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.
The 11th of October is an important day for many progressive groups on campuses, because it is National Coming Out Day! And Georgia Tech’s Pride Alliance made the entire week have a focus on encouraging people of non-heterosexual, transgender, or non-monogamous status to be visible about who they are, and to remind everyone that we are all surrounded by those different from us that deserve respect and equal treatment under the law and in society at large.
It’s a positive message and movement that, of course, attracts opposition.
I’ve called myself an atheist, secularist, humanist, and skeptic ever since I started listening intently to The Atheist Experience several years ago in college. It’s nearly impossible to pinpoint a moment of deconversion or transformation, so I usually decide to use my increased interest in the issues and the movement that sprang from that show, around 2008 or 2009.
But last weekend was a new step forward in my involvement: I attended the Secular Student Alliance East Conference! I drove from my home near Atlanta up to Columbus, Ohio for this wonderful 3-day event.
The takeaways were numerous. Several practical talks by friends on logo design, social media, and the challenges of ROTC groups gave a renewed sense of all that’s possible for groups to accomplish and how much good they can do. Other talks gave great insight into issues surrounding black secularists, the effort to gather statistics of our growing movement, and how to have good sex education! These all began to comprise a general sense of increased motivation and energy to continue pushing this movement forward.
But most of all the conference had an immediate and overwhelming effect irrespective of any of the great sessions, talks, or workshops: it reaffirmed the human element of the movement.