Revisiting Religion: Refusing to be an Arawak

monastery holy spirit god travel atheism

20151023_122722

I am an agnostic.

I wanted to make that abundantly clear before I say anything else. A lot of people equate that with being an atheist, and I guess from the outside, ignorance can account for that, but we’re not the same.

As an agnostic, I think atheism is only slightly less arrogant and misguided than Christianity and other evangelical faiths. Why? Because atheists have no hard evidence that God does not exist, in the same way Christians have no indisputable proof that God does exist.

Subsequently, to sit smug on either side of the fence seems to me to be an inability to accept that we don’t know everything; that we’re still learning about the world we live in; and that there is always a possibility of what if..

20151023_121636

Me? I prefer to sit on the fence and enjoy the view.

A Semi-Catholic Upbringing

20151023_123731

I went to Catholic school twice in my lifetime for a total of seven years. My first two years of school was at a Catholic kindergarten, and in high school, I attended Mount Alvernia Catholic High School for Girls for five years.

In fact, I spent the first two or three years of my life growing up in a Catholic convent. My father’s college had bought it and handed it over to my family for a while, for us to live in and take care of.

Unfortunately, that was 24 years ago and I have no pictures of the place. Instead, here are other pictures from a monastery I visited one weekend in the fall of 2015: The Monastery of the Holy Spirit.

20151023_122315

Entering Holy Ground

When I received the invitation, my very first thought was, “This is going to make an awesome blog post!”

However, I didn’t think it would be one that in any way explored my thoughts on religion. I initially just wanted to share my visit. However, my experiences there really made me examine my religious beliefs – or lack thereof.

20151023_121744

Let me include in this examination that despite seven years of Catholic-inspired education, I did not grow up in a Catholic family.

My [Actual] Seventh-Day Upbringing

My family was devoutly Seventh Day Adventist, which if you don’t know, is a denomination that survived what is called “The Great Disappointment” in the Millerite Movement.

Don’t know what that is, either? Do you remember in March 2011, when a cult led by Harold Camping predicted “the Rapture”?

They believed that Jesus would come for them and the world would go up in fire and brimstone, while they would be saved. People sold their properties, and gave up their life possessions in expectation of Jesus’ arrival.

Denomination? – Or Cult.

Well, the Millerites did the very same thing in 1844, and after Jesus failed to show up in all his glorious splendour, the Seventh Day Adventist Church became one of the surviving offshoots of the belief.

20151023_121739

As most cults (and offshoots of cults) tend to be, there were a world of rules that didn’t quite make sense. I couldn’t eat shrimp, because it said so in Leviticus; right next to where it also advises farmers not to mix breed their cows or plant more than one crop in the same field.

Today, we know that monoculture actually kills farmland, and the practice is discouraged. In case you’re wondering, the law against homosexuality is smack dab right there, too.

I couldn’t wear jewelry because it was unholy, but King Solomon was allowed to. And Sabbath was a whole day affair. Every Friday at sunset, I was plunged into depression and religious prison.

20151023_121308

However, I never believed any of it. Even at three years old, I remember asking hard-hitting questions about religion and getting literal hard-hitting answers, because it was considered “blaspheming”.

A Losing Battle

I pleaded with God every night to reveal himself to me in some way, so that I would know I wasn’t just talking to myself or something that didn’t exist. I read the Bible – and still know it better than most Christians and pastors that I’ve come across.

I pondered and I analysed and I begged some more, and then finally, the burden didn’t seem worth bearing anymore, and I gave it up.

20151023_120252

Most Christians will find this to be a hard line to swallow, but: I never felt more at peace than I did the day I decided I was done pleading with Jesus to prove he was more than a myth.

That burden I had been carrying around, I left it at the foot of the cross, and wore the pendant around as a Gothic fashion statement, instead.

Free at Last

Life became a whole new place for me after that. I delved into Existentialism, and loved the philosophical teachings of Kierkegaard, Marx, and Voltaire. They understood life. They understood reasoning.

They asked the same questions I had asked at three and five and ten and fifteen, and had come to the same conclusions I had, with added insights.

I finally met (dead) men who understood what I had been battling with all along. It was freeing. I was sixteen years old, in my first year of college, and on the road to becoming a better person.

Part-Time Christians

20151023_120300

After that, I lived a life much like the rest of my atheist and agnostic friends, which basically rivals the “purity” and “goodness” of my Christian friends. My Christian friends were always up to no good and then needing prayer on the weekend to feel better about all the wrongs they had done all week.

