Fugitives from Fundamentalism

The Musings of Adult Missionary Kids (MKs) & Former Born-Again Believers

Atheist females, atheist mks

Posted by Ann on October 11, 2010

I’m kinda lonely. Is that okay to express publicly? I’ve got a lot of friends, but I only know one atheist female personally, and only a couple of atheist males. The one atheist female I know says she didn’t grow up in an openly religious home. It just came to her one day that God was a superstition for kids. She says a guy in one of her classes off-handedly said to her, “If you really think about it, there is no God.” Jean says she thought, yeah, that makes sense. And that was it for her.

As an MK, with very religious parents, the transition was not so easy for me. It came at a price. Losing the respect of your family and friends is not cheap. As a female who is “supposed” to have a large social network of girlfriends, it kinda throws you out of the loop. Nowadays I find most religious and supernatural believers kinda boring when faith enters a conversation. If you delve deep enough, you already know where you’ll end up. It’s like a gut reaction. I can’t help but think, “this person is off kilter.” I’d compare it to beginning a conversation with someone and almost immediately realizing, “this person is mentally challenged.” Suddenly I’m experiencing another level of respect and carefulness when communicating with the person. It kinda limits relationships. There is a place you can’t go with them–or rather, they can’t go with you.

As a female, I respect the struggle of other females for appreciation they have yet to get from men in general. Sexualizing women trivializes everything else about them and I don’t want to add to that objectification through stereotyping. Earlier this year the blogger for Common Sense Atheism apologized officially for his post listing the 15 sexiest scientists, doing a pretty thorough job of breaking down the male argument that sexualizing women is actually a positive and empowering thing for women: I apologize for my sexy scientists post. In the post he writes,

“My post contributed to a culture of harming women by reinforcing stereotypes in a way I should have easily predicted even if it was not my intent. Men – forever the physically dominant sex and portrayed as the ambitious, interesting, change-making heroes of almost every story ever told – do not risk harassment from being seen as sexy. They do not risk having their skills and potential ignored because they are seen as “sexy.” They do not risk violence from libidinous women. But women do face all these risks, and a post like mine makes these risks worse.”

I guess I’m trying to communicate a certain level of separation from other females that is hard to bridge. Not only am I an atheist female, but also an MK female. Both are rare in the world. Of the world population, atheists are about 2%. Of atheists, females are about 40%. I’m not sure how many MKs from conservative missions exist in the world, but my best guess is very few compared to the overall population. Must be much less than 1%. Where does this leave me?

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29 Responses to “Atheist females, atheist mks”

  1. Bob said

    Sadly, Ann, it leaves you with not a lot of females you can share your thoughts with. On the other hand, your problem is largely related to the fact you were raised in a community of hard-core Evangelicals. I connect with your comment about the carefulness you have to take on when you discover that the person you are talking with (who otherwise seems interesting, funny or worth learning from), has this physical division in his/her mind that forbids the application of basic standards for evidence to their inherited beliefs in invisible things from Jewish/Christian mythology. It’s like walking on egg shells around a very delicate thing. It’s funny how easy it is to offend a believer, isn’t it? I think it’s that whole persecution complex they have (as if they are a minority!).

    • Ann said

      But you’re right, I have friends who are believers and interesting, funny, and worth learning from. And I generally enjoy the time I’m with them. …it’s just I have to tiptoe, like you said. I can think of a few right now. I think it works best for me to not talk about religious topics with them. Kinda like not talking about religion and politics at parties.

  2. Ann said

    Thanks Robert. I’m not sure that is entirely what I’m getting at though. Some supernatural believers are liberal and open to bashing their own religious group. It’s more my knowing they have a cognitive bias that’s impenetrable by evidence. Eventually supernatural topics leak into conversations. It’s unlike sexism (as a form of bias), which is an actuality supported by evidence, and agreed is a reality by social scientists, and the religious as well as atheists. Although both religious and sex persecution can be blown up in someone’s head.

  3. susannahww said

    I just discovered this blog. Looks like I’m going to be a regular reader.

    I’m an atheist MK, and like you, careful around most (all?) of my friends and family. In fact, contact with most of my family depends on keeping my head down and sticking to small talk.

