So apparently today was National Coming Out Day, which makes it as appropriate a day as any for me to crank out a post I've been mulling for some time.
Here's the deal: I am an atheist. I used to beat around the bush with phrases like "semi-Taoist agnostic" or "Christian sympathizer," but the simple truth is that a lifetime of study, observation, and contemplation have led me to the firm conclusion that supernatural phenomena do not genuinely exist. There are no gods, no devils, no demons, no angels, no unicorns, no fairies, no shoggoths, no psychic powers, no flying saucers. And the simplest word for articulating this stance is "atheist." ("Skeptic" might also work, but has other connotations as well. Some folks like "freethinker" but that's not as widely used.)
Some fraction of the people reading this, particularly the ones who've known me the best or the longest, will be thinking, "Well, duh." Some others might think, "An atheist? But he's so nice." And some others might be thinking, "So? Why make a big deal out of it?"
Well, the reason for coming out and saying it is similar to the reasons LGBTQ folks have for being open about who they are. It's easy to dismiss a group or its members when they're faceless, nameless, and nebulous, a non-specific "them" who act "that way" and believe "those things." It's much harder to do it when you're talking about a friend, neighbor, or colleague. And in recent months and years, groups who've had the audacity to post billboards saying things like "You can be good without God" or "Don't believe in God? You're not alone" have met with complaints, protests, and vandalism, and individuals who have complained about religion in schools have been ostracized, disowned, and even received death threats. LGBTQ people and atheists have in common the fact that many people (and in some cases the same people) see their very existence as illegitimate. And the atheist crowd is getting increasingly vocal about the fact that that's not okay, and I support that.
So, the purpose of this entry today is not to go into detail about the reasons for my atheism (though they are many and I would happily elucidate in other contexts) or to invite anyone to "save" me or to convince anyone else to give up their own beliefs. It's simply to say out loud, "Hey, atheists exist, and are not all bitter nihilists, and in fact can be kinda nice, and whether you knew it or not, I'm one."