About a year ago, some folks from CNN were interviewing and asking around atheist groups for stories and perspectives on life as nonbelievers and our experience. With the airing of “Atheists: Inside the World of Non-Believers”, which looks to be the end product of this work, and my response to the special after it aired last night, I thought I’d finally post my lengthy email response to their questions.
I had never written this part of my life down to its completion before, so it was really long for a relatively short series of questions. I kept going, though, for my own sake, so I could process through it all and have a recording of that. Now I’m thankful I’m able to share it with others. There are a lot of conversion and deconversion stories out there, some filled with much more pain, suffering, triumph, loss, and acceptance, but mine is quiet, without great strife, and this type of experience should be known, as well. If any part of this story provides someone comfort on their journey to self-discovery, it was worth taking up this space on the internet.
There’ll be some edits to make it fit better in public blog post form.
CNN aired a special all about atheism this evening, titled “Atheists: Inside the World of Non-Believers“.(1)Teaser linked for now This is surely the end product of activity last year when some reporters were asking around the atheist circles. They recorded a Georgia Tech Campus Freethinkers meeting and one of Atlanta’s Sunday Assemblies, both of which I was present for, and I sent them a long email about my journey to nonbelief. None of that is featured in the special, but it’s nice to see the project I saw in the works finally completed.
This airing seems to coincide with another feature of nonbelief for CNN. Just the other day they published a lengthy article called “The Friendly Atheists Next Door” highlighting a delightful, happy family that manages to also be nonreligious. To people in the atheism community for a while, this may seem mundane, but for the millions who believe we apostates to be evil, Harry Shaughnessy stands in stark, cheery contrast.
The special tonight moved between many different members of the larger atheism movement: Dawkins, Silverman, Dewitt, and some younger faces. There’s a lot within the community, and there are some differing opinions on the show’s quality. I’ll offer my opinions on the good and bad points.
If you know 2000’s The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, you probably know most about how it stands apart from other Zelda games. You play as the green-clothed Hero of Time, Link, as usual, but you also transform into other races in the game. There are dungeons, but significantly fewer than usual. You continuously build a more powerful arsenal, but you regularly lose most of your items and progress. There are mountains of side quests, but you can never do them all in one cycle.
This game is rarely patient. In nearly every moment a clock at the bottom of your screen is ticking down the three in-game days you have left to accomplish your goals before the giant moon in the sky crashes into the world. Before disaster, thankfully, you can play the Song of Time to start the three days over again, but you only get to keep a small subset of the items, power-ups, and progress you’ve collected.
Most unsettling to me about this mechanic is how everyone you’ve helped, everything you’ve worked for, continually resets itself. Link, as well as the player, accumulate experience and knowledge, but no one else remembers you, and regions once saved are again cursed. This perseverance in the face of futility, and the meaningfulness of choices in a short, finite time, are the enduring legacies of Majora’s Mask to me.
Here in Georgia, Senate bill 129, or the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act”, has been a big topic of conversation. Religious leaders have been showing up at the capitol repeatedly to express their support of a bill they believe will allow them to discriminate based on LGBT* status. Georgia Unites demonstrated today to share the opposite opinion and fight for anti-discrimination.
The bill’s original sponsor, Josh McKoon, says it does no such thing as religious leaders champion and progressives fear, instead pointing to the controversial firing of Atlanta’s fire chief based on a book he wrote, without permission, containing homophobic material. Here’s a half-hour long video explaining McKoon’s side, which I skimmed through.
I have a lot of thoughts on “religious freedom” and its need for “restoration”. I think the priority religion has in overriding other laws is already often too high. I feel that nuance in different situations is lost when everything is subsumed by “public square” chatter. Overall, I feel this bill serves to further elevate the privileged and conveniently ignore the marginalized.
I’m a little behind in putting out this list due to being in Huntsville, Alabama for much of March. Towards the end of February, I didn’t have the time to wrap up this post and send it out, but the highlights from last month remain what they are be it the first, fifth, of thirtieth of March.
Several of these episodes are less “exceptional” episodes from their shows as much as they are important markers in big events that occurred or changes that were happening to the shows. This list could also be used as a reminder of what happened in my preferred corner of the podcasting world this month.