Bad Glasses
Bad Glasses
Bad Glasses

Bad Glasses

Long, long ago in a place far, far away, a strange practice took hold when someone—no one knew who—developed special eyeglasses and began to convince large numbers of the inhabitants of this land that they could not see their world correctly or live life as it was meant to be lived without wearing these glasses all the time.

Soon the glasses-wearers were meeting weekly to extol the values of their lenses and to warn of the dangers of life without this special eyewear. They sang songs about their glasses and heard talks about how their spectacles helped them to clearly see things as they really are. They heard talks about how horrible life looked without the special glasses.

They called the glasses, and themselves, "Brighteners."

Theirs was a brightly colored world, populated with an endless array of amazing creatures and wonderful sights. And the people of this world—despite their finite frailties and flaws—were pretty amazing too.

Unfortunately, the glasses worn by the Brighteners created a view of their world that was the opposite of what was promised. The spectacles were slightly out of focus, cast a greyish tint on everything, and over time, made the world look less inviting than it actually was.

It wasn’t long before the Brighteners began to teach that life in their dim, grey-tinted-glasses world was simply a prelude to another life in a much better place. They developed an elaborate set of beliefs about life after death. The leaders of the Brighteners formulated rules about how to wear the glasses in just the right way so one could be certain of attaining this life that would never end in a place far, far better than their world.

Eventually, the Brighteners began to argue among themselves and split into rival groups. All still called themselves Brighteners, but the groups engaged in fierce debates about just the right formula for grinding the lenses, just the right grey tint, which frames were and were not appropriate, and at what age children should start wearing the glasses. Some Brighteners got glasses for their children almost immediately after they were born. Others thought it important to let their children reach an age at which they could make their own decision—under tremendous pressure from family and friends—to start wearing the glasses.

The Brightener were not—for the most part—bad individuals. In fact, their local groups, while hampered in some ways by the grey-shaded glasses they wore, did a lot to look out for one another. They visited those who were sick. They comforted members when a loved one died. And from time to time, they provided financial help for those who needed it. The glasses and the belief system tied to the glasses provided a sense of belonging, comfort, and hope for most of the Brighteners—especially to those who were most committed.

But some Brighteners were more sincere in their belief than others. Some found glass grinders who would secretly replace their standard out-of-focus lenses with lenses that did not distort—and for some, a prescription that actually improved their vision. Their renegade glasses looked like the standard-issue Brighteners on the outside—so only they knew they were cheating.

From the beginning, there were some individuals in this far-away land who refused to wear the glasses and made no secret of their non-belief. These faithless individuals confidently—and accurately—asserted they could actually see much better without the Brightener glasses. These infidels were dubbed "Dimmers" by the Brighteners, and they were not treated well. They were shunned, ridiculed, and sometimes even killed for their lack of eye apparel.

After hundreds of generations had passed in this far away land, more and more individuals in more and more places began to take off their Brightener glasses and declare themselves Dimmers. As their numbers grew, many Dimmers stopped being quiet or ashamed of what they did not believe. Increasing numbers became proud to call themselves Dimmers. They said that being a Dimmer was the only way anyone could see clearly.

Over time, the Dimmers experienced their own kind of division. Some of the Dimmers devoted themselves to telling everyone, "I don’t wear the glasses, and you are foolish if you wear them." This simple pronouncement became their mission, and, over time, defined them. Given all the damage the special glasses had done, one could see the value in their crusade against the Brighteners, and their courage was admirable.

But other Dimmers experienced the "I don’t wear glasses" emphasis as a stage, a step, a start. They eventually decided they did not like "I don’t wear glasses" as their calling card. They wanted to be known less for what they did not believe and more for what they did value and appreciate.

For them, the next step was talking about all the wonderful things they could see without the glasses. They focused on the goodness and brightness of life in their world—the possibilities, the colors, and the joy. They talked about finding freedom and clarity in the here and now. They focused on kindness, strength, respect, and love. And they decided that "Dimmers" was not a very good description of who they really were.

* * * * * * *

For me, the parable above is personal. I no longer believe any personal, all-powerful, all-knowing God exists, but I am open to the possibility there could be some impersonal force or being beyond our current understanding that had something to do with getting our existence started. This qualifies me as a Dawkins Level 6 Atheist. I can also accurately call myself an agnostic, but not because I think a personal, all-powerful, all knowing God might exist or because I have more exploring to do before confidently declaring that such a God does not exist. For me, agnosticism simply means that it is not currently possible to know all there is to know about the potential existence of some now-hidden prime mover.

I left my Christian faith 14 years ago. I kept pretty quiet about it for 11 years until 2018 when I wrote and published Goodbye Jesus. Since then, I’ve written other books about non-belief along with over 7,000 tweets and multiple online articles. I’ve been interviewed about my departure from faith on programs originating in the U.S. Canada, England, Australia, and India,

I now have a strong sense that it’s time for an adjustment in my focus. My unbelief in the God of any religion is as firm as ever. I’m not moving away from atheism or agnosticism. But I do want to move in a more positive direction. I’m like the Dimmers who decided that’s not how they wanted to be defined.

You can call me an atheist or an agnostic if you like, but neither is my preferred adjective.

I don’t want to be known just for what I don’t believe. I want to focus on positive contributions that help other people. I’m interested in inspiring, encouraging, and connecting. I want keep learning and keep sharing what I learn. I want to laugh, and if I can, make others laugh now and them. I want to live in the present tense—learning from past experiences and preparing for the uncertainties of the future, but mainly living fully in the present moment, because that is when life happens—right now. This moment is life.

My communications pathway for this new focus is I’ll still post articles here on GoodbyeJesus.Net, and I’ll still Tweet as @GoodbyeJesus, but likely, less frequently. If you haven’t done so already, I encourage you to sign up for my email notification list on Click Here

May 15, 2021 - Tim Sledge Copyright © 2021 Insighting Growth Publications

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