The thing about writers is that we both love and hate our vulnerability. On the one hand, we have to put ourselves out there, because, well, that is what a writer does. On the other hand, we are terrified of putting ourselves out there, because, well, the world in general just doesn’t care. Most people are so wrapped up in their own lives that they have little time or patience for those who come along and start sharing their innermost secrets. It makes people uncomfortable. And more often than not, the vulnerability of us writers (and all artists, really) gets trodden under the feet of the masses as they run away from our stark honesty.
The thing about atheists is that we became atheists for a reason. And that reason was probably the result of intense inner struggles endured over a period of years as we wrestled with the incongruences of our religion. By the time our deconversion was complete and we were planted firmly in the meadow called “atheism” or “disbelief,” we likely had to undergo the onslaught of naysayers, most of them Christians, many of them with good intentions, who combatted our exit from that “greatest religion” with pleas and threats and manipulation and reverse psychology and appeals to fear. Thus, many of us atheists, by the time we’re secure in our atheism, become more vocal as atheists than we were as Christians. This is due mostly to the fact that we had to arm ourselves with defensive information as our deconversion process unfolded. And once you have that kind of information, well, you want to share it.
So when there is someone like me, a writer by nature and an atheist by passionate choice, things get said that some might find a bit too forward or, dare I say, offensive. The thing is, I just don’t care. I mean, I do care, in that I regret causing distress to any human being, regardless of his or her creed. But I don’t care in the sense that sometimes in life things just need to be said, no matter how harsh they might come across. Some stories just need to be told. And that is that.
I recently published a book detailing my experiences with Christianity and the process I underwent, both inside and out, as I made my slow exit from the religion and embraced atheism. It’s too early to track the sales, but I can comment on the responses my book’s publication has already incited. I have received messages from all over the spectrum, ranging from pure praise and support to pure hatred and ostracization. But on the whole, the general response seems to indicate that my book is perceived as some kind of threat. One man went so far as to say the following: “I have no intentions of reading your moronic book because I know ahead of time that it will be nothing but the most fallacious assortment of liberal, atheist bullshit common among deviants like you.” This statement tells me a lot, but what it says most to me is that we live in a culture where fear of the unknown continues to govern the masses, a culture where people will viciously lash out at a neighbor simply because that neighbor might threaten their worldview.
And yet, there will be those who accuse me of the same behavior. My book will be seen as an attack on believers. While, on the surface, this might seem to be accurate, I assure you it is not. Digging under the surface of my book will no doubt demonstrate to the skilled observer that I am attacking a belief, not the believer. This might seem like the splitting of hairs, and perhaps it is, but one thing I do know is that my own heart on the matter gives me a clear conscience. I know the reasons I sat down to pen this book, and I know the passion that drove me on as I wrote it. And even now, as I begin the marketing process (a tedious and often fruitless labor), I know the reasons that continue to motivate me. Sure, I’d like to earn a little bit of money. Writing a book is no easy feat, and self-publishing one (which I did) is akin to sawing off one’s foot. Reasonable compensation for time and energy is not too much to ask. But the real reason I do what I do, the real reason I will drive myself over the edge to make sure my book is read, is to spread my message as far as it can possibly go under my own power. My deepest desire is to provide an aid for those who are going through the same grueling deconversion process I went through. I long to know that my story will mirror the stories of others, and that my vulnerability will become an ally to them as they begin the arduous task of untethering themselves from Christianity and finding true freedom on the other side. It’s not easy. No one ever said it would be. But the freedom of disbelief and the mental health that comes with it are prizes worth seeking. And if I can help, even in some small way, as others seek those prizes, then I can go to sleep at night feeling like I know my place in this world. That is why I wrote my book. And that is why I hope you will read it.
The book is called Portrait of an Infidel: The Acerbic Account of How a Passionate Christian Became an Ardent Atheist. Look for it. You will find it.
My website: http://michaelvitotosto.weebly.com/