Confessions of an Anonymous Coward

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Who Is The Anonymous Coward?

Who is the Anonymous Coward? Well, if I said who I was, obviously I wouldn't be anonymous. But I can, at least, explain the reason for my chosen title.

For more than twenty years, I thought I believed in God. Maybe more than thirty; I'm excluding my very earliest childhood years when I didn't really have the capacity to consider what I did or didn't believe on the subject, but it's hard to pinpoint the age at which the counting should begin.

I was brought up in a religious family, and held to strict religious principles. I've followed, if not every single commandment of my religion or recommendation of my religious leaders, at least the most prominent ones. Not just the Ten Commandments (okay, maybe I've coveted a little, from time to time), but the other guidelines religious leaders have set as well. I've never drunk alcohol. I've never smoked. I've never seen an R-rated movie. I've never had premarital sex--which, as I'm not married, means I'm still a virgin. I went to church almost every Sunday, like I was supposed to, and outwardly at least was in almost every way a model member of my religion.

It's only recently that I finally came to terms with the fact I didn't really believe in my religion--or any other--at all.

That may seem like an odd phrasing, but that's the way I mean it. I don't mean that I stopped believing. I mean that I finally consciously realized that I hadn't really believed it in the first place. I'd been fooling myself, trying to convince myself that I believed, but deep down I didn't. That much is obvious now, looking back on some of what I've written, and some of what I've done. It's just that it took me this long to be able to admit it to myself.

Why now? I don't know, exactly. Maybe because I've been reading a lot of blogs lately, and I've been seeing not only how reasonable many atheists are, but how very unreasonable the religious too often are in their arguments; maybe that perspective is making me want to disassociate myself from the religious. Maybe it's the way that religions are increasingly trying to take over public discourse and forge laws of intolerance that's forcing me to choose sides. Maybe there's no particular reason it's now; it's just that it's been building up and now is when it happened to hit the breaking point.

It doesn't matter why it's happening now, though. It should have happened a long time ago.

Perhaps a more pertinent question is, if I didn't really believe in it, why did I convince myself for so long that I did? Well...I think mostly because of the people involved. There are a lot of good people in my church, people who I like and respect very much, and who have made it clear that they think very highly of me. I'd hate to disappoint them. It's not that if I left the church they'd despise me and want nothing more to do with me--if their friendships were that shallow and contingent, I wouldn't care about them anyway. (Well...not much.) But they would be very disappointed. I didn't want to do that to them.

And I still don't. So even though I've finally come to terms with the fact that I don't really believe in the church...I'm not really ready to do anything about it. So I'll continue going to church, avoiding harsh language, paying lip service to God...I'll continue to pretend to believe in my religion, even though I don't. Publically, I'm not going to change anything.

Part of me knows I should. It would be better for everyone. I'd certainly be happier no longer being fettered by the nonsensical strictures of my religion, and able to openly talk about my true beliefs. I might even be setting something of an example, in my own very small way, for people to leave their superstitions and be willing to accept the truths that may to some be more difficult to deal with than the comfortable fiction of a benevolent deity. But...I can't bring myself to do it. I dread too much the reactions of my friends at the church.

Hence the "Coward".

Still, I need some outlet. Some context in which I can discuss my true beliefs, admit to the atheism I've newly admitted to myself, expand on subjects I'm not ready to attach my name to. So that's why I created this blog, as a place I can do all that, but without revealing who I am, so I can still play the part of the faithful believer otherwise.

Hence the "Anonymous".

I don't know how often I'll post here. Maybe not often. I can't very well write about specific experiences here that might pose too much risk of revealing my identity. Things like that, and anything that doesn't touch on my "areligious conversion", I'll just post in my LiveJournal. (The address to which, obviously, I'm not going to give here, since that would reveal who I am.) But I might post from time to time about various musings, or interesting ideas I run into elsewhere, that don't fit in with my religious façade.

I don't expect this situation to persist indefinitely. Sooner or later, either as the friction between religion and rationalism escalates in this country, or perhaps just on a smaller, more personal scale, something is likely to force me to openly choose sides. And when I do, I'm not going to come down on the side of religion. Or maybe the confrontation won't be forced; maybe someday I'll build up the courage to cast aside my religion, and face up to the consequences. And when that happens, I'll go ahead and admit my identity, and that will be the end of this blog.

