I sneezed as I was leaving the YMCA this morning. A woman in front of me turned around, smiled and said “May God bless you, and Jesus Christ also.” I was a little taken aback, and I said “Wow, you don’t hear that much.” She smiled and told me, “I like people to know I mean it. So many people say ‘Bless you’, but they don’t think about what it means.” Bemused, I smiled and we went our separate ways.
I’m not overly religious, but I’m not overly zealous about my non-religious ways. I don’t get offended if someone invites me to church, or says “Bless you” when I sneeze (even “May God bless you, and Jesus Christ also”). Whatever. The average person is usually acting out of concern for my welfare and means me well. Hey, I probably believe your religion is mumbo jumbo – rules and ceremonies created in the brains of men and then called laws of a higher being – but as long as you’re not using your religion to hurt anyone or to force people to act or think a certain way, or trying to change history or current politics, or wasting my time or my money – you have fun with that. Unfortunately, I haven’t found many religions that meet all of those requirements, but if you’re a religious person who meets these requirements, then we can hang.
I read a few blogs that are listed on the Atheist Nexuus, I love the FFRF, I am a proponent of the separation of church and state, and I get upset when religion is used in the abuse of human or civil rights. And while I do identify as a-theistic, I cringe a little when I’m cornered into saying I’m An Atheist. In the past when I have identified as An Atheist to other Atheists, I’ve been expected to be able to discuss – in detail – why I’m calling myself an Atheist and to share in religion-mocking or book title dropping (I’ll get around to Dennett’s Breaking the Spell and Dawkin’s The God Delusion one of these days, I promise! They’re on my shelf! I’ve been busy.). I’m not well-versed in religions or theology – I just don’t care to spend a lot of time learning much about either of these things. Thus I don’t have many hard arguments against religions or religious ideology, and I certainly don’t have any arguments – or the desire – to talk anyone out of their beliefs. The few times I have identifed as An Atheist to a person of religion I’ve been treated to some form of concern, eye-rolling, or hostility – no exceptions. If they’re not disgusted they want to convert me…or at least they want me to do some “soul-searching”. By the way, this is a poor argument if the atheist under scrutiny doesn’t believe in a soul. Can’t you just see it? “Hey, I’ll search it, but first you have to prove to me that it exists.”
I was raised in a fairly non-religious family – we attended Episcopal services for a little while. I served as an alter girl – swinging the incense, ringing the bells, holding the wine glass and the plate with the communion wafers. I got to be in charge of something and wear a uniform, and it was all good fun. I was part of a youth group, which was great because I saw my first professional musical – Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat – as a result of that. Looking back, probably the most offensive thing about my religious upbringing was that I went through confirmation classes. What a joke! As a society we say a person must be 18 years old before they are allowed to vote in elections or sign contracts, but you’re allowed – encouraged! – to commit your earthly life and eternal soul (should you believe in one) to a religion as a child before you have the ability to reason or think critically. Seriously…that’s messed up.
It does seem like my reasons for being atheistic are a more defensible than many people’s reasons for being theistic. The specific reasons for my lack of belief are numerous, but here are my biggest ones: If there is a God, She/He/It’s obviously not interacting with the world or people in any predictable manner, so why should I cater to or attempt to influence a diety’s actions or mood? For what other reason would I attend church or pray? I can meditate if I need peace, and I can be good and respect my fellow human beings without the middleman. Should I be concerned for the afterlife or my eternal soul’s final destination? Please! Every religion has a different take on how we should act in order to send our soul to where we think it should go. To deeply believe that any Afterlife is “true” and that it’s “more true” that someone else’s…how presumptuous.
I don’t want to spend my limited time on Earth trying to understand things that can’t be made sense of.
Strive to be nice to self, to others and to be happy. Be concerned with this life.
I’ll work within these “rules” and fill out the rest from there.
Sneezing woman photo source