I’m willing to bet that the title of this post instantly offended you. Even called you to arms. But honestly, those words are more in response to a video I recently created called “An ATHEIST in a MUSLIM COUNTRY (Truthful Clickbait)” than anything to do with your faith. (By the way, I’ve added the Islam video at the end of this post, tell me what you think).
Let’s start with a statement … I’m an Atheist. Which to some seems odd, after all how can one claim to be something about a thing that doesn’t exist? And doesn’t that also mean that I’m anti-religion? Well, not really. And in truth, this post is less about my feelings about your beliefs, rather than one about my own evolution. (Do you like how I worked that word in? LOL!). And about our collective similarities.
As a species (human), we seem to be embracing the notion that the few can define the many. Well, as long as it’s someone else’s few. When looking at ourselves, the many still define. Or at least, we ourselves define.
Think about it … all bearded Muslims are terrorists, right? Except, they’re not. But we hear that guttural language, see the attire, and instantly assume we’re in danger. But have you ever been to Israel? We’re taught here in the States that the Israelis are our friends. And yet, if you were to close your eyes, their language sounds exactly the same as Arabic to our American ears. Many of them are as brown as those living across that imaginary line between countries. Are they evildoers towards us? No, we do not believe that. So, what’s the difference?
How many atrocities have been committed in the name of Jesus? And before you wave your righteous Christian hands in the air, I did not say that all Christians are bad. There are/were/will be but a few who take the extremist path and invoke your God as they do their evil deeds. They do not define a Methodist any more than the evil men who flew airplanes into the twin towers define Islam. Just because the acts are claimed to be from a different sect/religion, they do not define the many. As an outsider to both Christianity and Islam, I can see how individual actions really do not relate to the whole. And yes, I can also see how individual Atheists do not define me, nor the definition of category of non-faith.
That phrase has always disturbed me. Still does. I understand the meaning, or at least part of it. But to have someone ask for a divine and positive intervention regarding my sneeze feels like I’m somehow encouraging superstitions. Yes, I know that it’s just a saying, no different than gesundheit. Or “you have something on your sleeve”. But to me, it’s right up there with “thoughts and prayers” and other incantations of magic and religion.
Why do I struggle with this? I wish I knew. But I feel like it means that I’m still learning. Not about what I believe, but about how I interact with others who believe differently. And that is the same for all of us, regardless of which deity one follows. We all are constantly learning how to either tolerate or celebrate those who are different.
OK, I need to dig a little deeper into Atheism here. Not to preach the good word of having no good book of good words, but to help you understand. Because I know that the one thing all theists have in common is the utter confusion as to how someone like me can deny supreme beings.
Without getting into the ‘why’, I simply do not believe that the answers each religion have proposed are the right answers. I do not believe that human beings can have all/any of the answers, especially not in our current state of evolution. And I do not need to have placeholder answers in order to get through life. Who created us? I don’t know. Why must we have been created? Whatever sparked life is outside my understanding. I cannot grasp the truth because it’s too alien for my brain’s ability to comprehend. That ability is so far away that there really isn’t any ‘truth’ for me. Not right now. And I’m cool with that. To an Atheist, religions are partly based on just having answers, any answers, so that people are comforted from the unknown.
I mention all of that because in part, my thoughts are no different than a Buddhist’s are to a Wiccan. And where there are differences, there are also similarities. Not in “facts”, but in actions. Unless we really want to go back to the days of Holy Wars where there can only be one winner, we must all learn to accept and live alongside those of other beliefs. And that’s true for Atheists like me as well.
So “Bless You” really isn’t a conversion attempt. Nor will my saying “Thank You” somehow make me lose my Atheist Card (and no, we really don’t have cards). And yet, as enlightened as I consider myself, those two words have a huge negative reaction inside me. But I do recognize that it’s a “me problem”. I look towards those extreme Christians and point my judging finger at them for denying the validity of other beliefs like Islam, and yet the gentle phrase “Bless You” somehow offends me? Hypocrisy is hypocrisy, regardless of form. And I can be as guilty as any.
So, what’s the answer?
Man, I wish I knew. For then I’d have a Nobel Prize, a million bucks, and my name would be known throughout modern history. But I think that whatever answer(s) exist, they are going to start with individuals like you and me. And even if those answers don’t come to be in our lifetimes, we can still do good in our times of ignorance. We can all simply learn, teach, and allow all to just be what they want to be. Whatever that is for each of us.