Floored and Free

I may have never laughed so hard as when showing pictures from the cruise and the island to my friend’s four year old son and we came across this one (please excuse the blurry):

Who is that guy?  Is that…Grimace?  He looks kind of…scary.  Is he scary?  –  Yes, buddy, he’s pretty scary. Don’t worry, though.  He can’t get to you.
(Disclaimer – I’m not 100% sure he said Grimace, as apparently I was still too high on blue skies, sunshine, warmth, and little-kid-cuteness to retain that now somewhat critical detail.  Anyway, whoever he thought it was was so far from Jesus it wasn’t even funny was hilarious.  I guess you had to be there.  In fact, I wish you had been there so you could have remembered the crucial part of this little anecdote for me.  Oh well, let’s go with it.)
I took pictures of all kinds of silliness in the seemingly never-ending booths in the straw markets.  
And again with the blurry:
Who buys this stuff?  Let’s see, I need something really PINK.  Should I get…Hello Kitty…or the Holy Bible?
I’ll admit to being tickled that my little buddy had no recognition of Jesus.  Even though I’ve never known her to have any religion to speak of (other than a general affirmation of belief if pressed), my friend has said for years, oh, I should really find a church and start taking the kids…but it’s never happened.  I wouldn’t encourage it, for one because I remember going to church being the cause of plenty of stomped feet and whiny voices when I was a kid (and what parent needs more of that?), and also because her kids question everything and I love that so much.  Most kids do.  Until they sometimes learn to not, because nobody else is questioning it and people don’t like it, so I’d better just play along.  That’s pretty much how I remember it.  Looking around during Mass thinking…really?  All of you people believe all of this stuff?  Really?  Umm…okay.  So I tried.  For a long time I tried pretty hard to believe.  At times I probably did really believe, at other times I was close to believing, but most of the time it seems I was just trying to convince myself I believed.  Fortunately social conditioning kept me from standing up and yelling ARE YOU ALL CRAZY?  THIS MAKES NO SENSE!!!  Though apparently one Sunday when I was really little my parents had gotten seats in a front pew and in a quiet period during the Mass I did shout MOMMY LOOK!  THAT MAN HAS NO HAIR!! referring to the bald priest.  So that had to be kind of funny.
Ahem.  But this is supposed to be serious.  I’ve started to write about this so many times, though until now it’s always ended with me not even bothering to save the draft, because I freeze…I can’t write about this.  But of course I can, and I don’t have to think very hard or google very much to find a myriad of reasons why I should.  I don’t even need to retrace the ancient abuses of power by the Catholic church (but see this for an excellent perspective on the religious side, via the always thought-provoking suntzusays on the secular side), there have been so, so many very recently, in my own lifetime.  Even if I were a believer, why would I want to associate with any of that?  I’m not and I don’t, though that’s never been something I’ve gone out of my way to share with those in my life that might be somehow offended or put off by that.  However, I’m lucky enough to have at least one of those kind of friends to whom you can say just about anything.  The kind of friend who will also in turn tell me what I need to hear, even if it means saying things that might not be well received or are not necessarily nice things to say, and I of course try to do the same for her.  You don’t stay friends for fifteen-plus years with people that only constantly blow smoke up your ass, right?  So at some point during the conversations we had in the three or more hours it took to drive down to get on the cruise ship last week, I came out, if you will, as an atheist to my best friend.  I was shocked that she was shocked.  It was funny and awesome and I really don’t know why I never just came out and said it to her sooner.  It seems to be the kind of thing that needs just the right set up, so if you’ve ever had anything even tangentially to do with religion, you can’t very well just out of nowhere say, hey, so…yeah….I’m an atheist, right.  Cool? to most people, anyway, and expect them to have a reserved reaction or not require some type of explanation for what they perceive as a rather extreme change.  But somehow she or we had set it up just perfectly…I can’t for the life of me recall what we were really talking about, most likely commenting upon the hypocrisy of some side of some issue (maybe abortion…the Tim Tebow Superbowl ad thing, I bet!) and she must have said something to the effect of “Even if you believe in God…” as a hypothetical from the devil’s-advocate side, allowing me to just throw out “Um, by the way, I don’t anymore.”  Too easy, how could I not?  I still find it funny that she was so surprised by this, but she of course didn’t challenge me on it or try to convince me to change my mind.  (And to be fair, I always refrain from telling her how much country music sucks and how she should really not ever listen to damn near all of it.)  She kept saying she was floored, and she was curious, so I talked about it some.  In fact, I couldn’t quite shut up about it for a little while.  In the middle of this we stopped to run into a drugstore for beverages but I didn’t stop rambling on – the cashier definitely looked at me a little oddly; that was fun.  I was on a roll, as she’s the first friend I’ve said this to who really knew me well even way back when I was a guilty-kind-of-recovering-Catholic-ish girl.
For me, it wasn’t a painful process, even though I thought it might be very hard to walk away from faith, or my nearly lifelong attempts at feeling like I had faith.  Turns out it wasn’t difficult at all.  I just had to give myself permission to acknowledge as perfectly valid the natural doubt and skepticism I’ve also had my whole life.  Agnosticism, I guess.  Then I went through a phase in which I truly just didn’t care at all one way or the other about it.  When I finally got back around to thinking about it again, I realized I’d crossed the line and probably wouldn’t be crossing back.  I just don’t need it, whatever you want to call it, be it faith, belief, religion, etc.  It’s not that I choose not to believe in your God, it’s that I don’t believe there is a god.  So simple and reasonable, yet strangely so hard to say, or to write.  To a certain extent, I can sincerely appreciate that it brings joy and peace and comfort to many people’s lives, and I’d never want to take that part away from them individually.  But looking at the big picture, and the overall balance of the good things the church may have done for people versus the horrible, awful, unimaginable things that have been done in the name of religion…I want to imagine no religion, too.  It would be better if there weren’t so many people in the world whose lives are lived in such awful circumstances that it really logically does sort of make sense that they’d better hope for a better life to be waiting for them after this one, otherwise what is the point of all their suffering, but that is of course not the case.  I have no answer for that question, I just know I’m incredibly fortunate to have my basic needs thoroughly met in order to even have the time and resources to consider the kind of questions that led me to atheism.  For me, there is more peace in just being free of it altogether.  I bet a lot more people could come the same conclusion too if they would just let themselves try to be free of it.  This will be mostly preaching to the choir (ha), but you should try it.  It’ll make you feeeeeel gooood.  