But until then, I remain...

An Anonymous Coward.

28 Comments:

At 5/30/2006 6:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I applaud you starting on this journey, and you're not the only one. Interesting that you say you never really believed it - I believed it all wholeheartedly. I never quite felt it as emotionally as others around me did - I was always the kid at the high school church convention looking around quizzically at everyone else weeping and wailing during the invitation, but it was still real to me. I'll be interested to follow your posts as you go.

 
At 5/31/2006 3:00 AM, Anonymous nick said...

I know just how you feel. I reached the same realization shortly after I was confirmed, some time ago, but since then I've mostly kept it under wraps, too. Pretty much everyone I know is insanely religious (South Africa is probably at least as fundamentalist as the US), and it's just too much effort to explain that not being religious doesn't mean I plan to kill them in their sleep. Can't keep going like this forever, as you say. But luckily church itself and churchy behaviour has never been that big a deal in my life, so at least I get to have fun in the meantime... Good luck to you on your journey, AC.

 
At 6/01/2006 2:09 PM, Blogger IAMB said...

You really sound like someone I know... well, maybe several people.

I can tell you that the deconversion process can be long and painful though. Just beware keeping a public face unchanged. Living dual lives can cause more stress and emotional damage than it's worth. The people who really care about you will accept you for who you really are, and not for the mold that they think you belong in. Remember: conditional love is an oxymoron.

P.S. Thanks for the link-love. Always surprised to find myself on somebody's original blogroll, since I'm not that popular to begin with. Curious how you found me in the first place... but no matter. Drop by and comment sometime.

Take care

 
At 6/01/2006 6:24 PM, Blogger Austin Cline said...

Anonymous,

I have a bunch of articles offering advice and ideas for atheists dealing with religious friends an families in the contexts of holidays, weddings, religious ceremonies, etc. Perhaps some of it will prove useful to you.

Good Luck...

 
At 6/01/2006 7:11 PM, Blogger Qalmlea said...

For a contrasting version, I thought I was really into the whole religion thing...right up until I started trying to put it together into a logical framework. And realized there wasn't one. I was an atheist for a while. Currently, I call myself a Taoist.

A cautionary note to your current path: I am still compelled to attend my former church on occasion (my mom's an organist there, and sometimes needs someone musically inclined to turn pages). It gets harder and harder every time. Either I get angry about the nonsense being preached or I want to laugh outright. Maybe you're better at dealing with cognitive dissonance than I am. *shrugs*

 
At 6/01/2006 10:43 PM, Blogger An Anonymous Coward said...

You really sound like someone I know... well, maybe several people.

Not too likely, considering you're in Utah. I've visited Utah, but I don't live there. But maybe my situation is more common than I realized.

Just beware keeping a public face unchanged. Living dual lives can cause more stress and emotional damage than it's worth. The people who really care about you will accept you for who you really are, and not for the mold that they think you belong in.

Yeah, I know. Like I said in my post, I realize I should just come clean and be open about my disbelief. But that doesn't mean it's not hard to actually do it...

Curious how you found me in the first place...

I honestly don't remember. Probably by following a link or a comment in another blog, but I don't recall where.

 
At 6/02/2006 3:12 AM, Blogger Deacon Barry said...

You are still the same person. All that has changed, is that you have grown in wisdom. You do not watch porno movies or use profane language because that is your personal morality, which need not change just because you no longer believe that a higher being is watching and judging you.
Your conscience and moral code are now your own responsibility - no-one else's. Scary huh?
Warning! The most fanatic adherents of a cause are those that have converted to it. Beware that you do not become a militant athiest intent on destroying your community's belief system. Strive for the middle way. Let them see by your deeds and words that there is life outwith religion.
The tragedy is that you live in a religious society. If you lived here in Britain, no-one would give a toss.
You are not a coward. You have started this blog. I hope this dialogue with the outside world will help you in your journey.
Live one day at a time. There's no rush. Go to work. Love your family.
Concentrate on the things that really matter. Leave religion behind. It's a fond toy that you used to play with as a child, but you're a child no longer.


PS. I linked to your blog through Pooflingers (What a name.)

 
At 6/02/2006 5:08 AM, Blogger Daniel said...

You're no coward. It takes courage to face ugly realities.

Bravo.

