Monday, April 17, 2006

A View Of TEM Being Saved - An Open Letter

I received your e-mail today. You know, the one that I have to forward to ten other people within five minutes of opening it so that I can receive good luck/bountiful blessings/a lifetime of riches. The one that has the rose glistening with dew, hands folded in prayer, cherubs with full faces and flushed cheeks quoting Bible verses, reciting prayers of forgiveness, calling on God and Jesus to watch out for my soul.

Thank you for thinking of me. The message lets me know that you care. I'm flattered to know that I've crossed your mind long enough for you to send me the message and that I am someone you treasure. It's a good feeling.

Now cut it out. Please.

I don't want to come across as harsh, rude, or ungrateful. That's not the case at all - I'm honored that you care enough to pray for me. Now I need you to care enough to hear me when I tell you that I do not share your beliefs.

Q: How can you be an atheist given the way that you were raised?
A: Careful planning after the deprogramming.

I understand how confusing it must be to realize that my viewpoints are so divergent from mainstream belief and from your beliefs. Please don't take my opinion, however, as a reflection of any shortcomings or rejection of your influence on my life. If you've never listened to me before, hear me loud and clear now - my emotional, spiritual, and intellectual development is only a reflection of my own personal growth. Nothing you didn't do or neglected to tell made me reach this point in my life. As a matter of fact, your constant encouragement to be the best I can be and your trust in my judgment helped me become confident in my personal development and exploration. I thank you for the experiences you provided for me, the knowledge you passed on to me, the love you gave and continue to give to me, and the ego check I occasionally need when I get too big for my britches. You are a valuable, vital part of my life, and I'll always be grateful for everything you've done and provided for me. The only thing that's different now is that I no longer share your spiritual beliefs. Other than that, I'm still the same person you've come to know and love.

Q: What do you do when people around you pray?
A: Sometimes, I pull out a lottery ticket, scratch the circles, and scream, "GODDAMMIT!" when I don't win. Other times, I pray that everyone will be done before the food on the table gets too cold or I nod off and begin to snore.

I don't want you to stop being who you are, or believing what you believe. When you pray, I will be respectful enough to bow my head in silence in honor your beliefs. I will never try to convert you or sway your personal belief structures. You are an adult entitled to your own value system and spiritual life. I trust you will pay me the same respect. People who love each other give each other the space they need to live their lives as they see fit.

Q: If you are an atheist, why do you still celebrate Christian holidays like Christmas?
A: Because everybody loves free swag.

I'll celebrate religious holidays for the same reason we all celebrate special occasions; to spend time with and share love with those closest to me. It's not about the gifts, the food, the clothes, or all the other material things. A very wise person once told me, if people really cared about Jesus on his birthday, they wouldn't be thinking "cheap bastard," when they open their gift, smile, and say, "Wow. What a nice loofa." Holidays like Christmas and Easter are about caring for others, bringing joy, and spending quality time with loved ones. The idea of doing something selflessly for loved ones is an experience too strong to give up because it transcends dogma. Only the coldest of hearts could reject that feeling, and while I don't believe in a divine being, I know I could never give up believing in family and friends.

Q: Why do you say "God bless you" when I sneeze?
A: Because saying, "Smile when you spray that," is rude.

Just because I don't share your belief in an omniscient deity doesn't mean that I'm going to abandon most social conventions. I have no desire to be a militant atheist, singing, "Onward Non-Christian Soldier," and working to convert the masses over to an all encompassing, deity free world. That would be boorish and egotistical on my part. I believe everyone finds their own path in life; it would be very rude for me to try to persuade someone to deviate from their path because I don't like it. When I receive your electronic prostelytizing, it comes across as though you are trying to pull me away from my life's path simply because said path makes you uncomfortable. That's not very Christ-like now, is it?

Q: Does this mean you won't go to church?
A: Not without a court order.

When the situation warrants, I will attend a church service. I have no problems attending a Bible study. I love listening to gospel music. Alexander Cockburn, a famous activist and fellow atheist, once said, "Even though you don't believe in God, there's no need to break your mother's heart." Just know that these actions won't change my core beliefs. I don't want to break anyone's heart or compromise anyone's principles, including my own.

I thank you for your love, care, and your prayers. Thank you for caring about me enough to be concerned about my welfare. Thank you for worrying enough about my spiritual life to try and bring me to a place where you find comfort and strength. Having someone in my life who treasures me enough to extend help and support warms my heart. I know I'll never be alone or wanting for a place to turn when I need help as long as you feel this way.

I now ask you to trust me enough to know what is best for me and my life - spiritual and otherwise. If you will do this for me, I promise I will do the same for you.

I learned that when I was taught the Golden Rule in Sunday School, without the glistening roses, cherubs, and chain letter forwarding obligations. Keep the rest of those e-mails coming. I love hearing from you.

More to come later.

3 Comments:

Blogger Lex Fori said...

Word.

Finally, someone is on my side.

A question I get a lot:

Q: "If you don't believe in God, then what does it all mean, this life?"

A: It means that I have to pay attention to what is really going on. Anything I do wrong that I need to right - must be righted in this life. Any injustice I see in this world, I must act upon. I cannot sate my concerns with the thought that the meek will inhereit the Earth. It means I have to exert as much influence on this Earth as I can, and in that sense (and that sense alone), I can "carry on" after I am gone. The meaning of life is to contribute to evolution. To want to be part of everything for eternity is a vain human desire. As if getting to be a person and not a worm isn't enough.... Sheesh. Friggin' schizophrenic God people.

There is so much more personal responsibility when you are an atheist. Life is more intense and meaningful when it is all you have.

12:57 PM  
Blogger Lex Fori said...

Oh yeah - and this post is totally getting you blogrolled today - which I should have already done awhile ago.

;)

12:59 PM  
Blogger TEM said...

I could not have said it better myself, Lex. So many people believe that atheism is the end of hope in a person. It's not. The hope and faith that a person who subscribes to a religious belief holds in a god exists in an atheist, only they transfer that hope and faith in their fellow man. The religious persons choose to believe a god will bring happiness, peace, and salvation. I like to think that we atheists search for happiness, peace, and salvation in each and every person with whom we come in contact daily. I find more spirituality in smiling at and saying, "Hello," to a stranger or in random acts of kindness than I've ever found in a bible verse or sermon from a cloistered talking head behind a pulpit.

Not sure why that's such a hard concept to grasp.

Thanks for the blogroll and stay in touch. Glad to be part of the fold.

7:58 PM  

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