19 thoughts on “Floored and Free

  1. suntzusays says:

    Sully's link is broken at the moment (if it stays down, I'll have to find another one). Which is probably okay for now. It was really long and had video clips in it and such. People can only process so many diatribes on faith/morality or lack thereof at one time.

  2. Bummer. That was a great piece. Well, is. For a diatribe it kept my attention better than most.

  3. suntzusays says:

    I would agree that most people are confused or shocked to find out that a basic assumption is not shared. Especially if this was not apparent or in particular was a change from some previously held position. The good part is that lack of faith doesn't tend to come up very often and it very often will be a comfortable admission or statement of self to make, simply because most conversations about faith directly happen between people who've talked about everything else and have grown close and comfortable in those discussions. It's sort of strange that somehow belief in god is ever taken as a given after all that and thus would be at all surprising. But it makes it usually pretty easy to talk about and ramble on over. I think my objections to organised religions are similar, but I arrived at my own atheism not because of the corruption of religious institutions but out of a simple conclusion of priors and a lot of analysis of theology and philosophy itself. The fact that people screw things up doesn't in and of itself make the ideas that founded those things less useful (see: the US government). Mill basically put it that people tend to cling to these ideas out of tradition rather than because they made sense and were convinced of their reasonable utility. If the ideas had to constantly fight it out with each other, sometimes good ideas lose by failing to appeal to the majority, and sometimes they prevail over traditional older ideas that once held majoritarian appeal. People though are basically clueless as to which is which. The fact that the people in charge of those institutions have grown abusive, dysfunctional, and complacent is a natural result of existing in a space where debate can be stifled by appealing to tradition rather than reason. It does mean that sometimes you should scrap or seriously reform the institutions, but it doesn't automatically (unfortunately) mean that the institutional ideas/ideals were flawed enough to prevent a new institution from forming in its place. My impression of the Catholic church in particular was that they were trying to reform and to adjust to new ideas and times and that apparently the old guard there in Rome thought they went too far and brought in the soup nazi type Pope instead of responding to its flaws and public failings with new and improved wisdom, they doubled-down on 5th century wisdom. I'm also entirely comfortable with people letting kids be kids. If they grow up and want to go find a church for some social or theological balance, whatever.