 
At 6/03/2006 4:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You remind me of me, some years back. I had to face up to the same kind of situation.
I finally broke free from religion and its influences, which has led me on a journey of further self understanding.
You shouldn't feel like a coward; you are facing your situation in your own way.

 
At 6/06/2006 12:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Going through the same thing, different sect.

I'm in much of the same boat. "Coming out" as a skeptic would put a lot of pain in a lot of people's lives who have high hopes for me, including my parents and in-laws.

I've learned so far to deal with it sensibly. It may be a better thing to be completely honest and make a public statement, but then again, if there's no base to the religion, there's no harm in "playing at it", especially if it helps you phase out gently.

I struggled for years as a worship leader with pride - I just see it as performance now, and people have really commented positively on the change. I also hesitated when teaching/speaking to use influential techniques because I didn't want to take glory away from God - I see it now as practice toward being a better public speaker. And the results have been really powerful. I escape personal guilt by teaching morality, and not doctrine.

The congregation thinks I've finally opened up my heart to God. Little do they know I just quit pretending there was one listening.

 
At 6/21/2006 2:42 PM, Anonymous betsy said...

You are on a wonderful journey, one that I made nearly twenty years ago from Catholicism... or more to the point, as you say, realized I was on. The journey is full of wonder and self-discovery, not just about what you believe, but about the kind of person you want to be. But you know, there are days when I think that in some ways I'm a better Catholic--if you can set aside the whole 'god' thing. It's an irony I've learned to appreciate, even if my grandmother still asks the nuns to pray for my soul. :)

Best of luck on the journey.

 
At 6/21/2006 5:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are not alone in your silent suffering. I was a Mormon in a situation very similar to the one in which you find yourself. I came to the startling realization about halfway through my mission, that I didn't believe any of the things I was preaching, and that I could find no rational reason for believing in god, Jesus or any of the things revealed religions seem to take for granted. (I.e., the efficacy of prayer, the existence of any absolute morality,the idea of an afterlife, etc.) I made the conscious decision to keep my apostacy to myself after carefully weighing what I perceived to be the pros and cons of outing myself to my family. I decided that it would be better in the short run to keep my conclusions about god and religion to myself than to risk a giant falling out with my family and friends. I was married in the temple and continued to attend church with my wife for about ten years before I finally told her about my true feelings regarding religion. She was understandably shocked - more than I realized at the time, but she said she understood my doubts. I told her I was happy to continue my charade publicly but that I didn't want to keep something that I considered so important to me from her any longer. I don't know what motivated me to tell her at that time. There had been other opportunities to tell her before, but I think I sensed the stirrings of doubt in her and the thought that she should struggle with those same feelings I had had when I could offer some understanding and perspective overcame my misgivings and fear of how she would react. We continued going to church for a couple of years after that, and slowly she began to ask me what I thought about certain things I'm sure you're familiar with: what about blacks and the priesthood, what about polygamy, etc., and slowly she began to see the inconsistencies in the church's official story. The final straw came when I introduced her to the problems surrounding the Book of Abraham. After showing everything to her, including a video produced by some 'Let's witness to the Mormons' group (but a well done video nonetheless), I was very surprised when she broke down in tears... It all came unravelled for her at once, and she felt a deep sense of betrayal and loss. I felt like a real bastard - I had never had those deep connections, I had never really believed it in the first place, so it was no great loss personally when I realized it was bunk. But for her it has been a great loss, emotionally and socially. She is adjusting well now, but I know that she occasionally (frequently?) longs for the moral certainty that religion offers - you don't have to wonder if you're raising your children right, or how you should think about the serious issues our country faces - just toe the official line, pray (and pay!), read your scriptures, and everything will work out for the best. It's certainly not easy leaving religion behind, even one you don't believe. I have many friends in the church that I still haven't told for fear that it will mean the end of our friendship. Then why do it? Why leave if there are tangible benefits to staying? In my case it came down to deciding how I wanted my children to grow up. In the end I decided that it would be better to equip them with the ability to view the world rationally, realizing that there are a great many ugly truths, and that the truth of an idea has nothing to do with the fervor with which it is presented. I want to arm them with compassion and an urgent sense of justice that won't allow them to be lulled into inaction by the promise that the trodden-upon are due for a break in the next life, or that those born in less fortunate circumstances are paying the price of some dereliction of faith in the pre-existence. Most of all I want them to see religions for what they are - shackles and fetters that are used to oppress and control. I believe I made the right choice. Since I don't know you, I can't offer you any specific advice, but will only repeat Polonius' advice to his son: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.

