Over the last few years, I began to embrace secular humanism as a philosophy and open up to others about my own personal atheism. I had moved to North Carolina from New York City and experienced a bit of culture shock. My own father is a Presbyterian minister, I grew up Christian and as a teenager, I dabbled in trying to be a “good Christian,” attending youth groups, praise concerts, etc… None of it made sense to me and I drifted a way. I did enjoy the community that church gave me, but I couldn’t continue to claim belief in a supernatural god. I especially was uncomfortable with how religion is used as a tool of oppression and an excuse to discriminate.
My father is a progressive and not the type of Christian to criticize my decision and he didn’t try to convince me to stay in the church. I realize now just how lucky I am to have a family who supported my personal beliefs even when they are in contrast to their own. We grew up learning about other religions and that everyone has their own truth and philosophy and that it can be different from our own.
I left the Christian faith when I was 16, and for awhile I identified as agnostic. Over the years I have shifted toward atheism and when I discovered Humanist philosophy during college, I felt that described my values perfectly.
While I lived in New York, my Christian friends were all of the liberal, progressive variety. They ran youth shelters for LGBTQ teens, volunteered for great causes, and in general were living incredibly fulfilling and admirable lives. They were doing good work for people without discrimination or proselytizing.
Now, I don’t want to say that there are not progressive Christians like this in North Carolina, there absolutely are and I have definitely made a few Christian friends who I respect highly.
You guessed it, there is a huge “but…” coming.
My first experience with North Carolina Christians was at a Christmas Party hosted by my sister’s coworkers. My whole family was in town, and we decided to attend with her. Let’s just say, by the end of the evening, people were “speaking in tongues” and self-ordaining a teenage boy as a new minister. They had also determined that my amazing, progressive Christian father needed “saving”… My mom and I were beyond saving I guess because they gave us the cold shoulder pretty quickly.
It was eye opening to say the least. I was in a whole new world.
When I moved to NC, a few months after this party, I decided that I needed to truly own my identity as a Humanist and an Atheist. The cool thing was that I met a bunch of likeminded people who felt the same, just by being open about it.
Many secular people feel like they are part of an overlooked and under represented minority. So much of the national dialogue is focused on this supposed “War on Christianity” while there are ZERO openly atheist members of Congress and only one who is unaffiliated. Christian dogma is pervasive through our laws and culture and non-religious people are seen as apathetic, amoral, disconnected… Atheist is treated like a bad word or an insult.
Many important secular thinkers and writers distance themselves from the Atheist label as well, preferring Humanist or Agnostic, because it is more socially accepted.
Whatever your affiliation or non-affiliation, the fact is we are not represented. Secular people are blamed for many of our culture’s shortcomings. We are seen as corrupted or incapable of empathy.
In my experience that couldn’t be farther from the truth. When you remove religious dogma and traditions from the equation, you are open to be completely inclusive. You can have empathy for all people without prioritizing one group over another.
Why we need a secular community.
If more non-religious people organize around their philosophy, we can show the world what it means to be good without god. If we can get the Atheists, Agnostics, Spiritual, and the Unaffiliated folks to work together, we can change the dialogue regarding societal expectations, empathy, and what it means to be a good person.
My hope that Secularly Wed can be that community, not just for wedding planning, but for navigating culture and traditions from a non-religious perspective. A place where people can discuss issues that effect their lives and those of their families.
And it’s not about bashing religion, and it never will be. We might be critical of religion, because I feel its time some hard questions get asked. It’s about about being inclusive, standing up against oppression, teach the next generation of critical thinkers, and find new ways to experience culture and traditions.
Join us in asking the hard questions and rethinking the ways we approach marriage, family, and our impact on the world!
The Secularly Wed Community will be launching soon. Be there when we go live!