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.