Monday, February 2, 2009

All Kinds of Fucked Up- In which I explain agnosticism to the Christian

(I spent the whole Super Bowl writing lengthy boring posts about the past 19 years of my relationship with my step dad and how crazy he is. I posted it , but then regretted it and removed it. Since this is more recent and relevant, I want to post it.)

Never in lo, these 16 years that my mom and my step dad, T, have been married, out of all the things we have argued about, never have we discussed religion, thank god. There have been several times when T has proclaimed his moral superiority over me, but we have never discussed "religion". When I modeled nude for art classes, he shamed me for shaming our family with my Bohemian ways. When I started waitressing at the strip club, he was shocked that I would work for the promotion of promiscuity. When I stripped at the strip club (OK, so yes, I had a bit of an exhibitionist phase), he told me how I broke my mother's heart. She never mentioned such heart breaking, but maybe she was just putting on a strong face for the sake of our relationship. In all these times, he always mentioned how he would continue to accept me for the sake of my mother, but he never mentioned religion.

We have often disagreed about politics and social issues. He is one of those, "I'm not racist" racists. He brags about toting guns and roughing up bad guys. I try to change the subject when these issues come up (and they usually do) because I know we disagree. I know we have different ideals about what is right and good. I always figure he is entitled to his opinions, and me to mine, and we can agree to disagree.

I'll be honest. I have been judgmental about him. I have thought he is racist, violent, selfish, arrogant, insensitive. I generally try to be loving and compassionate and fair, but it is a struggle with him.

So, anyway, I was baffled by a Christmas interaction with him. He and my mom were going to bring a ham to my house for Christmas this year. Christmas morning, my mom was not feeling well, so T called to get my opinion about whether or not she should come over. She wanted to see the family, but didn't feel like going out. She wanted to contribute the ham, but didn't want to contaminate anyone. I told them to do whatever they felt was best. Then T started telling me about some health problems he is having and how he has made peace with god. Of course, I hoped he felt better, and although I thought his proclamation about god was a little dramatic, I didn't say anything like that. Then he told me that he had heard from a former coworker of mine, that I was an atheist. He knew it couldn't possibly be true, but he wanted to ask me about it.

WTF? ? So, I said, "umm, yes, actually I am an atheist". He was clearly shocked, and said "sorry" several times and hung up.

After I got off the phone, I had the same conversation I have had with my husband many times before about why I say I am an atheist. Because I don't believe in god. My husband has this weird obsession with trying to convince atheists, that they are in fact, agnostics. (Once we were part of a weight loss team called 4 Atheists and an Agnostic. Seriously.) Anyway, for some reason, this Christmas morn, something clicked in me, and I thought, "hmmm, it is possible that I am wrong. It is possible that there is a god. I guess that makes me an agnostic." It was a Christmas morning religious conversion.

Mom and T did not call back. So shortly before dinner time, I called her number back. He answered the phone and I kid you not, was crying. He said that he and my mother had been crying since we last spoke over my lack of Christian faith. They would not be coming over. I was dumbfounded. I still am dumbfounded more than a month later. What?? Why does he care? I don't understand. Anyway, I said, "well, since we last spoke, I realized, I identify more as agnostic, if that makes you feel better." He didn't know what that meant and I explained it to him, and he said yes, it did make him feel better. And he wanted me to know, as upsetting it is to him and Mom, they DO still love me. OK.

I have just been totally baffled. He had previously never ever mentioned to me being a Christian, and I never would have guessed that he was by his behavior. Luckily he has pretty much dropped it and we just haven't discussed it anymore and I would prefer to keep it this way.


Sarah's Blogtastic Adventures said...

I love it how the "Christians" don't want to be around the people that don't believe what they do. Hypocrisy at its best.

Anonymous said...

From my reading of the definitions of atheist and agnostic the distinction seems to be that the atheist positively believes there are no gods whereas the agnostic believes that it is unknowable whether there is a god.

It is the difference between the questions: "do you believe in god?" and "do you believe there is NO god?" Answering no to the first question makes you an atheist in some people's books. Only a yes to the second makes you an atheist by THE book (Webster's dictionary).

It seems to me that being a devout atheist requires a leap of faith similar to being a theist. I don't think that leap is quite as large, but I think it still comes down to an arguably arbitrary choice of what to believe since there is no evidence either way. Of course, it would take a lot more evidence to prove that there is NO god (the inherent difficulty of proving a negative) than it would to prove that there IS.

So in the framework of: I have no evidence to support the existence of a god, but cannot eliminate the possibility of one (or many), you can put me in the agnostic category too.

Laura said...

From reading your other post before you deleted it and from having spoken to you about your relationship with your mom and stepdad in the past, I think it speaks volumes of good about your character that you attempt to have any relationship with these people at all.

The life that T lives and the way that he treated your family doesn't not show him to be a Christian or a good person. People like that need God to excuse and forgive them for the evil that they have done to others. You base your behavior on what is right and wrong, because you have a conscience. God does not need to forgive you for your evil-doing because as far as I know you are not an evil-doer and do not need forgiveness.

Jennifer said...

There is definitely a difference between the common use of atheist and the textbook definition. I, for one do not believe in god. I consider myself an atheist, based not on what I can prove, but on what I believe. (And I can honestly answer IDNKM's posed question "Do you believe there is NO god" with a "yes!")

Anonymous said...

Here are a couple of my favorite quotes on this subject:

Christians hold that their faith does good, but other faiths do harm... What I wish to maintain is that all faiths do harm. We may define faith as a firm belief in something for which there is no evidence. When there is evidence, no one speaks of faith. We do not speak of faith that two and two are four or that the earth is round. We only speak of faith when we wish to substitute emotion for evidence... We are told that faith could remove mountains, but no one believed it; we are now told that the atomic bomb can remove mountains, and everyone believes it. --Bertrand Russell--

That Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve him an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins--all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built. --Bertrand Russell--

Secret Server said...

Wow, that was a good discussion and I can't think of anything more to add. IDNKM, interesting though about it taking faith to declare there is no god. I hadn't thought about that before, but I think you are right. Laura, thanks for affirming that I am a "good person". I wonder if that is what I was looking for when I wrote this post.