Saturday, July 19, 2008

Morality

Where does morality come from? Who gets to decide whose morality is right? Is it the same for everybody?

Morality is divinely inspired, no? Uh ... no ... at least not in my world. Issues of morality can generally be defined in secular terms, without the use of a religious tome. Do we really need the Bible to know it's not ok to kill people, steal things, etc.? There are things like premarital sex that are a little trickier. There are definitely arguments relative to pregnancy, STDs, emotional maturity, etc. Is it immoral? That's up to the individual at that point.

In our society, morality and sins are slippery terms. When it comes to what is right and wrong for everybody, you need to step back from religious dogma. The test is a little different. This is where a secular government. like the U.S., presents the ideas of protection of life, liberty, and property. If what somebody is doing doesn't infringe on your right to these three things, then keep on truckin'.

That doesn't mean that what they're doing is good or bad within their view of the world. It just means that one person's moral code doesn't necessarily equal another's. Think about the things that you consider sinful. Do you need religion to tell you that they are bad? If that's the only reason why it's bad, then it's probably not something you want to apply to the country as a whole.

Christian without God?

Someone said to me the other day, "I'm a Catholic atheist: love the Church, but don't believe in God. The rituals of the Catholic Church feel like home to me."

Wha-wha-what?!?

How can this be? Then, I realized how close to home this actually is.

My wife is Catholic. We were married in the Catholic Church (thank God or my marriage wouldn't be real and my kids would be bastards!). She is hardly ├╝ber Catholic, but she is not an atheist either. She feels very safe and at home in the Catholic Church. She doesn't get much out of it spiritually from what I've gathered, but the tradition and rituals give her this comfort.

She does feel the guilt... "Boom boom boom boom ... row ya bastards!" - Eddie Izzard

As a result, we are raising our kids Catholic. This has created a strange problem for me. I have a hard time going to church when I don't believe in God and a divine Jesus. I feel like a hypocrite or dishonest sometimes, even though I do like a good sermon/homily. In spite of this, I do go with them a fair amount.

My kids know I'm not Catholic, but they haven't really questioned me too much yet. I did get asked by my second oldest once after CCD (catechism), "Dad, what do you love most about Jesus?" "Eh ... uh ... I think he's a good role model for how to treat other people. He said some really great things that people 2,000 years later still connect with." I try not to contradict what they're being taught, but I will inject what "some other people think" when I feel it's warranted.

So how can someone feel at home in church as an atheist? I think it's easier for Catholics because there is more of a cultural side, like being Jewish. I've know several Jews that probably fit into a similar mold.

I've considered converting to Catholicism for a consistent front for my kids. My wife has never asked and was quite surprised when I brought this up the first time. I told her, "We have four kids, you'd think they'd make me honorary by now!"

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Being an atheist

An atheist? Really?

Yes, I am an atheist. I’m not quite sure when I figured this out. I think it was some time in early high school, but I didn’t have the guts to admit it. It's not exactly a welcome admission. Later in high school, I was in an environment where politics and religion were discussed often. It was probably during that time that I was finally able to admit that I didn’t believe in a supreme being.

But why? How? You seem like a good and moral person!

Well, I was not brought up with any religion. My parents were not raised in particularly religious families, although both consider themselves Methodists. They never practiced and we never talked about it. It was a complete non-issue.

Given that, how do you become a Christian (or any other religion) if you have no foundation for one? My answer is that you don’t. People find Jesus all the time, right? Well, I’ve never hit rock bottom in my life and haven’t needed to be lifted up like that. In fact, my life is pretty good overall. There’s no void. I don’t yearn for God and/or Jesus.

Imagine two paths – one where someone starts from day one with all the stories, teaching, and reinforcement of the Bible. How hard is it for that person to make a leap of faith as an adult? The other path, someone starts with no opinion on the Bible, etc. How hard is it for that person?

Honestly, have you ever looked objectively at some of the stories of the Bible? They’re not a far cry from fairy tales. I mean no disrespect by that, but it’s not exactly something you read and go, “Ya know, God parts the Red Sea for his chosen people all the time. These definitely happened.”

I was introduced a year or so ago to the Flying Spaghetti Monster. This is just as plausible to me as stories of the Bible are. Okay, maybe it’s a little more far fetched, but the point should be clear.

So, I toil away in Red State Land, generally keeping my religious views to myself. Too many people in this neck of the woods don't really know what to do with an atheist. It's like a big "does not compute" blinks across their face.