My life has been dedicated to understanding what lies underneath. I have always questioned everything, even to the point of being asked to leave classrooms … like Sunday School. (Seriously, I got kicked out of Youth Bible Study at the age of ten-and-a-half). The one constant in my life has been to try and understand dogma and those who follow it so blindly. And as yet … (sigh).
Let’s start out with that tale of Sunday School, shall we? I was raised Christian, but not in a ‘Drink The Koolaid’ way. My folks sent us to church, but never really attended. My grandmother was fairly religious, but never preachy. It was just assumed that in 1960’s America kids went to learn about God. It’s the American Way. Only I wanted more than just facts, I wanted to understand. Because for me, belief starts with a foundation.
So I’m sitting in the Fellowship Hall at Wesley Methodist Church one evening with a bunch of other elementary school aged kids. And some lay parent is up front teaching us the bible. Just a normal weeknight in suburban Virginia. And I’m listening and trying hard to understand. I need to point out that I was not trying to be “that kid”. I wasn’t asking questions to be annoying. I honestly needed to grasp what his words were based on. So I asked things of him. I asked him to explain some details. And he … well, he melted down. Kept telling me I just had to “believe”. That he was teaching me faith and that the stories in the Good Book were all true, if only I believed and accepted Jesus into my heart. (Methodists are big on being saved).
But I kept asking questions. And finally he asked me to leave. Said I was preventing the other kids from “learning”. Called my folks and asked them to never send me back. Dogma at its worst.
I tell this story because I truly don’t understand how people latch onto a “thing” and never again consider that it might need updating. Be it religion, politics, or food choices down at the Chinese restaurant. What seems to be the vast majority of humanity simply cannot think critically. And even those who profess to do so, really don’t. Because it appears human nature is to never question the basics of what you think you know.
So yes, I’m an Atheist. But that’s hardly the point of this story. I only use religion as an example because it really exemplifies the concept of blasphemy. (The other option being politics, but after the past few years I really don’t have that in me).
I recently watched a Spanish mini-series called La Catedral Del Mar. Set in the 14th century it has the sub-plot of the Spanish Inquisition. Quotes like “THE ONE TRUE RELIGION” pop up frequently. When people push back against the Nobles Versus Peasants paradigm, it’s considered heresy because (a) God told us in the bible that it’s right, and (b) it’s always been that way. So follow the rules or we’ll torture and hang you!
“But that was the 14th century”, you say. Well yes, but it still holds true today. There is a near majority mindset in America that non-Christian religions are evil. That faiths like Islam want to take over governments and make laws based on religious doctrine, and not for the good of the people. And yet we have a conservative Christian mentality here in the states that is to this day basing law on the bible. Why? Because … “ONE TRUE RELIGION!”.
My point being, humans are mired in beliefs. And to question those beliefs is considered abhorrent. But have you ever considered why? Who really benefits?
Pick a political party, any political party. What do they care most about? Growing their party, crushing the competition, and winning … that’s what. It’s their number one goal. They don’t even try to hide that fact. Pick a major religion. Is their main goal to serve god and people, or is it to grow and push out the others? To retain control over our lives through pageantry and dogma?
Now I know I just alienated half of you, but bear with me. Because that reaction is exactly what I’m talking about.
The reason I am an Atheist is because I questioned. Because I dared to commit blasphemy and look behind the curtain at the Great And Powerful Oz. Now I could have easily accepted the answers that led me to a life of belief and faith. In my case it led somewhere else. But choose any topic and you’ll see that growth is only possible through interrogation. Blind acceptance is a cop-out and only benefits those in power. In the example above, the politicians and church elders. They get to keep hold over their fiefdoms by making you and I believe that we are never allowed to question.
My point is pretty simple … think! Turn over every stone and peer underneath. And then come back and do it again. Nothing is constant, and new learning changes old learning. Is it blasphemy to question what others hold as fact? I don’t believe in deities, but I also daily ask myself why. To see if that’s still my truth. And you should question my beliefs as well. Not because yours is right, but because without question we both lose.
I hold most religions in high regard because to those that accept them into their hearts for the right reasons, they are comfort. They provide solidity. And I would never try to convert someone to “accept my way” … because then I would be telling them not to question. If someone asks, I would be happy to share how I came to my conclusions. And I would gladly listen to how they came to theirs. Sure, neither one of us would likely change our minds, but somewhere in that respectful discussion would be new points to ponder. And in my mind, that is the essence of life.