Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Somewhere between zealotry and nihilism?

I once had a conversation with someone I knew, but didn't know all that well, when the topic of religion came up.  Yay!

"So, what are you?" they asked.
"What do you mean?" I answered, not really entirely understanding what they were asking me.
"What religion are you?" they replied, ever-so-nonchalantly, as if asking about what kind of car I drive.
"Well, none, really.  I'm athiest." (In car terms, this is roughly the same as announcing that I drive a rusty 1974 Pinto.)

"Really?" was their response.  "You really don't believe in anything?"

Um...well, it's not that simple, really. 

I'm always hesitant to engage in this particular discussion with people who do not know me that well.  Once the question is asked and answered, the conversation usually goes one of three ways:

1) I see that unmistakeable flicker on their face that marks a flash of judgment passing through their head.  This is the point where they decide that, not only will they never leave me alone with their children lest I corrupt them with my heathen ways, but they will likely not be asking me to join their scrapbooking club that meets every other Monday night.  This I can live with. These same people usually try to politely "state the case" for religion, as if I could change my ways by simply engaging in a five-minute dialog about why religion is so awesome and how could I make such a choice?  I usually get out of this exchange as quickly as possible, either by telling them I have explosive diarrhea and need to visit the can, or I tell them I'm late for my "How to knit Satanic sweaters" class and I bolt out the door. 

2) They go into persuasion/arguing mode. This is a discussion I usually stop immediately, sometimes by faking a seizure or feigning narcolepsy.  Here- I'll condense what would likely be an hour-long, heated, and ultimately pointless exchange into this: You're not going to change my mind, I'm not interested in trying to change yours.  The end. 

3) They feel the same way I do, or at least they understand and have no interest in going down that road.  Then we start talking about other stuff (usually our pet's pooping habits), have a cocktail, and ultimately leave the situation as friends, or at least acquaintances that won't intentionally avoid one another in social situations by pretending to not know how to speak English.

When people don't get it, the thing they most likely don't understand is that this isn't a choice for me.  I didn't choose to be/feel this way.  I simply don't believe in God, I don't believe in heaven or hell, I don't believe in an afterlife.  I've known this my entire life, just like I know I have brown eyes and that I can't whistle.  For a while in my teens I was convinced that the posters in my bedroom were actually watching me, but I have since come to understand that no, the boys from Duran Duran were NOT watching me change clothes, so there was really no reason to shut the light off when I did.

This isn't a choice.  It is simply how I am.  Just as those that believe can't imagine not believing and would fight to the death for their beliefs, I will fight for my convictions with every cell in my body.  I firmly believe that I conduct myself in ways that are far more "Christian" than many people claiming to be as such.  I believe in the credo of "live and let live", I treat others as I would like to be treated (most of the time, anyways. Sometimes people just suck and deserve what they get), I believe that we all deserve equal opportunities in life, regardless of where, how, or who we were born to, and I believe that, whatever your feelings/leanings when it comes to religion or lack thereof, you have no right whatsoever to use those beliefs to suppress, dismiss, or persecute other people.  Period.

I just can't imagine...believing.  It just doesn't register.  It doesn't make me amoral, evil, or lacking in character.  I don't judge you or try to change your mind, how dare you judge and try to change me.  It isn't fair. 

How about we all just try to get along, accept one another as we are, maybe go get a nice cheese plate & a glass of wine and enjoy this lovely, sunny day together?

Sounds good to me.


Anonymous said...

Amen Sister!


- A fellow atheist :)

McGone said...

No. No no no. I'm not usually one to tell someone they're wrong, but I will here. I have to. You just haven't looked deep enough inside yourself to find what you are missing. Because I'M the one who can't believe what I just read. I refuse to believe that you can't whistle.

will said...

Sorry, no can do ... that cheese plate ... I'm a lactose intolerant agnostic/atheist/skeptic/cynic ... but I'll certainly drink the wine and tell stories about limbo, drunk priests, tithing myself and, if there's time - the joys of hell and damnation.

Dr. MVM said...

I love you. But you knew that right?

Scope said...

You certainly aren't PURE evil. :-)

Kez said...

I think people should be able to believe what they like, without facing judgement. Also? Our spiritual beliefs aren't an acquaintance or stranger's beeswax! Even if the topic wasn't religion, I can't stand someone who out of nowhere pops a "bound to judge you based on how you answer" question. Those people annoy me - grrr.

Glori B. said...

If I can learn to successfully blow up a balloon at age 35, you can figure out the whistling.

As much as I've tried to not be a Christian, I am one. I have to make peace with that oddity on a regular basis.

I respect your not believing.

Johnson said...

I admire your very mature approach. I still tend to take the engage-in-raging-arguments-about-needing-mythology-to-be-a-good-person route unfortunately. Sure, it doesn't get me invited back to too many of their parties, but then who wants to party with religious people anyway?

John D. said...

I can see I'm way behind at Casa VonPartpants due to spending the past agonizing week moving my behind. Ooooo, this a juicy one!

First, I really, truly hope I get the chance to meet you someday. You know I adore your usual witty musings, but the rare occasions when you actually talk about something heavy, like, oh, I don't know, heaven and hell and such, I treasure those little glimpses inside of you. As for the subject at hand, to wit:

I was raised in a church in a grassroots, God fearing community. I struggled, begged, and pleaded to be "saved" the first 40 years on my life. To this day, to my knowledge, no dice. I don't know that, but I don't believe that God - whatever God is - if "He" exists, concerns himself with earthly affairs (never been a big fan of this management style). So I kept looking, because I've always known about me that I am a spiritually-connected person. Spiritually connected to what, I still don't know and I'm pretty sure I never will. Some 10 years ago, I found the philosophy of Buddhism, which has been a stabilizing and positive force in my life, and that's all I've got to say about that right now).

It's not Christianity I have a problem with. It's Christians (they are so unlike your Christ ~ Ghandi). I cannot subscribe to a zealous, dogmatic, one-size-fits-all road to heaven. I believe in an afterlife. I'm not sure what I believe about it. I believe in reincarnation. I'm not sure what I believe about it. I can't believe we get these few brief moments in time to learn anything to enlighten ourselves and become better instruments of love and compassion; and just when we start to get it, it's all over - forever.

In my opinion, #3 is right, Marcy. The fact is, no one - NO ONE - knows for sure what's on the other side (or not). But if there is something better waiting for us, how could we be more deserving to receive it than to LOVE as best we can, as often as we can, in the here and now. No matter what anyone claims to "be," if that's not the key, I don't think there's any hope for any of us.

I love you.