The Religion Thing, Revisited

Back in the very early days of this blog, I did a series of "Behind the Blogger" posts on various topics, to give the reader an idea of who I am. Well, that was the basic idea, but really, that type of post is almost more for me than anybody else. It is a time to get introspective, and look at why I believe what I do. I just do it on a blog rather than in a journal. Why not, everything is public now, right?

On one of my recent regular walks, I got to thinking about the topic of religion. The subject is not one that takes up much of my time in a normal day, week, month or year. One of the advantages of being an atheistic agnostic (more on that in a moment), is the amazing amount of time that is freed up. It is extremely rare, for example, for me to consider what God might think about anything.

My 14-year-old, questioning self.
So anyway, while on my walk, I started thinking about my original Behind the Blogger post, "The Religion Thing." I decided it could use a revisit. What follows is a heavily edited, largely revised version of that original post, with four years' worth of experiences to add to it.

I was raised vaguely Christian. What I mainly mean by that, is that we celebrated Christmas and Easter. For a short time, Mom took to reading Bible stories to my brother and I, but no more often than she read from Edgar Allen Poe or other authors. She later told me she couldn't very well sell me something she didn't completely buy herself.

Several years passed, with little more religious influence other than saying a brief "grace" at the table. Even my maternal Grandmother who was allegedly religious, rarely said much about it.

When I was 14 years old  I realized I was. . .what? An atheist? An agnostic? I didn't have a real clue yet, but I knew I wasn't a typical "believer" in much of anything. So, I started on a mission to find out. What I did know was, the more I read the Bible (and I think I read most of it that year), the more it didn't ring true to me. I was in confirmation classes with some friends at the local Lutheran church. But as the actual confirmation approached, I had to bail out. Even at 14, I just couldn't go through with a religious ritual that I had no faith in.

My pastor was very nice. That
wasn't the problem.
Two things added to this growing disbelief: freshman Earth Science, and my budding awareness of my sexuality. While I was learning the scientific origins of the earth, I was supposed to believe the ancient (and ludicrous) Genesis story. While I was reading supposed biblical admonishment toward gay people, I was hopelessly head-over-heels for one of my friends in confirmation class!

So I pursued atheism. I subscribed to American Atheist Magazine, and watched the local Cable Access show by the Columbus chapter. I learned a lot there too, and didn't find a lot to argue with. But the Atheists seemed just a tad too hardline to me. They were as rigid and outspoken about their beliefs as the overtly religious people I'd encountered. I might not believe in any particular religion, but I had no way of proving there was absolutely NOTHING that was supernatural . I'm way too open to various paranormal ideas: ghosts, telepathy, telekinesis, poltergeists, UFOs, Bigfoot. . . OK, I don't believe in all that, but I'm not ready to reject them all out of hand, either. I do feel like there is some mystery out there, and I don't know what it is. And neither do you. I've settled on the term atheistic agnostic. It's as good a description as any.

I am atheist as it pertains to religion. I don't give serious thought to the realness of any religion I've ever heard of. I'm agnostic toward those other things I mentioned, preferring to believe that some of those "paranormal" things could exist, but that they certainly have (currently unknown) scientific explanations.
Mom says she feels bad that she didn't expose us to more religion. I don't. In fact, I'd like to thank her right here, right now. I'm rather proud of being a generally decent person, with a conscience that isn't guided by the promise of heaven or the punishment of hell. I really believe that people who are only "good" to stay out of hell aren't really good people at all--and they scare me.

My (non-) religious outlook has of course affected my views on politics, and life in general. While I do my best to respect others' religions, I don't get much of that respect in return. Many influential people are trying their damnedest to insert Christianity into law. To hell (literally!) with atheists, agnostics, non-Christians, the lot. The previous presidential administration has probably done more than any other to entwine religion and politics. And not just religion, but a specific, evangelical form of Christianity. The GOP candidates on deck aren't any different. They claim it was how America was founded, but it was not. This as much as anything is what has earned them my antipathy.

The most PhotoShop-ready photo I've ever seen.
Religious people often think that non-believers are actually belligerent believers, who reject god. That--while insane--is also wrong. Outside of forums like this one, or if it comes up in conversation, I spend no time on religion.  I honestly give no thought to the possible legitimacy of any religion. I find the very idea absurd.  Here are just a few of the problems I have with religion in general and Christianity in specific:

• The earth, sun and stars being set into the firmament, which has windows to let the rain in.
• The story of Jonah and the whale.
• The story of Noah's ark.
• The idea that the creator of the universe cares what we do with our body parts.
• The salvation story (God killing his son, who is part of himself, so that he can forgive humans. WHAT?).
• Blaming humanity for the actions of Adam and Eve.
• Just about everything about Adam and Eve, particularly punishing innocent beings for being fooled by a talking snake.
• The talking snake.
• An all knowing, all seeing, all powerful, all good (but sometimes bad) eternal, invisible, intangible being.
• The fact that this amazing superhero deity has the generic name "God."

Michele Bachmann and her
totally not gay husband, Marcus
Now, we have religious people, clerics, televangelists and politicians who are dead set on legislating Christianity into our country's laws. The new, radical (not particularly Biblical) abortion laws, and their desire to make homosexuals second class citizens are just the two most prominent examples. Some people like Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry have ties to Dominionism. Dominionism has as its goal, the conversion of the world to Christianity. This means taking the Constitution, shredding it, and replacing it with Christian law (and don't believe the "Judeo-" part they sometimes add on).

In my experience, the more overtly a person declares their religion, the more likely they are to be utter creeps. Televangelists (with their many scandals) are a good example of this. Which is why I get a little shudder of schadenfreude whenever one like Ted Haggard meets his fate.

But the biggest problem with being an atheistic agnostic is that we don't have a pride parade. Sure, we probably won't have an openly gay president for many, many years. But it will probably come sooner than an avowed atheist. Funny thing, though. I moved to Las Vegas almost 17 years ago. And the makeshift family that I've managed to build is majority non-religious. Most outright atheists. Unlike me, most of them come from very religious upbringings, largely Catholic, some Mormon. That is a journey that is more courageous to my way of thinking. That's a lot of baggage to dump.

So here I am, a double-minority (atheistic agnostic, gay) and a double majority (white, male). Some of my friends and family might laugh when I say I can pass for straight, but I can certainly pass for Christian, and have. This does put me in a unique position for people like myself. Whereas the homophobic bigots on can only speculate about the motivations of gays and atheists (and boy do they get it wrong), gays and atheists and gay atheists live in a society where the default is heterosexual and religious. They don't know us unless we announce ourselves. And no matter how much they don't want us to do it, I think we need to start announcing ourselves.