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An Interview with Alix Jules on Background and Meeting an Atheist (Part One)

June 15, 2019

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 20.A, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (Part Sixteen)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightjournal.com

Individual Publication Date: June 15, 2019

Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2019

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 2,312

ISSN 2369-6885

Abstract

Alix Jules is a Writer at Patheos Nonreligious. He discusses: early life, pivotal moments, and intellectual trajectory; and the feeling of meeting an atheist for the first time.

Keywords: Alix Jules, atheism, Catholic, intellectual trajectory, Patheos, secularism.

An Interview with Alix Jules on Background and Meeting an Atheist: Writer (Part One)[1],[2]

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Let’s start with a little bit of background so people know where you’re coming from. What was some early life like? What were some, if there were any, pivotal moments that influenced your own intellectual trajectory and your own outlook on the world, orientation side?

Alix Jules: I grew up very religious. I grew up in New York, grew up in Brooklyn, inner-city kid, child of an immigrant from a specifically West Indian background. It was the ‘70s, ‘90s. I’m more of an ‘80s kid. I grew up Catholic. I grew up very much Catholic. I used to say that going to the schools that I went to, which were private schools, parochial schools, that I wound up praying a significant amount of time. I think I was praying more than five times a day at one point.

I went to Catholic Church, grew up in the Catholic Church. My mother actually didn’t think the Catholic Church did a very good job of teaching the Bible, although she subscribed to the doctrine, and she actually sent me to a Seventh-day Adventist parochial school for the first part of my life.

Still, I wanted to be a Catholic priest. If you understand a little bit of the differences in the doctrine between the SdA, or Seventh-day Adventist and Catholic, they really very much saw the Catholic Church as The Whore of Babylon.

That’s the environment that I went to school in. There was some bullying. I was the shy kid, but I was always curious. I was always really interested in science and math. When I was really young, I said, “I’m going to be Galileo.” Someone pointed out to me, “You know how that ends, right?”

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Jules: I really thought that I was going to be able to reconcile my faith and my emerging belief with science and how I was developing my world view. That much more was possible then, than what was allowed in the Catholic Church. Of course, being exposed to some of the Adventist, that was tough because, like I said, it was ongoing bullying.

Then, really around middle school or so, we wound up having too many issues at the Seventh-day Adventist school. My mother sent me to a Lutheran school where I was exposed, once again, to a completely different set of beliefs.

At this point, when I retrospectively look back, although my mother hates the idea that I’m an atheist, I look back at it and say she set me up to be an atheist, specifically because of all the different exposures that she was indiscriminately, and very much unwittingly, exposing me to.

By the time I got into high school, I had really been exposed to several of the various sects in Christendom. For the first time, I wound up really seeing other religions, as well, Abrahamic and non-Abrahamic. I went to a very science-focused high school, a science magnate. I was the kid with the Bible in the backpack because, of course, I was a Christian crusader at that point, still, but when you’re exposed to so many different ideas– I met my first atheist in high school. I didn’t know that that actually existed.

2. Jacobsen: May I pause it? What was the feeling when you met the first atheist in life?

Jules: I didn’t understand how that was possible. You had to believe in something, right? I was like, “What do you mean you don’t believe in a god or a higher being? How did we get there?” It’s funny in a more ironic sense where when I get into those conversations now, I can empathize a little bit because I’ve been there. I understand where it’s coming from. You have such a dominant world view that says, “This is how it’s done, with certainty.”

My particular journey, I went from ready to debate anyone about Christianity- I was like, “Come on. Let’s go. We can do it for days. We can do it for hours.” I was ready. I carried two Bibles. [Laughing] I don’t remember which versions I had, but I know at the end, I needed something else in my backpack.

I think it really hit me when I remember someone asking, “But what if you’re wrong?” I never actually examined that idea. I hadn’t thought about, “What if you and everyone else is wrong?” “Yes, absolutely.” “How do you know?” “Because what tells you so.” I would continuously get into this loop and not able to break out of that thinking. Looking back, it was circular logic, but that was all I knew.

It took a couple of years, still. A Bible-thumper, a holy roller, everything that I’ve heard other people call other Christians, that was me. I was proud to be it, too. It was about my junior year or so, where I had been pushed so far in my belief that I left my Bibles in my backpack. I actually, “This can’t be right. There’s got to be more.”

Again, the exposure to other beliefs really wound up taking me to explore Judaism. I’m like, well, “That’s not right. That’s just the beginning of the story. Christianity, that’s the continuation of the story.” What I’m finding is some of the most basic questions, I got conflicting answers.

I would go to my church parish, and talk to my parish priest and ask him questions on, “What do you think about good and evil? What do you think about the tautology? What do you even think about the creation story? Is that literal or non-literal?” His response was, “It’s a fable. Jesus spoke them all the time, so, of course, we don’t really believe that.”

Then, take a trip to Manhattan, from Brooklyn, to have a conversation with an archbishop at the Catholic diocese, or stroll over to a synagogue somewhere and have a conversation with the rabbi. He’s like, “Of course we don’t believe that that’s literal. It’s figurative. It’s so plain.” Then, go to talk to the bishop. The bishop’s like, “It’s absolutely literal.”  “Wait a minute, I just got a different answer from someone that kind of, sort of, reports to you, in the grand scheme of things. What do you have?”

