To all those struggling with doubt and/or nonbelief, I would suggest Ebonmuse’s wonderful post. In efforts to bridge those in between, those who considers themselves “agnostic” (which, in essence, everybody is), and those who don’t know what to consider themselves.
This post isn’t for confirmed atheists, nor for confirmed theists. It’s not for people who’ve already made up their minds, one way or the other.
No, this post is for the seekers, the in-betweeners, the tormented doubters. It’s for the uncertain agnostics, people who aren’t certain what they believe; it’s for people who feel like they no longer belong in their church, but don’t know of an alternative; and it’s for people who are experiencing a full-blown crisis of faith and don’t know where to turn.
He offers various resources (i.e., why those ugly stereotypes are exception, not the rule) for those who stumble upon his post via web search:
I have no doubt that you’ve heard plenty of gloomy and frightening stereotypes about atheists, and I can assure you that they are not true. Atheism is not incompatible with morality, nor does it require hating religious people, nor does it mean a life lacking happiness or meaning. In fact, the journey to atheism can be a wonderful, exhilarating liberation, as many who’ve walked that road can tell. The only thing being an atheist means is that you don’t believe in any gods. In every other respect, you can live your life however you want and be the same person you have always been.
All in all, I’d say its a great attempt at bridging together those in doubt.
The word atheist is a scary, scary word to many people. It’s not always conscious. In college (freshman year, ’99-00), my awesome roommate, Jen, and I considered ourselves nothing. Not sure why we weren’t ready to take the full plunge. I surely didn’t consciously reject calling myself atheist, it just hadn’t dawned on me at the time. Oddly enough, one of our friends did call himself a atheist. To this day, I cannot understand where the disconnect was. Why could the word atheist apply to someone we generally agreed with on religion and god, but not us. Perhaps, we weren’t “ready” yet. Yet, it could also depend on perception and semantics.
Being raised in a reform Jewish household, the urge to leave religion wasn’t as strong. I was never indoctrinated to the unfortunate point many others have been. I was not scared about visions of fires and flames, nor was god a major part of our lives. My mom hated going to synagogue; she made my father take me on Yom Kippur once or twice. I attended a few Bar and Bat Mitzvah services that all the kids hated anyway. When my time came around (which is a newer invention because obviously women weren’t worthy…) a Rabbi said some blessings over me in front of the Wailing Wall in Israel — without me having to read Hebrew. (Score! The easy way!) I chose not to have a boring service, just a casual party (not the wedding-like extravaganzas fellow classmates did) with friends and some family later on (where I lived at the time, Miami). I guess I was always relatively rational.
It’s very hard for some to leave their strong religious ties behind. And its sometimes just as tough for those with minimal religion. I never fought with major inconsistencies in any testament. We understood (in my household) that they were not ultimately true, but stories. At least that’s what I thought. I always assumed as a young girl that people didn’t fully believe religious stories, but used them as niceties (i.e., heaven) and conversational points. To my chagrin, as I aged, boy did I learn that was not the case!
I can’t even recall the first time I heard of Jesus but it surely wasn’t until much later on. And that, in itself, made it difficult for me to come to terms with my nonbelief. I never thought of it in terms of believer and nonbeliever, but as familial traditions. I never thought of it in terms of pure good and pure evil. Or black and white anything. I was a spectrum-range kind of child, as I still am today. I see the broader areas in between which made it difficult to understand that I was never really a believer.
Essentially, I think reaching out to those who are unsure is an excellent idea. Aiding their journey into the vast arena of understanding what atheism actually means, why people are atheists, and who else feels the same way.