What shall I bring to the party?

What shall I bring to the party?

Husband and I discussed, in a recent bonus podcast episode, the great umbrella under which stand the many rained-upon types of non-believers, the titles they bear and the attitudes they possess. What’s interesting is who gets to own the name badge, and who gets to decide for everyone else whether or not the umbrella is a good fit for all.

Examine for a moment (a small moment, as this feels super grody for many of us) that to be a Christian, technically one must only take Jesus as one’s lord and savior. The threshold, on paper, is quite simple. Yet, just ask a Southern Baptist if a Catholic is a “real” Christian, and the answer is usually NO. If one branch of Christianity allows women to be pastors, or accepts members of the LGBTQ+ community, or allows divorce, or pushes for gun control laws – there will always be another branch which disavows the more progressive-leaning group. One of the Big Bosses of religion, the pope, is not even accepted as such in many churches, particularly as he leans more twenty-first century in some of his ideology.

Christianity, with all its tangled limbs, is less an umbrella and more a tree with a rotted trunk whose dead branches somehow propagated entirely new dark and twisted forests.

Christianity, with all its tangled limbs, is less an umbrella and more a tree with a rotted trunk whose dead branches somehow propagated entirely new dark and twisted forests. #atheist #atheism #religion

It concerns me that atheism has a similar problem.

At its core, atheism can be simply defined as a lack of belief in the existence of any god. That should be so simple – just as simple as being a Christian merely means a belief in Jesus as God’s resurrected son who died for our sins. But if we look at Christianity as an example, it’s easy to see that the definitions never stop with the dictionary denotation. They devolve into interpretations based on feelings. Those feelings are often mired in anger and a strong desire to draw lines, build walls, and lock doors.

Gatekeepers come in all shades, but at their core, Christian or atheist, they are all scared children seeking defense for broken hearts and scarred upbringings. And if we believe that the best defense is a good offense… well, we all know the phrase “kids can be cruel” and that applies here as well.

So let’s talk a bit about who all is allowed under this umbrella called Atheism, keeping in mind that we want this community to be a welcoming respite from that scary forest called religion.

May agnostics warm their feet at our fire? After all, they don’t specifically believe in any god. Of course, they acknowledge that the question can’t be answered, so they don’t specifically NOT believe in the existence of any god, either. But we aren’t gatekeeping, remember? These understandings of reality are not truly at odds; they are complimentary. The philosophers among us must agree: Agnostics are welcome. They will probably be so grateful for the invitation, they show up with desserts. Cheesecake, anyone?

The philosophers among us must agree: Agnostics are welcome. They will probably be so grateful for the invitation, they show up with desserts. Cheesecake, anyone? #agnostic #atheist

What about freethinkers? These are the people who shun conformity to dogma and religious tradition. They tend not to believe in the existence of supernatural phenomena – which, of course, includes gods. I see no argument here. Freethinkers are super welcome. I bet we can talk them into bucking strict parental guidelines in favor of bringing the margaritas. I’ll take mine frozen, with a side of salt.

Freethinkers are super welcome. I bet we can talk them into bucking strict parental guidelines in favor of bringing the margaritas. I’ll take mine frozen, with a side of salt. #freethinker #atheist

Humanists, on the other hand, are less concerned with divinity than with humanity and community, and as such, are more likely to arrive with a fruit tray or veggie platter than desserts or wine. Much like the freethinkers, they are not down with supernatural powers. Which means they and their healthy snacks are welcome. Particularly if there are strawberries involved.

And then there is that flat, boring, officious word: secular. Individuals who fall under this broad term are those who are not bound by religious or spiritual rule. It’s very confusing, though, because believers in a god can (and sometimes do) apply this to themselves. Is there a place for them at the party? I say, yes. And I also say, let them bring the plates and napkins.

So do we draw the line at spiritualists – those concerned with the human soul, or a belief in positive energy, or some invisible line that connects us all? Most of us probably think these folks, with their crystals and their star charts and their tarot cards, are too far “out there” and yeah, okay, I tend to agree.

Most of us probably think these folks, with their crystals and their star charts and their tarot cards, are too far “out there” and yeah, okay, I tend to agree. #spiritualist #atheist

Except for when I DON’T. Because sometimes I do wonder about my soul, and being a good person, and making the right choices. I like to believe in karma – the notion that what you do comes back to haunt you, for better or for worse. As a person who suffers from medical depression, I know without a doubt that the power of positive thoughts can make or break me. And I do like to believe we are connected somehow, though in what way I cannot fathom because it’s not scientific and makes no damn sense.

As a person who suffers from medical depression, I know without a doubt that the power of positive thoughts can make or break me. #atheist #atheism #positivethoughts

If I’m being honest, I simultaneously belong to all and none of these groups. I relate more to one on Monday than to others, and the mood switches up by Friday. On Sunday I’m a mess.

I have a lack of belief in any god, but I don’t specifically NOT believe in the existence of a higher power. I shun dogma and tradition, yet I am concerned with humanity and community, including the cultural and historical contexts that dogma and traditions provide. I am not bound by religious or spiritual rule, while I have also managed to maintain a childlike sense of wonder and awe – and above all else, natural curiosity.

I know what I’m not – a Christian – and as we read through the Bible this has become more concrete. But I don’t know which group I belong to. And I worry that I’m not welcome because I’m not hardcore enough in my atheism etc.

I know what I’m not – a Christian – and as we read through the Bible this has become more concrete. #atheist #atheism #agnostic #humanist

But this is our umbrella! Our forest! Our party! We get to decide who is welcome in this community we are building. Let’s not be gatekeepers, caught up in labels and definitions. Some of us know what we are, and that is totally cool. Some of us are still questioning, and that is cool too.

Some of us know what we are, and that is totally cool. Some of us are still questioning, and that is cool too. #ahteist #agnostic #humanist #secular

We usually end up bringing the most interesting side dishes.

I promise won’t always be this maudlin in tone, and mired in self-examination. In the coming weeks I will discuss the following:

  • the oxymoron of atheists celebrating religious holidays (merry Christmas?);
  • atheism in US politics (did you know there are states where it is actually ILLEGAL to be an atheist if you want to run for office?);
  • whether atheists are bad romantic partners (a study suggests YES);
  • and more!
Wife @Sacrilegious Discourse
Wife @Sacrilegious Discourse

Wife, formerly a grocery bagger, a cheerleader, a soldier, a bookseller, and a director’s assistant at a small non-profit youth organization, is now a writer, blogger, editor, and podcaster. She lives with Husband smack-dab in the middle of cornfield, U.S.A. and occasionally scoops their polydactyl’s litter box. Wife leans hard Left and prefers she/her pronouns.

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