Most of the time, when I hear the word “autonomy”, it’s being referred to as a negative thing. Almost everyone I know has a pretty steadfast “Jesus take the wheel” mindset. They let go of their worries, send up some prayers, and let God take care of the rest. It’s not their problem anymore, nor should it be. If something doesn’t work out, they simply say that it wasn’t in God’s plan for them and that when he closes one door, he opens another.
The idea of autonomy gives many Christians the impression that if they don’t give control to God, then they are playing god in their own lives. They have taken over the god-role and are assuming that they have that omnipotent amount of control and the freedom to do whatever they want. And putting yourself in God’s place is a way of idolizing yourself and your power, which of course goes against God’s very own ten commandments.
This, however, is not how I see autonomy. The person with the greatest amount of control in your own life should be you and not some external factor or person. No one should have complete control or unquestionable power over your life and what happens to you. That being said, it is true that there is a lot that’s out of your control, but that’s no reason to give up and let someone or something else take over. One of my greatest pet peeves of religion is allowing prayer to take the place of action. If something is hard, that means that you have to work harder, not hand it over to God and say that you’ve done all that you can. Autonomy means standing up for yourself when you know that you’re on your own and there’s no one else who can live your life for you.
I did a bit of research into my family history today. From the looks of it, we have been members of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod all the way back to its founding, and Lutherans back even further. The other side of my family had a mix of Catholics, Presbyterians, and Methodists. I have no way of knowing if there were any closeted atheists, agnostics, or deists mixed in, but for the most part, everyone was religious. It seems to me that I am one of the first, if not the first, atheists in my entire family tree. Needless to say, that is a terrifying discovery. The nature of atheism leaves me with no one to pray to, and the nature of my situation leaves me with no family members to talk to about how to handle being an anomaly with such hugely different views and values. My boyfriend and I have to find our own way in dealing with all of this.
Some may see this as a hopeless situation, and a lot of the time, I find myself in the catch-22 of either living a lie forever or disappointing my family so badly that they shun me forever. However, I do my best to see this as an opportunity for autonomy and a way to actually be honest to myself and take control of what I can. Being (almost) alone in this situation of being a closeted atheist in a stiflingly conservative Christian environment both at home and at school, finding my own personal beliefs (and lack thereof) is something that has brought me great joy. I’m at an age where everyone is still discovering who they are, and among all these believers, being an atheist has been something that is uniquely mine, and I’m proud of it.
Last year, when I was discovering atheism (and myself) I went through a lot of depression and a handful of anxiety attacks as I tried to get comfortable in my own skin. Throughout this year, I’ve become more comfortable as an atheist, and taking control of my situation has been freeing and empowering. In November, I decided that I wanted to start a blog in order to let out some of my pent up frustration and emotions in regards to atheism, religion, and my life. At the beginning, I was terrified even to put my story out on the Internet, and I could barely even say “I am an atheist.” I’ve realized that I had to give up a little bit of that security in order to gain back that much of my sanity. This blog is something that is entirely mine, and it is a way to turn this difficult time into an opportunity to write and create content online, which is another newly discovered passion of mine.
This past Thursday evening, I hit one hundred followers, a milestone at which I had promised myself I would upgrade and become theclosetatheist.blog. I know this may seem small, but to me, it was a huge accomplishment, and it means so much to me that when I wanted something, I went for it, and I did what I set out to do. I am excited to see how much more this small personal blog can grow, and I’m lucky to have so many kind and supportive followers. I already have some ideas for more posts, but I would also love to take suggestions in the comments for what you would like me to write about on future Sundays!