By Tom Holmes
1. In what village do you live? Forest Park
2. Occupation Public interest attorney
4. What was your childhood religious experience like? (In other words do you think you are reacting against it or evolving from it?
I would describe myself as evolved from, not reacting to my religious upbringing. My grandparents were overseas missionaries and I grew up going to church regularly and being very involved. I was president of my church youth group, worked at the church summer camp, etc. I even considered becoming a minister. I also had (and continue to have) a strong intellectual interest in religions of all kinds.
5. How would you define "none" for yourself? i.e. believe but don't belong, or spiritual but not religious, or agnostic/atheist. I suspect different people have different definitions for how the term applies to them.
I define myself as an atheist. I do not believe that there is a "being" out there of any kind that created the world, influences events, listens to prayer, etc. I don't believe in an afterlife.
That being said, I am not hostile toward religion or those who believe. My mother is still alive and active. For her, and for many others, religion provides not only great joy, but also a great sense of purpose and inspiration to do good. I have clients who have been rescued from lives of addiction and despair by religion. I have great respect for the religious roots of the civil rights movement, and for all those who in the name of religion feed the hungry, visit the prisoner, and care for the downtrodden. I believe that great evil also happens, and has happened, in the name of religion. But I don't think that religion=evil.
6. How did you get from #4 to #5? i.e. what changed you if there was a change. It happened pretty quickly in college for me. I could just no longer intellectually sustain my belief in the basic tenants of religion. I remember going through the Apostle's Creed and thinking "nope, I don't believe that" at pretty much every phrase. If faith is a gift, then it might be said that the gift was taken from me, or I that I turned my back on it.
I am convinced, however, that I am a better person for not being religious. My primary sin was always pride. I think the combination of pride and strong religious beliefs can be pretty toxic. I was a bossy oldest child who was inclined to think she had all the answers anyway. Believing that my answers were sanctioned by God would only exacerbate the situation. Giving up religion taught my humility, and that has been a very valuable thing to have as I've gone through life. Again, obviously there are many people who are religious and also humble. I'm afraid I would not have been one of them.
As you can see, I'm still very shaped by my religious upbringing and still very comfortable with the language of religion. In particular, one of my guiding principles is gratitude. I am very aware of how fortunate I am to be able to come home every day to a warm and safe home, to be able to feed myself and have something leftover to share. I carry my camera with me pretty much all the time, and what I'm photographing are all the little and big things that intrigue me or make me happy. There are a lot of those. It can be coyote tracks seen in the snow while I'm walking my dog in the morning, or a bunch of tractors going by on the railroad tracks as I head toward the loop on the Eisenhower. I believe the world is a wonderful and miraculous place and I'm very glad to be alive in it.