[Edited: Title. It fits better.]
When I first started “doubting” my religion, I recall a very heated, emotional conversation my mother and I had in the car. I was about ten or so, perhaps, and I remember her telling me, “I’m just sad I won’t see you in heaven.”
Years passed. She was convinced I was “going through a phase.” I was still made to go to church, and she was still convinced I would believe eventually. When I would get angry at a particular religion over something they had done, it would explode into a fight.
Then she started doubting. She looked into Buddhism, and avoided the term “atheist” like the plague, because of the negative connotations that people of religion are taught to associate with that word.
Buddhism wasn’t “where it was at” for her, and she still behaved very annoyed when I would be watching some story on the news about, say, the “Noah’s Ark” theme park getting tax cuts and me getting angry about it.
But she recently came to the conclusion that she simply does not believe in a god at all. She holds to a “higher power,” as some people like or need to do, and considers it the natural order of things in the Universe—a bit hippie for my tastes, but realistic nonetheless. There is no fate, just what happens. She still didn’t understand the chip I had on my shoulder against religion—until recently.
Much, much more recently, she’s stopped being quiet about her disbelief. She’s started to get snide comments from people who used to be her friends. Even her best friend, and her best friend’s daughter. People at work “joke” about her lack of belief. Family is starting to notice, and the way she is being treated is starting to change.
And she’s amazed. Further, she’s shocked, annoyed, angry, and above all, hurt. She is no different of a person now than she was when they thought she believed in a god, but now that she doesn’t… apparently it’s okay to treat her as less than they would a friend or family member who does.
She’s starting to understand my frustration. She listens to me now, rather than argues. I’ve been patient, and I’ve been expecting this to come for quite a while, and she’s even begun calling herself an atheist, but while I’m happy she’s starting to understand me, it hurts to watch.
She goes to Al-Anon (an organization I do not like, and am not ashamed of it) not because she drinks, or has ever had a problem with drinking, but because she lives her life like that of a lover of an alcoholic (there’s a very specific psychology behind it—dependency, people-pleasing, etc.,) and she’s reaching out to these people for help in bettering herself. But when they say the Lord’s Prayer after each meeting, although Al-Anon totes just having a “higher power,” she gets looks when she remains silent. She doesn’t stand up and protest to the prayer, she just simply remains silent, and is hated for it.
In therapy, her therapists and counsellors tell her that she NEEDS a “higher-power,” so when she explains that to her, her “higher-power” is that of the Universe (again, hippie, but hey, it works and is an interesting way to look at it!) she’s treated skeptically, and she notices it. No matter how much the people she goes to for help try and practice open-mindedness, she is suddenly treated as less, or different, or is dismissed because she “cannot be helped,” and it’s killing me.
This has been a huge rant I didn’t even intend on writing… but while my mother and I have our differences, and while I’m glad she’s coming around and realizing just how cruel religion can be, and how easily it is to develop a proverbial “chip” on one’s shoulder from it… it kills me to watch her hurt because of it.
Re-blogging because this is such a beautiful illustration of why non-believers get so bent out of shape about believers.