Atheism Is No Monolith; Or, the Diversity of Disbelief

Atheism Is No Monolith; Or, the Diversity of Disbelief August 15, 2012

The Patheos atheist channel has just added two new blogs – Permission to Live, by Melissa, and Cross Examined, by Bob Seidensticker. I find the variety of different paths that lead people to atheism or agnosticism – and the diversity in how people then approach their disbelief – fascinating, and as I looked at these two blogs in tandem I saw this diversity  illustrated perfectly.

Background: Melissa was raised in a fairly extreme fundamentalist family while Bob was raised in a fairly normal Presbyterian family. While Melissa spent the early years of her adult life striving to follow the dictates of her religious faith, Bob never was very religious to begin with and transitioned naturally and uneventfully into a secular life when he reached adulthood. Melissa’s questioning of her faith has been rocky and taxing and has fundamentally changed her life, but Bob’s loss of faith was hardly noticeable and didn’t have much impact on his life at all.

Passions: Melissa blogs about the things that are important to her – gentle parenting, LGBTQ issues, and healing from the effects of an abusive upbringing and fundamentalist background. Bob’s passions are different, and his blog focuses on refuting Christian apologetics (he traces his interest in this area to a conversation about creationism with a fundamentalist relative some years ago). Bob has even written a book that is part novel and part apologetics debate over God’s existence.

Identity: While Melissa mainly finds community in her local LGBTQ community, Bob is active in his local atheist group. In some sense, Melissa’s identification as agnostic is not as important to her as many other parts of her life while identifying as an atheist is actually very important to Bob.

I think too often that when people hear the label “atheist,” they think of some sort of cookie cutter image – a liberal college student waving a copy of Dawkins, perhaps – but this is simply not the case. The reality is that atheists and agnostics differ in their backgrounds and reasons for abandoning religion, they differ in their interests and passions, and they even differ in how they approach atheism and/or agnosticism, and in what these terms mean to them, all of which is amply emphasized when contrasting the two newest additions to Patheos’ atheist channel.

And of course, this is how it should be.

I’d like to finish this thought by opening the floor for my atheist readers. What’s your story? What’s your background, what are your passions, and how do you approach your identity as an atheist (or agnostic)?

(Oh and, welcome aboard Melissa and Bob!)

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