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Name: Justin Zimmer
Born: 1979
Location: Gilbert, Az
Label: Freethinker
Former Religious Affiliation: Methodist, Unity, Church of FSM

My Story: Truly truly, I say to you that I am atheist. Atheism is but a single attribute to my overall worldview. If I were to apply one term to my ever-expanding view on life, the universe and everything, I would have to use “freethinker”. I reserve the right to change my mind whensoever I find data sufficient to do so, and let me tell you, there was very little data involved when I once believed in God. God was something I grew up with, he was introduced to me in Sunday school, and, as most children do, I believed what the adults were telling me. I hadn’t ever thought that a grown-up would lie to me about anything so serious, until I discovered that my parents, those two grown-ups whom I believed beyond all others, had perpetrated the grandest lie in all of childhood: Santa Claus. Granted, I had suspected as much, and the news wasn’t really a shock, but it became very apparent that I could not take anything these large smelly simians said at face value. I needed to seek my own truth, not that which was given to me. Indeed, the lie that was Santa Claus, prepared me for the greatest lie of all: God. Whoever has two ears to hear, let him hear!
Now, don’t get me wrong, my parents weren’t religious nutjobs. They didn’t pour the bible down my throat or even talk much about the big “G” outside church at all. I was raised, more or less, an apathetic Christian. My father was even a big fan of eastern philosophy and so I had access to many different books on Zen, Hinduism, the Joy of Sex (oops), and they all read so much better than that lofty cure for insomnia: the Bible. Perhaps it was this openness with other religious ideas that actually forced me to reject any one single idea of the supernatural. Logically, it became improbable that they were all right, so in turn it became more likely that none of them had the supernatural pinned down at all, and so I was forced to conclude that the supernatural was either unknowable, or simply did not exist and what I was reading were just morally pointed stories with fantasy thrown in for added entertainment. Did that mean that all these wonderful stories and myths were useless? Absolutely not! We are, even today, enamored by superheroes and creatures of fantasy across all forms of media and though we know that they are just stories, modern myths, WE STILL LOVE THEM!
I have read the Bible, I have read different versions of each story, from the Torah to the Qur’an, even the older Assyrian tales from which much of the Old Testament is based. I have read the Baghavad Gita, and consulted the Tao te Ching frequently, not because I believe that these magical people are REAL but that their struggles and wisdom are PERTINENT to how we live our lives. As a freethinker I even visited the Baha’i Lotus temple in New Delhi. I sat, in utter peace, contemplating existence and enjoying the wonderful architecture. And yet, many would damn that place for not being Christian, or the right kind of Islam all because of their silly adherence to their little religion.
Through all this, I never really applied the title of “atheist” to myself. I knew what it meant, and first started thinking about it when I learned that Gautama Shakyamuni (A.k.a the Buddha) was an atheist and that Buddhism didn’t begin with ties to the supernatural. I felt a kinship and pride in that fact, yet I never thought, “I am an atheist”. Then, while enthralled in the works of Thomas Paine, soaking in “The Age of Reason” like a sponge, I was shocked to then read a quote by Theodore Roosevelt, one of the U.S. Presidents that I, at the time, held some admiration for. He said, “Thomas Paine was just a dirty little atheist!” I was offended. I didn’t think “but I’m an atheist, what an ass!” I was merely troubled that anyone, especially such a great figure in our history would be so judgmental as to associate a man’s lack of god belief with being “dirty”. It wasn’t until I read Ekhart Tolle that I realized that I was actually an atheist. I was thinking how, in his book “Power of Now”, his internalization of deity could change the way theists viewed other people. And when I thought this, I wasn’t including myself. I didn’t believe in God. I was/am atheist. It wasn’t a balance of evidence for or against, it was simply a realization that the god delusion had never taken hold of my psyche. It wasn’t that I was suddenly not theist, but rather that I had really always thought this way because I could not accept the claim without a solid supporting argument. In effect, when Santa Clause became a myth, so did God. Some Christians like to point and say “you just hate God”, and that is really not the case. I cannot hate that which never existed.
I also don’t hate Christians. Sure, some of them drive me nuts, are complete lunatics, and are just plain evil, but they are, for the most part, good people. I just don’t understand how they can state events from the Bible as if they really happened, or were proof of their God. It does not compute. We can discuss the metaphors presented, but when you hold up your finger and claim, “How could you not believe when He gave His only son for your sins,” I have to just stare blankly, blink, and then briskly make my way to the nearest exit with my children in tow.
I am also raising my children to be Freethinkers, critical thinkers. I will teach them that these books and words are myths, stories, and legends, just like Superman, the Green Lantern, and Luke Skywalker. If they end up believing in God anyways, well, then what can I do?
The best thing I do for the “Atheist Community” is just being the best darned human being I can be. Atheist does not mean amoral, and I’m sure many Christians would be surprised to learn how little of their morals really come from the Bible. I mean, really, you need “Thou shalt not kill” burned into a stone tablet with God-lightning to know that one? It’s called compassion, empathy, traits most humans are born with and that have evolved so that we don’t eat our young or destroy our species. It’s far more effective to teach your children to use that compassion to a moral end than to just tell them God said so and if they don’t like it they’re going to Hell. I’ll put my compassion against your list of thou-shalt-nots any day of the week!
I never really thought it wasn’t okay to be an atheist. Maybe if I went to church more I would have learned how to effectively hate other people the way Christians/Muslims do. And no, Jesus doesn’t teach Christians to love everybody, just those who believe in him and God. If you’re not part of the club, you won’t feel the love. Says so in the Bible. You can take it literally or figuratively, just not both ways. I’m comfortable with my atheism, but I don’t harass anyone else for their faith. If I tweet or post things on Facebook that are related to atheism, it isn’t rubbing it in anyone’s faith anymore than saying “Praise the Lord” and “Jesus is Lord” all over the place. It is expression, not confrontation.

Picture: http://www.flickr.com/photos/phatjmo/6080833107/
Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_P1ETuX31vY

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