3/22/2011 | Share this article: View CommentsBy Carl S ~
Little Johnny vomited on the kitchen floor. Grandma was angry because he caused her discomfort. Mother was furious. She said, "Johnny has insulted my dinner, and he ought to be punished." Father said that Johnny should have held it back, and gone to the toilet, the proper place to dump it, and not bother anyone. Nobody considered that Johnny had eaten something poisonous to him, and had to get the poison out of his system; they were only thinking of themselves. And nobody cared. You may notice that this scenario mirrors the attitudes of believers to those who question their beliefs.
Recently, a writer responding to my essay, "What's Missing," asked about my marriage to a Christian woman: “How do you stand it?” Good question, since I frequently ask myself the same thing. The little Johnny story came out of my situation, and will be familiar to many others on this site. It IS frustrating, when the most important matters in my life - truth and morality - are not permitted to be talked about in my own household. I am not allowed to broach the immorality of her god, nor the harms done by religions, the contradictions in the scriptures, or, most importantly, the truth values of religious beliefs.
I feel the price of love is to stifle myself, both with her and her friends. Yet, for her the price of love does not include listening to me, because logically discussing beliefs upsets her, and that’s reason enough for her. She claims that she "knows" Jesus. But, she really doesn’t know me, simply because she doesn't want to. Her involvement with Jesus is in reality an involvement with her church and its members; the whole ambiance.
She wants my love, but like all believers she wants it all on her terms, silencing all disagreement. Having it all your own way always comes at the expense of others and their rights, of course, so the battle of human rights versus faith is present in my own household. Do you understand this? What does "love" have to do with this?
Greta Christina, in her essay, “No, Atheists Don't Have to Show Respect for Religion," asks the question, "Do you care whether the things you believe are true?" She writes, "I've gotten the answer, ‘No, not really.’” I recall a conversation with my wife, when I asked her the very same question, and got the same response. Christina goes on to ask Christians, "If you really loved God, wouldn't you want to understand him as best you can?" And this is where my situation follows the current of my wife’s beliefs: She wants to know me, but not really.
Will she be like so many who find out after a mate is dead, not hidden secrets about that person, but proof of the real person being someone entirely different than the one loved, only because the real person wasn't quite acceptable?
Once, I mentioned to her a phone conversation I had with her pastor (a very ignorant man, by the way), who told me I would go to hell if I did not accept God. Her response was, "That's his opinion," and added that since I don't believe in hell anyhow, it shouldn't matter to me. I know what I would tell a man who said that to my spouse.
It's a bit like a Bernie Madoff situation. You know your spouse is being exploited, conned, but if you say something, the spouse will defend and deny, insist that you don't understand, treat you like you don't know what you’re talking about, then look up to and praise Madoff. Except, in this case, the scam is never discovered. And even if it is . . . contrast the fall of the corrupt Mubarak in Egypt with the child rape scandal in the Catholic Church; where are the protesters calling for the resignation of the pope? No, when it comes to religion, they just cling all the tighter. They don’t really want the truth.
Because anger is not welcome in this household, I must seriously consider that I am not either, because, as I said, truth is involved. And I am faced with the possibility that someday another woman who is an atheist, will come along and understand, naturally, and be willing to listen and share and not be threatened and/or hurt in her feelings. That, to me, would be true love, but maybe only to me. It is not something I plan or expect; I do not want to have it all - just a bit of freedom of expression.
Although my good friend reminds me I have other outlets, such as this site, every day I am confronted with the fact that I must live intimately with the irrationalities of belief systems. I have to listen to the god talk that flows in and out while keeping my mouth shut in order to keep the peace. (Peace for whom?) I want to vomit.
Obviously, I wasn’t paying enough attention when Madalyn Murray O'Hare said that if you're an atheist, expect to be lonely. We are very lucky these days to be interconnected in ways she couldn’t have imagined.
I do love my wife, however, and if Charles Darwin were here, he and I might wink at one another, as his situation was so much like mine.