Monday, March 12, 2007

So here i am talking about it.

I got into a discussion with someone last week about religion. I usually don't mention my religious leanings unless someone specifically asks, which she did. I told her that i am not religious, which sounds less harsh than atheist.

"So you are an atheist," she declared excitedly, with that evangelical gleam in her eye. So much for trying to hide behind make nice words.

Her basic argument (were we even having an argument when i was just saying "uh-huh" or "i see"?) went along the lines that religion is necessary or else people would not feel compelled to behave. I listened politely and hoped that my phone would ring or a meteorite would crash through the ceiling.

It's the old atheist = immoral theory.

I hate this theory. I don't steal, cheat, murder or commit adultery because i have standards, not because i am afraid of going to hell.

Is it true that religious people only behave out of fear? I don't think so. It seems to me that she insulted both of us.

This is why i avoid talking about religion. Better get rid of that scarlet A on my forehead then.


egan said...

Huh, I take your side on this. I am not religious and never have been. I think it's weird people would use that argument to behave. Have you started a church Meno?

TTQ said...

I don't discuss politics, money or religion. My mother raised us that way. End of story.

Special K ~Toni said...

She's an idiot. I am not religious, nor an atheist. I behave because I am a human that my parents raised correctly.

Lucia said...

OMG, I don't even know what to say. If they do behave out of fear, they're pretty de-evolved human beings.

jaded said...

"religion is necessary or else people would not feel compelled to behave"--the same could be said about governing laws, but by looking at the prison population, law's aren't terribly effective either. You're right. She insulted both of you.

Marshamlow said...

I think that most people religious and not religious fear that others do not have enough morality. This is most especially true of Americans when they think of people who were not born in America, the whole rest of the world, at least the people on my tv seem to think that being an American = being a moral person. I guess one has to be a white, protestant, American to be truely moral.

Kellyology said...

This is a pretty hard discussion for me not have also because of my location smack dab in the middle of the "Bible Belt." You have my sympathies.

Jhianna said...

I've run into that mentality before. The folks had it back when I was growing up (Midwestern Protestant of every type Mom could find to try). Church = good and No Church = immoral/wicked/bad. Didn't matter what they did during the week as long as their butt was in the pew.

It never made any sense to me. My Dad was one of the more moral folks around and he only went to church on Easter when Mom made him.

Tracy Helgeson said...

We lived in Utah for ten years and nearly everyone we met there, from the check out girl at the grocery store to our dentist to my kid's teachers wanted to discuss religion with me, in the hopes of getting us to join the LDS church. The Scout troop our son was in was held at the local ward and the meetings began and ended with a prayer, and every time I voted I had to go to the church. I do not believe in organized religion and so you can imagine how crazy all of this drove me! I finally insisted that we move.

Lynnea said...

I find this argument interesting too since I've met so many people who sit in pews regularly and yet they hop the old moral fence as often as they sit in the pew, at leaast.

I like what you said here "I don't steal, cheat, murder or commit adultery because I have standards" - if it weren't possible for us to be moral without church this world would be a chaotic scary place.

And why is it people who attend church insist that its impossible to be a spiritual person without going to church? There is no spirituality in taking care of nature, enjoying it? Marvelling at the stars? Finding inner calm? I bet to differ.

DoctorMama said...

I had a similar discussion a couple of weeks ago. I find it a hilarious argument, actually. I answer in a horrified tone, "Do you mean to tell me that the only reason you don't do bad things is because you're afraid you'll go to hell? You'd be out killing and robbing people?" And usually they back off. Mostly people just get sad for me, though -- "You don't believe in heaven?" they ask mournfully. And it is kind of sad.

Lucia said...

Oh, yeah, and what the heck is that photo?

Joan of Arf said...

Being religious does not equal being moral or even spiritual. There are so, so, so many shades of gray.

When I was little my family went to church every Sunday until… the minister ran off with the Sunday school teacher and left his wife and six young kids. And that was the end of church for us.

