At what point did you know you were an atheist? Why did you become one, what were the factors leading up to the decision, if you weren’t always one?
I started considering myself an atheist April 23rd, 2009. (Exact date possible because of LiveJournal!) Ha ha ha. Though, I probably could have been considered one long before that. I called myself agnostic for a few years leading up to that point, because I was uncomfortable with the idea of god and whether I believed or didn't. I think during that time, I wanted to believe in god. . .but it really isn't something you can force yourself into believing. The turning point was an online discussion I was having with a Christian who claimed to once be an atheist who was unhappy and hateful and later found god. He was explaining why atheists are wrong and why atheism is no different than a religion. But make no mistake. . .I didn't say to myself, "I think I'll start being an atheist!", I simply realized I was one.
What religion did you grow up with? Did you have positive or negative experiences with religion?
Well. You could say I grew up with Catholicism and Lutheranism, but neither of my parents raised me in their religions if that makes sense. I observed Lent (I thought it was fun) without any real understanding behind the tradition and I believed in god simply because you're exposed to it everywhere. I went to church on occasion when other families invited me, but really. Religion wasn't a big thing to my family and I started asking questions and looking into them when I was ten or eleven.
Are you a more outspoken or more apathetic atheist? Why?
I'm a moderately loud and proud atheist! So I guess you could say I am outspoken. I really don't know how to explain it. One of the times I was in therapy, I asked my therapist about "gay pride" and the people who, for whatever reason, feel the need to sit down and tell each and every person they know that they are gay/bi when they become comfortable with it. She explained that some people, that's how they embrace it and there's nothing wrong with not feeling the need to tell everyone and the world that you're gay. It's simply an exciting feeling when you're able to truly love and be okay with a part of yourself, and we just express it differently.
That's kind of how I feel about my atheism. And the way I look at it is this: I want to be an example and living proof that not all atheists are bad people.
Do you think religion is obsolete and should be wiped completely off the face of the Earth, or does some good come out of it?
I like this question a lot. I feel religion should be a tool for an individual. Religion should help an individual live, provide direction, and to give them comfort if needed. So, no. I don't think it should be wiped completely off the face of the Earth, especially since not all religions are the same! It upsets me to see other atheists take on an anti-religion stance and lump them all together as one.
I begin to disagree with the idea of religion when it is used for greed, manipulation, and when it hurts other people. Yes, I recognize that there are a lot of people who use religion for this reason, but there are people who don't. For example, I like people who cherry pick the bible until they expect others to cherry pick the exact same parts that they do. I think the bible is an obsolete and outdated lawbook, but I can see how people see good in it and draw inspiration from it. Now, if we look at Scientology, I do believe that is a religion purely out of greed and would like it to vanish out of the minds of man.
I want people to enjoy the ride of life however they see fit as long as they don't stop another person from doing the same.
Did you lose any friends because you decided to be an atheist? Did your family flip out?
Not that I am aware of, but I was amazed to see how many atheists I already knew. My father is fine and didn't blink, my mother has had trouble with it.
How do you feel about so-called “militant atheists” such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris?
I really like Richard Dawkins. Reading "The God Delusion", hearing a speech of his, and seeing interviews with him. . .I really like a lot of what he says and how he presents it. I'm currently reading a book by Hitchens and already own a book by Harris. I don't really know them or their writing well enough to have an opinion.
Except for God, do you believe in anything supernatural or pseudoscientific? (Ghosts, alien abductions, spirits, souls, demons, psychics, magic, Harry Potter, etc.)
I believe Harry Potter exists in the way that he's a fictional character thought up and written by J. K. Rowling. I don't really believe in the supernatural. I kind of believe in a soul, a universal soul between all living things. I like to think ghosts exists, but I don't really believe they do.
What’s your political alignment? Does your atheism influence how you vote and how you feel on issues?
I'm liberal and I consider myself Independent simply because I try to vote based off the person, not their affiliation. Atheism doesn't really influence my vote one way or another. If there was an atheist running for president and part of his platform was to aggressively work for animal rights and force people to be vegan. . .I probably wouldn't vote for him/her. I am passionate about the separation of church and state, but this is something I've been passionate about long before I consider myself an atheist and even before I considered myself agnostic.
Even though you’re an atheist, have you ever experienced a moment that could be called “religious?” Like an epiphany about the world or complete peace?
When I tried to kill myself, I wrote a poem describing my experience and called it "Hand of God." It made me wonder if god had actually saved me and made me lean more toward believing in him. (Of course, looking back at it, I think that was pretty selfish of me to wonder if god had saved me out of all the other people suffering and struggling through life!)
The other moment would be when I first began studying Buddhism. I had been looking into many religions and finally it was Buddhism's turn. I read things that I always sort of believed in. . .I was filled with so much joy and comfort, I was moved to tears. I was sobbing right there in the library! I felt like that great emotion I couldn't contain was probably (and hopefully) the same feeling other people of other religions feel when they reflect on their faith. Many of the standard beliefs of Buddhism I had believed in all my life. It made me feel like in a past life I was Buddhist and it felt like I had found my path again to continue it.
Are you spiritual, or are your feet always on the ground?
I've become less "spiritual" and more. . .reflective on reason and common sense. I don't know how to put it. I feel many lessons and teachings of Buddhism are really no-brainer statements that we often forget or don't look at from different sides.
Do you have/plan on having a career in the sciences? Alternatively: which branch of science intrigues you most?
No. Chemistry is my favorite branch of science. And talk about complete awesome when math shows up in chemistry. I love chemical reactions and atoms. I got super excited learning about the Large Hadron Collider! Hell, I even own a "plushie" of a higgs boson! ( I would love to go back to that store and buy a plushie of Dark Matter. ) I think I would also very much enjoy studying physics.
What happens when we die? Do you fear death?
I'm a bit uncomfortable explaining fully. I do believe our body will stop functioning and our "self" ceases to exist. I'd imagine our body will slowly decompose and eventually become part of new things. The atoms that make up our physical body are simply recycled into what is around us. (As ridiculous this might sound, when Joshua the Fish died, I couldn't bring myself to dispose of him in the way that most people do with fish.)
As for fearing death, I don't. Death will happen for each of us. We know this, just don't know how or when.
Would you ever date/marry somebody who follows a religion? Be honest.
Yes, depending on how they want to raise children. I wouldn't be able to marry someone who wants to raise their child into a religion. I want to raise a child with the knowledge of all religions and let them decide for themselves what they believe.
On a scale of 1-10, how happy are you with life at this moment, and why?
I'd say a 6. I'm still struggling in life and I am still unhappy with some aspects of who I am. But I do love other parts of me and I enjoy my job a lot more than my last one.
Recommend a book. :) (Doesn’t have to be relevant to atheism, just any good book.)
I can't really recommend books.