I was, however, raised knowing that religion was something other people had, and something I could have if I wanted. My mom read me some stories from a children’s Bible; I hung out with my Jewish friends on Hanukah; I painted flour-paste flowers on the walkway with my grandmother for Diwali. I took it all in, but it never became something I felt like I needed. Like veganism or Twilight fandom , I get what it does for other people; I just know it isn’t for me.
Why do I need to explain something that plays no part in my life, though? I don’t believe in god the same way I’m not from Canada – there’s no explanation, it’s just how things are. And yet much of the mainstream atheist community still defines itself in relation to religion, as if you learn something about a person by knowing what they’re not. I understand the desire to feel like part of a community: that’s what most people turn to religion for in the first place.
It wasn’t until relatively recently to realize that not all believers center their every decision around religion: for them, their religious convictions are something softer to check in with from time to time, not the brash fire-and-brimstone philosophies I saw from those who made religious identity their public faces. For some people, belief is a part of their lives, not the whole of their identity.