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I Did It


R. S. Martin
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Today I went public with my atheism. At the World Religions Conference at the local university I went onstage with the Humanist/atheist/freethinker choir to sing "I want to build the world a home." This followed Dan Barker's speech on no-god.

 

At break I got to talking with a Mennonite minister (black car as opposed to horse and buggy) who was interested to know how I got from horse and buggy Mennonite to singing with the humanist group. He was well-read, open-minded, and very level-headed. For the first time in my life I had the opportunity to discuss in depth my deep issues and questions from a Mennonite perspective.

 

We looked at scripture proofs used by Mennonites and talked about the various Mennonite denominations. For a change I did not have to educate my audience. We must have talked at least two hours. The entire discussion may have lasted three hours. For the last part, two other atheists joined us. They filled in my absolute weakness in science.

 

And that is where the Mennonite dug in his heals. He is a young earth creationist and there was no reasoning with him on this. Like most fundamentalists he thinks scientists have preconceived notions and that they set out to prove their notions and that truth has nothing to do with it. The other two explained to him the benefits of science of which he takes advantage on a daily basis; it did no good. I went so far as to try and play mediator because I thought perhaps I understand the both the Mennonite and mainstream perspectives. But the atheists said they know the YEC Christian position, and the Mennonite did not seem to need anyone's help.

 

I made no secret of the fact that I was firmly on the side of the atheists where it concerns science. In the end, by the time we parted, I felt like the Mennonite no longer considered me a friend. He shook hands with the other two but not with me. He barely acknowledged our parting.

 

Being on these forums, and on William Lane Craig's forums, helped prepare me for the discussion with him. I do not regret any of it. I had supper at a nearby restaurant with a lot of the others of our group and I felt like these are the people to whom I belong--the Christian mindset simply does not fit me. Much as I like the culture, there is no way I can go back to the tortured mindset and somehow, I am glad that the world now knows my position. Even if it means losing the friendship of some good people; there are many other good people out there.

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He is a young earth creationist and there was no reasoning with him on this. Like most fundamentalists he thinks scientists have preconceived notions and that they set out to prove their notions and that truth has nothing to do with it.

 

Oh, the irony....

 

;)

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Oh, the irony....

 

 

I'd call it projection.

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Good for you RSM. Well done.

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Oh, the irony....

 

 

I'd call it projection.

Projection indeed, but they're projecting onto others what they themselves do. That's the irony. ;)

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Good for you RSM. Well done.

 

Thanks. I think the combined events helped bring closure to some lingering subconscious doubts I may still have had about leaving the Mennonite community. That he wouldn't shake hands with me like he did with the other two atheists, that meant something though I'm not sure what.

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Congratulations. There is a cost, but nothing beats being true to yourself.

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Congratulations, Ruby. Well done!

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Way to go, Ruby! I wish there was a humanist choir here!

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At break I got to talking with a Mennonite minister (black car as opposed to horse and buggy) who was interested to know how I got from horse and buggy Mennonite to singing with the humanist group. He was well-read, open-minded, and very level-headed. For the first time in my life I had the opportunity to discuss in depth my deep issues and questions from a Mennonite perspective.

 

We looked at scripture proofs used by Mennonites and talked about the various Mennonite denominations. For a change I did not have to educate my audience. We must have talked at least two hours. The entire discussion may have lasted three hours.

That sounds like a small joy! I love discussions like that, as long as I can feel that the other person is able to actually hear me.

 

He shook hands with the other two but not with me. He barely acknowledged our parting.
Oh well. So much for that. It may be extraneous, but I have to wonder how much of that attitude had to do with your gender, as well as your religious position.

 

But big congratulations on simply being involved with such an event in that way!

 

Yay, Ruby! :clap: Way to kick ass and take names (In an ex-Old Order Mennonite kind of way.)!!!

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Yay, Ruby! :clap: Way to kick ass and take names (In an ex-Old Order Mennonite kind of way.)!!!

 

:HaHa: Ditto what he said!

Good for you!

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Thanks everyone for your support. Sarahgrace, the "choir" was very much improvised on the spot and at the last minute. Not sure if it sounded like a choir but it put me on the stage under a certain context.

 

Loren, your comments help me analyze a bit more what may have been going on. Obviously, the patriarchal thing was going on there, but I did disregard the patriarchal boundaries a lot. Eight years ago, I'd taken my first religious studies course in that classroom with the first openly self-professing "unbeliever" I'd ever known. In the meantime, I learned how to do semi-formal introductions. Thus, when the other two atheists came along I was able to provide a concise introduction about who this minister was in relation to me.

 

I got a few uncomfortable vibes about it as though I were doing something inappropriate, but hey! I was on my home turf playing by the rules we all played here. While just he and I were talking, some of the things he said obligated me to either silently acquiesce or speak up inappropriately (for a woman). My father had taught me to stand up for my beliefs and not ever to lie under any circumstances. So RubySera spoke up--appropriately or inappropriately.

