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Chronicles of a Nonbeliever

I do not believe in God. This lack of belief on my part has been a source of contention between my mother and me since I first told her.  She blames my father, of course. While my mother went to Monday night mass services, my father took this hour to teach my sister and me about evolution. With pieces of fruit lined up on the kitchen table to replicate the solar system, and a flashlight as a make-shift sun, my father would cover The Big Bang Theory, the planets, all their moons and their delectable names…my father would tell us there was no God. My father is the Atheist in the family, my mother, the Catholic.

When my mother returned from church, she’d tuck us in our beds, but not without making sure we brushed our teeth and prayed – in that order. Although I doubted the existence of God, I prayed to him until I was inhigh school; I guess one could say I was covering all my bases, because youknow, just in case. I asked God to keep my family and friends safe. I asked him to make whatever boy I was crushing on at the moment adore me back. I prayed that when I grew up, I’d never know pain or sorrow, or loss. I tried to make bargains: if I quit smoking pot, I’d grow up to be a success and make my parents proud.

I’ve been told by Agnostics that God is a feeling, and not so much an entity; and while I respect that, I’ve just never felt that sort of presence. I always feel alone, and I know no one is out there looking out for me. How could God be looking out for all us? How could someone or something care that much to have a daily hand in the lives of so many people? Seems like the stuff of fairytales to me. I guess I don’t believe in things I don’t see -I need to be able to put my hand on an item, pat it, push on it, run my fingers across it before I can believe it’s real.

I could simply say I don’t believe in God because the notion of it is silly to me, but I don’t think that’s fair to those around me who do believe. More than anything, I think, it’s religion with which I have the main issue. While the majority of my friends are atheists, I have a few Catholic friends, and since I live in New York, even more Jewish friends. I work with a Muslim, and even know a handful of born-again Christians (yikes!). And while I find some beauty in the tradition of these individual religions, I still don’t get it. 

Having been raised Catholic, and knowing this religion the most, I find it quite antiquated and sexist. I guess all religions are sexist in their own ways.  I won’t even get into the Muslim outlook on women in both their society and religion. Catholicism doesn’t allow for the growth of women inside the walls of its belief system. Women are not allowed to be priests, and in not allowing them to attain this highly respected position, they are not allowed to conduct a Catholic mass, or preside over a parish. No, in the Catholic religion, women are given the option of joining the convent where they can become nuns – and from there their options are few. Just as it was hundreds of years ago, nuns find either missionary or education work – the power in Catholicism is left in the hands of the men.

This uneven power also extends past the cloth and into the parish where Catholcisim does not allow birth control. A "good" Catholic woman will practice the "rhythm method" instead of taking the birth control pill or using condoms. The rhythm method, of course, leaves plenty of room for error, which leads to unwanted pregnancies.  Since abortion is absolutely out of the question, more and more Catholics are inevitable. Should a religion have the power to control what you do or don’t do in the privacy of your own home? I don’t think so. Should it be allowed to dictate the intimacies of procreation and family? Again, I don’t think so. These are decisions best left up to the individual.

I once worked with a guy who introduced me to Judaism, or at least pieces of it. The dedication to the Jewish faith, even by those who weren’t completely devout, is a dedication I never witnessed in my own religion. Catholics don’t gather with their friends and families every Friday for Shabbat. And while this in itself is a beautiful tradition of bringing loved ones together, is it really necessary? Do you need to be part of a religion or believe in God to be a good, kind and loving person? No, you don’t. 

No matter whom you do or don’t pray to, we’re all in this together…life, that is. To me, that’s where the real beauty lies…the continuity of the grand scheme of it all. We’re all susceptible to being vulnerable or scared, feeling lost, hopeless, and even alone sometimes. But we also share the ability to be intensely, painstakingly happy at times, too. Isn’t that gorgeous? You don’t need to be a believer or of any religious faith to be able to see the simplicity and beauty in being part of something so phenomenal.

While my non-believer status will always be part of who I am, it does not define me as a member of society or of the human race. While I don’t believe in God, I believe in echoes and impressions that we make on each other in our day-to-day lives. I believe in feeling deeply, so deeply that I’m shaken to my core and I feel alive. I believe in my family and friends, I believe in the sometimes too rare kindness of strangers, I believe in being part of something so organic and righteous here on earth, that it far outweighs the need for me to seek a celestial being. But hey, that’s just me.

Disbelieving doesn’t make you a nihilist. There are plenty of things I do believe in, like love. However, God will take a lot more convincing for me.

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