First there was a Man. Then a Woman. Then in quick succession, two cats, a confused dog beast, and two kids. I stay at home with them. I'm the Man

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Believe That

"They baptized the baby on the 16th."

"Yeah I know, at the Methodist church. How'd you feel about it?"

"Well, it's not Catholic, but at least they believe in something."

We hear that kind of thing all the time. "Well, at least they believe in something. 1"

Even leaving aside the condescending nature of the phrase what really floors my wife and I is how widely that sentiment is thrown around.

In the interest of full disclosure, we're atheists. Not in your face, religion sucks, my-Nothingness-shark-ate-your-Jesus-Fish atheists, but mind our own business, keep our lack of faith to ourselves, mention it only if it comes up in conversation, atheists.2

"Hey, you wanna watch the Red Sox game?"

"No thanks, I'm an atheist."

So maybe that phrase rankles us more that it does other people. Or maybe we get to hear it more often than some. Mostly though, it feels like a widely held belief in our area of the world. Like automatically, just the act of believing in something makes everything better. Like that's the important thing. Faith itself. It matters little what people believe, as long as they believe in something.

"Tiny beanies and magic underwear they have to wear all the time? And they can't eat bacon like, ever? Holy shit. But you know, at least they believe in something."

"Jesus's Non-existent American vacation and Hebrews in America thousands of years before BC and no archaeological proof and magic spectacles and Utah? That is weird. But you know, at least they believe in something."

"Mind control and cutting you off from your family and threats and evil space aliens? And the Tom Cruise?!  Freaky but . . .  at least they believe in something."

"Hell fires and horned demons? Crazy tall hats? Magic cannibalism? And no sex at all unless it's between a clergyman and a little boy3? That 's pretty fucked up but well . . . at least they believe in something."

It almost feels like as long as a monotheistic God4 is involved it doesn't matter how a person worships. Human sacrifice, bestiality, worshiping at Carl Jr's, calling Jesus "Mr. Jeezle." Whatever. As long as a person believes in something, they have a shot at the presidency.

If you're going to believe in something, then believe in it. And when someone believes in something different, good for them. We'll find out who's right eventually. Until then though, a little respect please. If we can't drop that sentiment from our culture altogether then just once I'd like someone to say, "You believe that death is it, no greater power has its hand on the steering wheel, Michael J Fox was once upon a time one of comedy's greatest treasures, a good beach day is better than a day at the spa, Moonlighting never gets it's due as a classic, and if you just keep eating ice cream and pizza you'll eventually emerge through a cholesterol wormhole where on the other side those things are actually good for you? That is some dumb shit. But, I mean well, at least you believe in something."

1 Maybe this phrase is some sort of attempt at religious tolerance. I doubt it though. I'm pretty sure when people start lining up for Holy Wars, you don't really get a lot of "We'd kill you as a heretic but you know, at least you believe in something.

2 For those who've read here before and are wondering about our quest for religion, or at least a temple we can go to for some good, clean, Passover fun, no, we haven't completely abandoned it. We've visited a couple temples and it still comes up in conversation. It's just a big commitment for us in terms of my wife converting. Also, we haven't found a temple that feels right yet. Maybe the feeling of pursuing religion doesn't feel quite right either. I'm not sure.  Either way, Homemaker Family and the Quest for Guilt continues. 

3Possible cheap shot. 

4 And white. Or at least followed by lots of whites.  And vaguely Christian. Probably, someone who practiced voodoo or believed in Santeria could not be elected president in this country. Unless they were running against an atheist.





  1. My adult daughter and I were just discussing this earlier today. How would she and her 3 siblings be different if we had taken them to church when they were little, and impressionable? (For the record, they were all baptized, mostly for my Catholic MIL's peace of mind, and then had a year of Episcopalian Sunday School, which probably negated any inlaw brownie points from the baptisms)

    She said she thinks they would have all still turned out to be atheists, since they were also brought up to think for themselves and question information given.

    I know some people who really get a great deal of comfort and joy from their religious beliefs, but still, why can't they just enjoy that? I would never dream of telling anyone what they should believe or how they should live(except for the aforementioned kids)and I think we should all just mind our own business and let everyone worship -or not- what they please.

    Sorry for the longwinded comment, and I never did get around to saying anything about what you wrote! It was good, and I am your sort of atheist.

  2. I am Catholic and do NOT subscribe to the notion that as long as people believe in something that it's better than believing in nothing. I subscribe to the notion, as does my faith all evidence to the contrary, that the best possible "belief" is any that is made by an informed, thoughtful, careful, conscience acting from a place of good will.

    Otherwise? It's all so much milk toast.

  3. Well at least you believe in something.

  4. I hope you succeed in your guilt quest :)

  5. ...I was wondering when you went Atheist???!!!

    (Had a meaningful comment, but, I see Monica beat me to it.)

  6. Well, I'm all caught up now. Ivy Pickles has really enlivened the place, hasn't she? For some reason I suspect she may even be the reason for this post. ::cue black helicopters::

    I used to get angry when people questioned my lack of a belief in something specific. Now I'm faintly amused at the irony of the forgetfulness of the Religious People of this Great Nation. I think I read somewhere that our forebears fled the UK to escape religious intolerance. I also think there's some kind of Big Amendment to the Constitution (mostly ignored) that speaks about separation of church and state. I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure I can find references to back my memory.

    I went to my first bat mitvah in May at Temple Shir Tikvah in Winchester, a reform Jewish temple. If you're still on a quest for guilt, I highly recommend attending Shabbat with Rabbi Rim. I don't know if you'll find any guilt there but I found such comfort in the inclusiveness of the service and learned it wasn't necessary to convert to attend.

    One last thing. During the holiday season last year, an acquaintance posed a thoughtful question to his atheist friends: "Would you be offended if I wished you a Merry Christmas?" The first commenters were Self-Righteous Christians who pretty much said, fuck 'em all if they don't believe. Nice stuff. My response was a return question: "Would you be offended if I wished you happy holidays?" How in hell does my belief system undermine yours? I ask the same question when People of Faith oppose the recognition of gay marriage (especially to afford the partners the same rights as heterosexual unions are entitled to). When does the intolerance end?

  7. I always check the "other" box when it asks about religion. It amazes me when people get uncomfortable with me saying I'm neither Christian nor Jew nor Muslim nor any of the above. What's the big deal? I just don't feel moved by any established religion. I just figure life is pretty amazing and try to live my life in a way that acknowledges the basic dignity of people as human beings.


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