  4. Right, right. I didn't mean to imply that I stopped believing in god because people fucked up the church, I see the distinction there. I didn't go through all the theology and philosophy, either, though. More like I finally just went with my gut. Having been critical of the church and a self-imposed fake faith at best from as far back as I can remember, it's really quite silly that I continued to identify as a Catholic for so long, until the past few-several years. As you mention, it was always more a family tradition for me than anything else. Agreed. Finally arguing my way out of the religious ed/youth group thing (thanks to the kids who took it even less seriously than I did by that point) the first or second year of high school was almost as freeing as going faithfree ;-).

  5. suntzusays says:

    I reposted the Sully diatribe on the link to my blog you provided. Assuming it's broken, it'll at least be available for people to read later on so they know what we're talking about there. I didn't grab the video interviews to which he was referring but I assume people can find them if they must (I did grab the photos). I would agree that it's obvious there are complex reasons for your own departure, even if it comes down to "gut feeling" as the starting point. So I don't think you gave that implication for yourself, but it's too common of atheists to use the straw man of the weakened and flawed institution of the church to denigrate the actual standing behind it (because it's really, really easy to do). I find it's very hard to attack organised religion as flawed and broken at the same time as attacking the underlying religious beliefs that they're based upon because for many religious people those are two different things. Based on a lot of polls, it looks more like a lot of people kept their "faith" per se but have lost faith in their selected institution (such as the Catholic church) because of these institutional abuses that you listed off. It might be a good driver for someone who was already skeptical of religious belief in the first place to get out of the game. But it doesn't look like it creates that skepticism if it doesn't already exist. I think that is unremarkable as far as it goes, for the reasons I described. Still, it does sometimes seem a little odd that abused authority doesn't make people question the word of that authority on other matters. What is really odd is that abused (or incompetent) authority actually seems to increase the demand for authority for most people. I really have to wonder whether I've gone crazy sometimes. There are religious youth group things? I remember some lock-ins at YMCAs or the Kettering rec run by church groups and people praying before playing ultimate frisbee and basketball, if that counts. I'm not really sure I want to know what they consist of if not that.

  6. Excellent, thanks!Ah, I see. Yes, so many people disagree with damn near everything about their church or former church but yet insist they still believe in God; I said I did for a looong time, too. But I still remember a light bulb going off again in eighth or ninth grade English, hearing as part of some unit on Greek mythology the theory (outdated, I believe? still…) that ancient people invented myths/gods as ways to explain natural phenomena they didn't understand. I'm thinking…well, as I just came from SCIENCE class…and it's 1994 (ish?)…did Mrs. Gard.etto just tell me there's obviously no god? Awesome. LOL. Also LOL. They just changed the NAME of religious ed when you got to high school @ my parish. There was always Sunday School (preschoolers, I think) on actual Sunday morning, theoretically reducing the number of screaming toddlers in Mass – haha. Then as you got a little older it changed to an hour or so on a weekday evening. Seemed like the day of the week and the acronym changed every couple/few years too. ERE (elementary religious ed), CCD (confraternity of Christian Doctrine, which I just had to google because I had NO idea, ha), PSR (parish school of religion), etc. At the high school level they started calling it a youth group instead, tried to make it more service-based, having outings and guest speakers, and the discussions could supposedly be student-led and you could "ask anything" kind of deal. Not the absolute worst thing in the world, theoretically, but thanks to Mr. Cl.iett and crew in the corner making fart noises in their armpits and such, I finally convinced my dad that it was an absurd use of my time. 'Cuz you know, I could be, like, STUDYING. LOL. At least he remained unwilling to pay tuition to send us to actual Catholic school instead of public. Shudder at the thought.

