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This I Don’t Believe…Trust 30 – June 2nd

 

 It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude. – Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

The world is powered by passionate people, powerful ideas, and fearless action. What’s one strong belief you possess that isn’t shared by your closest friends or family? What inspires this belief, and what have you done to actively live it?

(Author: Buster Benson)

There is something that I don’t talk about often, mainly because of the varied reactions that I get.  Some people are quick to dismiss me, others judge me as lacking somehow, and my mother finds it genuinely distressing…as if she failed me somehow.

I don’t believe in God.

A statement like this often brings about strong reactions.  I don’t say it to be provocative, or to offend anyone.  I just don’t believe in God…any god. 

I wasn’t raised going to church, something my mother had expressed regret over.  I view that “neglect” on her part as a gift.  Because I was not indoctrinated with the beliefs of one church, I was free to explore and to be open to more than one type of religion.  In the end, it came down to this:  I understand the needs that people have for faith.  Faith services each person differently.  For some, faith represents comfort, strength and support.  For others, it represents rules, guidance, and the sense of guilt when you put a toe out of line.

For years, I refused to give voice to any of this.  It wasn’t worth the endless arguments or attempts to “reason” with me to bring me into the light.

It wasn’t until about six years ago, after listening to several installments of NPR’s “This I Believe” series that I found something that lit me up from within.  I bought the book of essays for my dad’s birthday, and was reading through it in the bookstore. 

One of the entries was written by Penn Jillette, the talky half of Penn & Teller.  His essay exactly expressed what I had never fully been able to formulate into words.  In “There Is No God,” he says that without a god, we can keep learning where we are wrong.

“Believing there’s no God means I can’t really be forgiven except by kindness and faulty memories.  That’s good.  It makes me want to be more thoughtful.  I have to try to treat people right the first time around.”

In my experience, many of those that profess to be true believers of a religion tend to be less tolerant of others.  They are quicker to find fault or to exclude.  Isn’t the message of religion supposed to be one of tolerance and forgiveness? 

I prefer to go through life with the Golden Rule as my guide.  If I were to make a habit of tripping senior citizens in the grocery store out of sheer meanness, I would fully expect some sort of geriatric hit squad to exact their revenge on me. 

The idea that if we spend more time genuinely looking out for each other, helping each other, creating a better world NOW flies in the face of the notion of doing it for a heavenly reward later.

In Vegas, on my fortieth birthday, my husband, my cousins and I went to see Penn & Teller at the Rio.  After the show, they stood in the lobby and spoke to every single member of the audience.  When it was our turn, as they graciously posed for pictures with us, I thanked Penn for his essay.  he was surprised, and seemed truly gratified.  It pleased him that it had made an impression.  It was nice to be able to acknowledge something that has meant so much to me and express my appreciation for something so personal.  It was almost comforting to find someone from my own “tribe.”

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