I shared this meme on my Facebook timeline recently. It was shared by another friend who, like me, is not religious. Unlike me, he knows nothing about Christian Science. I envy him and so many of my other friends for that fact. For most of them, all that they know about Christian Science is what I’ve chosen to share with them about my own experience, unless they’ve done their own research–I always tell my friends to just Google it and read for themselves.
But, there’s also a greater ‘leaving’, if you will, that I’ve done. As my regular, long-term readers will know, I’ve not just left Christian Science, I’ve left Christianity in general. I’m not at all religious. I am ‘spiritual’ in a way (I largely follow Native American spirituality), but I am not at all religious, and I do not believe in God (in the sense that there’s some sort of sentient all-powerful entity that bestows our fate upon us)–I identify as agnostic when I’m asked. I’m also not entirely sure Jesus even existed. In some circles, when I say all of that, I do get that look–even sometimes among people who consider themselves non-religious. Many who consider themselves non-religious, unless they’re true-blue atheists, do seem to still believe in the existence of Jesus and/or God in some way, or they’re sometimes just reluctant to voice a disbelief.
Fortunately, in the part of Canada where I live, it’s not too often that I get ‘that look’. I feel fortunate to live in one of the most non-religious jurisdictions in North America (the largest single grouping identified in surveys of religiosity where I live identifies as ‘non-religious’)–even Canada as a whole is generally becoming quite secular, as many European countries are. We are far more secular than our neighbours to the south in the USA. Now, if I lived in the southern USA, I probably would not only get the ‘look’, I’d probably get verbally abused–maybe physically too. A favourite blog I follow, Godless In Dixie, tells of one man’s experience of being non-religious in Mississippi, of all places–a place that’s opposite to where I live in every way possible. Some of his stories and insights are interesting, to say the least.
Still, Christianity is a historically cultural religion here, and I do get odd reactions sometimes. I’ve had one or two friends try to get me to go to church with them, and another non-churchgoing Christian has argued at times in the past with me on the significance or existence of Jesus and his teachings. Don’t get me wrong, most of the teachings attributed to Jesus are wonderful, in my opinion, but are they the be-all and end-all? No. I also do not believe they are unique at all to Christianity. Many other religions teach brotherly love, do unto others as you would have them do unto you (think karma), forgiveness, and all of that, and in my opinion, some of them practice it much better than many Christians do.
Christianity is so entrenched and interwoven into our ‘western’ culture that it sometimes seems like you’re the odd one out so often if you’re not Christian, and many who follow other faiths suffer discrimination, physical violence, or otherwise–simply because they’re not Christian. The winner of the recent U.S. presidential election has even proposed a ban on travel to the USA for Muslims, despite the fact that more Americans are killed or hurt by other Americans (most of them Christian) than any non-Christian non-Americans. All too often, non-Christians are demonized not only by their neighbours, but by government officials. To be ‘different’ is all too often an invitation to be persecuted. Christians by and large, seem to have forgotten the early days of their faith. However, Muslims have just as much, if not more, to answer for given the sins committed in the name of their faith in many Muslim-majority countries, and Muslims suffer greatly in Israel and Israeli-occupied territories.
My general feeling, and I’ve voiced this before, is that the world would generally be better off without organized religion. Churches, mosques, synagogues, and the like seem (to me) to exist largely to serve themselves. Yes, there are some churches and other such institutions in my community and others who do genuine community outreach, and I applaud and support them, but too many others look down their noses at everyone else, with a holier-than-thou sense of superiority. I truly hate that.
So yes, I may get ‘that look’ sometimes, but I’m happy and proud to say that I’m non-religious. For once, I can be honest and open about who I really am. I spent a long time trying to be something I wasn’t, and I’m glad to finally see the light.