 
At 7/02/2006 6:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How very hard it is to be honest -- first with yourself, then with the rest of the world. I've been there, too. I try not to blame myself for taking so long to face the truth. Be glad you found the strength to do it. You're not alone.

 
At 7/24/2007 6:04 AM, Blogger Blane Conklin said...

Your post is over a year old now, so I risk being untimely--and after my comment here I will check out your more recent entries to see what's happening.

But I want to echo several of the people who've commented: 1) your story sounds very familiar, not because I know you, but because there are lots of people like us with similar journeys, and 2) you are not a coward.

About the time you wrote this entry I was still an "anonymous coward," and I had been an unbeliever for three years. It was about that time when I read "End of Faith" by Sam Harris that I found the courage to go "public."

Again, I will check for updates over the year that's passed, but I would just leave you with a quote from Kurt Vonnegut:

"Be careful who you pretend to be, because you are who you pretend to be."

peace,
Blane

 
At 7/24/2007 6:05 AM, Blogger Blane Conklin said...

Oh, I meant to give you a link to my quick and dirty story.

 
At 1/01/2008 5:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have a sorry story and a sorry life. I think I saw you selling cotton candy at universal studios!

Seriously, if you spent your time finding a wife, finding a career and a job, and giving back to the world you might not have time to wallow in all this muck. And that is what most of your posts are. Just muck. wallow wallow wallow.

 
At 1/25/2008 5:06 PM, Anonymous Loving Friend said...

Anonymous,

I am here to give you hope. Many years ago I had the same feelings many of you have. Questioning what I grew up believing, infact I questioned it so mutch that I was ready to take my life if it was not true, it was just not worth living to me.

So there I was where most of you are, sin having clouded my life and judgement. I made a choice to then and there find our for myself if it was true or not.

I choose to use the Book of Mormon as my tool to find the truth. I had never read it through myself and prayed about it so I did that ever night for 6 months hoping to find an answer.

None came day after day. Finally after finishing the whole of the Book of Mormon I was at the end of my rope and found myself in the wilderness by myself.

So I put the book to test through prayer. While praying I did not see a vision, hear anyone speak, I just felt more peace than I ever have before or since in my life.

In short I walked out of there knowing that I had the Holy Ghost bear witness to ME (no one) that God Lived, that His Son Jesus Christ lived and died, and lived again for ME, I also recieved a witness that the Book of Mormon was True and the Joseph Smith was called of God to be the Prophet of the restoration.

I never imagined that was what was going to happen, I had no preconcieved answers from someone else, and my openness was what allowed the spirit to touch my life.

The result is that I am imperfect in every stretch of the imagination, but I am working hard to change and be better. I keep going to church, I served a mission, I go to the temple because I know it is true.

It is your choice, it is easy to turn you back on things for what you think you want, I know I have been there. But I promise you if you test God with an open mind he will prove to you what is real.

 
At 3/31/2008 9:17 PM, Blogger Atheos said...

Wow, great post. It reminds me a lot of my own story. It sure isn't easy, is it?

 
At 1/05/2009 8:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've read Anonymous Coward's blog and most of the comments below, and I want to say that compared with many of you, I'm really really lucky to be born in an atheist family, and in a country where most people are not religious. It saves me the trouble of pretending to be faithful to a religion. I don't have to lead dual lives, and most importantly I'm free from the stress imposed by other people (families, friends, etc.), as well as the discomfort of apostasy from myself.

But the problem is: I really wish I were religious—a Christian or a Jew. Because when I need help, when I plunge into trouble, depression or difficult times, when I'm confused and frustrated, I will know that there is someone I can turn to, someone who can give me help, power and hope. When I'm facing with choices that I can't make, I can even commission my fate to God and do a toss-up. Even if the result turns out disappointing or bad, I can say to myself: This is my destiny. This is God's instruction. You don't have to be guilty about your choice. Just obey God’s will.