It was a luxury asset that they had: do bad things now, and pass the guilt on to Jesus on Saturday or Sunday. By Monday, they were as good as new!

20151023_113723

My non-religious friends and I didn’t have that luxury. Our guilt was ours to bear when we did wrong, so though none of us would claim to be perfect, we did our best to live good lives. And in the end, we did a much better job than my Christian friends, at that.

Damned to Hell?

A few years later, I pointed that out to one of my friends who considered himself a believer, and he had an interesting take on the whole matter. He admitted that he had noticed the same thing; that his atheist and agnostic friends lived much better lives than his Christian ones.

And he knew why. In his mind, the Devil has no need to tempt us, because we’re already damned and going to hell. We’re a lost cause. Christians are still holding on to God, and need to be tempted away into sin.

20151023_113658

Who knows? Maybe he’s right. Or maybe people who gravitate to gods and deities are people who refuse to accept and take control of their own lives, and need someone else to blame for all the bad in the world.

I don’t know.

That’s the beauty of being an agnostic. I can theorise and postulate, but I can also frankly admit that I don’t know — and I am perfectly okay with that.

20151023_113658

A Paranormal Past

In fact, while sharing with Michael, the many paranormal experiences I had growing up, I admitted that one would believe that that would make me a believer.

He nodded and admitted that that was true. It’s amazing that it didn’t. I said to him, “You know why it didn’t? It doesn’t because I refuse to be an Arawak.”

20151023_113539

He had no idea what I was talking about, so I explained:

Arawaks were the Native Indians in Jamaica at the time that Columbus came. From the hilltops and the shores, they saw these mighty ships approaching, and soon, they saw White men pouring out of them.

They had never seen such fine naval craftsmanship before and had never seen White men. They believed then, that they must be gods.

In the end, Columbus and his men wiped out the entire population of Arawaks on the island. Not one of them survived. It is one of the most complete cases of genocide in the Americas.

I have seen and experienced a lot of things that I do not understand and will never understand, but that does not make it God. What was God to man centuries ago, turned out to be Spaniards led by one Italian, in ships.

Learning Lessons from the Natives

Thus, I refuse to be an Arawak. I refuse to attribute my ignorance to God. I am able to admit that I simply do not know, and that one day, there may be a perfectly rational explanation — or not.

20151023_113506

Still, I respect the people who have managed to believe. In fact, for a long time I envied them. I wanted to believe, too. I wanted to be a blind sheep, stumbling back to the Shepherd for guidance, but ultimately that life was not for me. I am unfit.

God, if he exists, gave me a brain to think and challenge what we think we know, and I have used it for exactly that. If questioning existence and nature and knowledge and life and lies and the status quo is ungodly, then that’s not a God I want to worship, anyway.

To Each their Own

20151023_123907

In the end, I truly believe in living my life by to each their own. We all have to find our own paths and our own truths in life. It’s important to respect that. I may not believe in Christianity and the Christian God, but I respect that there are people who do.

So  when I visited the monastery, I respected it as Holy grounds, though I felt not a stirring of exceptional Presence. And when Michael wrote a petty comment in the prayer book, I was quick to scold him for his childishness.

I expect my non-religious path to be respected, and in return, I respect the path of the religious — whether it’s Christian or Muslim or Buddhist or god knows what else, as long as they’re not hurting anyone. Subsequently, there’s no need to post nasty signs like this:

20150827_122616

Or this:

20150827_123742

Christianity is no more or less believable than Islam, and let’s be honest, Muslims and Jews are better at being Muslim and Jewish than Christians are at being Christian.

Yes, Islam breeds radical thoughts, but so did Christianity back in the day. Where do you think the Crusades came from; when it was god’s will to murder Muslims? In any case, that’s a debate for another day. I’ve said enough already.

20151023_124606

As for me, I appreciate and thank and revere what I know for a fact exists: Mother Nature. Some people might say, well who made nature? What created the “big bang”? Well I ask you, “Who made God? What created Him?” 

20151023_123536

The answer is simple and yet so difficult for people to accept, despite acknowledging our shortcomings as humans. The truth is:

We. Don’t. Know.

What I do know is that these plants and this air and the sky is real. I can see it and touch it and smell it and feel it and science can measure it. Those, I do know exist, and that’s all the mystical wonder I will ever need in my life.

20151023_121159

20151023_12072020151023_112924

I hope my post has inspired some thought, and that I’ll see some of that in the comments as the week rolls by. Have a good week, and always remember the Arawaks!

