Monday, April 29, 2013

Being a Non-Believer in a Believer’s World

I am a non-believer in a higher power. I can say this because it’s true and I’m not embarrassed by it. Growing up, the religious figures in my family were my grandparents. They took us to church and taught us to recite prayers. I remember kneeling beside my bed, hands pressed together. By high school I knew what little childhood belief I had was slipping away. I desperately wanted to believe, but nothing ever seemed to “click.” Not that I was heartbroken; hard to miss what you never had. I just learned to accept my lack of belief but also accept the possibility of a higher power. Keeps my options open. Until my eyes are opened and Jesus enters my heart, I personally don’t give one rat’s tail about believing.

I find one main misconception that believers have about non-believers is that we have “no morals.” Now, I have to admit that I was raised Catholic, so maybe that’s where my morals came from. However, I simply cannot believe that any religion has a monopoly on morals’ origins. A moral is a principle of right or wrong behavior. It’s learned through society and has evolved over the millennia of our social consciousness present in human nature. Basically, it’s a learned behavior designed for the well-being of the individual and those around her. As early societies began their sedentary lifestyles, the people had to learn how to work peacefully with each other to ensure the success of the settlement. Hence, morals are realized. Organized religions presented followers with a well organized list of morals. They basically took what was already around and copyrighted it, kinda like what Benson tried to do with “Who Dat?” One could make a stretch and say that non-believers can “learn” morals by observing the actions of believers but sometimes believers aren’t setting the best example…

As a non-believer, I am quite adamant that religion should stay out of politics, no matter how Christian of a nation we’re supposed to be. This nation was founded as a republic, a democracy, a free world, by a number of men who didn’t believe in Jesus by were influenced by a culture steeped in Christianity. Did you know that God was not mentioned in the Constitution, except in the date? The phrase “Under God” was not added to the Pledge of Allegiance until 1952. The First Amendment strictly prohibits the government from placing one religion over another. All of these things just reinforce my belief that Church and State should be separated. The government, and all its ruling bodies, was formed to protect the interests of all of the country’s citizens, not just a specific group. Which means your Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or whatever, beliefs are not necessarily in the interest of all of the citizens and so should not be forced upon another believer through the law. It’s one thing to argue for a cause you believe in, and another to demand that the entire country conform to your belief. As has been quoted in several ways: “People place their hand on the Bible and swear to uphold the Constitution; they don't put their hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible.” As a lawmaker, it’s your duty to uphold the Constitution, for liberty and justice for all. I’m not saying to put your beliefs aside, just be cognizant that what you believe is best for one may not be best for all, then make your laws accordingly.

So now that you’re thoroughly appalled by my (non) beliefs, I know what question comes next: how on God's green earth will I raise children? Well, it’s not rocket science, Einstein. You teach them about love, compassion, peace. You know, the simple things a Christian needs a bunch of commandments to know. Then you teach your children about fear and pain, because it’s going to come one day and they’ll need to know how to cope with and overcome adversity. Don’t need fire and brimstone as examples when we have plenty enough bad examples in real life. When it comes to those pesky morals, you teach them to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Sounds like a bit of self-preservation common sense to me. Hmm, those two words: common sense; things that make sense on a common level. Like not lying to your mom because you know she’ll be mad if you do. Yep, didn’t need a commandment to tell me that one. See, raising children as a non-believer parent should be easy. Well, as easy as raising kids in any way can be.

Obviously none of my belief points here matter to anyone else, especially when that anyone else wholly disagrees with me. But that’s the beauty of this country: we’re free to disagree with each other. And to agree to disagree, but that seems a bit more advanced than we intelligent creatures seem to be able to handle. The apparent issue over religion in this country upsets me greatly. I respect your beliefs even though I don’t ascribe to them. All I ask is that you respect my beliefs and stop proselytizing through the law. Jesus may have said to spread the good news, but he didn’t say to force it unto us.


Further Reading:
  • Christopher Hitchens - God Is Not Great
  • Sam Harris - The Moral Landscape, Free Will, Letter to a Christian Nation, The End of Faith
  • Dharmachari Nagaraja - Buddha at Bedtime: Tales of Love and Wisdom for You to Read with Your Child to Enchant, Enlighten and Inspire