Do ya'll know about Reddit.com? It's a site where you can get headlines, the latest viral videos, and other cool internet stuff all in one convenient spot. They have categories like religion and politics and.... other stuff - all kinds of stuff. My husband is on that site a lot.
Yesterday, I looked over his shoulder at the screen and saw a post that read, "Hey Reddit Atheists, I think religion, like money, is merely a catalyst for bad and good in people." I think that's brilliant!
If you've been here awhile you already have some ideas about my views on religion. I have a friend who is a practicing Catholic and I think she believes I'm against religion as a whole. Truth is, I don't care about religion, if people have it or not. I think if people have religion and it makes them feel happy and comforted and whole, that's great for them! I just don't need it.
The only time I get irritated about religion is when people start trying to push it on me. Like the other day when some Mormon boys came to my door. I love when those guys show up. Seriously! I'm not even being sarcastic! It's great fun for me to have... we'll say "debates" with them.
They knock on our door and it's always, "Hi, we are (insert names here). We're your local Latter Day Saints." To which, I reply, "Hi, I'm Ruth! We're your local Atheists." The looks on their faces is always a treat! And it's usually enough to have them shoving a pamphlet at me while they hurry on to the next door for fear of being struck by lightning or something.
The particular set of LDS boys who showed up the other day were not to be deterred. I'll call them Jay and Silent Bob as the one guy did all the talking and the other said not a single word the whole time. Jay was bigger and seemed to be a bit practiced in handling heathens. Silent Bob was a thin, slight guy who let Jay do all the talking.
I'm going to insert the videos I was telling him about so you can see them but, here's our conversation (you might want to get a snack).....
Me: Hi, I'm Ruth - we're your local Atheists.
Jay: Well have you prayed about it?
Me: Um. No. Why would I? Do you know what Atheism means?
Jay: Yes, but I was just wondering if you've ever prayed about it.
Me: Again, why would I? As Atheists, we don't believe God exists so what exactly would I be praying to? Look, my husband and I had enough religion fed to us as kids that we find no need for it now. I went to church 3 times a week as a kid. Then I started doing my own research and decided it wasn't for me.
Jay: Why not? What about it wasn't for you?
Me: To me its seems as though a person can live a good life but if they don't do that one little thing - accept Jesus - then I still go to hell? That just means that God is like a petulant 4 year old throwing a fit because they didn't get their way. Also, I never agreed with the tenant that a person can be a puppy-raping pedophile but, if on their death bead, they say, "Oh, I'm sorry. I believe!" then that person gets to go to heaven? No. That's not right.
Jay: That's not what our religion believes, that's the Catholics.
Me: [laughing] OK, you got me there. But what about the not accepting Jesus thing? If I live a good life, and I don't do that one little thing, I still have to go to hell? I can't get behind that either.
Jay: Well, let's think of it like this. You have kids, right? [he could hear them playing in the room next to my open front door]
Jay: And you have rules for them, right?
Jay: And you probably have discipline for them and consequences for breaking those rules?
Me: Yes, because I'm raising good citizens.
Jay: Well, that's what God has for us as his children.
Me: Ah, yes. See, this is one of my favorite arguments. The difference being that, if the boys don't make their beds, I don't withdraw my love and send them, at ages 8 and 6, to an adult prison where they'll be passed around like candy. The punishment has to fit the crime. And I don't see how skipping this one step completely negates the rest of my well-lived life.
Still Me: There's this video on Youtube from a guy named Matt something-or-other that likens God to a Mob Boss. Matt used to be a preacher for some 20+ years and he went to seminary school and the things he was "learning" and being told... he took a step back and decided it was all bullshit and became an Atheist. Now he has a show that gets posted on Youtube and it's pretty right on with the way I think about religion. Like a Mob Boss, God says, "You need protection, Jesus is that protection and if you don't take that protection, you're going to hell." But who's going to send us to hell? God.
[Here's the video...]
So then Jay goes on to tell me a bit about his story...
