Hump Day: Make earth more heavenly, no matter what your beliefs

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

Recently, I had supper with a friend who broke some news to me that surprised me a great deal. During the meal, the conversation turned to spirituality and religion (two completely different things, in my opinion), and he let it be known that he has stopped believing in God and is now an atheist.

I was caught off guard but didn’t really react. He was still a good person and has a track record of generosity and good deeds of which he can be very proud. I’m sure this will only continue to his dying day, which I hope is not for a long time. Being an atheist in no way means you’re a bad person. It just means you don’t believe in God — and we all know that believing in God is certainly not a prerequisite for being a good person. Many of the worst people I know believe in God. Some of the nicest people I know don’t.

Facebook, however, is ripe with annoying and pompous updates from atheists mocking religious or spiritual beliefs as silly. Social media is also filled with religious messages from those who are believers in a higher power. Both sides have their extremists. I see many who may mention their atheism in passing but who never discuss it, otherwise, or criticize those who believe in God. Others, meanwhile, openly mock believers — much more than so-called believers mock atheists, I should say.

What drives me crazy in all of this is when atheists seem to get religion and spirituality mixed up. Some people see them as the same thing. I don’t. Religion is the organized political and business side of things with paid staff and assets. Spirituality is what you have when it’s just you naked on a deserted island — either literally or figuratively. Maybe it’s just you alone in your car. Maybe it’s just you praying before bedtime. Maybe it’s you just thinking as you sit quietly in reflection.

Organized religion can be a powerful tool for good, but we’ve all seen the bad side of things. The bad things done through organized religion are done by man — not God (or whatever you choose to call your ‘higher power’). God didn’t sweep abuse under the carpet, man did. God doesn’t get into political infighting, man does.

I’m Roman Catholic, but I could not be more opposed to some of the church’s policies, including their refusal to bless same-sex marriages, ordain women or allow priests to marry. Some have asked me why I don’t just change religious denominations. That’s a good question. The real answer is that, oddly, I just don’t feel comfortable anywhere else. As an Acadian, being Catholic is practically part of the culture. My entire family is Catholic. I went to school with Catholics. It’s just who I am.

Pope Francis Time
The kinder, gentler words being used by Pope Francis are in stark contrast to his two immediate predecessors — John Paul II and Benedict XIV. People are noticing, too. In fact, Time named him their 2013 Person of the Year.

While I disagree with the outward social conservatism in the church hierarchy, I see very little of it in the pews. It seems to be more with “head office,” so to speak, although if you hear Pope Francis talk lately, he’s certainly watering down the harsh and intolerant language once used by his two immediate predecessors. The current pope is no doubt kinder and gentler — and more concerned about people rather than dogma. That’s a good thing. From what I read, church attendance is rising in some areas because of it. Perhaps the huge disconnect between head office and the pews is starting to narrow. We can only hope. The world has had its fill of angry and intolerant popes.

It’s funny, though. Some of the atheists I know are turning out to be just as annoying as the religious zealots who believe we’re all just marionettes on strings being manipulated by God — as if we’re just all part of some egotistical celestial game — and who believe the Bible is a word-for-word instruction manual from cover to cover.

One argument that my newly atheistic friend used in our discussion was that the higher your education, the less you were apt to believe in God. The implication was that only less educated people believe. I’m not sure if he realized how insulting he came across when he said that. I’m pretty smart, too — or so I’ve been told. Does believing in God make me stupid? I know many brilliant people who believe in God. Or are we all just naïve knuckle-draggers who giggle uncontrollably at flatulence jokes?

Sometimes, being too educated can actually make you stupid, if you ask me. Not all the answers are in books. Science can’t prove everything and findings can be manipulated to mean anything. Science is only as good as those interpreting the results. The same can be said of religion. Great harm has been done by man-made agendas.

The reality is that no one actually knows absolutely sure what happens to us when we die. All I can say is that I really hope there’s more and I believe there is. And even if there isn’t, we might as well make our conscious time here on earth the best that it can be by making the world as pleasant as possible.

If you’re an atheist, concentrate more on being a good person rather than belittling those who believe in God for the simple fact that they have faith. And please, for the love of fill-in-the-blank, please try to recognize that spirituality and organized religion are two different things.

I certainly can’t speak for God, but I daresay that if I’m fortunate enough to be admitted to heaven, I’ll likely find that he has a big dent in his holy forehead from banging it against the Pearly Gates in frustration at what some of his followers are doing in his name.

Sometimes, I wonder how God even believes in himself after witnessing all our earthly shenanigans.

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.