Thursday, December 18, 2008

Morality and religion don't have to go hand in hand.

I touched on my personal belief system in an article yesterday. Today I want to clarify some things...

I am not a Christian. I used to be, but not anymore. I used to teach Sunday School...actually, it was whilst teaching a class that I had an epiphany that changed me.

I was teaching little kids the story of Christ calming the storm. I was at the point where Christ held his arms out and commanded the waves and weather to be still and I suddenly had a overwhelming sense of hypocrisy that made me lose track of what I was doing and stunned me into silence. I'd doubted my beliefs and things biblical for a while, but instead of exploring them I decided to throw myself even further into the church to try and shut them out.

"what the fuck are you doing here? Why are you telling these kids to believe something that you yourself don't? How can you be so hypocritical?" I said to myself.

That was the last time I stepped foot in a church as an active participant.

The decision to reject religion - more specifically, Christianity - was a difficult one. I'd been raised as an Anglican, I've been baptised and confirmed and married in the church (the first time. Urbaner and I were married by a JP) and it was a permanent feature in my childhood and early adult life. Turning my back on it, rejecting it...that was rough. However, I knew what I felt and what I thought and what I'd found out for myself to be true, and I felt like I had to go with it.

The number of people who turned their backs on me and mine was surprising. Apparently, it's a common misconception among religious people that atheists have NO morals or ethics whatsoever. We're heathens, infidels, unscrupulous individuals who lie, steal, cheat and are generally hateful folks.

That's just not true. If anything, I have a stronger sense of ethics that some Christians I know. I don't need a celestial 24 hour surveillance system to ensure I'm doing the right thing, I do the right thing because it's the right thing to do and for no other reason. I've tried really hard to show people who don't know any better that you don't HAVE to be a christian to have morals, that you don't need live your life according to scripture in order to know right from wrong.

I don't steal. I try not to lie (I'm not going to say that I don't, because occasionally I do - see how I'm telling the truth here? Ooh, and I don't even need a book to tell me it's the right thing to do!), I don't cheat on ANYthing or ANYone, and I don't truly, honestly hate anyone. I don't care for certain people, but hate? Not even close.

I have experienced hatred on a regular basis, though. I have been told numerous times that I am a sinner and that I and my offspring are all going to hell for eternity (how I can go somewhere that I don't believe exists, I do not know), that I'm a terrible horrible person because I don't go to church on Sundays or read the bible (I actually have read the whole thing and can quote scripture verbatim if necessary). People who were once friendly with me and mine have withdrawn from us, refusing to answer my calls or even let their children play with mine. It's as if we have some disease that people are afraid of catching. I've been prayed over in public: I was in a bookstore looking at 'The Portable Atheist', which happened to be in the 'Religion' section, right down from the myriad of christian books. Some lady saw me reading this book, came over, put her hand on my head and began to pray over me, calling out to her god that I was a sinner and pleeeze lawd, pleeze save this lost soul. I moved away, she followed. I told her if she didn't get her hand off me I'd file an assault complaint. She looked at me and said 'that's fine. I'm happy to go to jail for what I believe' to which I replied 'so am I, so get your fucking hand off me before I break your fucking arm'. Apparently I looked like I meant it and she removed her arm and I walked away - and I bought that book.

I don't talk about my beliefs in depth very often. I don't feel like I need to. I also don't go around telling other people that their personal beliefs are wrong. I don't like it when people do it to me, ergo I don't do it to others (there's that morality that I supposedly don't have at work again).

I have raised my children to be open minded. At the moment, I have one Buddhist/Taoist, one atheist, and one who is finding Catholicism very interesting. I'm happy for them to take whatever path they choose and I respect their beliefs. I've made a point of reading and learning about other people's faiths so I can try to understand where they're coming from. I think it's the least I can do.

I wish other people felt the same way about my beliefs.

So, for the record: I am NOT a christian.

I am an atheist.

I an an infidel who would rather slit her own throat than bow to Allah or any other so-called 'god' if it came right down to it.

I don't believe in a virgin birth, a messiah, a deity, in life after death, in a corporeal resurrection or that the bible is a divine piece of work.

I don't believe in heaven.

I don't believe in hell.

I don't celebrate Christmas, but I'm ok with people that do.

I don't pray, but if you do I'm cool with that too.

I am not afraid to stand up for my beliefs if I need to. I'm also not afraid to live and let live.

I may not agree with what you think, say, or how you live your life, but I respect and will defend your right to do any and all of those things.

I am not afraid of dying. I nearly did it once myself already and I've helped many people in their last moments. It's not scary to me anymore.

I am an atheist.

A happy one.

(And maybe a Pastafarian, too. I have been touched by His Noodly Appendage...ask me if you don't know what I'm talking about).


Chapati said...

Hey Ninja, I feel exactly the same way, with the difference that after a lot of deliberation I am Hindu. I was very lucky to be taught about religion in a tolerant way, and I think it is a very personal thing which should not be forced onto people. I hate being preached at by anyone - Christian, Muslim, Atheist or even Hindu. In fact its the Hindu ones that annoy me the most...being told what I 'should' believe/follow as a 'good Hindu' completely contradicts everything I was taught and love about the faith.

Good on you for exploring and following your beliefs. The conception of atheists having no morals is one that pisses me off even more than being preached at.

Oh, and good on you for giving your children the room to follow theirs too!

Oh boy, I wrote a lot...this is a subject I feel very strongly about!!

RD said...


My thought is this:

God should be irrelevant to how how act. One should act out of the goodness of their heart instead of an reward in the after life.

I walked away from the church when I was 13.

icemanof92 said...

I am an atheist as well. I was raised Catholic and never really agreed with it. My immediate family knows my beliefs but I just yes my extended to death because I can't be bothered arguing with them (there are several sunday school teachers and eucharistic ministers in that bunch). I still celebrate christmas and easter, probably because I like presents and candy and the Easter bunny ;) but there is really no religious element to these holidays for me. Some people tell me I'm going to hell and others say "God loves ya anyway". In the end its all meaningless- when I die my heart will stop and my brain activity will dissolve to nothing and that will be that.