Thursday, February 23, 2012

Got religion?

I recently turned 63 years old.  Yikes!  With that goal being reached (not really but what is there to say about being 63, really?) and in light of Obama's nod to atheists in his inauguration  speech, I have some things to say.
First of all, it's too bad the word "atheist" carries such a negative load.  My husband isn't crazy about me using it (he's still hanging on to Christianity which is fine by me) because it seems to freak people out.  Sometimes I describe myself as "not religious."
I grew up in a wonderful church - Sunday school, choir - the whole enchilada.  I have nothing but the warmest memories of those times but I never really felt like I fit in.  I've had many discussions with some of my gay friends and we compared similar feelings.  I bowed my head with everyone else, I sang the hymns while standing in the alto section, I got married by a clergyman but never felt what other people described as "their love of god."
Does that make me a bad person?  An uncaring person?  I don't think so.  I think I'm a damn fine person.  
A friend once used the "there are no atheists in foxholes" on me.  Well, I've been in a foxhole or two, including breast cancer, and didn't fall to my knees.  You know who I depend on?  Myself first, family and friends and then the experts in whatever field I need an answer in.
Another friend said he thought I sounded angry when I talked about religion.   No, I think religions are interesting.  It's the people trying to shove it down my throat that bug me.  Assuming everyone is a christian - that's annoying.  Prayer at public school graduations, the Madonna and child on a postage stamp and the ever-present, "so help you god" when I'm sworn in as an interpreter in the courtroom. Those are the things about religion that get under my skin.
I'm glad I had a religious upbringing.  It gave me the opportunity to make an informed decision about my life.  I love my life and look forward to whatever time I have left helping people who need support during their time of grief (I'm a hospice volunteer), other women who want to chat with another breast cancer "thriver" and making grants to non-profit organizations as a trustee for a family foundation.
I am an atheist.


  1. I understand what you are saying, and agree with you on certain things, I wish I could sum up in a few words how I perceive a believe...
    Maybe just a little food for thought..
    You say you are 63... but how old do you feel, do feel an age? I believe this is the spiritual you who does not "age" and lives on for ever.
    But everyone must figure things out for themselves, that is the free will you have, you decide, no one can or should force you to believe anything.
    Don't let religion or Church put you off, think and feel for yourself, and look for the truth!


  2. My friend, Chuck, is a "free thinker" and I like that description as well.

  3. Freethinker is good. It describes how I think. I also like "Humanist". "Atheist" talks about what I don't believe (kind of like describing my hobby as not collecting stamps). "Humanist" talks about what I do believe in.

  4. A lot of what get's people hung-up on both sides of this issue is language. Religious rhetoric can even start wars, but I have noticed that ani-religious rhetoric can be just as damaging to the human spirit. So many of the most beautiful things created by humankind have been inspired by a belief in and a love for something greater than this physical world, an absolute divine principle. Instead of talking about the Lord Jesus Christ and whether or not you believe in Him, why not consider Absolute Truth, Divine Love, the Soul, a Collective Consciousness, etc.? Some of the most ardent and public atheists are physicists who are, ironically, searching for that sub-atomic particle or force that binds everything together. Are they different from a monk who seeks to merge with the principle that he believes permeates all matter? It's all about how we linguistically quantify and express our perception through language. Finally, I would say that the one expression that I think levels both sides of this debate is "God is love." The corollary is, of course, true as well: "Love is God." How we define love is a subject for another day, but everyone has experienced it. Sure, it's most often experienced among people, but have you ever felt the embrace of a sunset as it played its light over the waters of Lake Michigan; or been carried away by a particular piece of music? Where do those feelings come from? Without the belief in something greater than what our minds can process, we must reduce these experiences to bio-chemical reactions. Therefore, we need a word to at least point a very broad finger at the thing that we are all experiencing, aguably, every second of our physicaly lives. Just like we have agreed that oxygen is what we breathe, we, in English speaking countries, have largely agreed that God is that thing that we cannot give name or form to. It's exaclty like using the word "love." It means many things but there is a general understanding of the experience. I suppose it all comes down to whether you believe in the experience or not. The people who go to church on Sundays have quantified that experience in their own way as a group. However you choose to quantify it and/or express it is alright, but remember that, even if you love playing golf with your buddies on a Sunday, there is no fundamental difference between what you are doing and what the Catholics are doing at Mass. Right, I'm off to commune with God on the guitar! Peace.