Religion is often so exclusionary and hypocritical in and of what they preach. Many (self proclaimed) devout followers end up picking and choosing what rules of the religion they actually practice. "Cafeteria Catholics" for example – thou shall not kill or covet another's wife, but hey let’s just ignore that no premarital sex rule. No big whoop.

It just makes me wonder what is the point then?

Do you think that when this woman scolds her children, she says "better stop hitting your sister or God will punish you to eternal hell and damnation." Does it work?!!

Unknown said...

I always thought that if this IS all there is, then it's that much more important to act decently. It makes life so much more precious, instead of a pass/fail test graded by a being we can't hope to understand, let alone please.

Liv said...

Maybe the "I avoid talking about religion" statement should read more like "I avoid talking about religion with total douches."

Girlplustwo said...

evangelical perfect do those two words describe the whole situation...

atheists are hot.

Anonymous said...

I'm a Jeffersonian Christian. I like Jesus's ideology, but question the theological assertion that he's the son of God. It's just such a strange story: an allegedly all-knowing and all-loving God made Adam and Eve, but was so hurt by their sin (He didn't see it coming?) that he couldn't forgive EVERYONE (All loving? Bah. Gah.). So, he cleaves a son from him and sacrifices the son. Only then can he can finally forgive.

If I behaved this way, blaming absolutely everyone for the sin of 2 people and then submitting my son to torture and death before I could forgive all y'all, I'd be dropped into a Haladol haze for the rest of my days.

But because I wonder about the sense of the Christian story, no one wants to discuss religion with me. Ever.

As far as being kind, I've been called an angel many, many times. And some people have truly thought that I'm angel with amnesia. Now, I'm no angel, but I do pay attention to folks and there's suffering everywhere. There'd be a lot less suffering if alleged Christians followed in their Christ's footsteps.

Anonymous said...

Can I get an Amen?

lu said...

When ever someone starts in on a rant like hers, I tell them I practice the faith of "Show Me, don’t' tell me." That when they get really quiet and strap on the thousand yard stare.

I like to study the mythologies of all religions; they are so similar.

It's all about mythology, we don't behave because of religions, but we do learn about compassion, and cruelty, redemption, and consequence through the stories we read or here. Fundamentalists who dangle people over the fiery pits strike me as people who refuse to be responsible, they give up the most important gift that humans were bestowed--the power of reason.

lu said...

I meant to write...or hear. lawd

Anonymous said...

I have sadly found that anyone in need of discussing a potentially conflictive subject wants that conflict. Therefore, they find it in our dismissive - let's get on to other discussion - pathways. My mother-in-law is one of those. I used to loath Sunday mornings, thank goodness she found a church for her preaching.

Imez said...

I like you that much more for not engaging her, and trying to shout her down. It is so tempting to do that, it takes class just to say, "uh-huh." I still don't have that much class.

Andrea Frazer said...

I'm of your ilk that religion is personal. I'm probably a bad bad Christian, because while I absolutely seek out Christ (and more importantly, the philosphies...again, "bad Christian!) for giving me peace of mind, it makes such sense to me that people will desperately avoid it for the same reason.

Also, my father and all my family practically were/are Jews. Can I condemn them for not raising their kids like I'm raising mine? Hell no. (no pun intended) Besides, as we like to say, the Jews have no place to go on Christmas, so it's a great chance to have them at our house to hang out.


luckyzmom said...


Mona Buonanotte said...

I remember challenging my Sunday School teacher when I was in second grade...even from a young age, I could see the moral compass of our church leadership swinging to 'immoral' Monday through Saturday, and then that smug smirk on Sunday mornings when they got the front row pew.


Good on ya for how you handled this situation!

karmic said...

I think you handled this well. I am like you neither religious and nor am an atheist.

gary rith said...

Basically, why would God care about a person's religion, if they were leading a good life? God is supposed to be love and forgivness, so why would there be any worries about little details like level or type of religiosity?

QT said...

I agree with you, meno. I am not a religious person, but I think I have found ways to nurture my spirituality without religion.