Jay: Like that preacher, I had my own crisis of faith a few years ago but I prayed about it and I got my answers.
Me: You did? How?
Jay: Well I just did.
Me: Come on now, you're here to spread your message and your story so tell me how you got your answers? I'm not making fun of you. I'm truly curious as to how those answers came to you. Was it a letter, did Jesus appear to you, was it a voice in your head? How?
Jay: I just did. I got my answers.
Me: sigh. OK. But couldn't that just be your own conscience or your own free will, your own personal experiences telling you which is the right way for you to go and live your life?
Jay: No. It wasn't like that at all.
Me: OK. Then how did you get your answers?
Jay: Through the power of prayer.
Jay was clearly getting irritated with me, so I didn't make my next point which was, "I think you are confusing belief with proof." Plus, I was trying not to be insulting and I although I think it's a valid point, I'm pretty sure he would've taken it as a personal insult.
Jay: Well, what are you going to teach your kids about it?
Me: Oh we're all set for that. We have a whole shelf on our bookcases dedicated to religion.
There's the Book of Mormon, the King James version of the Bible, there's Sufi books, Taoist books, the Koran. We've got the major ones covered. If they have questions, we'll point them to the shelf and tell them, "Have at it! Do your own research! Make your own decisions." Have you done your own research?
Jay: Yes, I have.
Me: Have you really? What have you looked at besides your own religion? One of my favorite books on that shelf is called Jesus and Bhudda. I used to really be into Taoism and other Eastern philosophies and this is one of my favorite books. On the left page it has what Jesus said and on the right page it has what Bhudda said. They are almost identical in their teachings, only Bhudda said it about 2000 years before Jesus.
Jay: Well, did you know Bhudda said, "A man cannot come to Nirvana except through the white being with the pierced hands and feet."?
Me: OK. Um. I'm not a close personal friend of Bhudda or anything but I'm going to have to ask you to show me that passage.
Jay: Well I don't have it with me but I can come back later and show it to you. Well, let me ask you this. What if you're wrong?
Me: Another favorite question of mine! Are you honestly telling me God would be OK with me getting "fire insurance"? That I can just fake it and except Jesus into my heart when your All-Knowing God knows the hearts of every man, woman and child. I can fool him into thinking I believe? There's another video I'd show you but my laptop takes forever to download stuff. There's this guy on Youtube who is about 24 and he's so smart and eloquent it pisses me off that he's so much younger them me! Anyway, he has a video entitled, "What if I'm wrong" or something like that. He says all the things I think and it's so well thought out I'm going to butcher it here talking to you but the gist is... "What if I am wrong? I would hope that when I get to Heaven and face judgement that God would pat me on the back and say, "Good job. I gave you free will, you used the brain I gave you and you used that free will and you made your own choices. You did your research and followed a path that was right for you. You lived a good life and you get to come in. Good job." And if it doesn't work that way, I can't imagine having to spend Eternity with a god who makes me sick to my stomach."
[Here's that video...]
Me: Look, I just can't get behind religion. Any religion. For one, it's very divisive. Mormons especially! My husband was best man at a Mormon wedding and he couldn't even go into the church because he wasn't Mormon?! And even beyond that, just dividing men and women.
Jay: What do you mean?
Me: If you can show me one religion - I'll even narrow it down to one Christian religion - that does not subjugate women, I might be willing to get on board.
Jay: I think I could but it's getting late and we have to do more missionary things. Can I come back later and talk to you about this some more sometime?
Me: I would LOVE that! You come back anytime. I'm not going to change your mind, I can guarantee you're not going to change my mind but it'll be a great conversation! I'll show you my books, you'll show me yours. I'll show you my videos, you'll show me your videos refuting them. It'll be a great debate with lots of show and tell!
And with that, we said our goodbyes.
I'd like to leave you with one last video. It is how I wish relgion actually was. It's simply brilliant...
Wouldn't it be lovely if that was really the way it worked?
I don't think Jay and Silent Bob are coming back, Ruth!