Responses And Commentary

How People Responded To My Atheism Announcement

Copyright © 2015 by Wil C. Fry. All Rights Reserved.

Published 2015.02.23

Thankfully, the response to my coming out was underwhelming, at least in the short term. On this page, I list some of those responses (anonymously) and offer commentary on them.

Most people who saw my announcement — perhaps the most important of my life — did not say anything. This is fine; it was not the kind of statement that demanded a response from anyone. Further, I imagine that it took many by surprise; they didn’t know how to respond to it. Also fine — if you’re not sure what to say, take your time and think about it. Others, perhaps, didn’t care. I appreciate that position as well.

Those who did respond were mostly divided into three camps: (1) encouraging, (2) neutral, and (3) disapproving.

Encouraging Comments

Before releasing my treatise into the wild, I asked two trusted people to proofread it for me. One is an atheist while the other is a theist. The very first response I received, via private email, was this:
“This thing is long and very thorough, and quite honestly one of the most comprehensive, logical, honest and genuine attempts at this type of work. I see an ebook in your near future.

I’ll have a few more comments in a bit as I reread some of it, but in the mean time: bravo.”
The other proofreader had this to say, via text messages:
“Kudos to you, man. This was epic. I am so proud of you. Anyone who gets upset over this or stops talking to you has a problem with their faith and isn’t 100% confident in their own stuff.”
Note that both managed to compliment my writing and reasoning, while neither said they agreed or disagreed with what I wrote. I mention this because other comments had a hard time following this model. (I’ll get to them later.)

When I did go public, the first comment on my blog entry was:
“This is a spectacular work, full of reason and consideration and rationality. I applaud it.”
On Twitter, a small-time (but very talented) musician told me:
“I saw it. Read it. Nothing but love for you. Bold statement. Wish you peace... Much love to you.”
Note again that these people didn’t say they agreed with me, but managed to be encouraging and polite about it.

Several encouraging comments came via my Flickr post. These are different from the others in that they each agreed with my conclusions:
“Not really such a surprise, Wil — from what you’ve shared here and elsewhere you’re an astute and rational man. Coming from similar origins, I think I can identify with your journey.”

“Welcome to the family.”

“Thank you for your philosophique thoughts. I agree with you that religions and gods are an invention of man.”

“Yes, welcome to the family. Oh, and bravo to you for being open about it. I’ve always felt like I’ve needed a secret handshake or something. Even here in the liberal bastion that is NYC, I encounter a lot of flack and bias when I say I’m an atheist. Please do write a memoir one day; I just read your entire essay regarding your ‘journey’ and your writing is quite captivating. I think your essay is better reasoned, researched and composed than many PhD candidates’ doctoral theses (I say as someone with a B.A. in Philosphy, who considered going the doctoral route). Also, as an avid sci-fi reader (and huge fan of Asimov), I really enjoyed your short stories and sci-fi story arcs. Those were all story lines that I would have enjoyed (particularly G.O.D.). Most importantly, I’m impressed that you found time between being a full-time stay at home father/husband and an avid photographer to write all that. You’re clearly a driven and devoted person. And thank you for challenging my personal biases and stereotypes.”
From a longtime friend, on my Facebook post:
“I am not an atheist. But my continued belief (faith) in Christ and understanding of my own imperfections compels me to not stand in judgment of you. We are still friends no matter our personal convictions... In other words, I support you no matter what.”
And just after that, from another friend:
“I strongly stand with [the previous commenter]; you will find no judgments here.”
Via email, I received a comment that opened with “I want you to know that I love you”, so I immediately prepared for a “but...” that never came. What followed was:
“I’ve had many of the same thoughts and some of the same experiences that you described on your page. I have never taken the time to put a clear label on myself, but I’d say it’s very close to what you believe... I came to this inconclusive state when I was 20 or 21, but had harbored doubts about Christianity for a long time before that. For me, it was the Bible more than anything else that made me realized how silly it all is...”
Another email:
“Your pages and pages of thoughts bring up so many of my own, and such a myriad of emotions as well. Tears and heartbreak because of so many years that we both suffered in silence... because of the deep, dark fears heaped upon us...

I can say, with almost 100 percent clarity, that had I gone down the road you did... that I would have reached the same conclusions. I too, have spent hour after hour, prying the lies that we were taught, the clawed tentacles, out of my brain only to see a bloody mess where I used to find pious security. I had to wrestle, openly...

