Each testimonial featured in Atheists Coming Out will help give insight to the large percentage of atheists who, for fear of rejection or misunderstanding, have not been open about their lack of faith. I will choose five (5) of the featured stories to be included in an upcoming book on this very topic. To submit your 1000-1,500 word de-conversion/coming out story, please send it to David@DavidGMcAfee.com with “Atheists Coming Out” in the subject line. Please feel free to share this page to ensure everyone gets the opportunity to participate.Prior posts from Atheists Coming Out Atheists Coming Out – New Series – “Born Atheist” Atheists Coming Out Series – Featured Story #1 – Jason of Godless Living Atheists Coming Out Series – Featured Story #2 – Cleta Darnell
This week’s feature is by Hugh Kramer of Los Angeles:Hugh Kramer http://www.examiner.com/atheism-in-los-angeles/hugh-kramer Location: Los Angeles, CA Age: 59
Some people experience epiphanies; something occurs, perhaps even something ordinary and in an instant, their previous worldview shatters and they are changed forever. I envy those people for my progress to new ways of seeing the world has always been plodding and often painful. My personal transformation from theist to atheist took place over more years than many of my readers have been alive. I never intended to become an atheist and in some respects I was only dragged into atheism kicking and screaming. Experience and what Martin Luther, the father of Protestantism, called “Die verfluchte Huhre, Vernunft” (That damned whore, Reason) are what dragged me there.
I did have some small advantages though. I grew up in Los Angeles, which is not a particularly religious town and was raised in a not-particularly religious Jewish family. We took the existence of God for a given and observed a few of the major holidays but otherwise the only strongly-stressed Jewish rule we were taught was to live life as good people. By the time my parents decided I needed to learn more about Judaism in preparation for my Bar Mitzvah (the Jewish coming of age ceremony), I was too old (11 going on 12) for the transplant to take. I still believed in God and still considered myself Jewish, but I couldn’t take all the dietary and other restrictions seriously.
The next transformation didn’t take place until I got to college. There I discovered science and philosophy. Oddly enough, it wasn’t the works of greats like Hume or Locke or Nietzsche that had the biggest influence on me. It was something I read before them that made me receptive to new mental landscapes like theirs. I’m almost ashamed to admit that it was an otherwise stupid piece of nonsense called “The Crack in the Cosmic Egg” I was assigned to read in Sociology 101. It was mostly New Age woo (unscientific, non-evidence-based assertions), but the central concept, that there was more than one way to see the world (what German philosophers call “Weltanschauung“) struck me almost with the force of a revelation. I feel stupid admitting it now but the idea had just never occurred to me before. As this new thought gradually sunk in, it had the effect of opening me up to new ideas and concepts. I was still vaguely theistic, though, because I wanted to believe in a fair universe; that there was some kind of balance between good and bad or right and wrong.
That idea started teetering because of another book, Beyond Freedom and Dignity by behavioral psychologist, B F Skinner. The book argued that free will was an illusion and that belief in individual autonomy was hindering both the scientific understanding of psychology and the development of a healthier, happier society. While I found those ideas convincing at the time, what I took away from the book more permanently was an understanding that the evidence-based scientific method was probably the best tool mankind has ever developed for the accurate evaluation and acquisition of knowledge… and because it provided techniques to compensate for personal bias, I decided it could be applied to personal knowledge as well. I reexamined a lot of beliefs at this time that I had taken for granted. Some held up under scrutiny. Some didn’t. I changed my stance on the Vietnam War, for instance. More importantly, I took another look at my ideas about religion and found them wanting. There was no good evidence of a balance in the universe between what I thought good or bad. There was no good evidence of any force personally interested in it or me either. I couldn’t prove there wasn’t some kind of supernatural force behind the universe but I also couldn’t see that the claims of special knowledge of any religion had more than faith going for them either.
So I became an agnostic. I remained one for decades. It took the events of 9/11/2001 to change that. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t think religious fanatics were nuts (so nuts in fact, that I coined the word “fanutic” to describe them). It just hadn’t been brought home to me before on such a personal level how dangerous to the modern world religion could be.
And it wasn’t just Islamic fundamentalists that scared me. I began to notice how religion also provided cover for extremists in America and in my own community. I saw them attacking civil rights for women and homosexuals. I saw them trying to undermine science in the classroom and in scientific research. I saw them infiltrating the military, the judiciary and school boards; all in an effort to roll back the clock to a time when human rights were dispensed at the whim of divine autocrats (or at least their self-styled interpreters) if at all. I could not prove there were no gods, but it had been a long time since I believed in any. I called myself an agnostic, though, because I’d felt no pressing need to make any declarations about it.
Now I did.
I still can’t prove there are no gods, but I think them highly unlikely and don’t believe in any. More than that, I think the belief in such supernatural overlords is, in essence, an embrace of the irrational and dangerously skews a person’s perspective even in its milder forms. In its more virulent forms, I think it’s a malignancy that eats individual freedom and threatens the existence of a civilized world.
That’s why I became an atheist.
And an activist.– Hugh http://www.examiner.com/atheism-in-los-angeles/hugh-kramer
To submit your 1000-1,500 word de-conversion/coming out story, please send it to David@DavidGMcAfee.com with “Atheists Coming Out” in the subject line. Please feel free to share this page to ensure everyone gets the opportunity to participate.
This was wonderful. Thanks for sharing your story, and for your activism, Hugh!
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