Wednesday, November 21, 2007

In which I receive yet another sign that we non-believers are not very welcome in today’s society.

This last week, I was meeting with a lady about a work related subject. I know her rather well, and perhaps I don’t consider us friends but we do get along well together and have worked together on many occasions. We were meeting at a Starbucks, and had our computers and notes all laid out for the better part of two hours.

As we were packing up to leave, I asked her if she was traveling much. She laid out her impressive travel schedule and said something about not knowing if one major trip would occur or not. Here is how the conversation went after that. (This is paraphrased, of course. My memory isn’t that good that I can remember a conversation word for word.)

Her: Well, I am not worried about it. If I don’t go, I know that I wasn’t meant to go.

Me: What do you mean?

Her: I know that someone is looking out for me and there is a reason that I didn’t go.

Me: Oh. Well, I am of the opinion that life is just one long string of accidents. One of my favorite quotations (unfortunately, I cannot remember the source) goes, “The universe is just one of those things that happen from time to time.”

Her: So, you think there is no meaning in any of this?

Me: No. Life just happens.

Her: Boy, that must suck. Why do you bother? (Exact quote)

Me: What?

Her: Well, you don’t have to do anything. You don’t even have to be nice to people.

Me: No, that’s not correct at all. There are standards and civilities. I have my own moral compass. Have you ever heard of the Golden Rule?

Her: Naw, that’s hogwash.

There was more, but that was the gist of it. As you can see, she is a very outspoken person. She pulls no punches in work related items, and she obviously doesn’t in other matters as well. I let it drop, as we need to work together, probably for the rest of our careers. However, while driving home, the more I thought about it, the more frustrated I got. Here is someone who has known me for years and we get along fairly well together. But the first moment that she discovered that I didn’t believe in some “higher power” and that there was an inherent, external meaning in all aspects of life, then she immediately discounted every value I maintain for myself. What I believe is worthless, unless it is backed up by some belief in a higher power. And, for her, it was obviously the One Christian God.

I cannot fathom this approach to life. Many people seem to think that if this life doesn’t have some basis, some EXTERNAL meaning, then it is worthless. What a load of rubbish. Life is what you make of it. It can be terrible and depressing. Or, it can be fulfilling, inspired and uplifting. Life is what you make of it. I do not understand why people must force an external framework on it for them to feel happy and secure. There isn’t meaning in a newborn baby? Or inspired works of art and music? Or watching a hummingbird flit around the garden? The list can go on and on. Yet, many people seem to think that if they don’t have the Christian God backing up their every move or are able to look forward to heaven, then everything is worthless.

I was reading a newspaper story the other day, which was really heartbreaking. An older couple had already lost their house, due to the very serious illness of the wife. I believe it was cancer, and she was probably not going to survive it. They truly were going through some terrible times. But one quote by the husband threw me. He said something like, “Our faith is the only thing that is keeping us going. If we didn’t have that, we might as well jump off a cliff.”

I found that astounding. If there isn’t a God or a Heaven, we might as well all kill ourselves right now....

I suppose that one statement, along with the conversation I had with my co-worker, shows why the Religious and the Non-Religious will never understand each other. They can’t understand why we non-believers want to go on living if we don’t believe in any supernatural deity. We can’t understand their view that, if they don’t have this belief, they would find life not worth living.

Just another reason I find living in today’s society so damn depressing.

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