Letter to the Doubting One
Dear Doubting One,
So you’ve been mildly religious. And you are beginning to doubt it all, and you’re wondering which religion, if any at all, is right for you.
You might be confused and questioning. You might be searching and unsure. You may recently have left behind the religion of your past as many people have for a number of reasons. It might be because it just doesn’t emotionally appeal to you anymore (and it might seem that it was all just emotion, without any real substance). It might be because your former church holds archaic values as dogma. It might be because your former church judges people of different sexual orientation and religion and isolates them as the “other”, the “sinner”. It might be because you’re learning about science, and the religious stories don’t quite make sense in light of the objective natural world. It might be because you’ve been reading some religious texts, and you realize that they are morally appalling regardless of time and culture. It might be because you’ve recently heard about atheism and secularism, and you find the arguments much more compelling.
Whatever the reason, whoever you are, know that WE, the hundreds of millions of people (perhaps over a billion) without religion, support you and your right to make your own decision and carve out your own life. We want you to decide for yourself what you should believe. Don’t listen to us because you’re angry at religion or because you just want some answers. Challenge us, ask questions, and think critically, of us and of yourself too. We’re not here to (de)convert you. We don’t really to. We’ll respect you and understand you if you go back to being religious. But no matter what you do, we’ll always fight for your right to believe and practice as you want, as long as it does not intrude on others’ rights.
You may have heard negative things about atheists, maybe even from people of your former church. After all we’re still the least trusted minority in America, and that might not change anytime soon. You might also get the impression that atheists are arrogant and fanatical, just like the religious dogmatists that you so desperately wanted to run away from.
But these stereotypes aren’t even good generalizations. Yes, there are many people very passionate about secular issues. But passion and dogmatism are different. Likewise, motivation is not the same as arrogance. The open thinker may defend his position loudly, but he/she will always consider changing his/her mind according to the evidence. The open thinker will tell you exactly the limits of his/her knowledge, and will never take leaps of faith to claim to know things he/she couldn’t possibly know. I sincerely believe we’re one of the most open and open-minded communities in the world. We are friendly, independent thinkers who debate fiercely, and that’s why we’re famous for the saying “herding atheists is like herding cats.”
More importantly, we want you to know that you’re not alone in your doubt. The doubter and skeptic could be your neighbor; it could be your teacher, or even a relative. Yes, you may come from a family and community that are absolutely intolerant to nonbelievers, but the world is much much bigger than the place where we come from. You’ll find great friends in your life who respect you for who you are, rather than for who they hope (or pray) that you’ll be. It will get better, I promise.
Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you can’t be “good without god.” And be kind to others always. You won’t regret it.
Go out in the world and explore. Not just literally, but intellectually as well. Take long adventures in books and stories, immerse yourself into the culture and religion of every part of the world. You might come out wiser, stronger, and much happier than you’ve ever been before.
Posted on October 18, 2011, in Humanism, Religion and tagged apostasy, good without religion, leaving your religion, letter to skeptic, letter to the doubting one, religion dogma, young people leaving church. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.