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July,1996

Getting Along Outside the Oasis
by Cliff Walker

When CRT opened, we billed it as an "oasis" of sanity in a sea of superstition. A television reporter asked various members what we meant by that. I parroted something about the difficulty of being taken seriously as an out-of-the-closet Atheist. But four years later, I'm still not sure I know the answer to his question.

Sure. We come to the Center and meet with others who, like us, do not rely on so-called comfortable myths. It's good to discuss my doubts with those who will not write me off for doubting. Still, I'm not getting from the Center what I think I want from it. Perhaps I seek the same unattainable "something" I longed for when I desired the comforts of religion. Then again, perhaps what I'm finding out is that it can be cold and lonely out here in "reality" and that there is no real answer -- no real "oasis."

I've spent a lot of time wondering how to be myself and still function in my environment. If I take my viewpoints too seriously, I become very miserable. Perhaps I need to strike a balance with my atheistic views, realizing that most people disagree with me. When discussing atheism with a curious believer, I try to make it clear that I do not care what an individual believes, only when the government supports a plan that is specifically and exclusively religious.

I spend most of my time outside of the "oasis." What if I were the only non-Mormon worker in a small company? Should I be candid about my views? And what if I fell deeply in love with a devout Christian? Suppose we found that we see eye-to-eye in every respect except this one. Could we keep the flame going when times get tough?

I think any clues I might find will probably end up coming from right between my ears. As an atheist, I do not seek help "from above" (whatever that means); as a humanist, I know the best answers for me come from myself or, perhaps, with other humans. But if I think I'm going to find "the" answer -- the "oasis" -- I am probably fooling myself. What I thought might be an "oasis" has turned out to be one hell of a struggle. I think I like that!

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Copyright ©1996 Cliff Walker; Portland, Oregon