The Atheist’s Lament

Being an atheist is tough. People really don’t like us and we don’t have any fun holidays. I’ve always been a little jealous of religious folks. It must be nice to believe.

At times, I am proud of myself in the stereotypical, self-righteous atheist way. I go about my day secure in the fact that God, unicorns, and surprise 10 million dollar inheritances don’t exist and then internally roll my eyes at the lady on the street corner who never fails to tell me to “have a blessed day.”

Secretly, though, I’ve always wanted to be part of the pack. As a religious person, you generally have a flock to belong to. As an atheist, I always felt pretty much on my own. Atheists don’t tend to have a strong sense of community.

That’s part of the reason why I like being part of the gay community so much. Yesterday, I met this kid who pinged my gaydar. We were just chatting in line at the bank. I guessed he was gay, brought up my partner, threw in a female pronoun, and suddenly the kid was my new best friend. Turns out his name is Frank, he is from Kentucky, and he moved to DC to be closer to his boyfriend, who is attending school at Catholic University (oh, the irony).

I’ve never made any friends through atheism. We’re not really a social bunch.

It’s a shame, really. I think we kind of need each other.  Today, while I was waiting to cross a street on the way to work, a guy tried to give me some paper. As a rule, I do not accept anything handed to me on the streets of DC so I shook my head and refused to reach for what he was offering. His response startled me. As I steadfastly refused to interact with him, the man said, “don’t you believe in God?” I looked over and he was holding flyers that had nothing but a cross and a website printed on them.

I couldn’t help myself. I engaged.

“No, I don’t,” I said. To which he replied, “what’s wrong with you?” The light turned, the little man in the box lit up to tell me to walk. Before leaving, I looked right at this guy and replied, “what’s wrong with YOU?” I walked away while he was still talking and, thankfully, he decided not to follow.

This fairly insignificant moment in the grand scheme of things sat with me all day.

Religion seems to be everywhere. I can’t go more than a couple of hours without hearing or seeing something that references it.  It’s days like this where I wish I could walk down the street to my little atheist haven and be soothed by my community of fellow nonbelievers. To take sanctuary in the knowledge that we are right and that science is good. Instead, I may go home and stream Saved on Netflix tonight.

Being an atheist blows.

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6 responses to “The Atheist’s Lament

  1. I always have gone by one rule. What you believe and do is your business. I will not in your house tell you how to live. I am too busy trying to get my own house in order. Anyway even at 67 I do not have all the answers. When I die I will come back and clue you in, that is if I die.

    • A very reasonable way to live! I definitely am too quick to judge, at times. However, I do try to remind myself that, “just because you think it, doesn’t mean you have to say it.” It’s appalling how many people feel comfortable walking up to strangers on the street and attempting to tell them how to live.

  2. Maybe it’s because I live in NY but over the years I’ve found I’m always surprised by the number of atheists and skeptics I come across. I think part of it is that most of us aren’t very vocal about our beliefs so you never know unless it happens to come up in conversation.

    For example I found out this guy at work is an atheist because I was reading a book on my cell phone and he asked what I was reading (which happened to be The God Delusion). Had I been reading something else or had he not cared to ask what book it was I may never have known he was atheist. Contrast this with the bible thumper we had who one day got in an argument with a coworker and started waving his bible at him and telling him “You need some Jesus in your life” and the time he started expounding how in a few decades it would be legal to marry animals because “look how quick they got fag marriage”.

    • We do tend to come out of the woodwork at odd times. But, I still can’t help but feel that I run into more outwardly religious folk than outwardly atheist. I don’t necessarily feel the need to constantly espouse my disbelief but I wish it were a little easier to speak up from time to time and say, “no thank you, I’m not a [insert major world religion here].”

  3. Thank you for this. I find myself still stuck in the in between stage I guess. I am a firm believer in science. I question the existence of God but its taboo to ask any questions about His existence out loud. Why do we have to stay silent when religion is rubbed in our faces daily?

    • You’re quite welcome. I wonder, in the end, how anti-atheist oppression stacks up against the oppression of various religions in different countries?

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