Being Told What I Am

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    Dang Martin

    How am I to see you, when my faith stands in the way…
    In Any Tongue” — David Gilmour

    For most of my life, I was told to keep my mouth shut about what I am, and what I believe or do not believe. Most of the time, it was under threat of bodily harm. Other times, the harm was real. I was left-handed, but was told that I was “a tool of the devil.” This confused me, but that confusion was replaced by the pain of paddlings I got, and that I would continue to get, until I wrote with my right hand. And this was in a public school.

    This came shortly after the first time I saw anything religious, which was the first grade class praying before lunch. They noticed that I was not doing it, and that I was confused by what they were doing. It became painfully obvious to them that I had never been to church, had never heard of god or jesus, and had never heard of the bible.

    It would be this first painful event that would set the tone for the first 21 years of my life. It would be a time of potential friendships lost because they couldn’t be seen with me, because of “what I was.”

    What was I? Well, I had yet to hear the term “Atheist” at that time, and had not heard of such a thing until Madalyn Murray O’Hair was in the news. They did their best to make her look as ugly and horrible as possible. At the time, she was the only other person, besides me and my family, who did not believe in this god. Was I ugly, in the way that she was portrayed?

    So much was confusing. Why was I not allowed to speak my mind? My parents did little to help me, beyond my mother protesting after she found out about my daily paddlings. This made the paddlings stop, but only made matters worse for me in school.

    While I was not free at all to even ask questions in an attempt to figure out what was going on, or why I was different, I did get lots of guidance from “good Christians” in my community, who decided to help me by constantly reminding me EXACTLY what I was.

    I was told that I was a devil-worshipper. This was confusing, for I did not believe in the devil, either.

    I was told that I was a person who had no morals.

    I was told that I was a pagan witch.

    I was told that I was a filthy sinner.

    I was told that I was NOT HUMAN.

    I was told that I should leave town, if I know what’s good for me.

    I was told that I would be burning in hell for all of eternity.

    I was told that I was worthless.

    I was told that I must have “very strong faith” to “believe that there is no god.”

    I was told that I was empty and sad.

    I was told that my mother was a witch and a whore.

    I was beat up after school and told that I deserved it.

    I was told that I was NOT American.

    I was told that I was not welcome.

    I was told that I was stupid.

    I was told that I could NOT be a Cub Scout or a Boy Scout.

    I was told that everyone hated me.

    I was told that I would never fit in.

    I was told that I was an “evil master manipulator” any time I cried.

    I was told that I didn’t believe because I “just wanted to be free to sin,” because I was “probably a faggot.”

    I was told to never challenge a Christian, for they are holy, good, forgiven, and better than me.

    I was told that I’ll grow up to be a murderer because I believe there is no god watching me.


    The list goes on. Please do forgive me if I get a bit bent when someone tells me what I am. I already heard what I am, for the first 21 years of my life.

    At first, I saw no reason why I should believe in this god. I did not yet know about prayer, church, the bible, and other things. I did not socialize with other kids until school, and nothing religious was brought up in kindergarten.

    Eventually, it got bad enough that I read the bible, to see what it was all about. I saw little in the way of morality, and no reason why I should accept it as either the “word of god” or “inspired by god.”

    With all of the claims about what Christians are, I saw no reason why I should believe that they are good, decent, caring, charitable, or better than me. This is not to say that I saw myself as superior, for all of their brow-beating and horrible words, I saw myself as shit.

    THEY wore a label with great pride, and by the time I realized this, I had read their bible, and I had gained a better understanding of them. They were NOT supposed to carry themselves in this manner. They were NOT supposed to damn me to hell. They were NOT supposed to constantly judge me.

    They were SUPPOSED to be stewards of their faith. They were SUPPOSED to invite me to church. They were SUPPOSED to be an EXAMPLE of what a Christian should be. But they could not do any of this, and it is not surprising. Just look at American Christians in politics. I am more like their Jesus than they are.

    I am an Atheist. This means that I DO NOT believe in any gods. Nothing more. Nothing less.

    It does not mean that I’m morally-sound or better than anyone. It does not indicate superiority. It does not serve as a measure of intelligence. It is NOT a way to be better than others [THAT would be called “Christianity”]. It does not mean that I’m “edgy” or elite.

    And if the label confuses or upsets any one, then I can ditch it for the sake of conversation and be known as “that guy who does not believe any of it.” I only use the label so that I can meet others like me. Now I realize that the reason why I was told to SHUT UP about my non-belief is because Christians wanted me to feel as if I was alone in the world. And I felt utterly alone for the first 21 years of my life.

