Guest Editorial by M.A. Porter
Hanging with the Atheists
What is it with atheists? Those who don’t believe there is a God. That by mere chance of environment touching evolution, all earth-creatures came into being. That the need for a comforting, all-powerful deity was chemically sprung in our frontal lobes after experiencing threat. That all religions were established to hold sway over intellectually lazy people for political reasons.
I have no problem with this personal credo even though mine is, for the most part, established to the contrary. That when we consider the universe into which we have evolved, we can see God’s hand in all things – science, math, philosophy and art. That we are incapable of understanding everything that emanates from the divine. That we are free to immerse ourselves in the teachings of our personal holy man and realize truth.
This has set up some uncomfortable dinner parties of late because I find myself in a social set populated by expat atheists.
There I am, sipping my wine, and someone will pop up with, “Have you seen what the Christians are up to?” Disgusted eye-rolling ensues as someone speaks of dropping bombs to do some good. This makes me nervous because my family’s faith tradition is Christian and I am called to both stand up for Jesus and admonish people that peacemakers are blessed.
So, I choose to model nonviolence and just listen for awhile. Then I offer: Well, you know, not every Christian chooses to politicize the faith. In all of my Bible studies, Jesus clearly taught us to avoid that. This usually shuts people up.
Some, though, can’t help themselves. They repeat the mantra found in the first paragraph and lend a look that implies, “You’re an idiot.” So I say: You know, I respect your right to non-belief. Can you not respect my beliefs? My faith teaches, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Is this not also your standard?
They claim, yes, it is. So I add: Well good, then you’ve got a basic tenet of Christianity down pat.
This they cannot tolerate. “That’s a load of crap. Respecting others is just basic human decency,” is the summary response. So I retort: Yes, but human beings at their basic level are not decent – in any age, scratch the surface of society’s thin skin and witness its perpetuating infection with hatred. Through time, we have had holy men and, due to male insecurity, only a few women come along to enlighten us on affirming life and livelihood in our respective cultures. This is historical fact.
Usually, the subject gets changed by then. But sometimes the most fervent unbeliever goes off on a rant about religious wars and how the fight over whose God reigns supreme has been brutal and is never-ending.
Sometimes I just let it drop. But sometimes I add: True. But might then we have been better off without the reproduction of our tribes? And, trade routes? And, the concept of profit in industry? Because those things have started unrelenting wars, too.
This never flies. The unbelievers cite religion as the root of all evil, and Christianity as its main nutrient. I just smile and, right before my husband puts an elbow in my ribcage, I conclude: Well, I will love you nevertheless! Pass the wine, please. Jesus turned water into wine, wasn’t that divine?
Because I’m not interested in converting save through example. And, I’m comfortable with my Christianity because, at its core, it’s a story that guides me quite well. That it is currently being tarted up by political campaigns does cause me pain and I’m doing my part to stop it. But the mortal lashings of mankind cannot diminish its brilliance, believers or not.