There was an article that I found really interesting on National Public Radio yesterday that opened a deep can of worms with a very dear friend of mine. The short of the piece was a discussion of the schism among old and new atheists. The old guard believes that atheism is one option for individuals, and religion is another, but both deserve respect. The new guard blatantly calls for the end of religion, and denigrates believers. Not just Christians, but all believers. If you've visited this blog before, you probably can bet where I stand on this issue. Got that right- I stand on the side of respect, thus the title. Respect on both sides, those of any faith and those of no faith.
Imagine my dear heart breaking when the discussion I was having with a loved one ended up being a litany of "I respect your view, but...", and "If you don't mind, I'd like to pray for you" and "Just give God a chance, and He will answer all your questions." I was torn. I know this sentiment comes from a place of love, but the utter disrespect and disregard for my opinion was shocking. This person finds solace and comfort in her faith, and that's good. I'm happy for her. I was raised fairly religiously, went through Confirmation, went to Bible school, even taught Sunday school for a while. I even read the Bible. (Gasp! Shock!) For me, there was no comfort there, only more questions and a deep pit of angst. I tried, I gave God chances aplenty. It wasn't for me.
Now, I'm not going to say that I'm definitely an atheist. I participate in the campus Jewish community. I have helped out at the local Universal Unitarian church. I celebrate the pagan holidays. Heck, I celebrate other religious holidays just so our family can be exposed to other cultures and traditions. I see some form of divinity in many places, not the least of which are my husband, son, family and friends. And of course my wetlands and amphibians. I still think religion has it's benefits. It has inspired great good. And great evil. The same as science and reason. Neither deserves to be mocked and made fun of. Both options work for people.
I think, for me, the worst were those interminable "I'll pray for you" comments. Once again, I understand that this is her way of showing she cares. Prayer is a big part of our society. Even non-religious people I know in times of need will ask for kind thoughts or say something along the lines of "you're in our prayers". Prayer, thoughts, sentiments, whatever you want to call them- are not inherently bad. They have meaning and show compassion. But to pray for someone to be other than who they are- that's hurtful. Respect, and love, don't have but's associated with them. It's not "I love you, but..." To tell a minority "I pray for you" when discussing their race is not acceptable. For my cat to tell the neighbor's dog "I pray for you" when discussing the catbox- well, that's just wrong on many levels. To tell a homosexual "I pray for you" when discussing their sexual orientation is not acceptable.
To tell a person of another faith, or no faith, "I pray for you" when discussing belief systems is not acceptable. I would never tell her "I wish you reason" or "I wish you logic". Her belief works for her, and mine works for me. And that's the important thing. We are both good people (for the most part- my pagan side does have its moments to shine). We both love each other. No buts. No prayers necessary. Only respect. I wish she could understand that, and respect my beliefs.
Is that asking too much? Have I gone too far? Any thoughts- from those of any faith or no faith- are greatly appreciated on this topic.