Yesterday I participated in the Human Library project at the Merrimack
Public Library. The Human Books where:
- April, Life of a Psychic/Medium
- Barbara, Clowning Brings Light & Laughter
- Gerri, Transitioning in Our Community
- Hailey, Just a Girl and her Gun
- Joshua, Recovering Pornography Addict/Activist
- Josiah, I Unabashedly Support and Defend President Donald J. Trump
- Karlyn, Highly Spiritualized, but Not at all Religious
- Marc, Atheist
- Maria, Civil Rights Activist & Author
- Maureen & Lou-Lou, A Conversation About Disability: The Least Dangerous Assumption
- Megan, Happily Childless
- Mike, Transgender: Being Male on the Inside
- Steven, 15 Minutes with Kurt's Husband
My write up was simply - "I'm an atheist and a number of folks have never met one who is open about it."
The full descriptions are available
Readers could 'check out' one of the books for a 30 minute one on one informal conversation. I had four sessions
- Spiritual but religious person. Genuinely interested in my point of view.
- An ex-Catholic but still a Christian. Curious what it meant, brother-in-law is atheist but never talked to him about it.
- Christian but not really buying it from childhood but still attends church
- A Russian expat raised with no religion and not ever interested in. She was curious what about my experience was as a native USA non-believer. She told me a story about how Jehovah Witnesses once visited and figured she'd improve her English by talking with them. She invited them in but when she said she was an atheist and they quickly got up and left. I had a similar experience and haven't had them stop by the house again. We may have just discovered Kryptonite for Jehovah Witness door knockers!
Interestingly -- all the 'Readers' were women.
My talking points
- Why am I doing this? A few years ago while watching my kids' soccer games I got to talking with another parent on religion and mentioned I was a non-believer. He said he had never met an atheist! I'm sure he had but just didn't know. What surprised me was he is a family therapist. Surely religion must have come up occasionally.
- Define that an atheist is simply "a" (not) "Theist" (believer in god). There is no evidence of god(s). Not necessarily anti-theist and mostly becomes an issue when theists try to force their belief on others. I don't care what you believe.
- Atheism is not about evolution, abiogenesis, Big Bang, etc. Generally, atheists point to science for answers and comfortable that some are currently not yet well answered. For example abiogenesis, string theory
- I'm a poly-atheist and probably so are you. There are many gods that people really believed, but no longer. eg: Zeus, Odin, Shiva, Buddha. I just don't believe in Yahweh/God/Jesus for many of the same reasons.
- I've been in town for 25 years, married to the same woman for 27 years, raised six children who are all doing well, fully employed the entire time, an engaged voter, active member of historical and genealogy societies, board member of disability non-profit, never arrested, no illicit drugs, etc -- A pretty moral and ethical person, IMHO. Boringly so.
- Morality? The golden rule and empathy for fellow humans. Basically "Don't be a jerk" Which is pretty common in most religions.
- My background was in upstate New York and fairly attended a Methodist church with my family -- Sunday school, youth group, chorus. In high school met friends who were Jewish, non-believers, other Christian denominations who were good people. Also came to question those beliefs seeing those multiple religions as well as learning more about science, evolution, world history, etc. Never attended services since going to college.
- While I'm here as the Atheist Book, I was happy to talk about topics that interest me. For example early Christian history from a secular, academic point of view. eg: How an apocalyptic Jewish sect evolved into Christianity. St Paul (Saul) never met Jesus physically, only in two visions and didn't meet the other disciples until years after spreading the word in modern day Turkey/Greece. The "Letters from Paul" of the bible were written in the 50s CE and gospels in the 70-100 CE. Two people walked away with suggestions to read some of Bart Ehrman's books. Also suggested people look at common bible stories in a modern light -- the story of the Binding of Isaac by Abraham sounds like a father with schizophrenia when he hears God and angels talking to him. The story of Lot is another horrible story through non-believer eyes. Lot offering his virgin daughters to be raped by the crowd in order to protect visiting angels and later Lot's two daughters getting him drunk and having sex with him. Yes, go re-read Genesis 19:4-8 and Genesis 19:30-38
Overall it was a great experience and an opportunity to break down some stereotypes.