I have really struggled the past few weeks over where to post this entry. Do I post to Livejournal where, if I’m lucky, a total of three people might read the entry, or do I pick WordPress which gets significantly higher traffic, but therefore, has a significantly higher capacity for offending or causing some sort of war of words, which, frankly, I am not up for.
In the end I decided that this is my blog and I can choose to whom I respond or don’t respond. And so, be forwarned: This has the capacity to offend. And it’s long, because if there is one thing I am, it is wordy.
Over the past few years, my family has become increasingly religious. Now, before I go any further, I think part of the reason I struggle with writing this entry is that I believe in being respectful, above all else. If I go to a friend’s house for dinner and their custom is to hold hands and pray before a meal begins, I will hold their hands and lower my eyes and be a part of their moment, regardless of my discomfort or how weird it makes me feel, because I think a guest should be mindful of the culture surrounding them. I may not actually pray, but I will not be disdainful of their beliefs by ‘opting out’ and I will not try bulldozing over their moment with my own personal thoughts. I am a guest in their house, and will not blatantly disregard their family traditions. But when it comes to my actual faith, I don’t believe in God.
I don’t really know how I grew to be the person I am. I mean, does the black sheep of the family have to be naughty? Because I am the weird Black Sheep of my family. I remember watching various local political campaigns in 6th or 7th grade and telling my mom not to vote for a certain candidate because he was against abortion, even in the case of rape or incest. I didn’t even know what abortion meant at the time; I looked it in up in the dictionary and decided I was pro-choice. But when I brought my concerns to my mother, she looked at my sideways and told me she didn’t believe abortion was right. Talk about confusion and incomprehension, how could my mother believe that a person who WILL BE counts for more than a person who IS (obviously, it took several years to put into words the exact reasoning behind my pro-choice beliefs, but there they are). Plus we were never overtly religious, so I could
The ideological conflict between me and my family didn’t rear it’s ugly head again until California first voted on gay marriage, around 1999 or so. A mere 6 months away from 18, I couldn’t vote but damned if I wasn’t going to try to convincing the only voting age adult I knew to throw a bean in the pot for me. And I made her cry. Apparently my “if church and state are supposed to be separate, why make a law based on religious values” argument did not sit well with her “I can’t knowingly give tax breaks to a lifestyle I don’t believe in” argument. My brother happened to be coming down the stairs at that moment and she turned to him with a croak as said “You are my good Christian child, what do you think”. And my brother agreed with me.
Now, I’m not so sure what he would say. After I went away to college, I came back a few years later and suddenly my family was going to church (my brother almost every Sunday, and my mother at least on holidays). Then he received a teaching Bible for Christmas, and at subsequent Christmases, books on God and family, or marriage, or about being Christian in a hostile, anti-Christian world. He teaches Sunday school, spends his spare time at church, is chaste at 25 and wants to remain so until marriage. I do not understand him anymore and I don’t understand where he is coming from, but I also will not try to change his beliefs. They are his.
But now suddenly it is not okay for me to not be Christian, not to believe the same way. Suddenly he will turn to me in car rides and ask me why I don’t believe, what are my arguments against God. Why am I not a Christian. And my mother has started to become more religious because of him. I wouldn’t mind, except regardless of the number of times I say I am uncomfortable at Church, I’m still strongly urged to attend. Told that this is so important to them, they couldn’t stand it if I wasn’t in Heaven with them because I don’t believe. If I am upset because I haven’t been on a date in a while, maybe I should join a church to meet people. As if Church is THE hotbed for singles. Then on my birthday, my brother sent me a book meant to disprove all my arguments for not believing in God. (Incidentally, I *did* open The Reason for God by Timothy Keller and it is geared towards those who are uncomfortable or insecure in their faith and belief in God. It is not for someone who actually does not believe in God. For such a person the argument becomes that the Bible proves Christianity is more valid than other religions because God says so, and just because there is no evidence of God’s existence, that doesn’t prove he doesn’t exist at all. I’m sorry but your thesis cannot be that something definitely exists because there is no evidence that it doesn’t)
And I ask you, why can’t my non-beliefs be as valid as their belief-beliefs? Why do they feel it’s okay to continuously question me or categorize me or think I am in the wrong (or at least incorrect)?
The worst part for me is that I am struggling right now with my life. I hate my job. I don’t have any friends in Minnesota. I don’t know what I want to do with myself. I travel all the time for work which is seriously affecting my mental and physical health. But suddenly half our conversations are along the lines of: “God works in mysterious ways” or “I know you don’t believe in God, but God loves you and wants what’s best for you” or “You never know what God has in store for you”.
How does this help me? Of course I don’t know what God has in store for me. I also don’t know what Biggles McFlutterbottom or Kimzeehizzlewump have in store for me. And how to say this to my family without flying off the handle or be completely insulting towards what they believe because a firm No Thanks doesn’t seem to do the trick. But why is it okay for them to constantly affront my beliefs but not for me to question theirs. I find it restricting and imprisoning, and every time the G word is mentioned I fight the urge completely tune out or get very angry and upset.
“I know you will come to God in your own way in your own time”
Okay then stop trying to “save” me.
“I want you to find God because God is important in my life and I wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t at least try to help you believe”
ARGH, that’s fine, but when will you respect this particular someone you love enough to just stop. I don’t implore you to abandon your chastity to your girlfriends despite my fears you will become a 40-year-old virgin and thereby abhorrent to the potential wife you seem to want.
Once after a big snowstorm, my first grade class was turned out for recess to the special hilly yard so we could go sledding. I was taunting a classmate, Karthik Naga, for not believing in the correct God. Apparently Little Me was rather forceful in her remarks because Karthik grabbed his sled and yelled Then let’s have your God race my God down the hill and we will see whose God wins. I said no. I didn’t actually think He would win. I was pretty sure He wasn’t real. Funny how much like Me this Little Me was.