My Six Favourite Things About Religion
It’s funny how many people out there presume to know me based on a blog post, a single tweet or even my profile picture. They insist I’ve not read the Bible or the Quran or whatever holy book they’re hawking. They claim I’ve not been open-minded enough, or that I am forcing atheism down my son’s throat. They seem to think I am angry at God, or that I must have had a bad experience with religion in order to be an atheist. They assert that I cannot see clearly, think logically or make sound decisions. They’re absolutely positive I’m stupid. It’s fun, really.
Last night, I received this tweet from someone I had never spoken to before in my life:
@godless_mom Your an atheist because you are stupid… i can't believe their are shitheads like you in this world… — WhatTheWeasuL (@WeasuuL) June 3, 2014
It came out of nowhere and was followed by a barrage of attacks centred around my parenting skills, my children and my family. It ended with the many clear-thinking and kind atheists who are also on Twitter having to report him to the FBI for threats of spreading malware.
This is a normal day for someone who is openly atheist on the internet. I get about a dozen of these a day on various platforms. The funny thing is, they’re always accompanied by an assurance that he or she has a more profound understanding of morality than I do. I would never say such a thing to someone else, and yet they, who’ve just said it, are more moral.
I don’t get bothered by it, outside of the fact that these people would, without their religion, probably be really good and compassionate people. With God on their side, and the possibility of confession and repentance, they feel nothing but unfounded righteousness as they sit upon on a high but very crippled horse about to face the shotgun, and look down on us heathens.
And then they preach. As though somehow, their tirade of name calling and acting like a child having a fit, is somehow an effective way to draw me in to their religion and make me want to explore their faith.
“You’re a shithead!”
“Thank you! Please, teach me how to be more like you!”
To the contrary, if accepting your faith makes me act like you, I am all good.
Theists, it doesn’t have to be this way. Did you know that there are, in actual fact, amazing things about religion that would be a much better selling point than proving how moral you are with name calling? Indeed, there is beauty in religion and if an atheist denies that, well, they probably have a stone heart.
Here are six such things that are much, much better selling points for your faith, than calling me a stupid shithead:
1. The Muslim Call To Prayer:
If you can actually listen to this, especially in a Muslim country where the call rings out from East, West, North and South and bounces off walls and streets and buildings, and not feel overwhelming emotion, you’re simply not alive. The calls at dusk and at dawn are particularly intense, especially when you’re in a hot city. It’s stunning and I hope that when the world is no longer religious, someone keeps this up for tradition’s sake. The beauty in this, for me, is the human voice. We are such beautiful creatures and that has got to be one of the epitomes of that beauty. I’ve experienced the call to prayer in many places, but the one place it was most emotional, was on Koh Phi Phi at dusk. Imagine, hearing the call echo against the hills while looking at this:
Koh Phi Phi
2. Christmas – Christmas is such a wonderful excuse to spend time with your family and cook a giant feast and give gifts and just be completely human for a couple of days. My favourite thing about Christmas is giving. I really love to put some thought into gifts, so I can invoke that emotional beam on Christmas morning. You know, the one that comes with misty eyes and a look of incredulity: “How did you know?”. There is no greater feeling than to be able to give that to a loved one. Since being a mom, Christmas has found a whole new meaning and it’s not easy to get through a Christmas Eve with my son without getting emotional. These are the moments he will remember forever.
Botticelli – Madonna and Child
3. The Art – It is true that most of the religious art in the world was commissioned and that had those artists been commissioned to create art for science, they would have done just as amazing a job. But that’s not what happened, and the art they created was religious and it is just as stunning and moving and skillful as a painting of Ganymede or the Milky Way would be. Even in ancient history, though, religious art was dominating: The Sphynx, The ancient Buddha statues, etc. Art that seems to invoke the biggest response is art that appeals to our emotions and the tales and fables and myths of religion are quite good at invoking emotion. Look at anything by Sandro Botticelli and tell me it doesn’t make your eyes widen and your chest feel tight. Read the words of Khalil Gibran and tell me you don’t see immense beauty.
4. The Architecture – Blind faith can lead people to do a lot of grandiose things, including build massive structures in which to worship. From ancient times, this tradition has been the case and I am hard pressed to find such a structure and not be impressed. From Chichen Itza and The Pyramids to the Blue Mosque, Notre Dame and the Sistine Chapel, religious architecture is deeply fascinating. I think the universal accuracy of that statement can be proven by the sheer popularity of Dan Brown books. People find wonder and awe in their historical significance. I don’t believe in ghosts, but I do believe places can be haunted – you can’t help but step into a place like Chichen Itza and not imagine the sacrifice that took place. You can’t walk into the Sistine Chapel and not consider how long ago it was built. We are haunted by our past and always will be and these structures stand to help keep us levelheaded about who we are, and where we came from. They are monuments to our past, and our progress more so than monuments to gods.
5. Easter – If you know me, you know I have a Cadbury Creme Egg problem. These near-divine little ovals of silken sweet nectar make Easter one of my favourite times of the year. Add to it, the fun my little boy has running about with his basket collecting eggs, and you have a family tradition I won’t soon let go of.
6. The Community – Churches, mosques and temples all have an extremely effective way of building community. That same sense of community is possible without belief, but it’s not that common yet. Feeling like you belong to a larger family is a wonderful feeling and can definitely make leaving your religion behind an extremely difficult thing to do. I would like to see more secular community centres and groups that meet regularly and build strong, tight communities based in reality.
The interesting thing about each of these points, is that every single one is possible to appreciate without faith. These points are all about what it means to be human – what we can create, what we can build and what joy we can experience. They won’t make me a believer, but talking about them rather than calling names will certainly ensure I won’t mind conversing with you.
Ultimately, the very best way to make me become a believer, is evidence of God. And that, I believe is what frustrates you, theists. Because there is none. So, lash out at me in frustration as you will. All it does, is serve to prove many of our criticisms of religion, and push us further away from your church.