“Let us bow our heads and pray in order to give thanks to Jesus for this food that we’re about to receive“. I stand there for a moment looking around the room; waiting for someone to acknowledge that I don’t believe in this practice anymore and haven’t for over eleven years but no acknowledgement comes. These are the words of a family member who knows me and is standing across from me without a second thought about the request as everyone in the room begins reaching out to hold hands.
I stand there waiting for someone to say “hey Jay, you good? Do you need to step away?” I’m not a Christian anymore but no one pays any mind to this and doesn’t think anything is wrong with the all-inclusive request. In that moment I’m left to either speak up and “make a scene”, walk away until they finish or to just grab their hands, bow my head,smile and say Amen at the end. I grab their hands, they bow their heads but I don’t close my eyes. I just stare at everyone in the room wondering what if I praised Allah?
About two months ago I was hanging with some friends and another similar situation occurred. They wanted all of us to pray to Jesus for blessing us with safe travels but this time one of my friends acknowledge that they knew I didn’t believe in this but continued anyway and rightfully so. I grinned and said don’t worry about it. I grabbed their hands, stood in the circle and listened to them pray because I didn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable even though I was. I decided to put my practice, my beliefs and my lifestyle second to theirs to avoid making them uncomfortable.
Just the other day someone close to me asked me to go to Church with them again even though they know it’s not my spiritual practice. For eleven years I’ve had to continue to politely say “no thanks” to their invitation and yet they never stop for one second to think that it’s insensitive to keep asking because for them, it’s natural to be the norm in the room.
They don’t think about what it’s like to be the minority in a group setting unless it relates to the color of their skin. Religious people assume that what they do and what they say is what everyone does and that you will either get with the program or not. (sound familiar?) Not one person who ask you to bow your head and pray stops to think for one second that it’s insensitive to your lifestyle and if they do stop to think about it they certainly don’t care if they proceed without checking.
This is the life of any person who no longer follows a religious lifestyle or religious deity and the moment we speak up for ourselves, the people who do live that type of lifestyle become bothered by our actions or by what we’ve said. Somehow someway we become the offender merely by wanting to be included or at the very least, acknowledged,
The next step for the now offended religious people is the questioning of your existence. They want their lifestyle to be superior to your lifestyle so they question you as if you’re the one not living freely. How did you become this way? What is your belief? What is your definition of God? Questions that they really don’t want an answer to because they’ve already decided their rebuttal the moment you stated “I’m no longer”.
They then tell you that you’re hurt and that you must be feeling anger and bitterness about Church and that you’re holding on to old feelings that are unhealed. This of course in most cases is the furthest from the truth. If anything we’re mad at ourselves for allowing ourselves to have spent so much time following the religion we left. The truth is they don’t want to have a real conversation on the topic because the truth is they don’t really care about your truth, they only care about their truth. They care about being right but the fact is, nobody knows.
We (the non-religious) have to tip toe around the religion topic among our friends and family in order to avoid making the religious uncomfortable. We are expected to stay uncomfortable to keep them comfortable and as a black who already has to tip toe around the topics of racism and equal rights in America I refuse to keep tip toeing on my spiritual lifestyle as well. Listen, there are many spiritual practices that grow people closer to their own happiness and many of them have nothing to do with Jesus Christ and Allah or any other religion.
Most religious people are insensitive to everyone around them who don’t practice the religious lifestyle that they themselves do. Let me drive home a point really quickly here. If you tell these same people you don’t eat meat they don’t offer you burgers anymore; they think about what else they can do to accommodate your no meat-eating at the next event. If you tell these same people you’re allergic to shellfish they don’t offer you shrimp anymore. If you tell these same people you don’t smoke cigarettes anymore they don’t offer you a cigarette 4 months later. They make the adjustments.
Why? Because they respect your decision to stay alive and to make your own decisions for your life surrounding those issues. However; if you tell them you aren’t a certain religion anymore; particularly the one that they still are; they keep asking you to go to Church with them. Why? Because they don’t respect your decision and don’t understand how one could “turn their back on the Lord” They don’t understand how someone can become happier AFTER leaving that religion. And they don’t know because they never really tried to exist without it. They never tried to find their own way without the belief that they need help to find their soul’s happiness.
Recently; my mom and sister asked me to go to Church because it was sister’s birthday weekend. I politely declined the invitation and maybe I was a little snooty in my response but dammit, it’s been eleven years. Why are you still asking me to go back to a place that didn’t make me a better person? I’m a better person because I left religion and believe it or not, there are millions of people who are BETTER people because they did as well. The truth is the Church invite didn’t bother me as much as my sister’s response to me declining the invite. It bothered me all night; so much in fact that I woke up and made this statement on my FB timeline.
To be completely honest the latest invite was just the straw that broke the camel’s back but it wasn’t the sole contributor to my post. Now, you would think that people who have been taught to be empathetic to their fellow brothers and sisters would come onto the post and say something like ” I understand where you’re coming from and yes, we can do a better job at respecting each other’s lifestyles” but 155 comments later and only one person was able to kinda say they agree and even that was like pulling teeth. Instead, those who live a religious lifestyle or follow a deity commented that I was insensitive to their belief because I used the word addicted and disliked my analogy.
