You said a lie could run the world before the truth had got its boots on. Well, the truth has its boots on now - and it's going to start kicking. - William De Worde, The Truth

There are few feelings as unpleasant, in that long-time lurching way that it creeps under your skin and fills the pit of your stomach with ash, as the feeling of not having somewhere to belong. Being alone is one thing - people who are solitary are quite capable of engaging in that way, and equally capable of making their own space. Ironically, I've come to feel it's better to be alone than to be in a community where you don't fit. Part of what makes the environment that leaves you feeling like you don't fit is the voices you hear when you turn to look at your community as it presents itself to the public.

More and more, I'm afraid that somehow, people like me don't fit in our current wave of atheism.

The problem is that you have people like PZ Myers and Hemant Meta, who represent two polar extremes; one is friendly and nice, the other is righteously indignant, but they both share the trait that their atheism was the state of never contracting religion. Two of the Charioteers - people who I feel are close to how I do personally approach my atheism - will often be quick to point out for their own sake, and as PZ and co will equally hold high, they have no deconversion tales, no stories of Christian abuse. They're not atheists who 'hate god' or who are just railing against something that apologists will notoriously label as No True Christian. These people are not scarred, and they make a point of it.

But I am. I'm not one of your sexual-abuse story types, either, no. Nobody wants to tell a sexual abuse victim that they need to behave differently, because then you sound like a douchebag. I'm the victim of a small, insular environment where a social control mechanism was in place using Christian methodologies as its club to swing. I was given a bad education, a terrible social situation, and a moral upbringing that in many ways is not just lightly immoral in that petty, 'not-in-my-backyard' way that most Christians are, but in some cases led to abuses to actual people that caused a great deal of suffering, suffering to real people who didn't deserve it. I saw a pastor abuse his position and impoverish others beyond even the most liberal definition of tithing, I saw a principal abuse his position to pettily avenge himself on a man he disliked's family (taking shots at his son, his wife, and his daughter). And yet...

There's nobody like me speaking out.

It can feel very much at times like there's no place at the table for the angry, ex-religious. We're too easily ignored by the religious, which at least in my own case strikes me as exceptionally frustrating, since as far as armament goes amongst the religious, I have an exquisitely large breadth of experience and understanding of it. I've seen it from the inside, seen how Christians act and interact when it comes to the topic of the Atheist. I feel like if I could somehow be communicating it to people, I could be very useful to show people... well, somefuckingthing. Yet, because I'm angry, because I'm upset, and because I carry with me the scars of an upbringing that deemed faith more important than medicine, socialisation, or education, I'm left feeling, stunningly, disenfranchised by the people who stand against the religion that scarred me, because of those scars.

This is currently a community that begs askance of its members to somehow 'be the better man' with people who demonstrate no good faith, who do not respect that better man behaviour, and who will happily run around punching their opposition in the nuts while claiming to hold the moral high ground. Part of that is, in a depressingly persistant way, the quiet way in which I feel stuffed in the closet. It's not Don't argue with the religious because you're too angry. It's not Don't argue with the religious, you don't know how to do it. It's not even anyone explicitly saying Don't argue with the religious. It's instead the way that any time I see an atheist of any renown, from my seat in Australia, reading blogs and podcasts, it is universal that they are all individuals whose deconversion never happened - they were not part of faithful families, and the religions they now malign impacted their life very little. It gives them respectability, the idea that they approach these religions on their own merits, and it distances them from a potential attack.

Brother Richard, the maintenance of this very site here, is someone with whom I guess I could identify more, except for my listening to the guy on Chariots and Atheist News, he's much less about dealing with the faithful and much more about building community amongst the faithless. I don't feel like the guys like Brother Richard - who actually have a religious background, who have something of the sordid connection to the worst elements of the religious nobility - crossover much with the people like Eli, who talks waxingly about science, or guys like Lamarr (the voice that Eli does) who cracks open the book and drags the religious behind the woodshed to beat them with their own sticks. And, with all the atheist material I consume, I'm surprised that Brother Richard is the only good example I can find for that perspective I feel I'm unable to line up behind.

These people are community builders, agents of change, and figures of respect. And none of them seem angry.

But I am Angry. I'm really fucking angry, and I have, I feel, reason to be, and I just cannot find any good use for this anger. Worse still, I have no idea how to make that useful when I'm part of a movement that seems to implicitly want me to sit down, shut up, and vent only in places where people who already agree with me can laugh at it.

(Disclaimer: This is not a tantrum against Atheist Nexus, or even a call for change in the public domain of the atheist sector. You can't choose the lives of the people who speak for you, after all, and it seems a problem with no good solution. Perhaps sadly, it's just another vent for my anger, in this case, anger at being angry.)

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Comment by Talen Lee on December 2, 2009 at 8:26pm
I'm now seeing myself as one of those rat-informants in cop movies, except the cops who approach me are more incredulous. "He said that the centre of the earth produces oil? Just... just produces it infinitely? To a room full of people? Who are adults? Was he cosplaying or something?"
Comment by Fox Lee on December 2, 2009 at 8:20pm
You know, I always thought you had a lot in common with Lamarr (who did deconvert at last check) precisely because your religious upbringing means you're more familiar with the bible than most christians are (or don't realise they aren't). But if you don't feel it... :\

I see what you're saying about the "scarred exile" archetype. It shouldn't be grounds for believers to dismiss your argument, but no matter what you do, they always will. Ironically, you're exactly the kind of example that the "unscarred" need to show as evidence of religion's corrosive influence, but you're not able to argue your own case.

Perhaps something you can do effectively is to help other atheists refine their own views. You're both a case study and a font of inside information, which is at least useful to the choir, as it were.

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