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  • Courtney Heard

Shut Up! 12 Things I'm Tired of Hearing as an Outspoken Atheist

Honestly, some days I genuinely wonder why I continue to put myself out there as a target for constant religious nonsense. I mean, I live in a really secular part of the world. My real life is so devoid of religion, you'd half expect to see Captain Picard walking around the place with a cup of Earl Grey, hot. I could, if I wanted to, live a life without the smallest mentions of religion. I could be almost entirely oblivious to religion's existence and never have to face these ridiculous comments ever again. And yet, every day, I get up in the morning and jump right into it like an unrelenting goddamned (#NoHoly) masochist. Why? Why do I do this to myself when I can live in secular bliss?


You. You're why. The notes and messages I get from you tell me that I helped you somehow; The letters pleading for help because you're an atheist in a part of the world that doesn't take kindly to us. The emails I get from you after my words or my memes, or my conversation on Twitter helped you free your mind from the shackles of religion. You are why I won't quit, but holy Jesus on a pony, am I tired of hearing certain things as an outspoken atheist. Here are 12 of them:


You hate religious people.


No, the fuck, I don't. I have admired, respected and even loved loads and loads of religious people throughout my life. I won't stop even though it exposes them to atheist cooties. I'm gonna love ya, and read your words and admire the things you do for as long as I live. So long as you are a good and decent human. It doesn't matter to me what you believe. It only becomes a problem when you impose those beliefs on people who don't share them in some way or another. Indoctrination, public policy, knocking on my door in the middle of the day - these things are gonna make me not like you very much. But if you just keep your religious beliefs in your places of worship and out of my life, I have no problem with you at all. I've had religious people guest post for me. I follow religious people on social media, and they follow me back. I have scores of books lining my shelves by believers that I have loved. I think you want me to hate you because you want to be the victim and draw sympathy. Not gonna work here. I love you! I will kiss your face just as soon as this damned pandemic is over. Fuckin' try to stop me.


You devote your life to something you don't believe in.

You have absolutely no idea what my life is about save for the few moments a day I spend on my Godless Mom social media. So, I fail to see how you can feel comfortable making this assertion. Here's the thing, hamburger squad: Twitter or Instagram might be your entire world, but it ain't mine. I have a job that has nothing to do with atheism whatsoever. I also volunteer in my spare time to help run an International non-profit. I am a mom, a dog-mom, a wife, a daughter, a friend. I live in the most hikeable, swimmable, skiable, sledable, kayakable place in Canada, literally referred to as Canada's playground.


Girlfriend, my life is not social media, and I urge you to consider logging off from time to time, as well. The time I do spend on social media is not devoted to something I don't believe in. It's dedicated to providing a space where apostates, atheists and atheist-friendly folk can feel free to be themselves. And yeah, sometimes that means we talk about your religion from our perspective. Imagine that: people having a different perspective from you. One of my favourite quotes of all time was from fictional failed novelist Kilgour Trout when he said, "Takes all kinds of people to make up a world." The man may not be real, but hot Mary at the Inn! He is right. If you believe your god made this world, you have to find a way to cope with the fact that he made us all different. Not everyone thinks the way you do, and sometimes we're just going to talk about it in public. There's really nothing you can do about it except cope.


You're a terrible mom.


Let's see: my parenting philosophy is built on trust, inclusion, compassion and being informed. I raise my kids to understand that no matter who they discover themselves to be, I will love them and support them. Yes, even if they turn out to be religious. My goal for them both is that they are happy, self-sufficient, compassionate and kind. They are these things already. You're suggesting I'm a terrible mom because I didn't get them there with threats of hellfire. Yes, I think out of you and me, one of us is definitely a terrible parent. I'll let the audience sort out which.


You're an awful wife.


Ahh, you got me! I'm not even technically married, which means I'm not even a wife at all! Doesn't that just curl your toes, pew warmer? I'm living entirely in sin! Whoops!


You're a communist.


I am a democratic socialist. I know that means the same as commie to you because of your shocking ignorance on the topic. Which always floors me - you do know the Communist Manifesto is like 40 pages long, right? You could fix your ignorance in half an hour, but I digress. I might as well be a commie to you. The problem with your assessment is that not all atheists are communists. Not all atheists are socialists. Not all atheists are even lefties. Plenty of them are conservative. I know a handful of conservative atheists, myself.


You have no hope.


Oh, but I do. This may come as a complete shock to someone taught to kiss god's ass all their life, but one can have hope in things other than an afterlife. I hope for plenty of things. I hope for a long and happy life for my kids. I hope for a more compassionate world. I hope more people start to understand science so we can move forward. Hell, I hope to have a delicious bowl of ramen at least once a week. The difference between you and me is that I hope for lots of things, and you hope for just one.


You must be miserable.


Au contraire, my little cross sniffer, I am a joyful, happy person, and I always have been. Even at the lowest points of my life, feeling miserable went against the core of who I am. I have always been a positive, happy person (with a really dark sense of humour, but that's neither here nor there). I am quiet IRL, but that doesn't mean I'm not bursting with joy on the inside. And I am. I have a beautiful family. I still have my parents, a beautiful dog, a lovely home in a stunning, safe and prosperous part of the world. My cars are old and falling apart, but I even love those old beaters. I sit at my desk with a view of the Okanagan Valley, and every day I feel lucky, content, happy, and that drives me to want to give that feeling to other people.


You lack purpose.


Bzzz. Wrong again, snack time. I have never gone a day without the unshakable drive to make this world a better place, and that's why I devote nearly full-time to running a non-profit that helps people. And I do it for free. I have more purpose in my baby finger than an entire door-knocking congregation of Jehovabots.


You can't disprove god.


Ah, finally, you're right about something! I can't. So what?


You must have suffered trauma related to religion to be an atheist.


I was never religious. I've not had a bad experience with religion because I never had any experiences with religion at all aside from talking about it. My life was trauma-free until I was nearly an adult, and that entire time, I was an atheist. What now, holy one?


You don't know real love.


You understand that with this statement, you're defeating any argument you might make for the superiority of religious morality, right? You're telling a mother that she doesn't know real love. You're suggesting the love I feel for my children is not real. This makes you a horrific person, and perhaps it's time to set down the Bible, walk away from the pew and reassess what religion is really doing to you as a person.


You only do this for attention.


Yes, of course, I do. I am an activist. I am here to provide a space where atheists can be themselves and receive support. I am also here to normalize atheism and discrimination against atheists around the world. You don't really do that effectively without getting attention. So, yeah, I do this for attention because I want to make as big a difference as possible in my time here on earth. You don't accomplish that by sitting quietly in the corner reciting Hail Marys. Sometimes, you just have to yell, you have to shout, and you gotta be noisy to usher in the change you want to see.


Notice I left out being damned to Hell. Why? Because it doesn't bother me. It's the equivalent of someone asking me to join them on vacation to Lilliput. I'm gonna look at ya funny, feel deep concern for your well-being and probably stay as far away from your little mess of crazy as I possibly can.

Even though hearing these things gets tiresome, I always keep in mind that my blissful secular world does exist, just beyond the logout button. If it ever gets to be too much, I click it. Then I go climb a mountain with my puppy or go swim in the lake with my son. Despite the fact that I am tired of hearing these things, you don't get to me. You never will. As long as I can set my phone down and participate in my life, the life I love and am grateful for, you're never going to get to me.


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