The final closet – Baptist Information World


In 1996, John Updike launched his seventeenth novel, Within the Fantastic thing about the Lilies, a narrative a few Presbyterian minister, Clarence Wilmot, who loses his religion, leaves the ministry and turns into an encyclopedia salesman. In a wierd case of artwork imitating life, Updike was narrating my story. I used to be a Baptist minister who had slowly been dropping my religion. That very same yr, I left the ministry and launched into a second profession in expertise gross sales.

Whereas Updike captured my painful however liberating motion from Christianity to agnosticism, he did not narrate the stigma and stereotypes related to being an agnostic or atheist.

David Ramsey

Some equate atheism with being immoral and even amoral. A few of the criticism leveled at nonbelievers comes from the suspicion that those that don’t imagine in God couldn’t probably imagine in anything, ethical or in any other case. A number of years in the past, a coworker, upon studying of my agnosticism, mentioned, “So that you simply imagine and do something you need?” That he had engaged in a number of extramarital affairs was misplaced on my hypocritical colleague however not on me.

The notion that atheists and agnostics “do something they need to do” is just not unusual; nonetheless, it’s woefully and recklessly ignorant.

Comic and atheist Penn Jillette says he’s typically requested, “With out God, what’s stopping you from raping all you need?” Jillette’s response? “I do rape all I need, and the quantity I need is zero.”

The late Christopher Hitchens had a standing provide to call an ethical factor that was achieved within the title of faith that hadn’t been achieved by an atheist. Morality isn’t the only real provenance of faith, and immoral individuals will be present in pews and prisons alike. A former member of my second congregation, a deacon in a cross-town Baptist church, axe murdered his spouse and mother-in legislation, believing God directed him to take action. Thank God he wasn’t an atheist!

It’s exactly due to these spiritual prejudices and stereotypes that many agnostics and atheists don’t talk about their worldviews in public and even personal settings, and in the event that they do, they don’t essentially inform the reality.

Timur Kuran, in Non-public Truths, Public Lies: The Social Penalties of Desire Falsification, argues that social pressures could make individuals say that they need and imagine one thing they actually don’t need or imagine. Kuran calls this “choice falsification,” a phenomenon that happens whenever you make an inaccurate public assertion about your precise preferences or beliefs.

“A few of the criticism leveled at nonbelievers comes from the suspicion that those that don’t imagine in God couldn’t probably imagine in anything, ethical or in any other case.”

These identical social pressures have pressured many LGBTQ individuals to stay “within the closet,” for concern of condemnation (typically by the hands of the Non secular Proper), rejection by household, and within the case of Matthew Shepard, torture and loss of life. The 2015 Supreme Court docket choice to legalize same-sex marriage, nonetheless, gave some LGBTQ individuals the braveness to come back out of the closet and affirm their true sexual id. Whereas we as a rustic and society have “miles and miles to go earlier than we sleep” on the problem of LGBTQ rights, now we have made measurable strides in the previous couple of years.

The identical can’t be mentioned for our nation’s and society’s view of atheists and agnostics. Despite the Obama administration’s passing of the Worldwide Non secular Freedom Act in 2016, many People nonetheless are not looking for atheists educating their youngsters or marrying them. They might, in accordance with surveys, desire a feminine, homosexual, Mormon or Muslim President to having an atheist within the White Home.

To make certain, no closet, neither LGBTQ nor atheist, has ever been padlocked. The selection to come back of out of both closet is free and deeply private. But when the LGBTQ closet is basically empty, the agnostic closet stays, with stigma and stain awaiting anybody who decides to depart it.

Final yr, I wrote a e book by which I talk about my journey from minister to agnostic and critique standard spiritual notions like “every part occurs for a motive.” I’ve associates who reviewed my e book on-line, a few of whom masked their names to keep away from being outed by their affiliation with a controversial matter and agnostic writer.

I dream of a day when the atheist closet is empty. When epistemic humility is the mental norm and credal dogmatism is the outlier. I envision a world the place the burden of proof for an invisible supreme being falls on the believer, not the skeptic. Till then, I hope that the flickering flame of my very own spiritual journey will probably be a beacon of braveness and hope for these cloistered within the final closet.

David Ramsey was a Baptist minister for 10 years, serving as senior minister to 2 congregations in Virginia. He earned a bachelor’s diploma from Wake Forest College and a grasp of divinity diploma from Duke College Divinity Faculty. He additionally was a fellow in faith and management growth at Princeton Theological Seminary.

 

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