For me, I actually explored Islam. I went through the process. My mother was very supportive. My family was a little forgiving because I had not walked away from the idea or the conceptualization of this higher being because, of course, “You still believed in something.” I did. I still believed in something. I just was really reaching and struggling to define what that something was, and so it was Allah.

I spent about a good year and a half really exploring Islam. I found myself, on the other side, asking the same questions, with no good answers, just no good answers to submit. It is what it is.” No, that’s not really a good answer because I was still being intellectually stimulated. I was still asking the same stuff. My love of science and belief in God was still there, so what’s next?

I walked away from the church. I walked away from believing, for a while. I did the college thing. What did I call myself? I was “spiritual but not religious” for a long time. Married, children, left New York, came to Texas. One of the first things that they’ll ask you as you walk into your job, it almost doesn’t matter what position you have it’s, “Hey. You’re not from around here.” “No, I’m not. I’m from so-and-so, up north.” “Have you gone to church yet?”

It was stifling. It was suffocating, the level of religiosity that was there but I still had a wife, my ex-wife now, who was a believer. I had my first child. Trying to explain to your mother-in-law that, “I think we’re going to skip baptism because I don’t buy any of that,” that’s just not going to keep the peace. “You’ve already taken the family 1,200 miles away for work and now you’re telling me that you’re taking them away from God, too?”

Mind you, these are some of the same people that go to church three times a year and break every single law out there, or maybe 200 out of the so commandments that are out there. They’ll go break it in a weekend. It is what it is.

In the ‘90s, I was part of the church, but not really. I was more of a social Christian or a cultural Christian, and only in name. I knew what I was becoming. I felt it. I went through some personal tribulation when I was really thinking it through. There were a lot of times I closed the door on questioning because it was just, “I can’t do this anymore because what’s my next step? What am I going to call myself tomorrow? Agnostic? Okay, that’s cool. I can deal with agnostic. I don’t know.”

I was okay up until September 11. Being from New York, I heard about what had happened. Someone calls me up and says, “Have you seen the news as to what’s going on right now?” I was like, “No, I haven’t.” I turn on the TV and I see it. A couple of days later, I’m on a flight to New York.

We couldn’t find a couple of people. I’m there, and I’m walking with people, and I’m talking with people that are looking for their loved ones. By that time, I had given up the idea of becoming a priest. “I can’t. I’m good.” Got married, and the whole thing kind of messes it up. I wanted to be a priest up until high school. I was still saying it in high school.

I was walking and talking to these people who were in pain, and suffering. I knew then because I had studied both sides of the argument. I understood what it was to be a Christian and ask the questions, “Why?” but I also understood why Muslims, although extremist- and these were extremist, these were not just ordinary Muslims. No, this was the extremist faction- I understand why they felt they were emboldened to do this.

At that point, I looked at it and said, “I don’t believe in a god that would justify this, either way, or allow this to happen, either way. Neither one of you can claim this, in any sense.” It was right then that I said, “You know what? I am totally okay with calling myself an atheist, at this point.” It was September 13th that I called myself an atheist. I said it out loud.

It wasn’t long after that. My mom knew that I was drifting, but when I used that word, that was a monumental point in my family relationship. It was like, “We don’t know what to do with you.” From then on, my life has just taken some really interesting twists and turns, much for the good, I think.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Writer, Patheos Nonreligious.

[2] Individual Publication Date: June 15, 2019: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/jules-one; Full Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2019: https://in-sightjournal.com/insight-issues/.

Appendix II: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. An Interview with Alix Jules on Background and Meeting an Atheist (Part One) [Online].June 2019; 20(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/jules-one.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2019, June 15). An Interview with Alix Jules on Background and Meeting an Atheist (Part One)Retrieved from http://www.in-sightjournal.com/jules-one.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. An Interview with Alix Jules on Background and Meeting an Atheist (Part One). In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 20.A, June. 2019. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/jules-one>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2019. “An Interview with Alix Jules on Background and Meeting an Atheist (Part One).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 20.A. http://www.in-sightjournal.com/jules-one.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott “An Interview with Alix Jules on Background and Meeting an Atheist (Part One).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 20.A (June 2019). http://www.in-sightjournal.com/jules-one.

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2019, ‘An Interview with Alix Jules on Background and Meeting an Atheist (Part One)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 20.A. Available from: <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/jules-one>.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2019, ‘An Interview with Alix Jules on Background and Meeting an Atheist (Part One)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 20.A., http://www.in-sightjournal.com/jules-one.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “An Interview with Alix Jules on Background and Meeting an Atheist (Part One).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 20.A (2019):June. 2019. Web. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/jules-one>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. An Interview with Alix Jules on Background and Meeting an Atheist (Part One) [Internet]. (2019, June 20(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/jules-one.

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In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at www.in-sightjournal.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 2012-2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  All interviewees co-copyright their interview material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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