What we owe the world

To sum up, nothing. Not one red cent. We owe no one anything when it comes to our personal beliefs.

That's not to say that our beliefs are self-contained repositories of knowledge and truth. Far from it; we are still human, after all. Our beliefs are inseparable from the whole of humanity. We build upon all that has come before, yet we have the ability to analyze and synthesize the wisdom of our predecessors, to create the viewpoints each of us develop during our lifetime.

While we may owe a great deal to others when it comes to the input to our beliefs, it is the outputs to which we owe no one. We do not have to defend or justify our beliefs to anyone, no matter what they might feel that we owe them. Their beliefs do not define ours.

One common conversation that is regularly held in online communities is how and when members "come out" to their friends and family about their deconversion from faith. The people who initiate these threads are always earnest, well-meaning people, who are often at a crossroads between faith and unbelief. They know the pain and disconnection that will occur with their disclosure of disbelief in faiths that were bequeathed to them by their spiritual family. Their pain at this moment is real, is awful and rends my heart. I grieve for what has been lost, as it has been lost in me as well.

The community rallies to them, with words to strengthen their resolve, to be a bulwark against the immense pressure that they are about to undergo. The advice is diverse, drawing upon personal experience at having gone through the same process at some point in the past. Everyone is well meaning, providing advice that may work, yet may not, depending upon the situation in question.

What always comes to my mind when these situations is, why the person asking feels any need to bring it up in the first place? What each of us believes, or does not believe, is a personal choice. It isn't a public decision or an election, it is that person's selection.

It is not the decision itself, to disclose or to withhold, that causes the pain; it is the repercussions which reverberate from the disclosure that the individual fears, and rightly so. Rejection of the beliefs gifted to you during your past is often seen as repudiation by those who gifted you with that faith, regardless of if that is the intent or not.

If there is one sin that humanity has committed against itself, which I could wave a wand and rid us of, is that of the confusion of rejection of an idea with that of rejection of another. Just because we may disagree with another's viewpoint does not mean we devalue the other person. We can love our friends while abhoring their views. We as humans too often fail in identifying our own self and worth with that of the views we hold.

Reading this will most likely not bring peace of mind or spirit to anyone facing the choice to disclose their change of belief to their loved ones, nor is it really meant to do so. What it is meant, is to give anyone who finds it, the understanding that they are not alone, that they are justified in their fears, and that they owe no one else more of an explanation than they are willing to give at this time.

Your worth is not dependent upon anyone else's acceptance of you.

Your worth is not dependent upon anyone else's approval of you.

Your worth is inherent in you, and no one can take it away from you, if you choose to keep it to yourself.