I really like lu's response "I practice the faith of Show me, don't tell me" LOVE IT!

thailandchani said...

Someone said "kindness is my religion". I don't recall who.. someone with far more wisdom than my own, I suppose.

Personally, I've found that there is a certain element of the religious community that operates on a base of fear. Boiled down, it's still egoism.

Mostly, organized western religion seems to be a method of social control for those who believe as you said ~ that unless we're compelled externally, we would only respond to our most base instincts.



meno said...

Well, you all had a lot to say. Look what happens when i leave you alone for a few hours!

egan, if i did start a church, it would be about drinking warm tea and reading the papers in bed on Sunday morning.

ttq, yo momma done raised you right! I'm happy to talk about it, briefly, if someone is curious about my opinion and doesn't want only to convince me that i'm wrong.

toni, yeah, i was trying to avoid calling her an idiot. But there you have it.

lucia, i don't know if she realized the logical extension of her argument. You are a brave one to ask about the picture. Those are rivets on a bridge that have been very sloppily painted with bright orange paint. Or else they are silicon tits on an assembly line.

patches, i have boiled her statements down to their essense so as not to bore either you or myself. I should have gotten all huffy with her. But really, why bother?

marsha, you bring an interesting perspective from other countries. I wonder if it'd just that all people fear that people not like them are not moral.

kelly, oh, i feel for you. Over here in Sodom, i mean the West Coast, this doesn't happen all that often.

jhianna, that kind of hypocracy is really disgusting.

tracy, If that had happened to me i might actually have had a scarlet A tattooed on my head. That would have driven me bananas.

maggie, those are good questions. Can't i celebrate my spirit by raising my daughter with love and treating the people around me well? And apologizing when i screw up? I think so.

drmama, great response! :) I am usually so focused on getting away that i don't want to say anything to encourage them to continue talking. I'll remember that. i agree that it is sad. I wish i did believe in heaven, and magic, and anti-aging creams. But i don't.

joan of arf, oh, the irony in the minister running off like that! And how fucking sad. I think that kind of fear IS used to raise kids, sometimes. Again, sad.

nancy, what a great way to look at it. Where were you when i needed that statement?

liv, ha ha! should have thought of that too. :)

Mignon said...

I like what Thailand Gal said.

I have friends that aren't formally religious, but I learn a lot from their kindness and peaceful natures. You don't have to know The Bible, The Koran, whatever to know how to be a good person. A little more understanding, a lot less distrust and hate.

If I were challenged as you were I would most likely not argue, per se, but most likely question some of the things that she holds to be fact. At least she could leave the discussion with something to think about, other than condemning you.

meno said...

jen, i try to avoid that gleam. And hell yeah we are!

holly, i would love to see a minister get into trouble for not doing enough for the poor. Wouldn't that be a refreshing change?

sally, AMEN sister! :)

lu, "show me, don't tell me," I really like that. I also really like "the thousand yard stare." Will use both in the future.

chili, you are right, and that's why i bravely run away.

esereth, i have learned not to bother. It will just devolve into shouting and harsh words. But it took me a while because i just HATE this kind of "logic."

mamap, you are a thinking person who makes her own choices. How can that be bad?

luckyzmom, i used a slightly different word myself. :)

mona, you are a rebel. Bet you were popular in church. If you can't explain yourself to a bright 7 year old, you are in trouble.

sanjay, i handled it by keeping quiet and faking serious injury at the earliest opportunity. :)

gary, i have always wondered that. Must everyone else be wrong in order for me to be rightous?

qt, lu is a smart woman!

chani, i wonder if being a smart ass can be my religion? Fear = egoism. I will have to think about that. Is it the "I am right!" aspect of it?

meno said...

oh hi mignon, what do you mean sneaking in there while i am commenting? I might have challenged her. That probably would have been a better response. But it seemed at the time that i was just wasting my time to prolong the discussion.

Tink said...

Is she trying to say that religion keeps people from doing wrong? Seriously?