    • Bob said

      Yeah, a new reader! MKs are a small niche, and the non-religious ones even more so, so I get pretty excited when a new one shows up. Let us know if you want to become a contributor.

    • Ann said

      I’m glad you found us. You are the first female MK I know exists. I’ve found a few who are more mystical, or liberal believers, but never one who is an atheist. Your relationship with your friends and family sounds like mine. My sister was the first one in my family I told. My family likes to goof around, and we mainly do things together rather than get into deep discussions about things, so I guess it makes things a little easier for me. Finding humor in stuff is the key to maintaining most relationships that aren’t based on shared ideas and knowledge I think. My parents, sister and brother (along with a sizable group of friends) are constantly putting religious stuff on FB. I’m sure in part to minister to me and their friends indirectly. Frankly, I find a lot of it amusing.

  4. I’m kinda lonely. Is that okay to express publicly?

    As long as you don’t express it to your Christian friends, who might view it as validation that you shouldn’t have left the faith…

    MKs are a small niche, and the non-religious ones even more so…

    My niche is likely larger than non-religious mk’s, but it is still pretty small — “people from secular families who became evangelical Christians and are now non-religious.” I’m glad for the internet, where I can find at least a few people with same or related backgrounds.

    It is clear though that those who leave Christianity generally in a major minority in their social networks. That’s part what makes reading sites like this interesting to me, we all have to deal with relating to Christians in new ways.

    • Ann said

      I know, right?! Just because I’m lonely doesn’t mean I need God to “fill the God shaped hole in my heart”.

      Yeah, we non-religious people are a minority. Non-believers even more so. Especially those who leave an evangelical religious background. MKs are a tiny population, almost statistically non-existent when you consider the billions of humans and we are talking about thousands. Finding a non-believing MK was probably literally like finding a needle in a haystack until the advent of the internet and social networking sites.

  5. Paulo said

    Among MKs who are non-believers (that I know personally or know of) it definitely feels like there are more males than females. Why is that? Are guys just more vocal about being non-believers, or what? I mean, take this site for instance: one female, four dudes.

    I don’t have a theory. Thoughts, anyone?

    • Ann said

      You know of another female MK non-believer? I don’t think it’s they are non-vocal. Every female MK I know is pretty vocal about their “spiritual” belief system. Don’t think there is any way to really figure it out definitively. If I had to guess, I think it may have something to do with the environment female MKs are brought up within. Isolated and socialized to be religious (females are socialized generally to be more social and emotionally expressive), the only people they can connect with are other females being brought up in the same isolated religious environment. There is probably more social incentive to retain in-group identification by being believers, which as they age, crystallizes in their brains as their personal identities. A biological influence can’t be ruled out, but biology alone cannot be blamed since we know females make up a very large percentage of atheists in general. Apparently not MK females though.

      Come out, come out wherever you are…

      • Paulo said

        “You know of another female MK non-believer? I don’t think it’s they are non-vocal. Every female MK I know is pretty vocal about their “spiritual” belief system.”

        I know only a few female MK non-believers and they are all non-vocal. I wouldn’t have known that they were non-believers (and by that, I mean atheists, not even believers in some “spiritual” belief system) if I hadn’t asked them. But usually you can tell because they don’t go to church and they avoid talking about religion.

        There may be some truth to what you’re saying about females feeling more pressure to be a part of the group. It seems like among female MKs, even if they do become non-believers, they still try to disguise the fact more than males do. That’s just my impression.

        • Ann said

          I don’t know any female MKs who are not vocal about their beliefs, or who don’t go to church. You never told me about your non-believing female MK friends. Sounds like they told you though and didn’t just avoid talking about religion with you–if I ever meet an MK female who doesn’t go to church or talk religion I’ll ask! I know some females who are spiritual and believe in God or the universe or are Buddhist, but only one who is a non-believer.

          Since I don’t know any female MKs who are atheists, I can only go with what you say about how they try to disguise the fact more than males. But I believe you. I know women as a group tend to be more social. Since being public about their lack of belief would likely change their relationships with their friends and family they probably keep it to themselves. It doesn’t hurt anyone and they maintain the relationships they’ve developed. Makes sense to me. I’ve always had this perspective, of understanding the beliefs of my friends and family, but their perspective of me changes when they understand who I am.