  7. suntzusays says:

    Right. Anthropology and history (along with "pagan" mythology) pretty much kills religion faster than Darwin. So it is confusing why the fuss is over creationism/evolution and not Zeus being in the schools if they're worried about their kids losing their religion. Ahh yes. Mr C's lack of seriousness can be blamed on many things. It is nice to see it occasionally produce a productive outcome. I am glad I missed out on these things. I was vaguely aware that some people attended things called bible studies or the mormons I knew went to some sort of meetings before school, but that's as far as I had thought it out and as far as I ever had to. I am of the mind myself that if I ever have kids, they're going to a private school (but not a parochial one). The reason is more the quality of education than anything else. I would imagine that paying for property taxes in the burbs puts people off of paying still more to send their kids to somewhere else with a hit or miss at being marginally better than an already decent school district. It's usually when you've got a choice between certainty of a poor education for them and certainty of a good one that the private school starts to make sense. The whole religious instruction thing doesn't cut it.

  8. Yes! That kind of puts a finger on one reason why the evo/crea in education debate strikes me as patently absurd.Yeah. I should thank him for that. Totally threw him under the bus, but it was worth it ;-).Worth considering further on public vs. private schools. Haven't really looked that much into it, but no – I can't imagine parochial being the way to go! Would definitely depend where I was living.

  9. Well, this is ironic. I voluntarily went to church today for the first time on my own since…last year? Two years ago? Feeling the faith crisis thing myself, I guess. And I did feel better after the hour. I don't think I believe in many of the Catholic doctrines (I've ignored too many to say all of them, plus I feel like I'm changing all the time), but something about churches and being with all those people (even if some of them are fanatics), refreshes me and makes me feel closer to God or the universe or whatever…I do believe in a God. Sometimes that's freeing for me as well.

  10. Oh, by the way, my Google Reader put up ads labeled "Faith in Jesus?" and "Become a Clergymen" after your post. "*A* Clergymen."

  11. I definitely went through times like that too. There is still something about walking into a church for Mass or just to sit or to light a candle that can be deeply calming for me, too. And I'm still somehow glad that we got married in the church (if not the Church, if that makes any sense at all), it was right for me at that point in my life. As much as I see myself as separate from it now, it's definitely part of my history and I'll always have a strange fondness for it despite what I may think about the whole thing. An inconsistency that's oddly easy to accept, for me.

  12. LOL, a clergymen! That's one for the book! šŸ˜‰

  13. Bazarov says:

    Few people will believe this, but the only time I ever thought the universe required a god for explaining anything was when I was on three hits of acid. It's the last time I ever did acid. That was when I was sixteen. I don't know if I was a believer, but it lasted about 4 hours.

  14. Hah. I believe it, this not being the first time I've heard/read you say/write that. That would be a pretty odd favorite lie ;-D. And knowing you, the internal dialog happening at the end of that four hours had to be priceless. LOL.

  15. Also, I find it very annoying that Chrome insists it's dialog and not dialogue. And that I acquiesced.

  16. suntzusays says:

    Down with the North American spellchecker!

  17. Yeah, it really sucks. Seems like things have gotten more and more Americanized in that way. I'm fairly positive that when I had to learn about it in English class my American-published textbook used dialogue. Oh, woe, it didn't use to be this way! "An historic" still irks me badly, too, but that may be a trend in the opposite direction…? That just sounds wrong.

  18. suntzusays says:

    That too is a trend in the wrong direction. The rules on that are sort of funny though.

  19. All I know is I used to be able to HEAR when people were using poor grammar. I shouldn't have to think about it and question my own at this point. Not that often, anyway, and definitely not while watching/listening to the news. Jeez. While I'm at it, GET OFF MY LAWN, YOU DAMN KIDS. LOL.

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