Atheism In The Bible Belt

Joe Mercaldo

Have you ever been there? Do we all start out that way? I mean it’s like in school when you’re asked to take a test, where you circle the correct answer:
Are you going to pick A, B or C? It has to be one and everyone is only going to choose one, but not every answer is going to be right. This is pretty straightforward and how a lot of people start out taking tests. This is common to most if not all of us, but one day someone put a test in front of you. There was another option: it was none of the above or some other variation of the same reasoning.

For the first time you’re allowed to say, “The answer is not there.” You don’t have to believe in a certain choice, but that your choice now can be that the answer was never there to start. So D could be your answer. Really? I mean you were told over and over again there were certain ways to do things and there was always a correct answer. And remember that, like in high school, A’s, B’s and C’s, that’s what you’d rather have before ever trying to go for a D. And I like to tell people, “D does not stand for devil.” Just to make sure. So think of it this way: what if every day you felt like you’re in another world, didn’t fit in and everything… and the only way you felt like you could survive was to blend in. Makes sense that you might feel awkward, anxious and invisible. I think we all agree that we feel our best when we can be ourselves and be accepted that way. When I was younger, all I could do was see things as black-and-white. So something was right or wrong, it was this way or that way, there was no gray, no wiggle room. There was no questioning about it. The “D’s” in life, they have a story, they have a face, they have accomplishments and challenges too.

So what’s my story? Well, years ago, I was in a Catholic Church saying a Creed along with everyone. Now a Creed, for anyone who does not know, is a way to profess your beliefs in something. At that very moment I happened to be saying, “I believe in God, Father Almighty, maker of Heaven and Earth, of all that is seen and unseen.” And then – whoa! – all of a sudden my head, my  brain, it just said confidently and surprisingly, “No, I don’t.” And after saying this line and every one after it, I started to like check it off like a mental list of “No, I don’t.” to everything. Up until now, I had just said what everyone else was saying. I thought that’s how to do it, like anything that you were told to memorize: to say over and over again without questioning. So D actually ended up being my answer. D in my case it was an option called atheist So let’s define atheism According to the Merriam-Website Online Dictionary, the first definition is the archaic definition, and that’s ‘ungodliness, wickedness’.

The current definition though is a disbelief in the existence of a deity. There is no deity. So let me explain it this way: there’s Up, I think that’s where most of us would think that people put a god,a happy place, a heaven. For every Up there’s a Down. So Down, that’s where people put a devil, bad place, demons. So where do atheists fit in? Right there: no god, no devil. Just surrounded by all of the other human beings. So us atheists have nothing? No, we have each other. We even count all of you. This is not saying that we don’t struggle with life issues. What I’m saying is that I have to live up to my own mistakes. I can’t conveniently say things like, “The devil made me do it.” or “It’s God’s will or plan.”

Since I have no answer, there is no answer. So it all comes down to who I am and how I choose to respond to any given situation  want to be good.  wants to be respected, appreciated. But life is hard, mistakes are made, people are hurt, even people that are loved. My atheism does not change that at all. I screw up, I make mistakes, certainly don’t know everything. In fact recently I made a couple mistakes – more than a couple, but – and I hurt someone I love. And I also hurt some other friends and some other people in my life. And I need to take care of that myself because I didn’t have anything else to go to. And so I took care of it, I looked into it. Today I simply want to remind you that no matter what you believe, understand that not everyone thinks the same. And just because we believe different or think different, doesn’t mean that we are different. As an atheist in the Bible Belt, it’s often hard for many of us to remind people that we are people too and we’re here. As I said, there’s more than probably you realize. There’s people in your family,
there’s probably people you work with, everywhere you go and we’re just the same. So what I like to say to you is: I’m not asking you to change your world for me, but rather you realize, I’m in this world with you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *