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How did you become non-religious?

Jun 15 2009
AHA! On being born non-religious

Iím coming out

I want the world to know

Got to let it show

Iím coming out

I want the world to know

I got to let it show

Iím coming out as an AHA. AHA is the new acronym I just coined for Agnostic/Humanist/Atheist -- AHA. Iím ready to leave the world of Donít Ask Donít Tell behind. Iím ready to say it loud and proud: AHA !

I want everyone to know that this is not a choice. At least not for me. After some careful introspection, conversations with my family and spending a thrilling weekend with ďlike-minded othersĒ at the AHA conference last weekend, Iíve come to the conclusion that I was born AHA. Richard Dawkins says people arenít born one religion or another. But I think at least some of us are born non-believers. I have had many opportunities to embrace religion, I just canít believe in itÖ even when I try. And I have, as many of you have, tried.

I learned the importance of Donít Ask Donít Tell at a very young age: three to be exact. The preschool teacher was telling the story of Moses and the Burning Bush. I was fascinated by the story but I expected the teacher to clarify some things for the other children. I got up and told her (in front of the class) that she should tell the children that the bush was not really burning, that it was like the fake fire in my grandmotherís fireplace that could burn endlessly, so long as it was plugged in. And I wanted her to tell the children that the voice was coming from a loudspeaker. She did not take it well. This little scene led to the teacher calling my mother who said (truthfully) that she had not told me these things, they were my own ideas. I was just as incredulous as a three year old can be that the teacher would not tell the children the truth. There was much discussion between 3 year old me and the adults and eventually a compromise was reached. I wouldnít have to go back to that school and I would have to keep my ideas a little more to myself.

Which I did. I excelled in my secular and my religious studies and would have believed if I could but I just couldnít. I have two younger brothers, raised in the same household as I was. One believed and joined the clergy. The other didnít believe and became a college professor. I now believe none of the three us had a choice about belief or non-belief any more than we had a choice about our sexuality. The three of us were born hard-wired in some way for theism or not.

As we are ending the first decade of the new century, I think it is time for freedom of religion to include freedom from religion and for people to be able to say they are AHA in public. I believe, just as it is time for LGBT people to have an acronym and to feel free to come out publicly into a world of diversity and acceptance, so should AHA people.

Organizations such as this one and the national organizations such as the AHA give us opportunities to come out at our own pace, in a safe environment. They give us opportunities to build bridges with other organizations both religious and secular through coalitions, shared projects etc. They give us opportunities to make our voting bloc known to the government on local and national levels.

So here I am a self-outed AHA. This post should be about what I believe, not just what I donít believe. And I do believe, as you all do, in lots of things: I believe in education and learning for everyone at every phase of life. I believe in love, friendship, democracy, civil rights, science, literature, art, music, travelÖ oh, and food.

There is so much we do believe in. Letís not overlook any of it as we step out into the world and say AHA.

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