My best friend is an atheist (he’s also gay, but that has nothing to do whatsoever with this post, unless of course it might at some point. We’ll have to see). He and i never talk about religion.
We never argue about which one of us is “right” and we never exchange ideas in the hopes of convincing each other to “switch teams”. We don’t, because we know it’s pointless to do so. We don’t, because we love each other for who we are versus who we could make each other into. And we don’t, because although we may feel differently about whether or not there is a God, we totally agree that each person has their own journey to make, their own road to walk. And regardless of whether the task was handed down to us on high by some Superior Being or simply by Chance – in the final analysis, each person must take full ownership of their own journey – a journey that they began, and will end, alone.
i mention this simply as proof that it can happen. There can be instances wherein two or more people with widely different ideas about life, the universe and – well, everything – can get along quite well, even to the point of being best friends. As such, the question i have is why can’t this simply be the norm? Why can’t we all take up on our own journeys without feeling the need to bump into each other so often along the way?
From the point of the religious, i understand that many feel they have a certain “calling” from their God to “spread the word”, and since my only real knowledge and experience is that of Christianity, i’ll keep my comments confined to this particular ideology. Understanding that Jesus said to “Spread the word”, i don’t recall him ever saying that anyone was supposed to “beat the word” into the head of every living soul who decides to not believe it. i also don’t recall him saying anything about taking unbelievers, kicking and screaming to the altar, for a redemption they didn’t ask for and don’t believe in. i DO recall however, his being pretty specific about people staying out of other peoples business (yes, i’m alluding to that whole “judge not” deal – possibly his most ignored teaching). i also seem to recall his mentioning that to gain your life, you first have to lose it. i wonder how many wealthy Christian suburbanites are willing to stop beating atheists over the head long enough to take that particular challenge?
To my mind, “spreading the word” is much more like an invitation to believe than it is a mandate. And as with any invitation, you have the right to say “yes” or “no”. Should God exist, would they really want a relationship with someone simply because that someone fears punishment otherwise? I can’t imagine so. Sort of negates the whole point of “Free Will” if you think about it.
Now if the followers of Jesus are working from somewhat of a misunderstanding regarding instructions he left, then i’m even more perplexed by the atheists. For in their instance, there were no instructions given, and no God to promote. But to listen to some of them, you’d swear that atheism almost is a religion itself. While there is no bible in hand, there sure is a lot of thumping to be heard. And why?
As i asked another not too long ago, if i do believe in something that doesn’t exist, then what’s the harm in that? Why do you feel you need to make me believe otherwise? What drives you to force me to see your Light? As long as i’m not hurting anyone in my belief, why not just let me wallow in my ignorance? We’re both worm food at the end of the run at any rate, so what difference does it make if one of us will be totally surprised by the fact when it occurs?
i understand that religion has caused much pain on this world. But no more than money has. Or political beliefs. Or hunger. Or power (the lust thereof at any rate). In short, almost everything humans get their hands into ends in some sort of damage. Do the atheists who try convert the believers work as hard at convincing the rich that they need to share their wealth? Or those with an abundance of food that they need to share too? i don’t know, maybe they do. i’m really asking (seeing as i’m likely never to be on their radar in these regards if they do…).
Now i’m trying desperately hard not to use any Rodney King quotes in this, but it really is boiling down to exactly what he’s most famous for saying. And i too wonder why it is that we can not simply agree to disagree on certain things. Not all things mind you, just the ones that don’t matter in the larger picture. For instance – we should be spending much more time working against world hunger than arguing about whether its existence proves or disproves God’s as well. But as for the rest, we need to keep in mind that we each do have our own unique journey. And it is ours alone to make and we need to get there, not as others would have us go, but in best way that we see fit.
(to those on both sides who will now decry my line of thought as being too simplistic, naive or ignorant, i have good news – you’ve more in common than you know in that you’re both angry with me for the very same reason. i recommend you make use of that commonality to better understand each others stance on other matters. It still won’t sway either sides beliefs – and that’s quite alright – but hopefully at least a mutual respect of ideas other than “our own” will begin to grow.)
i’ve told my children that when i die, Jesus is going to have a LOT of questions for me, but none of them will have to do with what others did or why. I will have to answer for myself and only myself. And for the atheist, no one is waiting to judge or question whatsoever. In the end, one of us will have ended up being right – or both of us will have ended up being slightly wrong – and we’ll both be dead regardless. So until then, why can’t we be a little more utilitarian in our thinking? Until then, why can’t we love (or at least respect) each other for who we are, versus who we wish we could make each other into?