It was a stay-in Saturday night. We were hanging out in the kitchen enjoying our mutual love of spirits and each other’s company. It was something we were both looking forward to. He smiled as he handed me a glass holding his latest rum experiment and I greedily and giddily took it.
“So I noticed that your family and their friends are pretty religious…”
“How do you mean?” I smiled and sipped my drink, which he made to perfection as usual.
“Well, at dinner last night they all prayed before the meal… I just got the sense they were all pretty serious about it.” He furrowed his eyebrows in that familiar fashion and I considered his words.
“Well, I guess they are. The hostess is a pastor and their family is obviously very involved in the church by default. There were also some Catholics there too. Most Puerto Ricans are some kind of Christian.”
“I see.” He began making his own drink. “Do you think it bothers your mom I’m not really religious?”
His sudden directness took me by surprise. I thought about it for a moment and took another sip from my glass. The majority of Catholics are very relaxed in their practice. It is common knowledge among us that many exclusively show up to mass during the major holidays out of obligation (see Catholic Guilt); much like one would attend a family event even if it was not the most enjoyable way to spend time. They are absent Catholics, but still retain the core beliefs that define their faith, even if they do not always live it.
“No, I don’t think so. I mean, we have plenty of family members that don’t really go to church.” I looked at him levelly. Due to his upbringing among the more… passionate believers I knew he wasn’t particularly fond of Christians, or Christianity for that matter. But this particular subject had never come up in our conversations. I was intrigued. “Why do you ask? Are you Agnostic? Deist?” Neither one of those would surprise me. I’d understand that.
“No. I’m an Atheist.”
The world stopped spinning. I swear I felt my heart cease to beat if only for a moment. The look on my face must have startled him because he quickly added with some concern, “Is that a problem?”
As the reality of his words began to sink in I began to ask myself the same question. The answer? I just don’t know.
Throughout the course of my life I’ve had friends and family from all walks of life with varying religious beliefs. Although I grew up in a highly Christian social and political environment, it never made me into the hateful believer I see popping up like weeds nowadays. I knew that any person who would condemn others based on ignorance, bigotry, homophobia, and misplaced self-righteousness could not honestly claim to follow a loving and merciful God. They were undeserving of my respect and fellowship. Furthermore, I’ve always liked to look at religion from a more academic and historical perspective. One cannot forget that many of these writings were written by men in a time when outsiders and women were considered of little importance. Later on, these religions would be used to wage war against fellow men in the name God. I knew what terrible power and influence religion could have on a weak mind, and I refused to be one of them.
If we as society were to use medical writings from hundreds of years ago simply because they are the oldest and therefore the material with most precedence, people would die and terrible mistakes would be made. One has to acknowledge that our understanding of the world, and of God, changes over time. As human kind experiences existence, there is knowledge gained. If that knowledge is not used to improve and expand our lives then we are no better than the animals we so arrogantly consider to be beneath us.
But I had a real dilemma in my hands now. The person I am today has a lot to do with what I believe and what I have allowed myself to feel. I pray every night for those I love and pray every day for strength and wisdom in my own life. More often than not, I found my prayers being answered. I’ve recognized images and events in my life that I cannot simply attribute to chaos. There may not be a plan, but damn it of there isn’t a theme. I often lose myself thinking of the perfectness and beauty of the world, the vastness of the universe, and all the blessings I can claim.
Faith and hard work have helped me overcome many tough times. I don’t believe that any “religion” has the right answers. Humanity is just imperfect. Now I was face-to-face with someone that believed none of what I felt, not even a little. I have Atheist friends and their thinking never once bothered me, ever. But this was someone I had come to love, someone I hoped to share everything with only to find out I could never confide in him my most personal and deep thoughts… It just broke my heart.
Although I know he would never mock my beliefs, I’m afraid he would think me a simple-minded sky worshiper.
We shared so many loves: art, literature, music, video games, staunch opposition to religion in schools, etc. But the one thing I never thought I had to worry about was now a fundamental difference within our relationship and I didn’t know if it was something that required being addressed.
I’m very much in love, but if this is to continue I know there will be things I will inevitably have to sacrifice, things I grew up looking forward to and things that would bring me much happiness. I know from experience that the moment you start giving up your identity, and that which defines it, resentment begins to grow. I don’t want that to happen. I also know that when there is something truly important to a person they can’t share with someone they may find someone else to share it with. There is some hope in heart though. My aunt and uncle have the exact situation. She was Catholic young Puerto Rican woman and he was a charming Irish Atheist.
I’ve heard it said that love overcomes all. As I battle my conflicting emotions, I pray that to be the truth.