For the past year or so I have been in disagreements with many people, some close to me, some I barely know. Before, when the topic of my belief’s-or lack thereof-would come up in conversation, I would try to avoid it so-as to not have things get awkward. If you know me at all, you should know that I am not a very confrontational person, I have a bad habit of letting people walk all over me in various different situations. However, that fact is slowly starting to change. It all started a little over two years ago when a boyfriend’s mom straight out asked me if I believed in God. Knowing she was a devout believer, I paused for a moment before telling her, “Honestly, I don’t know. I have never been proven that such a thing exists.”
She looked at me in amazement and disgust, as if I had just uttered a mouthful of curse words at her. I suddenly realized that maybe I shouldn’t have said what I did, that maybe she would think less of me now. After all, it’s not very often when you get a second chance at making a good impression on a possible future in-law. However, just then as I sat there across from her in the hot tub, her husband piped up and said, “You know what? I don’t know if I believe in God either Olivia.” It was at that moment that I knew I had to start sticking up for myself even if it meant being unfairly judged for it. I am extremely grateful for the courage he unknowingly gave me that day, even if it did mean he was banned to the couch later on that night. Sorry!
At that time I was fresh out of my first semester of college, not even eighteen years old. I had never really given any thought as to any strict beliefs or non beliefs. All I knew was that no, I didn’t feel comfortable sitting in a church and putting blind faith in a man standing in front of me preaching that certain miraculous events had actually occurred thousands of years ago. Even at the tender age of twelve I was an unknowing skeptic. Other than the occasional wedding and baptism of family and friends, I have yet to step foot back in a church, and apparently that’s cause for quite the concern among many people I know.
I would say that this past year has been the turning point in which I realized that I’m not going to be told what I must believe in order to be considered a “moral” person. The idea that you must think a certain way or act a certain way just to please other people makes me sick. For goodness sake, it’s the 21st century. Gays are being allowed to marry, we have our first ever African American president, women are given the same rights as men, American diversity is at an all time high, yet you’re still concerned that I’m an atheist? Something isn’t adding up here…
Just the other week I was sitting in the hallway talking with some new classmates when the subject of religion came up. I immediately thought “oh no, here we go again”. Sure enough, within three minutes of the topic being introduced I had to sit there and listen as they basically put down atheists, rolling their eyes and making sarcastic jokes.
It really bothers me that simply saying the word “atheist” causes such a controversy. This isn’t a Harry Potter novel. We’re not talking about “He Who Must Not Be Named”. So what if I don’t believe the same things as you? Does that make me any less of a friend to you? Does that make me a bad person? No? Okay well then why is it such a big deal? I fully acknowledge the fact that most of my friends and family share different beliefs and views than I do, and I’m okay with that. I have never told them that they were stupid for being a believer, that they are brainwashed, that I am a more moral person than them simply due to that one small fact. Sure, I tell them that I don’t see eye to eye with them, yes.
Sometimes they ask me to explain myself, or even question me as to why I believe what I do. Sometimes I’m told, “I don’t think you really know what you believe yet.” Um, ok? Who are you to tell me what I do and don’t believe? I’m sorry I can’t put it in terms you can understand. One thing I’ve learned about people is that when they truly believe something, their minds are made up. Fighting with them about it is a lost cause that will get you nowhere other than into a pretty big argument. That is why I simply agree to disagree.
In the media God is mentioned an infinite number of times and every time I can’t help but think, Okay, I’m supposed to sit here and be okay with hearing all of this, yet if one news reporter or one television show were to say God doesn’t exist, it would be cause for an instant uproar. I am not a fan of double standards, as I’m sure most of you would agree.
All I know is that if you respect me as a person, you should respect my beliefs no matter what they may be. Don’t tell me that I’m wrong for thinking a certain way. Don’t tell me I’ll go to Hell if I don’t accept Christ as my personal savior. I guess that’s one of the cool things about being an atheist, I don’t believe in “Hell”, therefore your immature threats and rants mean nothing to me. It’s quite a freeing feeling that I wish more people were open to.
I am also quite bothered by the fact that in American society today it’s quite acceptable to openly talk about God, going to church, and to put Bible verses as Facebook status updates, yet the moment anyone has anything to say otherwise, shit hits the fan. I cannot begin to express the number of times I have sat around a dinner table, in a classroom, on the phone, on the bus etc. and listened to people say with utmost certainty that their way of thinking is the right one, and they’ll be damned if anyone has the nerve to say anything to the contrary. Oh, and one more thing, isn’t religion supposed to be accepting of all people no matter what? Hmm… just some food for thought.