe” has not stopped supernatural beliefs from influencing how most Americans think and live. Every day I read headlines about how God is on the way out; every day I read headlines about how God is on the way up.

For us nonbelievers, it’s hard to know where we stand, where the country stands — and what the future holds.

We are a nation that revels in extremes. We watch with fascination as religious zealots (Christian Fundamentalists, Islamic Fundamentalists, etc.)  duke it out with anti-religious zealots (New Atheists). But most of us — theists or no — thankfully reside in the broad in-between. We see no need for zealotry, and we certainly don’t support it.

As a person living during America’s “secular boom,” I personally have been accused of “turning away” from God. Many of us have. But the truth is, to say I have “turned away” from God is like saying I’ve “turned away” from rugby. I’m fine with the fact that other people play rugby. They seem to really enjoy it. It’s just not my game.

Now, of course, naysayers will argue that religion is not at all like rugby. Rugby is not known for hurting people, causing wars, embracing elitism, inciting hate. And I get that. But I’d just ask anyone reading this to picture a beloved friend or relative who also happens to be deeply faithful. We all have at least one. Someone we love not just despite his or her spirituality, but maybe even because of it.

That’s the rugby I’m talking about.

The atheists I know don’t wish to offend nice people or cause our families pain. We wouldn’t dream of trying to stamp out our grandmothers’ faith. We, much like Jesus, do not wish to throw stones. Much like the Buddha, we prefer a middle path. And much like virtually every major religion in the world, we strive to take care of our families, do right by our communities, and live by the Golden Rule.

Isn’t it a shame that this sort of narrative — a new and, dare I say, improved brand of ‘New Atheism’ — doesn’t garner more headlines?

And, now, this picture of a monkey — living the dream. Enjoy your weekend, everyone!

Squirrel Monkey, Costa Rica, photo by Wendy Thomas Russell

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About Wendy Thomas Russell

Wendy Thomas Russell is a journalist, author and blogger. Her book, Relax, It's Just God: How and Why to Talk to Your Kids About Religion When You're Not Religious is due out in January 2015.

  • Melissa

    YES YES YES

  • Alan Magree

    I like the monkey.

  • Derek

    I see growing fundamentalism as a reaction to the ever decreasing sphere in which people can put god. For many people scientific answers push them into choosing between god and science and for a while many will continue to choose god. To do so they find they must increasingly reject science, resulting in fundamentalism.

    I realise there are liberal christians too to whom this doesn’t apply but I think it does apply to many christians and explains some of the growth of fundamentalism in this country.


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