Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Happiness Without God

It's the ultimate form of arrogance from the religious, that only those who believe in God (and their particular version of God) are happy. There are plenty of more modern religious people who are open to more than one pathway and people finding happiness suited to their personality, but there are millions more who wholeheartedly believe their way is the only way.

My mother falls into the latter category. Familial relations between her and my siblings are... strained, to put it mildly. Lately my mother and I have gotten to the point where we can exchange emails on neutral things such as funny YouTube videos, wacky news stories and the like--but we haven't seen each other or spoken on the phone in a year. This is progress. Which is why I was surprised yesterday when she invited me (by text) to lunch since she is in town visiting the good children (my religious siblings, not atheist me).

She knows that I don't believe in any religion and that I question God, but I haven't said the word "atheist" to her. The predictable thing about my relationship with my fanatically religious family is that I have never, ever, not once, done anything wrong to any of them personally, but they've ostracized me exactly as if I had. That fact is exactly what irritates me so. My offense is in questioning God and religion (and finding no substance there), not in actually causing them any harm, yet they react as if I had. As my mother once put it, and I quote, "our religion is our universe. You've chosen to leave it so we cannot have the relationship with you that you want." The 'relationship I want' was an agreement of mutual respect to agree to disagree but still be a family. That is literally all I asked for, but that is too much for them. Unfortunately, this is a very typical scenario, and truthfully my situation is better than many.

But I will not back down. She demanded that, if I wanted my family to have a relationship with me and my boyfriend, that I would have to sign and submit documentation to the local bishop proclaiming my official exodus of the Catholic Church. She also quoted Catholic Cannons to me (threw the book at me, so to speak) telling me why I should make my non-religion official. Of course I refused. It would be exactly like me submitting documents to the government of France letting them know I'm not French. Totally pointless. I need do nothing more than stop believing and stop participating for it to be official.

So probably against my better judgment, I agreed to lunch. I used to be so intimidated by her opinions and I was so convinced of her righteousness. Now as a freethinking adult, I can see her for the human being she is. A close-minded, arrogant, religious fanatic who feels she has the right to judge others because "God" disagrees with actions x and y, so she is allowed to look down on people because they do actions x and y--never noticing that it is a group of very imperfect humans who "educate" everyone as to what God likes and dislikes. But of course those humans claim that through a miraculous divine intervention known as ex cathedra, no official teaching of the Catholic Church will ever be wrong because God speaks through them at that time. Even if they are adulterous murderers who eat children and puppies, whatever they say ex cathedra is GOD'S WORD (yes, this is what I was taught and what the Catholic faithful believe).

I am looking forward to today. I have now become a humble, open-minded person who knows that she doesn't have all the answers, but is able to reason and use her brain enough to not attribute the universe to a figment of humans' imagination. As hard as it has been, I would not take any of it back. I would never, ever trade the truth for a relationship with people that is based on lies and fairy tales. My family believes I am a godless heathen (well, that's kinda true) who is perverted by hedonistic pleasures and has chosen my selfish self over obedience to God. Quite the contrary, it is my honest, sensible nature that prevents me from believing in something that doesn't make sense. I can't take seriously the idea that this invisible, inaudible, nonphysical being has total control over me and my soul. Where is the proof of such a being? In your "feelings"? In your fear of being wrong and going to hell? My sister actually explained her belief to me, that the Catholic Church is 2,000 years old so she figures it knows what it's talking about. That's what your faith is based on? Because enough idiots have been around long enough to perpetuate foolish ideas, so they must be right? That's not enough for me.

I am looking forward to showing my mother that I am a beautiful, happy, healthy person. I am honest and open, and do not live my life in fear. All my life growing up I was taught by her that you cannot be truly happy without God. After she became a Catholic 17 years ago, she more narrowly defined this idea to be you cannot be truly happy without being a good Catholic. And if you made the mistake of thinking you were happy without being Catholic, you were incomplete as a person, and lying to yourself. But if you become an ex-Catholic (*gasp*), why then you knew what you were doing was wrong and you did it anyway, which makes you evil and vile, narcissistic and selfish, and going straight to hell. I fall into this category. ;)

The truth is, I am happier than I have ever been! I am free and liberated and can just be a human without wasting my life in the purposeless shackles of religion. I am deeply, truly, and honestly happy and I'm not lying to myself.


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