I was baptized United because my Mom’s family was French Catholic originally, and my Mom, who I doubt has ever set foot in a Catholic Church, is still occasionally very invested in Jesus. My father’s mother was Irish Anglican.
Now, Ireland was embroiled in what was basically a civil war no one would admit was happening. It is a very religious country and basically always has been since the British originally took over all that time ago. So, there was a split in the Church long time ago and the sides ending up hating each other. From what my grandmother taught me, Catholics are all heathens for being liberal. I’m sure the Irish Catholics feel the same about the protestants. Anyway, they started killing each other, as people are wont to do.
Now, my great grandfather was part of the Orangeman’s Army. He was high enough ranking that he had a sash and everything. And he had done enough that one night the other side molitov cocktailed his house. So he took his pregnant wife and there half a dozen kids on a boat to Canada. That’s three generations back, when boat travel wasn’t safe and no one knew how to take care of pregnant women, so you understand how desperate the family was.
They came to Canada and ended up living in a French Catholic community.
So, as you can imagine, religion was a Big Deal to my grandmother, and it came from an angry place. The day we buried her brother, grandma told me he was in hell for his sins. So, angry angry God. Very judgy. Now toss in my parents divorce.
So my Mom is still occasionally very invested in Jesus. She’s not religious, per se, but believes that angels do talk to her and that god rules the universe with love. But she is also very intermitten about this. Growing up there would be months where saying Grace at the table was a Big Deal, and then it would vanish. And then come back. And then vanish. Same with going to church. Some years it was important, other times it wasn’t.
So my exposure to religion was not the most healthy and I wasn’t invested in it because the people in my life who believed in it were made more annoying or harmful because of those beliefs.
Then my older sister went through her religious crisis and told me something novel. Atheists don’t believe in god.
At the time I thought “Great! Quick fix!” and adopted the title. I grew to identify with it as I discovered more and more weird things about Christianity. Things like not believing in dinosaurs, intelligent design, gay people being a sin and all that. I really wanted no part of it. So, the angry little atheist I was, went full-Dawkins and explained when it came up on how believing in god was stupid.
Then, living at University I got hit with arthritis and came out as gay.
And I hated god.
Truthfully, I hated a lot of things that year. I didn’t get a lot of support from my family and my friends were all too young to know how to help me. I was 18 and I couldn’t take notes because my hands are that bad. Also, typing uses a totally different motion so is easier to do. Not pain-free, but definite improvement.
Anyway, I was super angry and I was perfectly fine with believing in god long enough to believe him, especially when my mother was telling me “By the grace of god go I” or “God never gives you more than you can bare.” FYI-never ever ever say these things to someone who is suffering. It is unbelievably callous and prevents you from doing a useful thing, such as to just listening to them hurt. Listening helps way more than telling them that this is part of a plan. There was a lot of gay people ruining marriage and going to hell shit on tv. It was just a solidly not good time for me.
But, then I switched my major from drama, because the whole always being in pain puts a huge crimp in waiting tables to pay for hitting the stage, into philosophy, mostly because I was allowed to talk in class and I liked the material. And this was huge, because one of the first classes I took was metaphysics. And it went through all the base beliefs of religious systems, how god and science are incomparable so stop trying to both sides, and how faith doesn’t just have a religious structure. Believing that I am typing on a computer is a small leap of faith, because I have to be invested that this all exists, which, logically speaking, I can’t actually prove (thanks Hume). Faith exists in small things every day in ways that make the world beautiful. Trusting that your friends love you is faith. Hoping that my words reaching people who need them is faith.
So faith, actually kinda cool.
And because they school I went to was small, my degree, in order to get enough credits, was officially in Philosophy and Religion. So I took a bunch of classes on religion as well. A lot happened. Not all of it good but whatevs.
And I came to where I am now.
Faith isn’t bad, but blind faith is. My mother and my grandma both believed blindly and for the sake of believing. That god was real and doing what he says is more important than not actually hurting people is actually a pretty offensive and anti-christian stance because Jesus’s one rule was to not be a dick. Islam is a beautiful religion but this whole Jihad suicide bomber thing is the equivalent as the West Borough Baptists and not a real representation. But seriously, Islam? Had one of the most feminist cultures until suffragists put some elbow grease in. Hindiusm has this thing that has lead to their sacred river being one of the most polluted ever and many deny it because you can’t pollute holy things. Also, there is a lot of justified racism and classism.
Believing things for the sake of believing them, in the face of contradictory evidence, is bad. It is bad because you are hurting those around you. The world happens in a context. Believing that gay people will go to hell even though you don’t hate them is still telling someone that they are damned to eternal suffering because of something they didn’t choose and can’t stop being. It hurts people, good people. And there is no need to hurt other people to be happy. If your religion is founded on hate you really need a different one. Hate is hard. My grandma ironocially used to say "hate is an acid that does more damage to the pot it is stored in than the ground it is poured on."
Believing things so you can be more right than other people does the same thing, and Jesus has a lot to say about logs and eyes and turning cheeks. Believing does not make you more righteous. You can’t believe in god at other people, and those who do need to stop.
Also, the people who do this stuff? Exist everywhere. There are scientists *cough cough Dawkins cough* who are making the same judgments from the same place and are just as wrong. But even outside of religion. People who are bad people are bad, and whether or not they are religious or like my little pony doesn’t change that, nor does it make those the source of the malfunction. There are extremists and assholes that are a part of every group ever, and religion does get a bad rap for having these people be part of it, but that is because arguing over the Oilers vs the Flames is far less meaningful than gay marriage vs hell because the stakes are lower.
So where did I end up?
I’m an atheist still. That isn’t to say I have no faith. No, my faith is that I believe there is no god. I do have spiritual beliefs. If I were more invested I’d read up on Taoism because it is beautiful and I resonate with that structure of the world. But officially I’m a Pastafarian, because pasta.
But, more importantly, I’m not angry anymore. I don’t try to convince people that there is no god, though I will argue that there version of the bible is not a thing. And I can see how believing is beautiful and meaningful, and I wish the best to anyone who uses their faith to help themselves instead of hurting other people. Believing in god is no longer silly, though I hold that not believing in the dinosaurs is.
And what has happened to me is random. Life sucks sometimes, but there is no one to blame. And in a Nietzsche/ Sartre kinda way, that is very very freeing. I am not in charge, but I am not helpless. I can always choose how I react. And this matters not because I need to get into heaven but because I want to be happy right now.
And I want this feeling for other people. If god helps you find it, awesome. If not, awesome. Just don’t try to get this feeling by strangling other people’s chances at getting it.
Just something for everyone to consider, I guess.