          • Paulo said

            “You never told me about your non-believing female MK friends.”

            Well, you never asked! (lol, j/k)

            Hey, there is this thing called Atheist Nexus: http://www.atheistnexus.org/ Why don’t you join it and tell us what it’s like? I thought about joining it once but I guess I just wasn’t sufficiently interested in it.

            • Ann said

              True, I never asked!

              Why me? Because I’m the female and more social? (lol!) I’ll check it out and see if it looks interesting to me.

              • Paulo said

                “Why me? Because I’m the female and more social? (lol!)”

                Well, you did start this post by saying you’re lonely. lol.

                • Ann said

                  Yeah, I did start it with that. Checked out the site, but I’d have to say it’s not interesting except for there being a bunch of atheists blogging in one place. I have enough of an on-line life with my blogs and Facebook, and the couple of blogs I follow. Plus, being an atheist doesn’t necessarily mean interesting. I’m mostly lonely for like-minded companionship, not so much talking atheist shop.

                • Paulo said

                  “Checked out the site, but I’d have to say it’s not interesting except for there being a bunch of atheists blogging in one place.”

                  Yeah, that’s what I thought about the site too. It’s kinda like a MySpace for atheists. What I found sorta offputting was the disclaimer they have when you start signing up. It says very explicitly something like “This site is for non-theists only! You will be banned if you bring religion in here!” Lol. Sorta exclusive, I guess!

                  The only good reason I could think of joining a site like that (other than to meet like-minded people) would be to post links and bring more traffic to this blog…

                • Ann said

                  I think theist non-fundamentalists have valuable input to non-theist blogs. And can be interesting (nod), although occasionally I feel like banning them. But if they claim agnostic theism then I suppose I can tolerate them (j/k–welcome).

                  I’m feeling a hint of pressure to join a non-interesting, closed-minded group, in order to scout for people to come here that may be like-minded for companionship and add to our readership.

                • Ann said

                  Okay, so no pressure. Just a hint.

          • Paulo said

            “Since being public about their lack of belief would likely change their relationships with their friends and family they probably keep it to themselves. It doesn’t hurt anyone and they maintain the relationships they’ve developed. Makes sense to me.”

            Good point. Yes, it does make sense.

            • prb3 said

              Jeez, from the sounds of it, being openly atheist is like ‘coming out’ to your family. If that is indeed the case, I guess I’ve been extremely lucky then. I’ve always been very open with my family about my religious views, or lack there of, and it’s generated some of the most engaging/lively/heated debates but at no point have my parents or siblings disowned me. While they certainly disagree with my views, they seem accepting enough of my thoughts and life choices. I should probably add that I suspect my father (being an eternal optimist) is not too worked up about it because he’s convinced that I will some day come around and re-commit my life to Christ.

              That said, compared to most (if not all) missionary parents I’ve met growing up, my parents always struck me as being much more liberal /open minded. I suppose it can partially be attributed to the fact that my father is a linguist/bible translator fluent in several languages. Nothing like an educated person to be a little more moderate in their views, even if they do believe in the god of the bible and the crazy stories that accompany him.

              BTW, I did think my little sis had a good chance of leaving the faith several years ago but she ended up marring a Christian man and hasn’t thought hard about these issues since…too bad, could have had another atheist MK female share her thought on this site but alas, I failed 😦 I guess the devil doesn’t get ’em all 🙂

              • Ann said

                Yeah, I think it’s a lot like “coming out”, only I think it would be easier to say “I’m gay” than “I’m atheist” to most fundamentalist Christians. If you are gay you can technically still be a Christian, living in sin. Although they do come close. lol. You got lucky with your parents. My dad is a smart guy, speaks three languages (and a smattering of a few others), and worked with Wycliffe to translate the New Testament into an obscure language. He’s currently working on some kind of “Passions” translation of the NT. He earned a doctorate from a Christian university, has written several books, and now travels around the world with my mom speaking as a guest lecturer at churches. But he only reads and thinks religion. My parents believe they will die someday and go to heaven to be with God, where they will meet Adam and Eve who were created 6,000 years ago. Meanwhile, I will go to hell to be with you, and Stalin, but probably not Hitler since I heard he was likely Catholic.

