On religion or the lack of it

Don_AddisOh religion. Such a lovely topic! So full of anger and judgement from any side you come from. This post is not about that, I’m not attacking anyone and I don’t particularly feel like being attacked. I’d simply like this post to highlight some inadequacies at a university who is striving to be more diverse and accepting of it.

Stellenbosch is Christian, let’s face it, and very religious. 21 of the 51 student societies identify as religious. Why is this important? Spirituality is important for emotional well-being. Yes? No. For many of us emotional well-being is important for emotional well-being.

My personal story is what inspired me to post, but it is difficult knowing how much of it to share here. I don’t really want people thinking about me but rather about how they might be treating others with the same views. I also like any who have the same views, if there are any on this platform, to feel less alone. It was also after I noticed that religion was not on the topic of discussion for the critical thinking MOJO week.*

I suppose the best place to start is with my views, so here they are. I am an atheist. I do not believe in a god and I think religion is a man-made structure whose purpose is to control people.

For 5 years this has been a struggle, so much so that for a while I convinced myself I was Christian (not my proudest moment). Besides that I can’t recall that I ever actually said to someone – “No thanks, I’m an atheist.” So I bowed my head when everyone prayed and kept my eyes open. I smiled and nodded when someone at lunch spoke of those godless people as a child would of the monster under their bed. I kept my dirty little secret and I felt ashamed. I blamed myself, what is wrong with me that I can’t believe?

Eventually I woke up, and I was angry. Mostly at myself. This is wrong, I shouldn’t have to hide who I am. Accepting diversity isn’t only about race, gender, sexual preference and religion. It is also about accepting a lack of religion.

Sure this could be our own fault. We aren’t outspoken enough, we accept defeat. However in the few times I have tried to discuss this with someone who has other beliefs they end up trying to convert me.

I guess there are just a few things I would like people to take into account:

  • If the answer to “What church do you go to?” is “none”, instead of offering to help them find a church or saying how important church is, ask “why?”.
  • Most atheists I know have grown up around Christianity and know the bible at least reasonably well. Throwing bible verses around isn’t going to change my opinion.
  • My disagreement isn’t a challenge or offensive, isn’t pretty much saying my favourite flavour is strawberry while yours is chocolate.
  • If you want to have a discussion, sure, but not while I’m in Bohemia on a Friday night please. Time and place…

Also please remember that being godless does not equal moral-less. I’m glad there’s so much support for the religious and spiritual. Let’s have some for the non- as well.

NOTES: Comic is by Don Addis – meant as an example of what not to do…
*I support MOJO week and think it’s a brilliant idea, will definitely be attending some of the talks!

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