I've considered intensively joining the Christianity since last month, after I was humiliated and threatened by a man who spitted onto my face. But that is only one reason why I would like to join. I have been very low for more than half a year. My life has been miserable and pathetic, and the future is so dim. Thus I hope I can turn to God for comfort and support. And most importantly, I hope he can give me courage and inner power to walk out of the darkness I have been experiencing, and shine his love and mercy upon me. I want to feel his benevolence. I want to worship his sanctity. I want to believe in him wholeheartedly for the rest of my life.

The blog and the comments here shake my ground. Now I'm not sure if I should become religious. This is the first time I find so many people have deconverted from their religions. I used to think that religious people are lucky because they have firm faiths in their gods and when they need help or get hurt they have someone to turn to, to rely on. Anonymous Coward and other people’s stories make me sad, because I have sunk into confusion again. A writer once said: marriage is just like a city-wall. People outside want to get in, but people inside want to get out. In this sense, religion is the same.

By the way, I’m not an English native speaker, so forgive me for any mistakes above in spelling, grammar or tense. And I don’t want to be recognized either because I don’t want anyone who knows me to feel sorry for me or to look down upon me (I pretend to be OK in my real life), so forgive me for being anonymous.

By the way again, Anonymous Coward you are definitely not a coward. Just as some others have said, you have the courage to pursue what you think is right and true. Salute!

 
At 8/22/2009 9:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

excuse me... could i ask you a question anonymous coward ... have you ever been to Asia ? all over asia ?????

 
At 8/22/2009 9:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

have you ever went to Japan or Philippines ....

 
At 8/22/2009 9:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

were you the one who wrote the Awful Truth About Filipinos?

well was all of that true?

how bout this thing you wrote ...
AznGuRLie: Wzzup EvErYbOdY!!! RhEiNa IsH In Da HoUsE!

do you think that Filipinos talk that way ...
it's obvious that you made it up

i mean what did filipinos do to harm you ... and your calling them
immature and obsessed by japanese and japanese cars ...
i mean eveything you wrote there was insulting filipinos and you're calling them immature !!! well look at yourself ... i'm a filipino and i am hurt to hear you say that ... i am only 12 years old you know but i can't believe what you said it really made me angry ... i don't want to be over reacting or anything but it did i can't believe that ... :(

 
At 8/22/2009 9:40 AM, Blogger SH3NIS3 said...

he thinks he knows everything ...
0_0

 
At 8/22/2009 9:46 AM, Anonymous Kaoru_yamamoto said...

CRAZY ....
look at what he wrote about the awful truths about Filipinos iv been to Philippines and what he said was so totally different 0.o from what i expected...

 
At 1/03/2010 6:55 PM, Blogger An Anonymous Coward said...

Not necessarily going to bother responding to every comment that was made to every post on my blog in the year and a half I wasn't updating, but to respond quickly to some of the posts here:

First of all, to the last four posts: You clearly have me confused with someone else. I've never so much as mentioned the Phillipines on this blog, and no, I didn't write "The Awful Truth About Filipinos". Never even heard of it. Apparently it was a different Anonymous Coward.

For the anonymous post before that: I think the reasons you give for wanting to be religious echo a lot of people's reasons for wanting to stay in their churches... I kind of went over some of that in my post on Sloth.

To the anonymous with the "cotton candy" post: I do try to give back to the world, and honestly, I think this blog is part of it (though just a small part of it)—while you may not approve of what I write, I'd like to think there are some people who find it helpful or inspiring to some measure. I'm not likely to find a wife, given that I'm gay, but yes, I do work—I don't have a full-time job at the moment (though I actually did have a full-time teaching job at the time you wrote your comment), but I'm looking, and I'm working enough to get by (and for the record, I've never sold cotton candy at Universal Studios). Personally, I'd be more inclined to consider posting anonymous hateful comments on blogs "wallow[ing] in muck", but hey, to each his own.

To "Loving Friend": No, you're clearly not here to give me hope. There was absolutely nothing remotely hopeful in your message. You're here to preach. And if you'd read other posts in my blog—particularly the one where I first mentioned that I was raised Mormon, and my posts on the basis for belief, you'd know I already went through everything you're recommending—reading the Book of Mormon, praying about it, the whole nine yards. It's only later I realized how badly I'd been fooling myself about what I'd convinced myself I'd felt.

To everyone else who's commented: Thanks. I really do appreciate the comments; it's good to know that someone's found some value in what I've written. Sorry to not reply to each person individually, but seriously, thanks; your comments are definitely appreciated!

 
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