I admire you for your courage, especially because I donít have near enough, and I admire your willingness to fight the fears and the lies... no matter how deep those tentacles reach. I admire you for dissecting every line of thinking, every possible logic, because I know exactly where it stems from... a simple desire to know whatís true. Most people are not willing to question, much less to try to answer, but like you said, you are not most people.”
(This writer clarified that we are not in agreement on spiritual matters, yet still managed to be open, complimentary.)

Neutral Comments

Via a private message on social media:
“I did quickly read through your blog (sic) with interest. I appreciate you sharing your journey and look forward to reading it again when time permits. And, hopefully, one day discussing it in person.”
Another neutral comment came via Flickr, as follows:
“very intresting my old friend. you have been your own man for a long time. am I surprised, not really.”

Disapproving Comments

“...I’m sad to hear that and I love you.”
I classified this one in the negative category because of the “sad” remark. That single word, regardless of its conscious intent, carried a lot of meaning for me. Sad becaue I’m finally happy? Sad because my struggle ended? But no, I know the word was chosen because of the writer’s belief that I’m now hellbound. So it was condescending.

I think it’s sad that “I love you” had to be appended there with such a narrow definition — qualified by being sad for what I consider to be a good thing. I think it’s sad that this is the nicest thing the person could think of to say.

Another comment contained the same word, but didn’t have the same negative connotation:
“It made me sad, but I think I understand.”
This one at least used the words think and understand correctly, and used the word “but” to contrast them with the sadness. There is hope for this one.

But, as of two weeks after my announcement, only one response truly hurt — coming as it did (via email) from someone I’ve known all my life, and someone who is educated and (previously assumed to be) intelligent.
“1. No you arenít
2. You know the truth
3. You are fighting a HUGE battle and I’ve known it for a long time and have prayed for you
4. Your super intelligence is a detriment, not a blessing in this matter
5. My heart is grieved
6. I love you”
The last two points are the same as the “I’m sad... I love you” comment, except grieved is a stronger word than sad. The first three points translated as “you’re a liar”, which was somewhat offensive.

Point 1 refers to my statement that I’m an agnostic atheist. I checked the definition again just to be sure, and yep, it’s what I am. Point 2 accuses me of concocting a great fiction about twenty-five years of struggle in an apparent effort to deceive myself. The fact is, I do not know the truth, which is why the word “agnostic” is part of the phrase. It means quite literally “not knowing” or “without knowledge”. But I am solidly convinced that none of the religions I’ve studied are truth in any definitive sense. Point 3 misses the entire thrust of my story, that the “huge battle” is now over. It happened, that much is certain. It is not happening now. That’s why I wrote my story in the past tense.

Point 4 is stupidity disguised as backhanded flattery. First, I have never claimed to have “super intelligence”. If I were super-intelligent, I would have figured this all out 20 years ago, or earlier. If I was, it might have required a few weeks to write a few web pages, instead of a year. Second, intelligence, whether super or regular in nature, can never be a detriment in any matter.

This reminded me of what popular Christian teacher Joyce Meyers said in one of her books:
“In other words, do not rely on reasoning. Reasoning opens the door for deception and brings much confusion.
    I once asked the Lord why so many people are confused and He said to me, ‘Tell them to stop trying to figure everything out, and they will stop being confused.’ I have found it to be absolutely true. Reasoning and confusion go together...
    Reasoning is dangerous for many reasons, but one of them is this: we can reason and figure something out that seems to make sense to us. But what we have reasoned to be correct may still be incorrect...
    If we know in our spirit that a thing is wrong, we should not allow reasoning to talk us into doing it. Also, if we know something is right, we must not allow reasoning to talk us out of doing it.”
In other words, using your brain = bad, and not using your brain = good. It would not surprise me to learn that the person who wrote that email to me had recently read some of Meyer’s works. It is asinine, backward, primitive, and revolting to hear such nonsense spouted as “Christian teaching”.

The only points in my journey in which I was confused were when I steadfastly refused to apply reason to the questions — when I tried to base my thinking on the assumption that God exists or that the Bible was true. The observable Universe does not make sense if the Bible is true, so any attempt at reason based on that indeed causes confusion.

This attempt to hoodwink yet another generation of young people by teaching them reason leads to confusion is one of the saddest things I’ve ever heard. My heart is grieved.

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