I do not believe in God. Once upon a time, I did. I believed so fervently that I actually belonged to a Pentecostal church, where interacting with God through the Holy Spirit (sometimes called the Holy Ghost), the laying on of hands, and speaking in tongues was the norm and woe be unto anyone who did not do or believe in these things.
The members of this church did not believe at all in Evolution. I once asked a member who was a scientist about the dinosaurs, and he really did not know to respond! One could not wear a peace sign, astrological jewelry, or skirts with hems at the knees unless one wanted to be branded ‘worldly’, a sin in the eyes of the church members. I lasted about a year and a half and then I ‘backslid’ back into the world of sin and Satan.
The experiences at this particular church are not what sent me down the road to disbelief. It was my studies at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, and later, my own research into religion and mythology, as well as personal experiences, that sent me from Christianity to Agnosticism to Christianity again, then to Wicca and finally, to Atheism, where I am today.
According to the textbook, atheism is a deviant belief system simply because American society is based upon (supposedly) Christian principles, and atheism is considered ‘unpatriotic’ and atheists are thought of as ‘not morally trustworthy’ by a large percentage of Americans (according to Gallup polls, 80% of US citizens profess to a belief in God. What sadly misguided, brainwashed sheeple). Deviant Behavior, Ninth Edition, Chapter 11, Pg. 252, Erich Goode, © 2011 Pearson Education.
In fact, according to the same polls, only 45% of Americans would consider voting an atheist into the Presidency, compared with 55% for a homosexual candidate (those numbers may have increased since 2007, the last Gallup poll cited), 92% for a Jew, 72% for a Mormon (Romney lost the election in 2012 though I’m not entirely certain his religious beliefs had anything to do with that), 88% for a woman, and 94% for an African American (Obama was actually elected the following year, 2008).
These same polls claim that attitudes towards atheism are becoming less rigid. Atheists did manage to help outlaw prayer in school, ‘under God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance – which was not there to begin with – and other victories. However, atheism will never become the ‘normal’ way of life here because religious beliefs are too firmly ingrained within the minds of most Americans. I find it strange and unsettling that educated adults will believe in the stories of Adam & Eve, Noah and the Flood, and Jonah in the belly of a whale, yet consider evolution a truth to be feared – some even refuse to believe that humans are descended from apes, while the DNA evidence speaks otherwise.
I became an atheist a few years ago. I just felt that going from Wicca back to agnosticism was a setback, and I knew I was not going to become a Christian again after all those years of prayer to a ‘sky God’, some great imaginary male being that never got me anywhere. I also know that the main three religions one hears so much about, Christianity, Judaism and Islam, are responsible for most misogyny towards women, and as a devout feminist, I could never agree with any of that. Ditto with all the rest (the reason I became involved with Wicca in the first place; the deity is a Goddess [though there is a male consort] and Mother Nature is revered, held sacred…rather than all that silly stuff about arks and forbidden fruit and people walking on the sea).
Not many in my family know of my belief, or lack of. They would simply not approve and would tell me firmly that I am going to hell when I die, a place I do not believe in, nor have for many years. None of them attend any church, mind you, and they are very judgmental – yet anyone who does not believe as they do is bound for the flames of Hades and the fiery tines of Satan’s pitchfork. I keep my opinions to myself, except when speaking with my brother and a male cousin, as they share some of my thoughts on the Bible and religions in general.
It is not easy being an atheist in a city that is probably half Moravian and half Baptist, but I’m stuck here for the time being. I am a deviant in a Southern state that is also in the Bible Belt. One can’t go a block here without running into a church. Christians definitely outnumber everyone else – there is one mosque, one synagogue, and nothing else for those who may hold with Buddhism, Hinduism or any other religion outside of Christianity. That’s pathetic but what do I expect in the city I live in?
Atheism is my deviance. Apparently, I will always be considered deviant by the majority view because it is not the conventional way of thinking here, and not anywhere else. Even in the former Communist Bloc, where the nations were supposedly atheist states, people still retained their religious beliefs. Once someone has held a certain belief for many years, it is usually difficult to let go of them. For instance, people in my family don’t think it’s healthy to be a vegan or vegetarian! Imagine what they would say or think, how they would react, if I sat down with them and explained my lack of belief in God. I shudder to think of it.