I've been trying to figure out how to write this post for a long time. It is something deeply personal, but like a lot of personal things, it is something that I think needs to be talked about. Things that fester in closets and under the bed for too long just end up stinking. So, I'm coming out from under the bed, so to speak.
I'm an atheist.
Well, I guess that is just the best word that I have to describe it. I don't believe in God, per say, but that doesn't mean that I don't have a heart for compassion, forgiveness or understanding.
How I got here could perhaps be traced back to being a kid. I stand by that the single best way to confuse a kid about faith is to send them to alternating Sunday schools, Unitarian and Catholic, every other week. Everyone is accepted vs. believe this or you are going to hell. Yeah, that is a lot when you are seven.
However, it is far more complicated than that. First, I need to make it clear that I take no issue with other people's faith. I admire it in fact, and it is something that there are times I wish that I had. I just can't handle the baggage that comes with organized religion. I see too often faith being used as way to exclude and reject, instead of a way to love and care.
For all of her later adult life, my grandmother believed in a faith that told her that her youngest son was an abomination. Fortunately she also had faith in her son, but the conflict was at times hard for her. It was the same faith that had her telling me my mother was a witch who should be burned at the stake.
Faith is used as an excuse to start wars, to displace people based on ancient promises, and to kill. In saying your good fortune happened but for the grace of God, are you then saying that everyone else who didn't have their prayers answered just wasn't good enough? Did not enough people pray for them?
But faith is also there when people need it most. It drives people to care for all of the people around them, especially those who have less than them. I have been impressed by the quiet generosity that I've seen in people, knowing that it is their faith that compels them.
For me, I just can't make those two sides mesh enough for me to believe.
However, like I said, I am not heartless. I try to live every day, and every part of my day, with compassion. While I generally won't donate time or money to organizations that discriminate based on faith or sexual orientation, I make exceptions for a few organizations that work primarily with the poor.
The golden rule is taught in my house. If you don't like it being done to you, don't do it. M learned this year that we help those that have less than us, and that giving gifts is more important than receiving them. We will build on those lessons as she gets older.
It is a hard place to be. Without a faith in a world filled with it. There are challenges. I have had coworkers shocked that I volunteer my time, donate to organizations, and have the capacity forgive, given my (lack of) faith. When people automatically assume your faith, it leaves you uncomfortable having to correct. Often times I just don't argue, choosing going along with it versus answering uncomfortable questions. Other times I find myself having to speak up for those of us that don't have faith.