This is not a rant about how “atheists have morals, too!”
This is me figuring out how this whole morality thing works. It’s always been easy to be good in life because life has been good to me. I believe I’ve helped more people than I’ve hurt, and I am quicker to love than I am to hate. If morality were as objective as we all hope it is, I would say I’m a pretty moral person.
Recently, I’ve found myself in positions where I can be selfish to the deep detriment of others. I have had to make choices that look out for myself but find consideration for others, and they’ve been difficult to navigate. I believe happiness and goodness lie somewhere in this mix of selflessness and selfishness. I don’t believe one or the other is an ultimate virtue. I believe they are best employed in tandem. The measurement is not set, and we keep adding both, tasting the concoction until it makes that perfect choicetini. I want to help as many other bodies as I can when I help my own.
I don’t want anyone to lose when I win, but I think that’s going to happen sometimes. I think you just have to make sure that the loss is not so deep as to make another person’s situation irredeemable. Don’t destroy things unless those things are destroying others.
Growing up a white, middle class, Christian, cisgender, straight, healthy, athletic, average-looking, American female in a small town in Virginia basically guaranteed that life would be easy for me. I was well-esteemed in my circles in high school, graduated with an effortless 4.2 GPA, and naturally relocated to college where I would continue to easily exist in all my privilege.
They say about privilege that you don’t fully realize you have it until it is threatened or lost. This is why my loss of faith came as such a shock and shook my world more than it probably should have. Suddenly, I started identifying with words like “victim” and “minority,” and painfully, my conservative mind was dragged through liberal realities. I felt abused.
What threw me for an even more surreal loop was realizing that I had also been struggling with my sexuality. And this is where my title comes in: Room for Consideration. As I left faith, I felt like there was no room for me to consider alternate beliefs. I was expected to have one belief and all other considerations only twisted me into vicious cycles of self-loathing. Likewise, I’ve been having to keep this struggle with my sexuality inside ever since realizing that I fell in love with a girl while I fell out of love with my spirituality. It’s not publicly acceptable, and even though I accepted my atheism and shouted it from the rooftops, I was absolutely terrified to even consider that I might not be straight, let alone that I might be very gay.
I don’t want to pull everyone through my entire queer narrative, so I’ll keep this brief. I had one serious boyfriend in high school, and I can’t think of any other guy I’ve been seriously interested in since that time. I had my first crush on a girl when I was 15, but I had no clue that what I had was a crush. I didn’t have the framework for understanding that I could even be attracted to girls in that way. By the time I got to college, I only had crushes on women and never on men. Again, I had no framework for understanding my attractions. At this point, I just assumed that I was straight. I mean, I had a boyfriend in high school, and I knew I’d eventually find “the one” and that would be all it’d take. But by the time senior year rolled around and my faith was almost to its breaking point, I fell so hard for a girl that it was impossible at this point to remain oblivious to my attractions. It was more than a crush, and it scared me so much that I was able to remain in denial about it for quite a while longer.
Once I had deconverted and decided to confront this weirdness going on with my sexuality, I still didn’t want to be disingenuous to the queer community. I didn’t want to be yet another person “trying it out” – some promiscuous “bisexual” girl who winds up with a man and a generally privileged life, setting the whole movement for gay acceptance back another notch. I thought maybe I could sit on the outside looking in for a while. I could just exist without sexuality. I’m not attracted to men, but maybe I don’t need relationships. Maybe I’ll just keep my life uncomplicated and derive joy from my singleness.
Until I arrived at where I am now, which is that this stuff I’m going through is mine, and it is very real for me. Whether or not it is socially acceptable, I’m going to make room for consideration so that I can sort this shit out. I hate that this process offends people or makes people think that I’m flaky or fake. I’m an extrovert who suffers when I keep myself stored inside. So here’s one step out. I am an atheist. I’ve loved a woman, and I hope to love more.