One of the reasons why I’ve kept this blog running for as long as I have (11+ years!) is that it’s always served as a running artifact of my life since I’ve moved to Canada. In fact, if you dig enough in the archives, you’ll find chapters from all sorts of my life’s stages — from my changing political views, evolving cultural attitudes, and even different shades of belief and nonbelief.
And of course, there’s the infamous manifesto that Jerry and I wrote back in September 2007 when we outed ourselves as atheists to our friends and family. Maybe it’s time for me to revisit what I wrote in 2007 – because in some ways, I think I’ve moved past much of what it means to be an atheist.
Six years ago when we first identified ourselves as nonbelievers, there was a lot of issues for us to work through. There was some anger, some sadness, plus a whole lot of rejection from various friends and family members.
And then Jerry and I found ourselves an atheist community in town, and for a while, we were quite active in it. But after a few months it started to get tedious, arguing the same arguments and mocking the same religious foibles. So we eventually left that group behind because it wasn’t filling what we needed in a community — I guess part of me felt like there’s got to be more to do than just mocking and arguing.
Which is one of the reasons why I started going to the local Unitarian congregation in Saskatoon. I had several friends who were already members, plus I wanted to find a community that would be a place for our family. I also wanted Emma to grow up in an intergenerational community where she could be exposed to lots of different people and ideas, apart from Jerry and I.
Today was a pretty important day for me in this community, because today I became a member of the Unitarian congregation.
Looking back on it, I think it’s funny how much I fought officially joining the Unitarian church. Granted, I’ve been volunteering with them for over 3 years now and am a pretty active part of the community, but initially there was something a bit scary in me taking that step to make my involvement official.
It helps to know that I’m a member of this particular congregation, and I’m not signing onto “Unitarianism” in general (hooray for congregationalist approaches!). And I think I’m ready for it now, especially since I’m starting to reconsider how I classify my “religious affiliation”.
These days I think I identify more as someone who’s post-religious. Sure, I’m still happy to claim the title of atheist, if only to challenge the misconceptions many religious believers have when they hear that label — but there’s a part of me who doesn’t like the term “atheist” as much, mainly because I don’t like to identify myself as being someone who’s in opposition to the religious. In part, identifying myself an atheist still inadvertently links me to religious belief, and really, I don’t want to be associated with it.
I first heard the term post-religous in an interview with the UK Sunday Assembly’s founders Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans. Here’s a part of an interview where they describe the SA and use the term:
How does Sunday Assembly bring together like minded liberal Christians who no longer believe in the supernatural or worship a Father God but like church community with humanists/atheists in a quest to live an authentic life?
Jones: We’ve got some people who love the Sunday Assembly who fit that description. If you start talking about living this one life as fully as possible, you can suddenly open the door very wide. I’d like to make this as un-atheistic as possible. Atheism is boring. We’re both post-religious.
Evans: We don’t check anyone’s beliefs at the door but seek out people who are just happy to be alive. [my emphasis]
I love the ideas behind the Sunday Assembly: Live Better. / Help Often. / Wonder More.
I think, in some ways, I’ve made the local Unitarian Centre our family’s Sunday Assembly. While I’m not usually a fan of the Sunday morning services (you’ll find me hanging out with the youth group instead), I do love the community we’ve found. Emma will grow up learning about the seven principles, and when she’s old enough, can decide for herself who she’ll be and what she’ll do with them (and I’ve already told her she can change her mind 100 times!).
But if you were to have asked me, 6 years ago, if I’d willingly sign-on as a member of a “church,” I would have probably laughed. Isn’t it funny how things have changed — but I don’t mind so much now.
And I don’t mind if others thing I’m crazy for being a part of the Unitarians, or think I’m hell-bound because I don’t believe in the particular tenets of their faith.
Take me or leave me, this is where I’m at today. I may be in a different spot tomorrow, a year from now, or 5 years later – and I’m okay with that.