Nonfiction, What Shannon Read

Outgrowing God

Sometimes you get tired of fighting the good fight every day and just need to read something that bolsters you.

I imagine this is how many religious people feel about reading books by their favorite religious authors. It’s how I used to feel as a practicing Catholic when I read books with titles like Mary in a Martha’s World or those Joshua books that make Jesus seem like a real person.

But now my inspirational reading looks very different. After a long journey out of Catholicism and a meandering detour through New Age spirituality, I came to the logical conclusion that there is no god(s).

I’m not here to argue that point. I’m just telling you about it.

As an atheist, I don’t regret my religious upbringing or experiences. I met Ben in high school youth group, for heaven’s sake. 😉 That youth group gave me a place to be loved and cared for outside of my chaotic home (where I was also loved and cared for, but still…).

When Jacob was little and I was a very young mother in need of lots of support, my parish community was there for me. Our pastor knew me by name. He was kind of a jerk, but he knew me. I was asked to give retreat talks and was given responsibilities that made me feel capable and good about myself. Overall, I had a community and a refuge in my church. I’m grateful for those people and that place.

Mostly, though, I’m grateful that my experiences with religion led me straight to atheism. I couldn’t have ended up at the right conclusion for me without having played hard for the other team so to speak.

When I began to question, and then read about, the ways in which religions are established, I grew to understand that religion is a purely social construct.

Along this path, I have also learned about the religious history of the United States. I have woken up to the constant religious fervor that is the United States.

If you didn’t know, religion is EVERYWHERE here. Ben and I went on a walk around the downtown area last week and passed, like, five churches and a synagogue in five blocks.

I was at the mall with my mom yesterday and a lady talked to me about prayer in the bathroom. We walked past a kiosk and there was a Black Lives Matter t-shirt on display right next to a Jesus Saves t-shirt.

It gets…..tiring…being a nonbeliever in this country.

Especially when there is a mob of very vocal believers trying to make laws about what you can and cannot do based on their beliefs.

It’s all feeling very Handmaid’s Tale out there right now.

All this is to say that I appreciated listening to Richard Dawkins read the audiobook version of his Outgrowing God: A Beginner’s Guide.

Highlights were:

  • Theories about how myths (and therefore religions) get started
  • The incredible coordinated flight of starlings
  • A mocking retelling of the binding of Isaac (you know, the story in the Bible where God tells Abraham to sacrifice his own child as a sign of his obedience. That’s some sadistic stuff right there, man…)

I appreciated some Richard Dawkins in my life this week. I liked the reminder that it’s possible to wonder at the beauty and ferocity of nature without attributing it to a spiritual cause. And the reassurance that, yes, the Christian God portrayed in the Bible (angry, “jealous,” sadistic) is not a God I can get behind at all. Phew.

Dawkins reminded me that there are others out there like me. That despite a country filled with people who post memes about allowing prayer in school (even though it already is) and who fight for the right to dictate who you can and can’t marry, there is hope. There are other people out there who believe in a society that benefits all of us, not just some of us.

Ironically, sometimes an atheist just needs to feel less alone in the world.

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7 thoughts on “Outgrowing God

  1. I feel like I could go through every line of this and comment or high five you because, seriously, amen (the irony) to all of this! I moved back to the US at the end of last year after living almost nine years abroad, and even though I grew up here and was raised very Catholic, I still didn’t fully understand the intensity and prevalence of religion here until I saw it through different eyes having lived elsewhere. And it’s just stunning. It’s become such a frustrating conversation-ender too, especially with my family who seem to grow increasingly religious with time, but with so many people here! You can’t have real discussions if everything just ends with “pray about it” or “God will take care of it”, etc. I could scream.

    I’ve also found that people seem to think it’s much more allowable to attack you over expressing that you don’t believe than they would if you were just of a different religion or group within one. It’s like there’s much more acceptance as long as you believe in something but science doesn’t count. I’m exhausted with it all already.

    Anyway, thanks for posting this. It made me happy to read it and feel less alone about this. I know of Dawkins of course but have never read him. I’m going to look for this one. Thanks for sharing, and your thoughts! I’ve been attacked, criticized, and finger-wagged multiple times on my blog before for writing about being an atheist so I really admire you expressing this.

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    • Shannon says:

      Oh my goodness, thank you! I totally understand and thanks for your kind words. Where did you live abroad? It is very frustrating to be told to pray or “give it to God” when you are airing a frustration, isn’t it? That is something you hear so often and it makes me want to scream too. Exactly why I need these kinds of books in my life! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      • I lived in Germany, France, and most recently Vienna, Austria. They’re “religious” countries so to speak, but the differences in how that’s actually lived and comes through in the culture and politics versus how it is in the US are massive. My husband is so uncomfortable hearing American politicians say things like “God bless America” or the constant discussions of religion in various political issues, not to mention how often people will just bring it up in casual conversation, and seeing it through his eyes helped me see more of how strange this all is too.

        So I was able to borrow this as a library ebook and already started reading it. It’s fantastic. I really needed it in my life too, especially right now — thanks so much for reviewing it! ❤

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