I must admit, I haven’t taken much notice of the hashtag #NormalizeAtheism, but it does seem to be creating something of a stir.
With that in mind, I decided to have a chat with a friend who is active in it, @NancyDrewPI, to see what the hash tag means to her.
The Q&A reads like an interrogation, but it really wasn’t. It has been edited for grammar and Nancy’s appalling American spelling only 😉.
And is purely Nancy’s take on what#NormalizeAtheism is all about.
ME: What is #NormaliseAtheism about?
NANCY: Making it okay to be an atheist. Atheists are demonised in so many places, especially the US. We are despised, trusted as much as rapists.
Eradicating religion is a far off prospect, but it should be okay to be an atheist just as its okay to be different faiths or to be a Republican vs Democrat or to like purple better than green. People don’t realise that they probably know atheists who are just scared to tell them.
ME: Does apostasy have any bearing? Or are you seen differently than lifelong atheists?
NANCY: Depends on the religion.
ME: I mean for christianity… Your experience.
NANCY: I would say yes… Not because it’s like Islam where it’s horrid to be an “apostate”, I mean I never really heard that word. But because if you were raised Christian then most of your family, friends, neighbours, coworkers are probably Christian too.
So it has an effect because you’re surrounded by it and by leaving to go to another faith, let alone atheism, you’re losing community, family, friends, and sometimes your job.
ME: Do you think that losing the framework and support of religious dogma could cause you to look for another framework/dogma to replace it?
But I don’t know if that’s because they were still in the mindset that there has to be a religion out there or because they wanted community.
ME: But you didn’t?
NANCY: No, I went from Catholicism to straight Christianity to deism to atheism, which is common.
ME: Do you miss the support framework that religion can provide?
NANCY: Definitely. Community.. It’s a big deal for a lot of people. I’ve heard about some secular stuff like Community Mission Chapel started by Jerry DeWitt or Oasis.
A lot of atheists abhor that idea, I did at first too. But hearing Jerry talk about it, doesn’t seem too bad.
ME: Do you think that a lifelong atheist can understand your missing that support?
NANCY: I don’t think it’s impossible, but I do think a lot of aspects of being a believer are foreign to lifelong atheists.
ME: Do you think a lifelong atheist has no need for a support network?
NANCY: No I wouldn’t say that.
ME: Do you think lifelong atheists have it easier? I will qualify that, in terms of never having lost that sense of support that you have lost?
NANCY: Do you just mean community?
ME: No, I mean the false comfort that religion provides.
NANCY: Oh yeah, that’s like a whole other ball game. You feel like you have lost a friend and you have been lied to your whole life. I know a lot of people including myself felt that they went through a grieving process. But everybody is different too, some shake it off quickly.
ME: Do you resent life-long atheists who never went through that grief?
NANCY: Absolutely not. I’m a little bit jealous of them but ultimately I am actually really happy that they didn’t have to go through what I went through.
I only get upset when they don’t understand why people don’t want to come out of the closet or say that all believers are stupid. They don’t know what it’s like to be indoctrinated.
ME: Does the difference between a life-long atheist and an apostate have any bearing on #NormalizeAtheism?
NANCY: I don’t think it has any bearing on it. I think that former believers may have a greater need to normalise atheism because it seems to me, even from talking to friends [in the UK and Canada] that for most lifelong atheists it’s no big deal for them and where they live.
I think that lifelong atheists can have a good impact on #NormalizeAtheism because they show that it can be normal to be an atheist.
I think the hashtag is more aimed at countries like the United States where atheists are demonised. Some people think they don’t know any atheists, but they do, and we are your neighbours and sisters and children and teachers and everything else… just normal people.
Me: Thank you.
Do Nancy’s opinions match your own? Or do you have a different take on what #NormalizeAtheism means? Feel free to comment below.