A week or so ago, I posted about a discussion group I'm in for which we're reading bell hooks' Where We Stand: Class Matters. For this week's reading, we read chapters on African American community and race, and on religion. It seemed to me that hooks was nostalgic about her religious upbringing as a time when the church was central to the community and belonging, and also worked against greed and racism.
In the discussion, pretty much every other woman talked about her church, or searching for the right church/religious community, or something similar.
Except me. I pretty much kept my mouth shut except when I said that I thought hooks was being nostalgic, and that my sense was that the African American church (as much as one could use "the" there) has been historically unwelcoming of gays and lesbians. I also added a response to someone's comment about how students go on missions to other countries to benefit the people there, more than to proselytize, by saying that I thought the students went for a number of reasons, including resume building and tourism.
Other than that, I didn't have much to say.
It strikes me that I'm really bad at discussing my atheism. I don't think these women would have been mean about it or anything, but I'm bad at it, uncomfortable, and tend to avoid it.
Partly, I'm uncomfortable because I don't have a sense of religious feeling or spirituality. I don't see evidence, and I'm pretty sure if there were a diety out there performing miracles, we'd see evidence. But I don't.
And in the absence of good evidence, I don't see a need or have a desire for a deity.
Partly, that has to do with the pain/evil thing. Why would a benevolent deity give a dog cancer? I mean, sure, if you really believe that pain and disease of humans are punishment for original sin, but dogs by definition can't commit sin, so why punish them with disease ? (That goes for all the animals out there that get horrible diseases. Cancer is not a circle of life thing.) A deity that would treat dogs (or other animals) horribly is not a deity I would want to worship even if I believed that deity existed. And if the deity were evil, again, I wouldn't want to worship it. (And just to say: the idea that a benevolent deity would hold a parents' behavior against a child is abhorrent.)
At the same time, I recognize that a lot of people really feel a need or desire for a deity and are comforted by believing. I'm not out to attack people for their needs and desires, but I also don't want them trying to attack me for my needs and desires. But it sometimes seems that even acknowledging that I'm an atheist is seen as an attack on someone else's religious belief.
Sometimes, my atheism seems to be seen as an elitist attack on their beliefs in a way that I'm looking down on them or condescending. And maybe I am in a way, because I just don't understand that particular sort of need/desire.
It was an interesting discussion, but uncomfortable, too.