When I chickened out.
A couple of weeks ago I posted a piece I’d written last year with suggestions for my survivors about funeral planning. I called it When I’m Dying, although a more accurate title would have been When I’m Gone. My son was disappointed that I’d left something out. Here’s his email to me:
In your “When I’m dying.” post, you made only two changes from the original document. You discussed funerals differently and left out the following: “I am not a religious man. I don’t want a religious funeral, but if Ginny and Jason feel a prayer service within a few days of my death would make my mother or my sister feel better, that would be fine.”
Why is this omitted?
This is the least offensive atheism evangelism possible! You are expressing your respect for the faith of others while avowing your own lack of faith.
You have hundreds of people telling you that they are praying for you. If that comforts them, great. You don’t owe it to them to play along. You have every bit the right to speak your mind on this issue as they do to express their prayers to you and for you. For Reason’s sake, you have an obligation to do so. To many religious people, atheists are the untrustworthy “other”. You could be, for many, the first atheist they trust/respect/anything other than pity or fear. Perhaps open their minds to the wider world of what I (condescendingly) call Reality. That’s why I’m not the right evangelist. You are. Please don’t shy away.
Yikes. Here’s how I responded:
I’ve hesitated to get into religion or politics on my blog because I’m still president of a company—and I’d hate to ever put the company in a compromised position. Obviously the personal beliefs of a member of management shouldn’t make a difference to anyone—[but sometimes they do.]
One of the reasons I stressed in my early blog writings that this was a personal blog—that I wasn’t writing as head of the agency—was that I wanted to give myself more room to enter controversial spaces. But so far I’ve chickened out. Do you think I’m being too cautious?
Our buddy Larry weighed in:
From my perspective, you have no obligation to anyone, even Jason, to do anything you don’t wish to do right now. However, Jason will have to speak for himself.
I believe the only thing both of us are saying is that if you want to share your thoughts with your many followers at this point in your life, free yourself of the restrictions you’ve put on yourself because you assume your words could have a negative impact on Martin’s success.
Trust that people want to know you and are eager to know more about you and read what you believe is important to say to them, especially at this time in your life. Trust that they know who is talking…Mike Hughes the human being, not the President of The Martin Agency, especially in this context, your personal blog, and in this time in your life.
And, if you want to soften your positions so that you’re liked by everyone, consider whether that’s worth not showing everyone who cares about you who you fully are and sharing your amazing perspectives and ideas with them.
Love you deeply
And so did Larry’s son Trevor:
Mike: I think it is highly unlikely that your personal blog will be anything but a huge plus to Martin Agency, or that someone would read it and stop eating your marketing sandwiches. But . . . since you are the Pres, I totally understand being cautious, particularly since this isn’t a big cause you want to champion one way or the other.
God bless you (or not, if you’re not into that) and God bless America (at least North America — that’s what they really mean, right?
And Jason told his friend Luc, who had some thoughts:
If there are positive changes you want to make that could last beyond all of us, this could be your chance.
What atheism needs is an intelligent and friendly voice. If someone like you were to come out of the atheism closet some of your clients may not appreciate it but I can’t imagine any would do anything drastic while your company continues to make theirs more profitable. Would even the most religious CEO hold his religion above his profit margin?
The potential positive impact you could make by publicly discussing your atheism and the reasons for it is endless. Perhaps I am naive but I think a lot of people might take a second look at what they believe (question their faith) when they see that a guy like you has some profound things to say about not believing in god. Maybe how liberating it is to believe that you are in complete control of your existence.
I’m not saying you need to overtly try to convert people to atheism. Simply expressing yourself through your writing will have the impact Jason and I long for. Hitchens said some profound things but he was way too hatable…
You could be the jolly atheist. Jason might say that you could instantly make thousands of people more intelligent.
There’s obviously a lot to think about here. My defense about worrying about the company was probably lame and overblown. I’m not giving our clients and prospects the credit they deserve. They and I rightly assume my fellow employees cover the entire religious spectrum—and I’m clearly just speaking for myself.
There’s more to be said on this subject, and I’ll say it in a future blog.