What about the priests who molest little boys? Or the lawsuits about where church money is being spent? Has she never seen two people fight to get out of the church parking lot? I could go on here but I think you get my point.

People's own personal morals keep them from doing wrong. Not religion... or the lack of.

stephoto said...

I am totally with you on this one, meno. There is something sad about people's extreme fear of their own impulses. Instead of having their own standards and values, they need to have them imposed by an external "superior" force (and then impose their own guilt/fear on others who don't comply) Hogwash! Sounds alot like our present government to me, but don't get me started...!


Spenser said...

Great post. I know how you felt times 1000. Interestingly enough people behaved before the bible.. yes?

meno said...

tink, all good questions. The answer i have gotten in the past is that it's the devil. A busy dude.

stephoto, Maybe that's it, fear of their own implulses. Or fear of the impules of the rest of the world. You know, because I'M FINE!

spenser, Well, just like now, i inmagine some people behaved, and some didn't. Not much changes.

Anonymous said...

I'm almost scared to say this... But I am a Christian.

Meno, I too don't agree with the "athiest = immoral theory." People intrinsically know right from wrong, and know how to be loving and peaceful. You don't need to be religious to be a good person. There are countless good, wonderful, loving nonreligious people who have done marvelous things to impact the world for the better.

Please keep in mind that there have also been countless religious people (of all religions) that are good people who have impacted the world for the better. Yes, there are those who spout religious talk, but act immorally. But I would daresay that it is not the majority.

I, too, tend to avoid religious topics in my blog because I feel it is unwise and harmful to push my views on others. Everyone believes what they believe, and what good is it to cause a quarrel? It just makes everyone mad. What's the point, right?!

Meno, I'm sorry that you were treated the way you were. The women who you spoke with should not have pushed herself on you or tried to insult you. But please don't hold it against all us religious folks. We're not all that way!

Oh, and we (for the most part) don't behave out of fear, but out of love.

Sorry for the long comment! If anything sounds offensive, please believe me that I do not mean to be that way. I know sometimes it's hard to pick up on emotions in reading. I almost didn't comment because I did not want to say something that might be perceived as mean. I hope this did all come out ok.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, it's cool that you posted, but I wish you'd given yourself a moniker. There's nothing to fear here. Meno is 24k all the way.

Anony (May I call you "Anony"?), when I was young and paddled and walked and biked across the country, I'd sometimes stay in churches if I missed the company of my species. So, a church was a place of refuge. For the Hunchback of Notre Dame and me, it was sanctuary. But now, when I pass a church, there's a hitch in my heartbeat. I know millions of good people attend church and believe in the divinity of the Christ, but millions more are willing to settle for hating queer citizens or supporting imperialism in the name of the Prince of Peace, the person who loved those whom the Pharisees wouldn't abide. So, today, with so many preachers preaching war and hate, I'm a little afraid of churches and their congregations.

Or as Gandhi said, "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."

I have met a few true Christians, people who concern themselves with serving the poor and refusing to judge others, but they're rare, so rare as to make diamonds seem as common as gravel.

Antonia Cornwell said...

Is that a picture of prosthetic breasts on the ceiling? I don't have my glasses on.

I take my hat off to you for a brilliant and beautifully reasoned post. I don't believe there is a God.

I've often wished we could live in a world without religions. They just seem to start wars and make people go glassy-eyed.

But then we had a recent spate of gun killings among black teenage gangs in South London and from listening to reformed gang members talking on the radio, I had to concede that the Church plays a massive part in keeping people on the straight and narrow and away from stupid gun gangs.

Sigh. If only there was something as effective as the Church that wasn't based on spurious old made-up stories.

And don't get me started on God-botherers who go door to door with leaflets or berate you through loudhailers. They give their faith a very bad image.

Anonymous said...

Is it true that religious people only behave out of fear?


