Saturday, August 23, 2008

Coming Out in Style

Had rather an interesting evening. I went to a church function with hubby tonight. It wasn't anything overtly religious, just food and socializing (Alistiar participated in the pie eating contest). But it was surreal to see the looks on people's faces as they greeted me. I recognized the look from when I used to be a full believing member. They were so excited to see me, the disaffected, finally attending with Alistiar. They came up and touched me on the arm, gave me that penetrating look, and said, "How are you today?" They repeatedly told me they were glad we had come. They were being so nice, so sweet. I suppose some would say I was reading too much into it, except that I remember the act from when I was a member. It certainly didn't seem like an act at the time, so I know they aren't purposefully being manipulative, but now that I'm the one receiving the kindness, it just seems icky. I know I'm a project (of course, my suspicions were confirmed the other day when Alistiar came home and told me that they had told him, "Don't worry, we'll get her to church.). I know I'm a project because I used to make people projects. I meant well, but now I realize that no one wants to be a project.

I was getting cranky, having to be so nice and act like I didn't know what was going on. So when the conversation turned to blogging and they asked me if I blogged, I said, "yes." They wanted the blog address and I said, "Okay, but I should warn you, I'm an atheist, and that's what I blog about."

"We still love you," they said. But they didn't ask for the URL again. Part of me felt good to get it out, to let them know, "You want a project, then fine, have a project, but I'll be damned if I don't know what you're up to!" The other part of me wondered if I had just cast my proverbial pearls before swine and had opened up the way for even more overt lengths at saving my soul. I would go into a stream of questions about why it's so hard for people to accept that the church isn't everything and a bag of chips, but I know the answer. I remember the incomprehension. I remember not understanding why people would ever leave the church. I remember the pity, the indignity I felt upon hearing someone had left or refused baptism. The odd thing is that even though I remember it, I don't understand it anymore.

I still understand the pull that religion has. I even attend a different church because I enjoy the community that religion offers. But I don't understand the pity and the intolerance anymore. By the time I was ready to say goodbye to the idea of god, I had figured out that even assuming there was a god, the important thing was how we acted right now. And all the exclusion that happened in most religious sects didn't seem like the right way to be going if we wanted to restore some order to the planet. I don't really pity these people because they belong to what I consider to be a harmful institution. I don't look at them with the soul searching glance and ask them how their rational thought is coming.

And I suppose what bothers me about this is that until they have a similar change in perspective (not necessarily leaving the church, but in what is really important), there's going to be this pity and intolerance. And that's what makes these events so difficult for me.


G said...

well, you get my admiration for layin' it down; "I'm an atheist" at a ward function.
I would have loved to see the expressions as they scrambled to say "we still love you" (I can only imagine what was going on inside their heads.)

but you know, I hope there was at least one or two sincere ones who thought "atheist, COOL! I gotta get to know her!"

I gotta hold out some hope!

(p.s. "the disaffected." LOVE it.)

chandelle said...

I don't really have anything to say, just that this sounds horribly painful and I have no idea how you endure it. When I was on my way out but Jeremy was dilly-dallying, I told him that I'd support him unequivocally if he decided to stay but that I would not be going to church, and that's why - I'll be damned if I'll be somebody's project. All that saccharine sweetness makes me think of the fly stuck in the honey, now. You have my cmplete respect for pushing through it.

Becky said...

Just so that your aware Lessie, I was not making you my project. As for what was going on in my head when you "announced" that you were athiest... well, I liked you for you, big deal. No I didn't think Athiest, COOL! Cuz it's not, it's sad. I already knew you were not a lover of the church anymore and that was fine with me. I was sincere when I said that I loved you anyway and was looking forward to getting to know you. I didn't get your web address because I got distracted and knew that I could search it later. I'm sorry that you consider me to be fake. I don't think that anyone at that party was disaffected and I'm sorry that being nice to you was considered "icky".