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Happy Whatever

  • Thursday, December 22 2011 @ 03:39 MST
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Chantelle Rants Why does the mere concept of Atheism irk people so badly? Ever since crawling out of my five-year depression and suddenly wanting to connect with people again, one of the things I've noticed in the world of social networking is there is a huge battle that exists between atheists and, well...believers of every various deity in the world. The “holy war” really heats up at this time of year.

Let me be clear. I have nothing against people who wish to believe in whatever religion they choose. It is a personal choice and for the most part, people who choose to practice do so in a moderate and private matter. It is the fanatics that I have a problem with. Religious dogma has no place in politics, law or any other discipline that effects the general population. One wonders if the people who are fighting so vehemently for “Intelligent Design” to be taught in school would be equally as thrilled if ALL religious creationism myths were added to the curriculum. The fanatical faithful spend their time angrily saying the most heinous and inaccurate statements about Atheists. There is no point in arguing with these people as they are so brainwashed they are unable to form any thought on their own. I can't say I blame people like Ricky Gervais (www.rickygervais.com/or) or the blogger at Moron Watch (http://moronwatch.net/) for baiting the fanatics. It's just too tempting to see what these people will say next. Take a look at the above blogs or Twitter-feeds to get a taste of how the haters see the world. Some of them are so nutty and hate-filled, you can't help but wonder if you're reading the tweets of the next David Koresh.

What I've found, ever since defining myself as an Atheist is that many people simply dismiss the definition. Sometimes kindly, “you're just angry and upset, you'll change you're mind.” Sometimes patronisingly, “I suppose that's what you kids are into these days.” It's interesting that people who are quite often born into their religion without a second thought feel that someone who chooses Atheism has done so in a flippant manner. This simply has not been the case.

I started out life as a Roman Catholic, post-Vatican II. Although, my mum's side of the family is Ukrainian Catholic which gave me a taste of life before Vatican II. My home was not strictly Catholic by any sense of the word but my parents felt that it was better that I was “something” rather than “nothing”. I went to Catholic school but my parents did not discourage me to question the strict policies of the church. In fact, my mum once told me that when she was in high school, the best way to find a new book to read was to look on the banned list.

By the time I was in high school, I was already aware of the terrible misogyny, hypocrisy and dangerous notions of good vs. evil that were all inherent parts of Catholicism. When being forced to sit through anti-abortionist propaganda in my senior year of religion class I was sent to the office for making comments I had no doubt picked up in Ms. Magazine or something of the like. However, depending on the teacher, sometimes my opinions were not cause for discipline. I did very well when I handed in a paper in my Social Studies class where I pointed out that by considering Hitler and the Nazis as some sort of evil presence rather than just a deranged pack of bullies, the world was setting themselves up for many more years of war. Humanity is capable of terrible acts with no need for supernatural intervention.

By the time I was half-way through my first degree, I was already identifying myself as an Agnostic. It wasn't just the classes I was taking, it was the fact that I was surrounded by a huge militant Christian population. It was impossible to go even one Saturday without some form of group knocking on my door trying to convert me. It did nothing to encourage me to look into any religious beliefs more closely. Of the various religious groups around the school (mostly Christians of one brand or another) all I saw was a lot of justification for hate, hiding behind dogma.

Being married to Jason I've begun to adopt his practical and scientific view of the world. He really has turned me into quite the cynic. I used to enjoy the occasional conspiracy theory but now it doesn't take me very long to hit my “OH-COME-ON” level when reading various articles and papers (or watching certain shows on History or Discovery). As Dr. Walter Aufrecht of the University of Lethbridge tells all of his first-year Archaeology under-grads, “aliens did not build the pyramids, aliens built the University of Lethbridge.” The more I start to understand physics and the scientific method, the less I am willing to believe in things that cannot be proven (that doesn't just go for religion, by the way, it also goes for all the holistic miracle cures that supposedly exist).

Still, I clung to the term Agnostic for many years. Perhaps because of tradition or out of respect for my family but when I miscarried in 2008, I put behind any belief of a “higher power” and never looked back. It seemed to me that if god did indeed exist, he was some kind colossal douche-bag to let babies be born into horrific poverty or abusive homes or to drug-addicts yet abort the child of a family that was happy and prepared to have a baby. The fact of the matter was this, I was 33 at the time of my first pregnancy, statistically, the older a women gets, the less fit her body is for child-bearing, end of story. I began to realise that life was precious, that we only get one and that I was no longer going to worry about whether a “magic sky fairy” of some sort was looking over me like some supernatural parent.

The more I see of the world of religion the more I want nothing to do with it. As some of you know, my beloved grandmother on my dad's side is currently in a hospice dying from a brain tumour. My grandmother has always been a strong woman but the tumour has already taken her. It's hard for me to cope with the fact that I will never again be able to call her for advice. From her I have inherited my ability to speak my mind, the understanding that democracy is a privilege, not a right and a love for the greatest hockey franchise to ever play the game. She grew up in poverty, was married by the time she was 16 and still managed to end her long career as the head of the cleaning department at the Red Deer Hospital with a full pension and many courses she took along the way to further her career. In spite of all this, she was a ridiculously devoted Catholic. She was a convert, you see. My grandmother, always very involved in the union for which she was part of, fought for women to have the right to opt into the pension plan...and won. However, she still maintains that women should never be priests. I remember in one heated argument in which I told her not to worry her pretty, head about whatever election was coming up because if the Catholic Church had it their way, she wouldn't be allowed to vote. She once told me “don't fucking swear, it's a terrible habit to try and break” but was so terrified by anything sexual that my dad had to install Net Nanny on her PC to prevent the inevitable indignation that would follow should she ever find out the kind of things that went on in cyber-space. Her intelligence and practicality was always at odds with her faith, although, I'm not sure she ever recognised it herself.

In the end, I'm not sure that she has ever truly been happy. The lot of the pre-Vatican II Catholic (and post to great extent) was to suffer in this world so the next could be enjoyed. So she has spent the majority of her life being miserable in the hope of some great reward. Do you know what the reward is? A brain tumour that is quickly destroying her brain and leaving her scared and confused. She may not even make it to Christmas Day, something she has always loved and looked forward to.

Religion takes away people's will and their sense of self. It governs with fear to ensure power and gives it's people nothing in return but a false promise of everlasting life. I prefer to live this life to its fullest, I only wish that I would have discovered this much earlier in life. As climber and motivational speaker Lene Gammelgaard (www.lenegammelgaard.com) points out, the key to a virtuous life is to follow one's heart. It may not be easy but in the end it will have been worth it.

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