But it is true that ignorant religious people only behave out of fear. And, I am willing to bet, probably sin far more than us heathen atheists/agnostics.

meno said...

anon, no need to be afraid. I have a strict anti-harrassment policy! I am not anti-christian. But i have heard variations of this atheist = immoral before and i grow weary of it. I realize that this one woman represents only herself. I appreciate you commenting.

hi holly, ghandi was a pretty great guy.

antonia, well they have to grow the silicon ones somewhere! I knew there was a reason that i really really like you, even if we've never met. I agree with everything you say.

ortizzle, it is a silly statement isn't it? As you say, ignorant.

Carolie said...

I wish I could say that my morality is entirely due to love...because I love my fellow human, I treat her/him well, don't lie, cheat or steal.

But I think another reason many of us are moral is due to "The Golden Rule" ...we behave towards others as we want them to behave towards us. Sort of an unwritten "I won't steal your wooly mammoth roast because I expect you not to steal mine."

But what about when everyone around you is cheating/lying/stealing/whatever? Well then, what keeps me moral isn't my faith/religion/spirituality. It's the fact that I'm only in charge of me, and nobody else. I need to know, for myself, at the end of the day *I* did the best I could.

Lee said...

Nice, inoffensive post about a touchy subject. After being raised Catholic, I asked many, many questions and after much research of many religions, I came up atheist. I'm with you, I don't yell it, because I'm scared of my neighbors.

I've always thought, that if some religious people need the reward of heaven or the fear of hell to keep them acting right, I'm glad they've got it!

meno said...

carolie, i can't say mine is entirely due to love. In fact, probably not much from love, just self respect. Like you.

lee, i am glad it's not offensive. I don't like insulting people just for the group they are in. I prefer to insult them personally! :) Good point!

Anonymous said...

I have always believed in God, as long as I can remember. I also believe that you have the right to your beliefs, and I would never think to impose mine upon you. my politics maybe, but not my faith. history is full of death and destruction, in the name of religion. it sickens me.

It has always confused me that different denominations feel their faith is better/stronger, whatever, than another, but their core beliefs are so similar.

In the same vain, you and I and most of your readers have many of the same beliefs, just varying degrees.

lastly (sorry for rambling) I am unfortunately always skeptical when someone tells me they're a christian. I've found that in general, if they have to announce it, they're not doing something right...

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I am leery of those who would proseletyze. Faith (or the lack of it) should be a personal matter, and nobody should be made to feel wrong for his beliefs.

In the history of the world, too many wars, crusades, persecutions, Holocausts, beheadings, etc. have been committed in the name of God.

If God exists, surely she is not happy with that situation. The only good reason to be good and to do good is for goodness' sake, and not because we fear punishment. That also happens to be the only good way to raise children, I believe.

Anonymous said...

Holly wrote: "I am unfortunately always skeptical when someone tells me they're a christian. I've found that in general, if they have to announce it, they're not doing something right..."

I recently performed at a Catholic monestary to a mixed crowd and afterwards, one fellow stood and wanted me to proselytize. Like heartinsanfrancisco, I am also leery of those who proselytize, so I didn't. I wouldn't. And I wondered if the man who wanted me to proselytize was familiar with Matthew 6:5-85, which says, "And when thou shalt pray, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites: for they are wont to pray standing in the synagogues, that they may be seen by men. Verily, I say to you, that they have their reward. 6. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and having shut they door, pray to thy Father who is in secret: and thy Father, who seeth secret, shall reward thee openly...."

When I hear people remind and remind folks of their faith, I think they're phonies, for they seemingly haven't even read the Bible and understood that the Christ lived a life of actions more than words.

Mother of Invention said...

Again, I thought I commented but apparently not...!

I am not a practising church-going Christian but I probably live more with a Christian and spiritually kind attitude towards others more than many who occupy the same pew eaxh Sunday in their church.

The every day deeds and how you live are way more important than going to each sermon and being able to rhyme off Bible verses or whatever text your religion reads.

Bobealia... said...

What happened to A for Agnostic?

Anonymous said...

Ah, so refreshing. I didn't read the comments, but I really enjoyed that post. Are we related, because you sound just like me!

God bless you. Ha ha ha ha.