|I'm really not a winter person.|
This time has got my wife and I thinking again about someday moving to Barbados. This is an annual occurrence. Especially for my wife, Kelly, who's half Barbadian - colloquially called Bajan. Most of her father's family are all on the island and it's only a matter of time before I get my own Barbadian passport - the application has been made and is being processed... slowly.
Of course, there would be the usual worries about making a move to another country. What about a job? Where to live? Fortunately, that last point isn't likely to be a problem. Kelly's dad left her mom a house on very the island in the very neighbourhood where her family is most highly concentrated. Their educational system is also top-notch.
But the biggest question I have is: Where are the Atheists?
A recent Google search brought me back zero Meetup groups, no Facebook organizations, zilch CFI or Humanist organizations. Nothing. I did find a few forum posts by ex-patriots like me living on the island who were feeling very isolated and alone. These were given the advice to seek out Unitarian Universalist churches - that's the best advice.
The last time I was there, Kelly had to attend her father's funeral at the local church. I was given the duty of looking after my 16-month-old son - who didn't understand the solemnity of the event and was prone to make sudden highly disruptive outbursts. This meant I spent most of the service outside, but I heard plenty from open windows.
The pastor seemed to use the service to proselytize those who were from outside the congregation. During his sermon, he would bring up the Atheist and the Atheist Heart and the Atheist's Understanding. He wasn't talking about me specifically, of course. He was generalizing - but it made me wonder what the point was. Are there lots of Atheists on the island, or is he just using the word to refer to some hypothetical bogeyman - like the devil?
The little church more than made up for itself later, when it held a weekend fish fry. Delicious!
But simply being in the island for more than a week made me realize how Christian the culture appears. We were given a car ride into town by a local pastor who told us about his small church on the hill. When I mentioned someday moving to Barbados, people would automatically invite me to their church. It seemed like everyone went to church.
Now, here's something I found odd. I was never asked by anyone about my own religion. Nobody asked me to pray for them or with them. Meals didn't start with a prayer - that I can recall. Nothing was foisted upon me at all. Perhaps this is cultural Christianity with some peaks of high religiosity.
In fact, the island is highly diverse religion-wise. Well, so long as you're Christian of some bent. It seems to me like although 95% of Barbadians consider themselves Christian, the actual number of practicing Christians is by no means anywhere near 100%.
But maybe I didn't see the intolerance because I was an outsider. A white Canadian only visiting for a couple of weeks. Would it be different if I lived there? If I were an open Atheist would my job be in danger? Would I be shunned by the community at large? Harassed? What kind of religious instruction would be administered to my child at school?
Looking at Google, I only found scraps of information about the perception of Atheists on the island. In Atheism: Why society needs church we have mention of some 30,000 Atheists out there. We also have ON THE OTHER HAND: Atheism’s dilemma and The atheists will come around, which are all editorials that read like Sunday sermons against Atheism. One bright light was With atheism, what works is good in the Barbados Advocate.
So where can I go to find some answers? Well I did find one Barbadian Atheist! David Ince runs the CaribAtheist blog and I've convinced him to do a guest post or two for this blog! Hopefully he'll have a few answers for me and tell me what he's been up to lately to help bring the Caribbean Atheist community out of its closet and begin to organize into groups where people do not have to feel so alone. We'll be hearing from David in the next couple of weeks! Hopefully he can bring some of that bright Bajan sunshine to our bleary light-starved winter eyes!
Editor's Note (December 5th, 2:30pm): Kelly reminded me that my son was actually 16.5 months old at the time of her father's funeral (not three). Also removed one unnecessary reference to my son.