After some confusion, a funny email from my mother, and some introspective pondering after listening to Alan Watts lectures, I found myself changing my description of my religious leanings on facebook, yet again. Here it is:
Also, I know people don't like the term "atheist," but I find myself comfortable using it in the context of being asked "what is your religion?" If someone is asking me about "my religion," they are assuming a couple of things.
1. I believe in some sort of supernatural force, deity, etc.
2. I engage in rituals associated with these beliefs.
For one, I am not ashamed to answer I "disbelieve in deities" (i.e. atheist). While I also like the term "secular humanist," I don't like it to answer the religion question because I frankly DO NOT associate secular humanism with religion. I think in a general sense, it answers more philosophical and ethical questions rather than theistic ones. And while I know that atheism isn't a religion either, it addresses the assumptions I listed up above in what I find to be a more upfront manner. The reason I bring this up is because I recently read "An Accidental Atheist" on Leah's blog, and after reading the post as well as some of the comments, I started contemplating why people avoid the word even though they might be it. I avoided the word myself for a long time, and wrote a little about coming to terms with it here. Now I have to be fine with the fact that while I have become more comfortable with the term, there are some people who will never be comfortable with it.
And though I have used the term "pantheist" in the past, I started to realize that I had to start to making a clear distinction between dualistic pantheism and non dualistic pantheism. I don't think there is a separate "entity" or theos that gives life or a spirit to the universe, and so I really try to drive home the fact that when I relate to pantheism, it is only in a non dualist, scientific sense, which I think leads to more explaining, which sometimes I just don't feel like doing. To me, the universe is just the universe.
I have been having quite a few discussions with my husband about it. He won't call himself an atheist, but when we discuss nature, the cosmos, religion, spirituality, etc. we have essentially very similar if not the same view of religion and nature. And I have to admit, though I decided to use this word to identify what I think about religion, that doesn't mean that I don't also consider myself other things (see the description in the image of my facebook "Religious Views" above).
A perk about the word "atheist" is that it says to family that I am nowhere near Mormon or "religious" anymore (which is a good thing because I'm tired of them thinking that I just may become TBM again!). In fact, after recently updating the religion section in my facebook, I got a phone call from my mother in law. Apparently, my mother read my profile, and then proceeded to call my husband's mother to tell her that I said I was an "atheist."
Even though my mother in law knows that we don't believe in the church, she seemed very concerned about the prospect. The conversation ran a little like this:
"So, she was saying that you are.... an atheist. When I know you are trying with church."
"Well, yes I have gone to church a couple times recently... and frankly it irritated me..."
"Yes, I know, but she said you were an... atheist." (She seemed to not notice my use of the word "irritated")
"Well, I don't know how my disbelief should be an issue and why she would bring it up with you..."
MIL still didn't get it, because after I handed the phone to my husband, she brought up the claim that I was atheist to him. She told hubby that my mother claimed I was an atheist, but she "didn't get that from me." Finally my husband said, "So what if she is an atheist? That doesn't mean we should treat her any differently."
I don't know what I should have said. I mean, MIL didn't explicitly ask me, "Are you an atheist?" She just kept saying over and over how my mom said that I said I was an atheist. And the way MIL said it implied she thought it was an "awful" thing to say about me and that my mother was lying about it. So, I was treading carefully.
Anyways, it's awesome how my mom called his mom with the purpose of telling her that. Why on earth would there be any reason to do that if not to cause some emotional rift in between my MIL and myself? It is all so very odd...
Oh, and it was quite humorous to see how MIL would pause before she would say the word "atheist." This is probably what made me cautious in the way I responded to her on the phone. And even though I have physically placed my body in a church building on Sunday in the last few months, it is funny that she therefore assumes that automatically makes me a TBM trying to do the mental gymnastics again. I suppose it's that whole "Well if they are in church they must feel the spirit" attitude.
Anyways, this is going to be my new inspirational poster. I'll consult it every time someone gasps when the words "atheist" and "Hypatia" are brought up in the same sentence:
(Picture is from Accidentally Awesome)