I’m not religious. But I don’t hate religious people.
I don’t believe in a god. I do think Jesus sounds like a cool guy. A wanderer, encouraging peace and goodwill towards others, hanging out with the outcasts of society, turning water into wine? Sounds like my kind of guy. As far as the whole son of God thing…. ehh, maybe. I don’t know, I wasn’t there. The Buddha had some interesting teachings. And I like the religions that are polytheistic (I’m sure there’s a Hindu god of sweets). I don’t follow or believe in any of these religions though. That sure as hell doesn’t make me any better or worse than someone who does.
I spent the summer of 2012 in Buffalo, New York, for an internship with a company a friend of my dad’s pointed me towards. His family graciously let me stay with them over the summer, and I to this day respect and am thankful for that. They were a very conservative, very Catholic family. So… we didn’t quite see eye to eye on many things. But, they were friendly and pleasant to chat with, and I did my best to respect their beliefs and family traditions and all that. Now, when I say they were very Catholic, I’m talking daily mass Catholic. While I was staying with them, I averaged going to mass about 5 times a week. For me, an atheist who hasn’t gone to church regularly since I was about 6, that’s a lot of church. (Apparently that’s a lot of church even for my Catholic friends) But I went, sat quietly, went through the motions, respected that I wasn’t canonically allowed to partake in the body and blood of Christ (Jesus Snacks, as I called them), and thought about the sermons I was hearing. Not the most enjoyable way to spend my time at 7 in the morning, but there are much worse things, and it delighted the family that I was willing to partake in their church goings and their other churchly activities (picnics, group outings, rosaries, etc). Small price to pay for not having to pay rent for the summer (well, and helping with chores; still beats rent in Buffalo).
This family was filled with incredibly smart and hard working people. The father and his wife met when they were both engineering students. Their oldest daughter was an ocular surgeon. They had a daughter who was a nurse, one who was a teacher, one who wanted to be a youth minister, and the youngest was getting ready to study electrical engineering. All fields of either incredible intellect or a want to help others. Many times during that summer we did small things to help out the community (like visiting the elderly, making food for a local inner-city mission, etc), and I rather respected that at least they were trying to make the world around them a better place (unlike many various religious people I know who don’t practice what they preach). I was not any better or worse than these folks. And yes, we didn’t see eye to eye on many things, but for the most part we got along well enough. I am glad to not be going to church so much anymore.
I hate this attitude of “better than you” that atheists are often marred with (no thanks of course to the more vocal atheists in the world). I have better things to worry about than what your particular flavor of religion is. Like how that affects your world view and your treatment of others. I’ve always found it odd that a lot of my religious friends are given shit by their non-religious friends and family over their beliefs to the point of belittlement. Especially when for the most part religious people are alright (not all of them, but that can be said about any group; you have your majority of decent enough folk and the crazies that everyone associates said group with). Someone’s belief in a god or following of a religion does not make them inherently stupider or smarter than me. It’s what they chose to do with those teachings that ultimately help decide that.
A lot of my religious friends were shocked when I mentioned how much church I went to that summer. “How did you do it?” “How weird/uncomfortable was it?” I went. I sat. I reflected. I wondered if the Eucharist came in other flavors (apparently it does not). I thought about how much stronger the congregation would be if I caught fire after being doused with holy water. And came to the conclusion that religion still isn’t my thing. Weird? A little. Uncomfortable? Also a little, but the priests I had the chance to chat with were friendly enough, and welcomed me during the summer to get to know and understand their faith a little better.
I know what many of my problems with religious beliefs are. But those are personal things, and are for another post. Many people believe in something. What that belief is ultimately doesn’t matter to me, and honestly shouldn’t matter to anyone else. You believe in God? Cool. You don’t? Also cool. Don’t be an asshat about it. Atheists, because seriously, we’re getting a bad enough rep as it is. Judeo-christians, mostly because I’m pretty sure that wasn’t was Jesus wanted. But what do I know? It’s not like I thought he was the son of God or anything.