Whenever I see a believer about to step over to the side of reason my heart starts to flutter. Over the long Labor Day weekend I attended a party with family and friends- lots of food, drink and amazing conversation. As is always the case, I can’t help but discuss “forbidden” topics, yes- I start in with Religion and Politics. Well in this particular instance I happened to be sitting with an older gentleman that I’d never met before, I gently tested the waters with an “I’d pray it doesn’t rain, but I’m an Atheist” joke… he laughed and said “oh really?”. The look on his face showed he was enthusiastic about having this type of talk- so I went for it.
He started to tell me that he is Roman Catholic and then said “but I don’t like the Church”. He continued on saying that he doesn’t like the power the church wants, doesn’t believe Catholic faith should dictate US laws and basically is not interested in practicing in an organized fashion. I found this incredibly refreshing. I know that many of my fellow Atheists will question my reaction… so I will explain it here. Instead of being frustrated that, despite his disagreement with the church, he still identifies as Catholic. I am proud to see that he can identify as Catholic and still reason out how that can be harmful to others. He seemed surprised when I explained that I support a person’s right to believe anything they wish, and that it is only a problem for me when those beliefs try to become public policy- but once we started giving examples (employers taking away birth control, children being taught creationism in public schools) the light bulb went off! He was in agreement- and kept reiterating that even though HE is a Catholic he doesn’t think that should affect my life, or anyone else’.
Though the conversation faded in and out with other topics and new guests stopping to visit, he brought it up a few times more to both me and Rich. We talked about the bible thumpers who just hide behind their book. We talked about LGBT and how this country needs to just let people love each other. Seeing such a curious and open mind truly made my day. I urge all my Atheist friends, take a proactive role when discussing religion with someone new, especially if they instantly identify as religious. Had I blown him off or made a snide remark about all the things that I find wrong with Catholicism, he most likely would have stood up for it, rather than expressing his honest views which were the polar opposite of what was anticipated. The best way to educate people is through friendly, personal interaction. I truly believe this- it is what couple of atheists promotes- and we practice what we preach 🙂