I had a really great time last night. It started out at The Study Coffeehouse at Lakehead University where I was part of a staged reading of Michael Blieden’s script, Phyro-Giants. The play’s duration takes place over a single outing to a small restaurant where four people have sat down for dinner and the conversation gets loose, a bit sloppy, insightful, and hilarious. For a better idea, here is the trailer from the movie version called Melvin Goes to Dinner.
After the reading, most of us involved went and sat at one of Thunder Bay’s great watering holes, The Madhouse, where life, as they say, imitated art.
We talked openly about bowel cramps, reactions to cheese, and, more to the point of this entry, about religion. This conversation featured a self-identified atheist, a raised Catholic, a spiritualist, a few others that did not disclose their stance, and myself.
Religion has always been a murky topic for me. I wasn’t subjected to any kind of religion while growing up and, as a result, have not felt compelled to sign on later in life. I did, however, have a great deal of religious friends while growing up and was interested by the positive attributions their faith gave them. In that sense, I found myself leaning towards a more spiritual approach for a few years in my late teens and early twenties but then became disenchanted by the amount of commercial hocus-pocus that spiritualist literature tried to make tangible in “positive thoughts” and “good energy”. But, I also couldn’t flat out reject spirituality either! It didn’t work for me but it works for some, in the same way that Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Wiccan, Buddhism, or any other faith works for some if not for me. For that reason, I couldn’t accept flat out atheism either. I finally had to concede that I had no idea what the fuck I’m supposed to think anymore…
…and I’ve never been more satisfied in my religious stance.
What bothers me about the battle between religion and atheism is how reversible the arguments against the others are. For example, the atheist stated that all evil deeds that were ever committed originated from a religious place, insinuating that if religion went extinct somehow that all evil would disappear.
I can think of two issues with this argument. The first is that I can think of one thing that knows no religious denomination that can be used to generate evil deeds inflicted on people: money. The drive for economic power kneels before no god(s). Now, one might incorporate a god or gods into their economic struggle but I don’t think that makes religion the root of the evil in this case.
Also, this argument assumes that all non-believers are inherently good. It is only one’s faith in “cloud people” that has warped their sense of morality into something sinister. I believe that, just as religious people can be good people, even if their belief system can be described as an oppressive patriarchy, people that support no such systems can be total jerks without ever having been “brainwashed”.
What I love about being agnostic is the surrender that comes with it. To me, identifying as agnostic is a way to simply say that the conversation is way too complicated and no matter how much I might try, I could never hope to “fix” the struggle in whatever way my faith (or lack of faith) might dictate. It’s also a way to tell those around me that, regardless of their religious background, I am not in this to judge them.
My atheist friend (who, for the record, I hold in high regard) did finally address my agnostic approach and told me that I needed to take a stand. That being categorically undecided was a weak stance.
To that, I had to disagree. Admitting to my own impossibility of knowing for certain what is “out there”, so to speak, is a validation of all spiritual backgrounds and makes one open to cut through the spiritual décor and deal with people as individuals and not as homogenous groups like “muslims”, or “Christians”, or “Atheists”.