    In spite of ALL OF THIS, I do my best to be civil. I do my best to be understanding. I also do my best to try to convey what the world was like for me as a little child in first grade who learned about Christianity and religious belief the hard way. Most people have a hard time understanding this, because their parents either brainwashed them into believing, or at the very least they pretended to believe by just calling themselves Christians. After all, there is no test, and fewer than 7% of them read the bible [source: Pew].

    So just wear the label, call yourself a Christian, and you’ll fit in with the group and be superior to those who do not. Star-Bellied Sneetches!

    But every so often, I might get a bit more angry than usual. There is this rumor that Atheists are angry, and I cannot speak for others, but I have just spoken for myself. Now you know why I sometimes get angry.

    If you think that I am dodging or evading something, the call me on it. Tell me what it is that you want to know, and I will answer you as honestly as a first grader would. I have nothing to dodge, nothing to hide, and nothing to evade.

    And if you do not understand what I am saying, then please be HONEST and tell me that you do not understand. Saying that I’m evading is not true and gets us nowhere.

    I don’t believe in your god, because I was not indoctrinated to believe. You were, and that is why you are afraid to question your beliefs, or afraid to even consider the idea. Grown adults don’t suddenly make the logical conclusion to start believing these things. It first takes your parents — adults you trust — to lie to you about it, and then cap it in with enough fear that you are afraid to ask questions or step out of line.

    It’s also why you’re afraid to understand, and afraid to relate. The fact that I exist, as an Atheist, frightens you to the core. I get it. I understand it now, even though I did not understand it at first, when the shit hit the fan. I have read your book that you do not read, I have asked questions that you are forbidden from asking, and I have done everything humanly possible to understand why you have so much hatred, fear, and contempt for me.

    Finally, I felt this rant to be necessary, due to several instances where I am being grossly misunderstood, where I’m being told that I’m “evading” an issue, or where I’m being told what I am.

    I’ve been told what I am for my entire life. It’s all wrong.

    I’ve been told what I am doing for my entire life. It’s all wrong.

    I’m being up-front about what and who I am, with nothing to evade and nothing to hide. I have no reason why I would want to avoid answering something, or why I should lie about myself when it comes to WHY I don’t believe something.

    Because I’ve also been told that I’m a liar, and that this is a FACT, for the simple reason that I am not a Christian.

    If you think that I am a liar, by definition, or that I am lying about who I am or why I do not believe, then that is YOUR problem, and I absolutely REFUSE to make it MY problem.




    Dang, what an upbringing!  I can’t imagine what itt must have been like to plunge into 20th century America’s schooling system without knowing about their religion.  Up until then, how did your parents handle Christmas and Easter?


    I have a nephew and two nieces going to public school in Georgia. They have never had any religious indoctrination in class. Their parents are very alert to any breach of the law in this regard. They are now teenagers and are openly atheist. They see no need for gaps to be filled with gods. They do not give the subject much, if any consideration. They are straight A students and very well adjusted to coping with the world. They feel sorry for some of their friends when they mock or tease them for not knowing their God.

    Here in Ireland it was a different story. If I start writing now I would end up with a book. Hmmm…”Learning how to cope with religious bigots and pious perverts”. At least now we are mostly atheist.


    Dang Martin

    Dang, what an upbringing! I can’t imagine what itt must have been like to plunge into 20th century America’s schooling system without knowing about their religion. Up until then, how did your parents handle Christmas and Easter?

    Christmas and Easter were just holidays, like the Fourth of July or Halloween.

    Easter was about that bunny who hid eggs and brought baskets with giant hollow chocolate bunnies with their candy eyes magically missing. Dad fessed up later.

    Christmas was about Santa bringing presents. It was about the tree, the lights, the decorations, and just a general feeling over a certain time of the year.

    Both were situations where you spend time with family, so we had that element.

    Christianity, god, jesus, prayer, bibles, and all of those things were never presented and had nothing to do with any of it.


    Dang Martin

    When I stop and think about things like Easter, as an adult, I still cannot see the correlation between a huge, anthropomorphic bunny with colored boiled eggs, and the story of a man who is supposedly the son of god, who had a really horrific three-day weekend for my sins, which had not yet happened.

    Outside of the name, Christmas has little connection as well. I would later read in the bible about how Christians SHOULD NOT have trees decorated in their homes.

    I still see no connection between the capitalist drive, the Coca-Cola creation that is Santa Claus, and the birth of a Jewish baby in the Middle East 2,000 years ago.

    What I DO see now, however is how Christians appropriated Pagan seasonal celebrations in order to move attention away from the Pagans and onto them. They had to steal the fun things, because there is NOTHING fun about a guilt-driven death cult.



    Guilt-driven death cult.  I like it.

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