Remember when I said the one offended becomes the offender with religious people? The very first comment was “I think it’s interesting that you called it an addiction and place religion or religious zeal on the same level as a physical addiction” Others then said that I talked bad about Jesus in a negative light. Please refer to the above picture and tell me where I painted Jesus in a negative perspective?
The religious people completely ignored the part about their lifestyle being insensitive towards others. They completely avoided the part of stop working against someone’s spiritual journey and focused in on two words; Jesus and addiction. From that point on they automatically put up their Christian defensiveness and no longer wanted to talk about anything else. They completely ignored the fact that quite possibly that Church is an addiction for many but instead of talking about religious addiction from my perspective and to prove I’m not making this stuff up I’m going to place some links here that you can read for yourself. Please read and then continue.
Now that I’ve made my point let me ask you a few questions. Have you ever had a friend who you were close to stop talking to you because you weren’t a Christian and all of a sudden they were? Have you ever had someone break up with you because you no longer were “equally yoked”? Have you ever had someone isolate themselves completely from their real family to be part of the church family? Have you ever had anyone completely lose themselves in Church? If you can answer yes to any of those questions then you can’t deny that Church isn’t an addiction.
Atheist, Agnostic,spiritual practitioners and those who no longer follow a religion didn’t just all of a sudden wake up one gloomy day wallowing in our sorrows and decide we no longer want to follow Christ, follow God or any other deity. For most of us, the decision to stop believing in something outside of ourselves was brutal and likely took years to finally be able to say I’m done with it.
Do you think it’s easy to be the only one who isn’t a religious follower in your family and circle of friends? Do you think people want to feel isolated from those relationships? You can try to convince yourself that we do but many of us are still struggling with just saying how we feel on a damn FB timeline because we don’t want to be judge, debated, and dismissed.
And that’s the most frustrating part about religious people being insensitive. The callous dismissal of our beliefs and life decisions. The constant questioning of our decisions because they don’t understand them. The degrading looks that they give when you tell them Church isn’t for me. The non-religious don’t go around asking them when they’re going to stop going to church.
The non deity following don’t accuse the deity following people of being broken and hurt which is why they turn to someone to try to fix them. No, we just accept you as you are and let you go about your life in peace. We try to be mindful of your spiritual path and journey without trying to convince you to come to the brighter side. Why? Because we respect your decision and we’re sensitive to your space in the world.
That’s all I and others like myself are asking from anyone who desires to live any religious lifestyle; respect the space that we too have to live in. Stop asking us to go backwards and start asking us to go forward together in another way. Be mindful that everyone in your circle isn’t bowing to Allah, be respectful that not everyone in your circle prays to Jesus over their food, be mindful that not everyone in your circle want to give credit to a source outside of themselves for their safe travels because I’m certainly mindful that many in my circle do.
The truth is, you don’t have to understand to be respectful of the lifestyle and the scary thing is, us (the non-religious) nine times out of ten understand the religious lifestyle because we came from it and yet we find a way to respect it still. Most of the religious people don’t know what it’s like to even live on the side of the fence of spiritual freedom. They don’t know if it’s horrible, great or heavenly bliss and yet they remain insensitive and dismissive of it.
The last point that I’m going to drive home is that on my post there were many friends who commented that they agreed with me and that they no longer follow a religious lifestyle. This was shocking and surprising to me. I didn’t know I had so many friends who felt the same way and you know why I didn’t know? Because they don’t talk about it openly. They never post about, they never comment about it because they don’t want to deal with the arguments, debates and funny looks. They want to avoid exactly what I experienced on my PERSONAL timeline.
They would rather be silent to the insensitivity that they face because they value their peaceful space but is that really fair to have to silence your peace in order to not rock the boat of a religious friend? Are we the only ones that have to be sensitive to the ego’s of religious folks in order to have peace? Can the religious not try to be just a little more respectful and spiritually conscious of all us? We’re not asking you to stop believing in God, we’re just asking that you to do better at acknowledging different lifestyles because we certainly do. So much so that I stand in circles, grab hands and sometimes bow my head in respect for that space.
In closing maybe you’re being insensitive because you don’t care and maybe you think it’s cool to not care but as a person claiming to be a follower of a religion you should care. So stop trying to make us feel like we’re bad people because we’re on the right spiritual path for ourselves. What’s for you is for you so that clearly means it’s not for everyone else too. Go spread the gospel to the people who have never heard it and need some help finding the light but stop asking people who were already part of it to come back to something that you yourself can’t even follow 100%. I leave you with this quote that my FB friend Oakey McKnight commented on the post and it’s this…..
“ Religion is like penises, you can be proud of yours; just don’t wave it in my face.”
I hope this brings enlightenment to some of my religious friends.
- showing or feeling no concern for others’ feelings.