Ok, so I’m dancing around the alphabet but I was suddenly struck with a good one for B. I’m going to drag the big elephant I generally tend to keep shoved in a closet out into the room.
I am an atheist.
I had my realization about my lack of faith about the age of twelve, in the heart of the southern bible belt. I did not have a word to call it then, but those around me would surely call it “heathen.” I was already a bastard child, so lacking any urge to thump any bibles would surely cause an uproar.
The funny thing is, up until I accepted that part of myself as immutable, I was the kid in the front row on Sunday morning, taking notes and asking a lot of tough questions. I tried so hard to find what motivated all these other people to move like a bobblehead in time with the pastor’s sermon. I wanted to know why the music made so many happy, even though at least two in that choir sounded more like screaming cats sliding down a chalkboard… slowly.
When I finally accepted no amount of study would generate faith within myself, I was both terrified and relieved. I found out that some fights are meant to be lost. I inherently understood as well that if I planned to remain around the southern area or even just the states, I needed to give up on the idea that I could tell anyone casually.
It took me a while to understand what the animosity stems from, the one where people who are religious want absolutely nothing to do (even for hiring purposes) with someone they know to be an atheist.
friend: “Then what’s your motivation to do the right thing if not God and Heaven?”
I was stunned. They were asking sincerely, they truly weren’t trying to be nasty about it, but…
me:”hmm, I guess the difference between you and me is I don’t need a payoff to be a good person.”
Apparently, there is no way that a person could ever want to be decent, kind, generous or ethical without some motivation, some bribe? Is the fear that, without fear of “God’s wrath,” there is no barrier from me becoming a liar, a con artist, a murderer?
I was married into a religious family, but I was honest about my own stance. I refused to take on their religion, even on the surface, because it would have been a lie. I had to endure the angry glares of in-laws who felt that I must be a deviant since I had no faith. It was relieving when after years, the glares faded when they realized that being without faith did not mean I was without morals. In fact, its usually the person who feels the need to emphatically declare themselves “Christian” that make my sphincter twitch.
To me, religion is a brilliant concept. Let’s say back when we were just starting to organize as small civilizations, when the idea of “crime” was becoming a thing. If I were that leader and I needed to reign in my people to behave, “heaven” is a wonderfully abstract concept that I never have to tangibly prove. By the time they figure anything out, they will be dead. God was simply a way to give meaning to the meaningless, to make us feel special.
This will probably offend the religious, but in that sense I’m sharing what I never can share in public, which is the whole point of this blog. In some ways, I’m envious of the faithful. They have something I lack and feel there is a greater purpose to things. I’m more inclined to believe we set our own destiny and to think you can sit around and wait for things to happen to you is ridiculous. Senseless death is senseless because its random, there is no grand plan. Otherwise, life would be fair, wouldn’t it?
I have friends of many religious backgrounds, we have a mutual respect and understanding to agree to disagree. For those who cannot embrace that concept, they don’t know I don’t believe. I even have a couple friends who try to subtly invite me to church or lend me books with a heavy religious undertone. I tell them my honest opinion, they get a little pissed, and the cycle begins anew.
I think they misunderstand something. I do not mind if at the end things for me, I’m proven totally wrong. It’s totally ok if I have to go, “my bad.” I live my life on my own terms and by coming to the conclusion that felt most right for me. That’s all anyone can do.
I’ve also seen my fair share of weird shit in this world that is completely unexplainable, for now. I’ve had my kid start interacting with the air 3 feet above my head while I was changing them, interacting in the same they did with their grandparent we visited every Friday… until they died two days before. My kid didn’t know that. How do you even explain death to someone under the age of two?
I’ve woken up at the exact time an uncle died (found out later), at a time I would have never normally woken up. I talked before about having the dream conversation with an old friend the night they died as well. I don’t analyze any of that because I don’t currently have an answer. I take it at face value and move on. Maybe its nothing, maybe its something. I’m sure fire looked like magic once too.
Now reincarnation and the essence of Buddhism and Hinduism I think are interesting. I do feel, or at least hope, that karma exists. Whenever I’ve been an especially big asshole, I’ve usually had it backlash on me tenfold. Thinking that some shithead who is obnoxious on every level might come back as a cockroach gives me no end of amusement. I don’t know much about it honestly, but what little I do know, it seems more of a spiritual rather than religious path and I find that more relatable.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not seeking a place for my soul to belong. I have long understood that, like G-uno, we can hold onto two vastly different and contradictory ideas and find them both… possible, likely or even true. That is REALLY tricky and frustrating for some people to understand. We’re the ones who don’t always give a straight answer when asked “what do you think?”
The idea that we are so attached to our own existences that some energy is able to remain behind for a short while that is not beholden to the constraints of the physical…hmm, possible? Likely? Probably not, but who knows? If a God really does exist, I would venture to guess we are little more than a boring ant farm taking residence among one of his marbles. But one all knowing, all seeing supreme being? I just cannot grab onto that one. Logic tells me we are walking future fertilizer.
With all that said, I hope those who might stumble on this and feel the need to save my soul or rage about religious doctrine, go get something soothing to sip on and take a breath because what I’m about to say might take some patience to sink in…
I will still probably be an atheist when you’re done. I’ve been around long enough that I have frustrated street preachers, strangers, classmates, long-time friends and family too. I was intrigued when C.S. Lewis went from atheism to Christianity but the best I was able to glean as to the reason, was fear…. a “just in case,” if you will. I’m sure there are a thousand speculations, and many which have solid reasoning, but I wanted to read it from the man himself, through his books.
I find religions interesting, but from the outside. It helps me to understand people. If I could wish for anything, it would be to eliminate that element of organized religion that makes so many hate those unlike themselves. If the whole doctrine of religion is about love, acceptance and generosity, why does it seem so many have none to spare?
I still have not figured that one out. Westside Baptist Church is the extreme case of what I see done more mildly everywhere else. I see religious tirades about sexuality and abortion, but I don’t think anyone ever shuts up long enough to ask themselves, why?
A person in a desperate situation makes a choice they feel they must for whatever reason, one they already have to live with the aftermath of, one which was difficult enough to do already. But then they have to be proverbially stoned for making that choice by a bunch of people who are not directly affected by their actions in any way. A person is attracted to the same sex, something they cannot control, and are deemed evil or wicked again, by people whose lives are not in any way affected by this person. All while preaching love and acceptance. I find this truly confusing.
Remember that no matter what a person chooses to believe, we should be judged by our actions, not the groups or words by which we define ourselves.Tall, short, fat, thin, male, female, religious, spiritual, gay, bi, lesbian, Catholic, Methodist, Pastafarian, Muslim… it all means nothing. If you shove all that aside and sit down with someone completely different, you might be surprised how much you have in common. “Love thy neighbor” is just great advice. “To thine ownself be true,” is just genius! It doesn’t matter where it came from or what you might get out of it, its sound words to live by. When you are true to yourself, to who you are, you are simply happier.
Now for those of you who are starting to get my twisted humor, I leave with you a song I would sing loudly when stuck in the car with my Grand with no booze to give them (they was a happy tipsy person). They were a deeply negative person and would go through the same series of martyrdom stories over and over until I felt like my ears were bleeding. Grand was religious though, so this made it much more fun. If anything in my post pissed you off, don’t watch. Or do, poking the bear can be fun too.