Anyone who’s known me over the course of my life has known that I have wrestled with religion, spirituality and the idea of a higher being for a lot of my life.
Growing up in a Calvinist Church as the oldest child of the pastor, I was surrounded by religion. I spent K-6th grade in a private Christian School and lived next door to the church until I was about 15 or so.
So yeah, I didn’t really like religion by the time I graduated from high school. I went off to Indiana for college and I don’t think I set foot in a church other than Christmas and Easter services when I was back home. Those three years, I barely so much as thought about religion.
When I went off to live in Peru for a while, I was surrounded by a new religion: Catholicism. When I would take trips up into the Andes, I became fascinated with how the Incan culture had become intertwined with Catholicism (similar to the way Voodoo incorporated it). Thus began my love affair with my hatred of religion.
When I went back to school, I chose to minor in Religious Studies and wrote my final thesis on “The Mallification of the Church.” Yeah, I totally made up a word for the title of my thesis. I rock.
Anyway, throughout this time, I maintained that I was a spiritual person, but I chose no religion and claimed no doctrine as my own. I was agnostic.
But a couple years ago, I started thinking about why I was agnostic. I mean, I didn’t really believe in one particular god, per se, and if I didn’t believe in any dogma or in any god, was there really a point in claiming I was even spiritual? I mean, seriously, the ONLY reason I even thought there may be a higher power was Descartes’ “Unmoved Mover” philosophy (at least, I think it was Descartes, it’s been a while since I looked it up).
About two years ago, I decided that I am an atheist. I had already let go of all religious notions, so it was not that difficult for me to come to the conclusion that there is no higher being.
However, I’m not a militant atheist. I respect the fact that many people feel the need to believe in a higher power and that brings them great comfort and I still bow my head at my pop’s house when we pray before a meal out of respect. But I expect the same respect in return, and I feel as though I don’t get it a lot of time.
I tell people I’m an atheist and some wrinkle their noses (these are folks who are pretty much agnostic too). Others tell me, “Oh, you’ll grow out of it.”
What part of my decision not to believe in a god makes you think that I’m going to change my mind just because you think I should? I mean, my choice involves no faith. My choice doesn’t involve believing in fairly tales and magic. How am I the one who’s making a weird decision?
And for those of you who think I became an atheist because I was too lazy to follow a religion, you are most definitely wrong. There are a lot of things made much easier through religion and spirituality. Death, for example, is a doosey if you don’t believe in a god, heaven, hell or some form of reincarnation. Yeah. I’m pretty sure that when we die, that’s it. We dead.
You should know, too, I’m not afraid of death. When it comes, it comes and I accept it. When I die, I won’t know I’m dead. There’s nothing scary in that.
Also, just because I’m not spiritual doesn’t mean that I can’t marvel in the beauty of everything around me. I would argue that it makes the mundane all the more amazing. Think of how many years of evolution and mutations it took before all those dandelions became hearty enough to take over your lawn. And they’re still evolving! It blows my mind. I find beauty in the expansiveness of our universe and am frequently overwhelmed by the complexity of life all around us.
Maybe people think it odd that I live by a code of morals and I am a genuinely decent person even though I have no book to tell me the best way to live my life. They think that since I’m a kind, compassionate person, I have to have a little bit of the “spirit” in me. Nope. I chose to live my life as a good human being all by myself. In fact, I would venture to guess that I do a better job of it than many people that call themselves Christians.
So when I tell you that I’m an atheist, please don’t snicker and give me a condescending look like I picked atheism because it was the “cool” thing to do for now. I put a lot of thought into this decision. However, please, feel free to engage me in discussion or even debate. Just don’t get mean about it.
I mean, would Jesus be a dick about it?