Saturday, 13 June 2015

Seven Days Make One Weak (Apparently)...

So.  A picture appeared in my Twitter feed this morning and it made me uncomfortable.  So uncomfortable, in fact, that I felt the need to write about it.  I screencapped the image straight away and, at the risk of upsetting my friends with faith, I really feel very strongly that posting stuff like this is unhelpful.  Here's the offending picture:



I really do mean it when I say that I don't want to offend anyone who has faith.  I'm not about to go on a "GOD DOESN'T EXIT, YOU LOSERS" style rant.  It's also important to note that I'm not even an atheist.  I am - and probably always will be - agnostic.

I don't know whether there's a God.  I don't truly know whether there's an afterlife.  If we are brutally honest with ourselves, none of us do.  Faith is a belief in those things.  It's not, in itself, concrete evidence of their existence.

Now, I absolutely understand that for a person of strong faith, it is almost impossible to imagine a life without God.  That life, if they could imagine it, would almost certainly seem emptier and much less meaningful, because something they passionately believed in - something they may have devoted their whole life to - wouldn't be there.  And I can also understand that when you have a very strong belief in something and you feel that it has enriched your life beyond all measure, that it must be hard to imagine that those who don't have it in their lives aren't missing out in the most dreadful way possible.  But that doesn't mean that they are.

Without meaning to make a frivolous comparison; I think people who dismiss Doctor Who are missing out.  But I wouldn't consider their lives to be devoid of purpose or morals.  And that's the message I got from the picture above.  

I know plenty of people who are atheists and many lead rich, full lives.  Some engage in charity work, in order to help the worst off in society.  Some spend a great deal of time thinking about the incredible beauty of the planet we live on and of the creatures we share it with.  Some are happily married, some are bringing up children and some are involved in exciting careers.  Or, to put it another way, they are ordinary people, living their lives the best way they can.  JUST LIKE PEOPLE WITH FAITH.

That picture may not be meant for someone like me.  It was probably created for those who already believe in God and feel that He enriches their lives and that without Him, they would be weak.  If so, then I am probably being oversensitive to something that wasn't meant as a criticism of my Godless existence.  But too often, images like the one I saw today are used to "prove" to people without faith that their lives are somehow lacking.  That we are incomplete.  

Often, when someone converts to a faith, they speak of having felt as though something was "missing" before they "found God."  And that's fine; if religion makes you feel a sense of wholeness that you didn't have before, then it must be a wonderful sensation and I am genuinely glad for you.  But many people who don't consider themselves religious do consider themselves whole.  Many people without a belief in God do feel that their lives are full and that they are able to gain strength from other things.

Like I said, maybe pictures like the one that bothered me so much this morning are only meant to describe those who already have faith.  Maybe it's just about how those people would feel without the God they believe in.  And sharing a picture that sums up how you would feel without your God is of course fine - the Internet should never be policed to the point that we can't do such things.

But when we share things, they will be seen by those who do not share our views or beliefs.  And the wording of that picture makes it very easy for people who are not religious to see it as a criticism of our Godless lives.  It's easy to read it as suggesting that our week must be full of tears and waste and fighting, because we don't have faith.  And if you look at it from that viewpoint - through the eyes of the non-believer - it does come across as a criticism of the lives of those without faith.  I find that kind of accusatory, judgemental tone to leave a very unpleasant taste in my mouth.

For the record, being agnostic means that I have an open mind and I accept that I don't have all the answers to life.  In general, I consider myself to be a pretty well-rounded person (especially after the scone I just ate, smeared with clotted cream...).  I'm sensitive, I have varied interests, I have good friends I enjoy having fun with and if my life lacks anything, it's probably just a geeky boyfriend to share it all with.  I don't feel that my life lacks something because I don't have a strong religious faith.

Or, to put it another way, despite not being deeply religious, my week goes...

SUNDAY
MONDAY
TUESDAY
WEDNESDAY
THURSDAY
FRIDAY
SATURDAY.

I'm not suggesting for a second that nobody should share images intended for those who already have faith, if indeed that's what it was.  But I do think that people of any faith should steer clear of casting judgement over the lives of those who don't.  After all, we have the free will to believe - or disbelieve - in whatever we choose.  And a life can be rich, meaningful and good (in all senses of the word) with or without God in it.











6 comments:

  1. I could not have said this better myself. Great post!

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  2. Eloquent and thoughtful - excellent reflection

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  3. I've been trying to get a comment in here and they've just been disappearing. So I'll try one more time.

    Your comments are very well thought out and very appropriate.
    They put me in mind of the situation in the US where state governments feel they can limit women and girls from obtaining abortions without going through difficult (and often ugly) obstructions. Now any group or church can exhort it's followers to be against abortion (or anything else). And they can tell them to evangelize these ideas to others. But the government has no place making limitations that are simply based on beliefs. As in your comment, forcing one's beliefs on others is a bad situation, and when the government interferes simply based on a belief system, it is restrictive. And it follows the line of a patriarchy allowing it's privileges only for special persons--not accepting that women and girls are quite capable, by themselves, of dealing with their bodies, their situations, and their medical needs.

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    1. Completely agreed. I think when governments use religious beliefs to enforce laws, rather than open-mindedly deciding what it best for the people concerned, then we have a big problem. Religious beliefs are the absolute right of the people who have them, but they should never be enforced on all people through laws that put religion ahead of human need.

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