Sunday, September 23, 2012
As some of you know, the topic of religion and the role of religion in the public sphere is very close to my heart. Here’s my opinion in a nutshell. I feel that we shouldn’t press our religious or spiritual beliefs onto others. I believe that we should respect one another. I feel that many “believers” don’t realize that my lack of “belief” is in fact a “belief”. What I most strongly believe is that my right to not believe is just as valid as their right to believe. Whew, that’s a lot of “believing” in one paragraph.
Living in a quite religious country, I have learned when to keep my mouth shut (well, most of the time, well some of the time, ok, I’m getting better at it). I don’t talk about religion with people who seem to be sensitive about the issue. Just recently a new student, an IT guy in his early 30s, asked me if I was Catholic. I replied that I am not. Long story short, he’s going to pray for my salvation from eternal damnation…as is his right. He is an example of why many agnostics and atheists just keep their mouths shut and sometimes “turn the other cheek”. Not everyone is so kind and promises to pray for you when they find out that you don’t believe.* Why should I be embarrassed to say that I’m a non-believer? Hence, the billboard above which reassures me that I am not alone. (Don’t believe in God? You’re not alone.)
The next billboard states, “I don’t kill. I don’t steal. I don’t believe.” This message really hit me hard and here is why. My mother-in-law has disowned me. It happened about 6 months ago. We haven’t seen each other or spoken since, neither has my husband or my children. I’ve been debating if I should, could, would write something about it or not. The crux of it is that we are not going to christen our children and my mother-in-law finally asked why. Long story short, my mother-in-law said some horrible things to me and then I began defending myself and explaining what a good person I am – how I am a good wife and mother, how I help out at school and in the community. And then I realized what I was doing. I was trying to explain to someone that I am a good human being. What for? Even now, here, I feel the need to explain to you that I live a full life, that my family is part of the community, that my children know a lot about world religions, that we are good people. I will never, ever explain myself like that again to anybody…not even at the pearly gates.
*I also don’t like the phrases such as non-believer. I believe in something, just not what they believe in. The use of non-believer suggests that what the “believers” believe in is the one, true way and we “non-believers” are bereft of any of our beliefs or spirituality or even morality for that matter. But alas, I cannot find another way to phrase it, so I will stick with believers and non-believers.