First, something to remind you all that I’m not always an asshole:
I’m an atheist. I wasn’t always an atheist, though, because no matter what some Smug Atheists claim of themselves, I have not always been immune to believing in the unbelievable. I have not always been immune to the wonder of god. Which is actually kind of remarkable, considering I was raised Catholic and famous art aside, the Catholics are kind of the best at taking all the wonder out of religion. If you don’t believe me, how about you try going to school-mandated Mass three times a week starting at age 5? Spend enough of your early childhood staring up at a brutally executed man who looks like pictures of your dad from the 1970s and you’ll find that it’s very hard to revel in the glorious mystery of the faith.
So I used to be Catholic. In early high school, I started labeling myself as an agnostic, which at the time I thought was a very groovy way to say “do your thing, man” but now I see it as a mealymouthed way to say “uh, I don’t really know, and I haven’t really read all that much, but Fox News is sort of scary, so….” I briefly felt “spiritual” again when I was around 22, but I credit that to being so utterly unhappy in every other aspect of my life that a cosmic mother figure who radiated beams of light from her head sounded like a good idea (because duh, I used to be Catholic and the Virgin Mary is way more accessible than God). Although I didn’t think I could get any more depressed at the time, I actually did, and it was sometime while I was taking sleeping pills and hiding from the world in San Diego that I realized there was no god at all, at least not for me, and I started to feel better.
Part of the answer is that I was in a piss poor sham relationship at the time, and while I wanted out about 6 months after the wedding, I kept putting it off because I was afraid to disappoint my family. I hadn’t been married in the church or anything, but like the Jews, the primary motivations of Catholics are guilt and dread. I felt guilty about setting my family up to think that I knew what I was doing, and I dreaded having to disappoint them by shrugging my shoulders and saying “Yeah, sorry, I guess I made you participate in my mistake.” Giving up on the idea of God helped me to give up on the idea of having to stay married to someone whose presence made me want to stay unconscious for as much time as possible.
The other, simple part of the answer is that I’d suspected there was no god for a long time but didn’t want to admit it. Most atheists I’d experienced were real assholes – the kind who enjoy telling kids there’s no Santa Claus – and I’d rather continue privately doubting God than adopt their attitudes.
This is why I sometimes hesitate to tell people I’m an atheist. I’ve seen people, even friends of mine, cringe when I say it, like I’m saying it to get attention or challenge whatever I think they believe. Maybe my hesitation is like the hesitation of some Christians. I don’t want to align myself with the Smug Atheists, and they don’t want to align themselves with the Crazy Fundamentalists. It’s hard to follow up “I’m an atheist” with “but I don’t think all religious people are insane” because that’s like saying “some of my best friends are black.” Nobody believes you, even if it’s (rarely) true.
That said, I really don’t think that all religious people are insane. I think some religious concepts are insane, and that the people who believe in these concepts wholeheartedly are batshit fucking insane, but in my personal experience with religions and the people who follow them, religion is less of an evil and more of a source of strength, community, and solace for church members.
Which brings me to my cousin Kris. Post script kilt-wearing habits aside, Kris is actually my cousin-in-law. He married my oldest cousin when I was probably in fourth grade or something, and at the ceremony, they had my sister and I light candles. I wore a really ugly skirt. Kris is from a religious family with a few pastors in it and eventually went to seminary himself. He’s now a pastor with his own church in Illinois, and one of the best examples I could ever give anyone who thinks that all religious people are insane, intolerant, and all the other things we sometimes call people who choose to devote an hour (sometimes more!) a week to an invisible dad in the sky.
In addition to posting daily devotionals that don’t suck (I promise) on Facebook, his points are so refreshing and honest and compassionate, especially for those of us who tend to form an immediate opinion about any and all religions. A religious person who is above and beyond more educated than I (or you, or possibly the smartest person you know) will ever be about scripture, dogma, and belief systems around the world? A clergy member urging all 426 of his Facebook friends to support National Coming Out Day? Say whaaaa? This is what I’m saying. I won’t link him here because I didn’t ask for permission, but he links stuff like this, which was written by a seminary classmate.
This kind of thing still won’t make me believe in God, but it will make be believe that not all of the people who belong to God are waging war on His behalf. Which is nice. And proves that I am not always an asshole.
So far this month, visitors to Ephemera Etc. have found my blog by Googling “how to go to the bathroom while wearing a kilt,” “fire hose urine stream,” and “Val Kilmer and Elisabeth Shue have an affair.”
Someone also found me by Googling “gorgeous anyway,” which should probably be the name of my vanity project band that involves Victorian fetish costumes and epic, swoony videos.
(cross-posted to ephemeraetc.blog-city.com)