When I first decided to research local atheist groups, I wasn’t looking for people to share good times with; I was looking for people to share my frustrations with. I was frustrated with the how often people assumed I was Christian, or would be if they just knocked on my door often enough and left the right leaflets. I felt, and still often do feel, constantly bombarded by these messages about Jesus, Hell, Heaven, sins, prayer, etc. I could be at the grocery store check out, in class, walking to my car, standing at my front door, and I wouldn’t be surprised if someone brings up God to me – as if that’s totally appropriate.
Nobody forced me into sermons but I was expected to tolerate being pressured into going, and then being talked down to when I didn’t buy into it. I was taught that going along with the flow was not a big deal and that it’s about minding my own business. So when someone gave me a Nativity snow globe or a rosary, I was supposed to be appreciative. I even tried a few times to be Christian, whatever that meant.
It wouldn’t be something I’d want for my child. I’d appreciate it if my son got to grow up in an environment where he could believe or not believe in whatever he wanted without a stranger telling him he’d be punished for doing so. I think that is my business. An American Christian wouldn’t want their child’s classmate pressuring them into praising Allah, but somehow they don’t get how I feel. If people truly lived and let live, and minded their own business, I wouldn’t have joined Atheist Community of San Jose.
It’s this feeling of being the outsider, surrounded by crazy, that made me want to find a local atheist group. It’s not that I necessarily feel others are crazy but how they treat people different from them is crazy. I wanted to talk to people face to face who understood my perspective; I didn’t need confirmation that I made the right choice in being an atheist. I needed to not feel alone. I needed to know I was with people who wouldn’t suddenly start talking about church and Jesus, as if it’s a given that we have that in common, and if we don’t that we should.
It’s comforting in a social group to have that one baseline. It’s one thing to also enjoy hiking, wine tasting, movies, or bowling, but it’s another to know the person you are talking to doesn’t imagine you going to hell. That’s a major way of looking down on somebody; assuming they will have eternal punishment after they die, that they need prayers, because they aren’t quite good enough. It’s egotistical. It’s disturbing. It’s cruel.
I hope more people can join communities like ours. I hope more people get moments in their lives where they feel like others in the room won’t judge them so harshly. What one gets from being around people that they share frustrations with are good times. It feels great to make solid friendships with people who get it. It’s a given that when you meet someone in the Atheist Community of San Jose that you both won’t be praising any gods… at least not seriously. 😉