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By Carl S ~

No one wants to be vulnerable. Vulnerability will keep you from commitment; sex makes you vulnerable. I've experienced this almost from the beginning of awareness. It's no fun being torn between doing the right thing and whether or not you will be able to continue a relationship, for example.

Bottlecap WisdomBottlecap Wisdom (Photo credit: vasta)
Since I have become an overt atheist, my vulnerability is out in the open, and so, I'd like to spend some time telling others of my experiences. Fasten your seat belts. It all began with my big mouth. I couldn't keep from commenting about injustice whenever it reared its ugly head. Sometimes, I went over the heads of my superiors to report abuses. This did not endear me to those immediately over me, and maybe that is why I was "let go, without doing anything wrong" from one monastery, and thrown out of another. It was in the second one that I started asking questions the novice master was uncomfortable with (None of those good ol’ boys wants to be questioned). I spent a few decades living with an agnostic, exposed to others. I didn't think much of religion seriously until some years after my second marriage to a Christian woman. Maybe it was the craziness of being again exposed to faiths, or the Focus on the Family literature that came in the mail, and maybe the fact that for years before, I had been coming to the conclusion, that it‘s all bullshit. I dropped all connection with it; it made me physically ill.

And then...reading one day in my Freethought Today, a letter from a man in Maine, my state, I looked up his name in my phone book, and called him. We meet every Sunday morning while my wife is in church, and share info, and write to this site and letters to the editor. (But I had the ball rolling before I met up with him.) One day, I started wearing my "out of the closet ATHEIST" cap to the cafe where we meet. I would hide this cap in the car otherwise, in deference to my wife's feelings, but one day, she showed up early to find me with it on. She didn't say anything, so...I started wearing it WITH her when we went on yard sale ventures. No commentary. She probably knew as I do, that I have a right to be myself, and that cap said it. (One guy said, "Good for you!") Once in awhile, someone will come over to our cafe table to make a positive comment. Christians I know say nothing, except for one shocked former member of my wife's church. Why do I do this, make myself vulnerable? Well, I came across this recently, from Ambrose Redmoon: "Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something is more important than fear.”

Ninety per cent of the time I'm out there alone, no backup. I have been surrounded by Christian Right relatives as I told them quietly that I'm an atheist, and have suffered the consequences of verbal personal assaults on my morality. A woman from my wife's church insulted me in a restaurant in front of other church members because I said in a letter to the editor that bringing a child into the world (Jesus) for the purpose of being slaughtered reduced human life to the value of livestock. I talked to a little boy in church after a service, his mother sitting right there, and asked him, “Do you think that someone who drowns children should be praised?" In that same church, I told a member, “There is no God." (My friend said, “What? You weren't struck by lightning?” Whoa! Did I "deconsecrate" that church?) This isn't easy - I'm prone to overdo and overreact. I get shaky, with my stomach in knots, have trouble sleeping. Vulnerable. That doesn't stop me from donning my cap and walking through the lobby of the church as service is letting out.

And yesterday, when I came to pick up my wife after the service, a lady told me they were running over time because of "anointing". So I said, "Well, nothing fails like prayer, that’s what the studies say." And as she was walking away (why do they always walk away from a difference?) I added, "But you wouldn't be interested in evidence." (I think that I was getting even with this woman who insulted me publicly, but maybe it was just an opportunity to say something that needed to be noted.) Meanwhile, a far Xtian Right man walked by her, saying not a word to me.

Maybe they're all thinking I'm a nutcase, a freak, and absolutely a literally God-damned arrogant bastard and god'll get me for my blasphemy. Anything but give one slit of an opening to reason and the fact that I'm a nice loving human being. But, I ask you, what about the arrogant believers and their spokesmen, who post prayer banners in public school, demand prayers at secular activities, and damn secular values, defame anyone opposing their "values"? What of those bishops, ordaining and shifting around from parish to parish, pedophiles (is a pedophile "celibate"?), and opposing a woman's right over her own body? That is immoral arrogance.

The other day, I shouted at the TV: "That's shit, what is this shit?" My wife was more than upset. Lawmakers were backing down on a medical procedure; at first they wanted to stick a probe up a pregnant woman's vagina. Meanwhile, other lawmakers made it impossible for thousands of women in Texas to get health care. All because, as I told my wife, the Christian Right values a g.d. fetus over a living woman. After a while, when I calmed down I said, "Look. What I said were words. What these people are doing is immoral. I don't understand why you, as a woman, aren't angrier than I am." So, no, I'm not the arrogant, pushy one taking away human rights with a smiling face, calm and assured in the grace of god. I'm furious.

To have a discussion with an individual believer is nearly impossible, and even then the person will usually walk away. In fact, "walk-aways” would be a good label, if you're into that. Believers like to “congregate,” and I'm a lone voice. Getting together as a group and ganging up on someone like me. But, I had experiences being ganged up on! Now, I'm not confronted with the bullying of believers - the very opposite of reasonable and respectful discourse I am used to. They seem to have channeled this bullying to the public institutions and courtrooms.

There are more important things than fear and vulnerability. Ask Jessica Ahlquist and Damon Fowler. My efforts are small as compared to theirs, but I’m trying. I’d love to go to the Reason Rally, March 24 in D.C., but I can’t afford it. I do urge everyone who possibly can to get over there. It may have a greater impact for our freedoms, everyone’s, than any events since the Civil “Rights and Gay Rights movements. Please, gather there, meet with other non-believers. Show the arrogant and those who know nothing but the negative propaganda about us, just what “The Enemy” looks like, as I do daily. It will be one of the best experiences of your life. And, you won’t feel vulnerable. Just the opposite. The more people, the greater impact. Do it for the Jessicas and the Damons of this world, too.