I live in the part of the United States that is nicknamed the Bible Belt. More and more I am getting the vibe that some of the people I consider to be friends are annoyed or perhaps even angry because of my faith. According to Wikipedia, “The Bible Belt is an informal region in the Southern United States in which socially conservative evangelical Protestantism plays a strong role in society and politics, and Christian church attendance across the denominations is generally higher than the nation’s average.”
Knowing that definition sheds a good bit of light on my confusion Since while I am a Christian, I don’t fit into the mold described as the Bible Belt. I was born to Protestant (Baptist) parents but converted to Catholicism in my 30’s. It works for me even though I admit there are certain aspects of being Catholic that I don’t necessarily embrace. That is pretty much true for me being part any formal group. I will go a step further, at the risk of stepping on toes,and say it is part of being an intelligent human being. We question things that are considered fact or truth; it is how we attain the highest levels of learning.
I am also more liberal than conservative. It is very unpopular stance in my community and I accept that some will avoid me for that reason, that is their prerogative. I just don’t understand why that should keep us from being friends. Can’t we still watch a movie, share a meal or have non-political conversations?
I believe that God gave us all free will. As an American citizen I can still enjoy freedoms including voting. I respect that others don’t always share my views and only find it annoying when they treat me as less because of them.
An acquaintance from one of my book clubs proudly shares that she is a member of a local meet-up group called the Godless Heathens. She knows I am a Christian and, at least so far, our differences have not created any tension. While I am concerned about her when it comes to eternity, I don’t preach to her. She in turn doesn’t disrespect my faith or try to change me. Clearly, we don’t agree, yet we can be respectful.
Still, I am confused. If one doesn’t believe in God or a higher power why do you need a group that proclaims it? I don’t believe in zombies but I also don’t need to start a group. I don’t eat beets, I think they taste like dirt, but I don’t need to start a group of beet haters.
In an online group for writers a member shared a post, an excerpt from their memoir, making it known that they are atheist. A few paragraphs later they described a time of stress and heartache and recounted how they had looked at the other person and cried, “Why, in the name of God would you do that to me?” I commented that I meant no disrespect, but wondered why anyone would cry out to God if they don’t believe in him. It would be like me saying that I cried out in the name of the Tooth Fairy.
The precepts of my faith instruct me to treat all with kindness and love and cautions me that I will be judged as I judge. I try, and frequently fall short of my goal but not everything is about being perfect. My effort gives me a more abundant and happy life. I think I am right, but even if I am not, who am I hurting as a result of my faith?
Thanks for reading. Remember to vote on Tuesday even if it is just to cancel out my vote!!
Special thanks to the following for the use of their photographs; Nick Collins, Zahre E., Aaron Burden, Karl Fredrickson and Zorik D.