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How It Feels to Be Atheist Me

August 25, 2009

A class exercise inspired by Zora Neale Hurston’s “How It Feels to Be Colored Me.”

It is quiet, often silent. Most of the time, nobody knows, nobody asks, everyone assumes. I must believe in God, I am an American. I am a Jew. I am the granddaughter of a Roman Catholic. When I tell them, if I tell them, they deny me my right to be what I am, they tell me I am wrong.

It is lonely, it is rare. Sometimes, during hard times, I want to believe. Want to have that ethereal person who will listen to my problems and ease my burdens, who will tell me that everything is all right and grant my most fervent prayers. But I can’t make myself believe in something. I can’t even say, “Maybe,” because I know, in as much as I know anything, that it’s not true. I will never wake up one morning and suddenly know in my heart of hearts that there is a god watching over me.

It is brave, because it is lonely. I will die with no promise of an afterlife, with no conviction that my body will become anything other than ashes after I’m cremated.  I face each and every day on my own strength, with my own convictions, and if I believe in anything, I believe in other people. I believe in myself. I don’t have a safety net, so I have to be as good as I can be, I can’t fail, I can’t fall.

It is infuriating when I tell the truth and people look at me with pity in their good Christian eyes. That I can’t talk about it in mixed company. There’s a community from which I am always excluded, and no one listens. I am automatically discounted because I won’t be joining them on their journey. They feel sorry for me, and I feel sorry for them, the ones who live their lives according to these strange rules, struggling to be good, when I am living a good life for myself, because I want to, because I believe that is what I should do, not because some one tells me to.

It is what it is.

*

So far, I love graduate school. Fiction workshop tonight, and more later.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. stephanie permalink
    August 25, 2009 10:21 am

    I literally couldn’t have said it better. And that is just what I feel too.

  2. Sebastian permalink
    August 25, 2009 7:05 pm

    Following after from Lindsay —

    You have to remember that you’re not promised the afterlife, even if you ‘sign up’ to a religion either.

    Religion isn’t what it used to be. It’s very hard to ‘get me some Christianity’ nowadays. It’s all hidden behind smoke and mirrors, and priests.

    But the flip side of that is… you have as much a chance of getting to the afterlife as the next person. There’s no reason a Jew or Christian has more chance of getting there; just because God (or whoever) apparently makes that promise… well, it doesn’t matter.

    The thing is, most religions conflict with each other on the more contentious points. Also most religions claim to be infallible/atomic — superseding all other religions. But that’s impossible — much more likely that every religion is _false_…

    But again, that’s good news for you, because if ANY of it turns out to be true, it will also be available to Atheists like you.

    (This is a topic I am fond of, but it’s 3am so this comment is way more rambly than usual — you might find http://blog.mrseb.co.uk/2009/07/death-and-the-afterlife/ an interesting read… or perhaps not :)

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