I am irritated at the moment. It seems silly to me to be so annoyed and perhaps a bit angry over such a trifle, but it irritated me.
I am an atheist. I do not believe in any god, gods, or other higher, omnipotent power by any other name. I do not believe there is any other force controlling our fate, our lives, or whatever else a deity might control. I am an atheist: traditionally, the word derives from the Greek meaning “against god.” It’s really that simple.
Last night, I was sitting at a table with a few friends and we attempting to engage in a philosophical discussion about religion and god and whatnot. As i explained that, despite my status as an atheist, I still participate in rituals such as Lent (I come from a long line of Catholics, you see), my best friend asked, “So what does the word atheist actually mean? Because I think you’re using it out of context.”
I became irritated. She demonstrated with that question that not only does she not understand what it is to be atheist, but she evidently never actually listened to my in-depth descriptions of my lack of religious beliefs and how I define things. First, religion, in my opinion, is just a broad word used to describe sets of rules and rituals originally created for groups of people to show devotion to whatever deity it is that they follow. That being said, the definition could be expanded to a point beyond deities; but I digress, as that is a different discussion.
Why do I practice things like Lent, then, if I don’t believe in any gods and I am not religious? The ritual itself is a form of personal challenge. I use it to try to improve myself in some small way. I use the idea of self-sacrifice to focus on improving the overall quality of human existence, which is really quite futile, because humans are actually quite terrible animals and selfish to boot. But, my motivation for practicing Lent has nothing to do with god or religion; just, having come from a long line of Catholics, I don’t know what else to call it or when else to challenge myself. Any time would do, I suppose.
Back to my main point: her implication that I misunderstand my own lack of beliefs and her inability to separate belief from dogma I found to be rather presumptuous and selfish on her part. It really irritated me. So, should I take her words to mean that I should stop participating in Easter rituals and Christmas rituals with my family, because those are also based in religion? My family doesn’t go to mass on those days; they usually just use them as a reason to bring us together while we’re all still alive.
I would try to explain this to the woman in question, but I do not think she’ll listen to me. I do not think she’ll accept my definitions and understanding of what it is to be religious or to not believe in something. That’s perfectly fine with me, until you presume that I lack understanding of my own self and my own definitions. I am an introvert with this vast inner life that I’ve attempted to explain, and yet, no one listens to what I actually tell them; they simply wait for me to finish speaking so they can tell me I’m wrong about my own self. No one will ever know me better than me; I resent that people project themselves on others and presume that they know them in turn. Miss (friend in question), I love you dearly, but also fuck you for being so reckless and presumptuous.
My apologies for the rant.