Friday, November 06, 2009
Dear God, Sorry to Disturb you, But...
I finally made use of the massage gift card my husband got me for my last birthday and ended up having quite the philosophical discussion. While I normally prefer to remain absolutely silent and have whoever’s handling me do the same, we ended up chatting almost the entire time. He was the first male massage therapist I’d ever been to, but fully expected him to be gay, giving me nothing to worry about. Indeed, he was, so I didn’t have to tense up at the thought of his accidentally brushing my boob or other lady bits. We discussed politics, intolerance of homosexuals, cultural differences, great wines, and atheism.
I was so tempted to ask why most homosexuals vote for Democrats over Libertarians who actually have the balls to back gay marriage, but I didn’t. They probably don’t vote for them for the same reason I don’t, at least in the presidential race. I’m too chicken to back what I perceive to be the losing horse, so I just resort to the lesser of two evils.
While he felt claustrophobic being forced to be in the closet in certain circles, he had it two-fold in the fact that he felt unable to be open about his atheism too. I felt strange actually recognizing that I felt in the closet too.
Back home, it was unheard of for anyone to be a “non-believer”. As a wee one, my “friends” would rat me out to our Islam teacher like the little SS informant wannabes that they were. I had to lie to keep from being told I was going to hell, my family was going to hell, and my best friend who was Christian, and my little dog too. I decided that if there was a hell, I’d rather go there with people who I loved and who loved me and loved life and a freaking sense of humor than be trapped for all eternity with a bunch of hypocritical “holier-than-thou” wieners who felt it more important to follow ancient dogma and spread fear, mistrust, and bitterness under the guise of keeping the best interests of other’s immortal souls at heart when they really just love any excuse to exclude people, judge people, and look down at them. At least if they practiced religion in a loving, productive way I wouldn’t have developed such distaste for organized religions. I recognize that not all believers act the way they did, but my early experiences with religion were all pretty much like that. Witch hunt after witch hunt. Who can we accuse next? To those who practice a religion with love, charity, and joy, thank you. To those who are troubled by my lack of faith but who don't believe I should die a horrible death, thank you.
When I moved to America, I foolishly thought that separation of church and state actually existed and I’d be free to follow my own lack of religion to my heart’s content. I was proven wrong when I tried to buy white wine for a recipe one Sunday morning. I felt like asking if I really had to be held to someone else’s religious beliefs, but I could tell it wasn’t the cashier’s fault and that she was powerless to help me out. I happened to go to a private college for my undergrad, so it was a small Catholic establishment. I’m in their house, so I have no problem having Jesus peer mournfully down at me from every office and classroom, but I could see the perception they had of the rest of the world and it was limited to say the least.
I soon learned it wasn’t altogether acceptable to mention one’s lack of religion or belief in a God in my little corner of the United States. I couldn’t even get away with honestly admitting that I’d be willing to believe in a God if there was unquestionable proof because that wasn’t good enough and it would inevitably lead into the whole “faith is built on not having proof” thing and which drives me nuts.
I don’t try to convert people to my beliefs, and I appreciate it when they afford me the same respect, but what they always struggle to keep to themselves is the complete inability to grasp how I might have any understanding of what is “right” or “wrong”. That I could have an internal moral compass as opposed to needing someone or something else to function as an external one seems to completely confuse many of them.
So this is my coming out of the closet: I don’t believe in religious dogma. I don’t believe in the existence of a God or gods. I don’t believe in the devil. I don’t believe in an afterlife. I believe people are imperfect and it’s a great goal to strive for perfection, but my vision of perfection and yours might be very different. I’m okay with that as long as no one gets hurt. If your vision of perfection involves harming others in the name of your religion, that’s not a difference of opinion, you’re just an asshole.