                Regarding your sister, we win some, we lose some. I like to think of the devil as Darth Vader. Not the prequel Darth Vader, the original series Darth Vader. The guy who uses his death grip to kill the guy in command on that ship. Not the white, death-faced Darth Vader with his mask off who is all crying and stuff. Not cry baby Darth Vader. Darth Vader with James Earl Jones’ voice. Darth Vader the dark jedi knight.

                Too bad your sister didn’t convince her husband to go the other way and turn to the dark side. At least get him to think about things with her.

                • Ann said

                  P.S. I think my parents are with yours, optimistic about my chances. They look at what I’m doing with my life, combined with my youth salvation, and hope for the best.

                • prb3 said

                  I guess I am lucky then, my parents are also with Wycliffe and from the sound of it, have an awful lot in common with your folks. The cool thing thought is that my parents are not opposed to the theory of evolution (but they do try to take a creationist spin when interpreting it) and they don’t believe in a lake of fire, only eternity without the presence of god which is supposed to be just as bad…doesn’t sound so bad to me though, I don’t feel his presence in this life, I could easily go an eternity without him in the afterlife…just so long as there really is no fire 🙂

                • Ann said

                  Yeah, I’m not too keen on the fire part either. Let’s hope for the best. Eternity without God (the maniacal, evil creature he’d be if he existed).

                  I have to say, the mind has developed into a complex, irrational organ. How people can be so intelligent and rational on one hand, but believe in creationism and a lake of fire on the other, like my family. People. At some point have to let ’em go. Doesn’t mean you stop loving them though.

    • Ann said

      I’d like to hear other people’s theories as well. Wish we had more people commenting on this blog!!

    • Paulo said

      “… Are guys just more vocal about being non-believers, or what? I mean, take this site for instance: one female, four dudes.”

      Now there are even more dudes.

  6. Bob said

    The topic thread was getting really thin, so I’ll put my comments in a new box. @Ann, your Darth Vader comment is hilarious. Since we are talking about our parents’ beliefs, I’ll give an overview of mine: They are the products of that whole Born-Again Christian movement in the 60s, whose adherents we would refer to as Evangelicals. My Mom was involved in one of those college campus organizations (Young Life, I think), and my Dad converted to born-again Christianity while serving in the Army. They place a large emphasis on the personal relationship one can have with Jesus, do morning devotions, etc. They love Billy Graham (who they have gone to see at those big concert-like sermons), Chuck Swindoll, F.F. Bruce, Ravi Zacharias, etc. They also accept the idea of Evolution, but think that God directed it to produce humans (aren’t we super special? Evolution was just for us!). Despite that, they are still Evangelicals who believe that demons oppress people (oppress, not possess–not sure what the difference is). They also think that the days of prophecy, speaking in tongues, all that Charismatic, Pentecostal stuff was for the early church, but not now. As a result, the Assemblies of God and even the C&MA are seen as weird. I once asked my Dad about fundamentalism, and he self-labeled himself as such. He said something like, “I believe in the fundamentals as revealed through the NT.” However, his slightly more nuanced view on evolution, and his tendency to feel positively towards government social programs to help the poor and sick (even thought he would never vote for a Democrat solely due to the abortion issue) makes the fundamentalist label not fit perfectly. If I had to label my folks, I’d go with Evangelical Christianity in the spirit of Bill Graham. My parents were also the black sheep in their families, since my grandparents one one side were Christians-are-stupid-and-annoying non-believers (my 80-year-old grandfather once told my father, “Let’s change the subject,” when my father tried to convert him at our beach house one summer), and my other grandparents were Episcopal, but never went to church. What my parents did, by converting to Born-Again Evangelicalism was known in my larger family as “becoming religious.”

    When I was growing up, my mother (who is a teacher) encouraged me a great deal to read. For that, I am eternally grateful to her. She held the keys to my escape from Evangelicalism without realizing it. If I hadn’t read a lot, and been left to wander a huge West African city on my own, there is no doubt in my mind that I would be a church-going, Republican-voting, Ravi Zacharias-reading Evangelical this very instant.

    • Charity said

      Cool bio. And your mom is cool. Although I’d already heard your background story, it was nice to hear it summarized again.

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