 

Ummm. Possibly this was not exactly what Dad had in mind when I was ten years old but the Bible does say that what you teach a child will stick in old age. :twitch:

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So yeah, at first it felt really good to have had the opportunity to talk in depth with an articulate and well-read minister about the issues. But as I analyze things this way, I begin to realize that news may leak out about my "very bold" and "disrespectful" attitude towards him in public. I don't think I was disrespectful at all but he might think I was because I did not back down or acquiesce as is appropriate for a "decent" woman. He might accuse me of talking back, etc. I have no idea. Just trying to prepare for a worst-case scenario with my siblings in case they ever hear about it. Possibly I should be the first to tell them about the encounter. Yeah, that seems like a good idea. Then they will know my side of the story regardless of what he puts out there, if anything.

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It may be difficult to deal with the "coming out" reaction, but at least you have found a group of people with whom you can identify. That's really important. So congratulations for finding like-minded free thinkers with whom you feel comfortable.

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First congrats on taking a stand for yourself, and being able to engage in an adult-like manner with someone who wouldn't have expected it.

 

Coming out to your family can be difficult - sometimes it's as much our own trepidation as anything, other times that trepidation is well founded. Either way, it's really easiest when you arrange the coming out party, at least for me. Personally, writing a letter was easiest since it allowed me to coherantly arrange my thoughts without having to deal with comebacks when I'm already nervous. Either way, good luck!

 

 

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Coming out to your family can be difficult - sometimes it's as much our own trepidation as anything, other times that trepidation is well founded. Either way, it's really easiest when you arrange the coming out party, at least for me. Personally, writing a letter was easiest since it allowed me to coherantly arrange my thoughts without having to deal with comebacks when I'm already nervous. Either way, good luck!

 

I see I wasn't clear about this. My family found out three years ago. It took them two and a half years to come to terms with my atheism. We finally seem to be a "family" again.

 

So now I "came out" to the larger community. I did not expect a plain Mennonite to be present at this event because it's in the large city in the university and these people don't even believe in getting this kind of education. But there he was. I saw him after my group's presentation. Depending what he says to my family, he could really mess up the progress that has been made in relationships with my family. That is my fear.

 

I talked to my one sister after writing the post above. I asked if she knows this minister and she didn't. He's not from her specific group. When I told her about my concerns she did not comment. I don't know if she simply did not know what I meant or if she thinks he probably is more correct than I am.

 

My other sister that I feel comfortable discussing this kind of thing with has not yet returned my call. I forget if I left my name. She teaches at a school that has no telephone so it may simply be that she has not yet had opportunity to call back.

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Great stuff, R.S. I even saw a blurb about the conference on the CTV news.

 

 

You'd think in a more progressive atmosphere that someone like a Young Earth Creationist would be a bit of a throwback, to be honest. You have to be pretty obstinate in this day and age to carry on with this kind of childish perspective in a modern world, especially in a more intellectual environment such as this kind of a conference at a significant university.

 

I didn't know that Mennonites were prone to this kind of fundamentalism; the ones I know out here on the west coast tend to be a little more receptive to scientific reality, however strict their religious dedication may be.

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My sister called the other evening and we had a really good conversation. She's a very supportive and compassionate person and goes out of her way to understand a person. She is also very articulate and I learned a great deal.

 

You'd think in a more progressive atmosphere that someone like a Young Earth Creationist would be a bit of a throwback, to be honest. You have to be pretty obstinate in this day and age to carry on with this kind of childish perspective in a modern world, especially in a more intellectual environment such as this kind of a conference at a significant university.

 

I didn't know that Mennonites were prone to this kind of fundamentalism; the ones I know out here on the west coast tend to be a little more receptive to scientific reality, however strict their religious dedication may be.

 

A couple things. First, some of the world's most ultra conservative Mennonites live in this area. There is debate among scholars whether they are as modern as fundamentalism or whether perhaps they are of an earlier period. I don't think this kind of Mennonite exists on the West Coast.

 

Second, a huge weakness (in my opinion) about such liberal universities is that these days they are tolerant of all views and cultures; objective truth is beside the point. This allows for subcultures adhering to overtly blind faith to thrive and multiply under the very noses of the world's top astrophysicists and other scientists. The hope that religionists will eventually "get it," is naive.

 

Back to the convo with my sister. She emphasized the "kernel of faith" (that Jesus talks about in the parable) that grows into a tree large enough for birds to lodge in.

 

The way this works, apparently, is that you accept some things as givens. (Somehow, I never got this.) These things are: the veracity of the Bible, the reliability of the council of the church, and the reliability of the inner witness of the Holy Spirit. When these three align, one knows one is right or has the truth. This automatically makes blind faith a virtue (she did not refer to blind faith but in my opinion, that is what it amounts to).

 

Upholding this faith and modeling such a faith inside an institution of higher learning can be experienced by a strong YEC Christian (one who is strong enough not to be influenced by the teachings of "the world") as letting one's light shine for Jesus. I know this latter from having been in that kind of church for forty years.

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Second, a huge weakness (in my opinion) about such liberal universities is that these days they are tolerant of all views and cultures; objective truth is beside the point. This allows for subcultures adhering to overtly blind faith to thrive and multiply under the very noses of the world's top astrophysicists and other scientists. The hope that religionists will eventually "get it," is naive.

 

 

That's interesting. But likely true. Wouldn't want to seem "intolerant" or anything.

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