Now, before you get mad, I'm just stating the obvious. At least it's obvious to me now. But I came upon this realization rather slowly because I guess I figured most people who also came to understand that there's no proof for gods would have had a similar path to mine.
I found I couldn't be further from the truth. That's the great thing about atheism, in some ways. We've all reached a similar conclusion we've all found our own way to the top of the mountain, but from a different path. Some of us had very hard, rough paths, losing religious family and friends along the way... casualties of our free thinking. Others have found the path easy and natural, never having truly believed in the first place. Then a few seemed to have been born on the mountain top, never brainwashed in the river of religion.
I read an article the other day that I thought was really interesting and accurate. It's actually about what a religious person should know before trying to convert an atheist. But to start, the post says there are 3 categories of atheists:
- Natural Atheists: Those brought up by atheist parents who never experienced the conflict between religion and rationality.
- Apathetic Atheists: Those whose faith was not particularly strong and who, without a compelling drive to believe or not believe, defaulted to atheism - becoming an atheist involved very little internal debate and conflict.
- Dissonant Atheists: Those who grew up with belief but who were overwhelmingly torn up over the incompatibility between faith and rationality. These people sought one thing - to rid themselves of the terrible cognitive dissonance cat #1 and #2 atheists are spared from.
This is interesting to me because I am a category 3 Dissonant Atheist. I had a long battle with trying to rationalize god with reality. Reality finally won and god went away in a poof. It was kind of frightening.
I guess I thought most people would be from this category. But I'm learning that there are lots of people who are natural and apathetic atheists as well. At first, I didn't really believe they could be natural. But I'm starting to get it. Maybe part of why I resisted this information was because I am a bit jealous of how easy it's been for them to embrace the notion of being god-free. I don't know, it's just a thought.
Anyway, I am also realizing that just because someone is an atheist, it really doesn't mean anything more than that. Ok, let me explain. I thought when I figured out that god was a myth that I discovered a secret that most people would never find. After meeting other atheists, and being married to one, I came to the hypothesis that atheists were smarter than religious folks.
Overall, I think for dissonant atheists, there is some truth to that. But overall, just because you figure out that god doesn't exist, it doesn't mean that you can think critically. I am the perfect example of that. After becoming an atheist, I still found myself clinging to "spirituality" for awhile. When I realized that was all complete mind games and nonsense, I still never questioned other things, like pseudoscience.
Only last year did I discover the budding skeptic community. Since then I've discovered that common myths I've believed for decades are based on nothing, or worse, lies. This was much easier to reconcile because it was just another layer of the proverbial onion of information.
It didn't take long for me to also realize that other atheists I know, while being god-free, still cling to ideas that have no basis in science or fact. I tried to share with one atheist friend the fact that homeopathy was based on false principles totally unsupported with modern science. She stopped talking to me a few weeks later.
I didn't learn my lesson though. I tried to explain to another friend, also an atheist, that global warming was real. He insisted that since we still had cold days in winter that it was totally stupid and fake. (He also believed g.w. bush was doing his best and was a decent president.). He stopped talking to me not long after, because he said something like I didn't respect him. He was right, really. So that ended that.
The more I think about it, the more curious I am. If you're an atheist, how did you come to the conclusion that there are no gods? Which category are you in? Was it easy or did you struggle with the cognitive dissonance between god and reality? If you are an atheist, do you still cling to spirituality? Do you practice critical thinking for all areas of your life, or just religion? (really think about that one, because it's tricky to know for sure).
This would make a great survey, wouldn't it? I would love to do a real one. Maybe someday I'll figure out how. But for now, I would really value your comments. Ok, off to make gravy for my roast beast! Thanks in advance! :)
EDIT: Survey is HERE! I really value your input. :)