So I became an atheist, no more hiding behind the “maybe” or the “who knows” of the agnostic. But I am not interested in disproving anyone’s god. I just want to be able to coexist with the believers. As a person who values community, I would rather focus on our commonalities than on our differences. As a person who values other people and wants to know, wants to listen, wants to understand, I cannot make a blanket statement of who is right and who is wrong.
I think I haven’t quite reached the point yet where I want to just coexist. Maybe that is because I see religions, including Buddhism, as a way to delude people and getting their money. I have trouble tolerating belief because I see it as delusional, as a distraction from the real issues that we are facing. And often belief prevents us from actually doing something about the issues, such as global warming, because our belief leads us to rest assured that somehow something will save is in the end. As Mary Goldenson reminds us again and again in her book It’s Time: No one’s coming to save us (granted she was talking about the individual level – as in the prince saving a Snowwhite – but it’s just as applicable here).
There is a part of me, though, that knows that these issues cannot be addressed by division, by confronting people on their beliefs and being in their face, essentially, about what I believe. I am also afraid that I will lose friends through this, people who I care about deeply but who believe in a god or even in God (the Judeo-Christian-Islamic god). Yet, I cannot see beyond all the damage religion has done. Granted, there are people who do some important work because of their spirituality (I define spirituality as an individual’s belief-system; religion is the organized form of spirituality). So, maybe it’s religion that I am troubled with, not necessarily spirituality. Spirituality is personal. It does not try to convert me. And spiritualities can co-exist, whereas religions cannot because of their inherent “us vs. them” thinking (see Sam Harris‘ book on The End of Faith for more on that).
So, I think it is time for me to step back and make a concerted effort to separate religion from spirituality. I am, after all, angry at religion, not angry at individuals. I am grateful to Nica for her essay because it reminded me that community building is what’s important, not the imposition of one’s personal beliefs, because ultimately, we’re all trying to figure out answers to the same questions. Overall, though, I think I am more a navy blue atheist with some pink stripes.