Original published November 26, 2015 on Alexis Chateau. 

Advertisements

91 thoughts on “Revisiting Religion: Refusing to be an Arawak

  1. I am not orthodox, quite secular. I gave heard many Rabbis (teachers) say this. Nevertheless I think if you take away all the rhetoric, Sabbath is a good isea. You rest, visit wirh family, not work. Remember when it was written, even the animals could rest, too. By the way, we Jews also believe we don’t know things. Kind of a joke, ask two Jews the same question, you get different answers. People of the Book because in our DNA to read, learn, question, read again…learn some more. Love what you said about rregions and beliefs. More reason to acknowledge we don’t know, we just have family traditions. Wish everyone recognized that what brings somethinh to one person does not to another and that is ok. In my personal experience I have had much hate thrown at me for nit believing in Jesus and many who try to convert me. Why do these people think they are good? Why do they hate me? I think because they doubt what they believe so they need a crowd to back them up rather than rejoycing in their beliefs and leave everyone else alone. Judgemental. Sorry, I am rambling. I gave a lot of scars, usually and hear nastiness about Jews on a daily basis. I lost one of my best friends from sickle cell many years ago. He told me, Marie (Marushka is family nickname of my Hebrew name, Mara), people hate me before they know me because I am black. They hate you after they know you because the find out you are Jewish. That was 30 years ago. In some ways we have come so far, not in all ways. I hope we do. 🙂

    1. I always believed Jews were the chosen ones, in spite of everything, if a god does exist. And if there are many, their god seems to serve them best. Some of the most successful people I know are Jewish. I’ve never met a poor Jew. I’ve heard even Christians admit that, though reluctantly.

      If there was no race and no religion, people would find other ways to discriminate against each other. I said that to my biracial friend one day after he aired his belief that once the world goes beige we’ll all get along.

      1. Too true, people find many ways to hate, but you know, disliking an individual is ok. By the way, I grew up poor, but in a very living family, so rich in all the ways that matter.

      2. Oh, I’m sure poor Jews exist. Israel itself isn’t in the best shape right now. Just never met one personally. They were always successful, no matter their humble beginnings.

        Definitely glad I met you on here. How’s Mikey by the way?

      3. Oh my goodness, thank you for asking. Mikey is doing great, settled in, laying on the couch like a king, and as sweet as they come. How is your kitten?

      4. Awesome. My kitten is doing great! She’s getting so big. Been trying to walk her on a leash but that training hasn’t been so successful thus far, haha. Still trying my luck though. Saw her dad yesterday. Big grey smokey fella. Have I ever shared pictures with you before?

      5. I don’t think I’ve posted any online yet. Are you on twitter? I can tweet you some. She’s a cutey for sure. And a little devil as well haha

      6. Interesting. I promote via social media. My posts are automatically syndicated to my social media account. I don’t keep facebook on my phone so I’ll find you when I get back on my laptop. Thanks! 🙂

  2. A thoughtful and interesting post. I’m not a fan of labels, because they tend to box you into someone else’s definition of the label they’ve slapped on you. When pressed, I’ve tended towards ‘agnostic’ to describe my beliefs, but my basic position is ‘No faith. No evidence.’ I have no faith in any god (I was raised a Catholic, but eventually left belief behind), and there is no compelling evidence for the existence of any of them, be they Odin, Zeus or Yahweh. Evidence may lead me to change my mind, but then it’s no longer a matter of faith. In the meantime, I’ll lead my life the best way I can, because it’s the only one I have. Kindness; compassion; generosity: simple things which make the world better for all of us.

    1. We’re on the same path then, you and I. I agree with you on the labels, but then it’s often convenient to drop one word as opposed to a long-winded explanation.

      1. Very true! That’s why I fall back on ‘agnostic’: I don’t know whether there’s a god or gods, but I don’t believe in any of those proposed by religions past or present. Not strictly atheist, and certainly not anti-theist. I think religious belief exists as a spectrum rather than as a series of boxes.

  3. Great post as always. Interesting. I, too, am in awe of nature, always. I think many religions can incorporate that. I am Jewish and we have a saying, you don’t have to believe in God, just act like you do. In other words, do unto others. My son and I spent an afternoon with a Hare Krishna. He spoke a lot about nature and how amazing it is that the sin comes up every day. My son said, mom, that’s what you say all the time. Anyway, maybe I am somewhat agnostic as of course, I don’t know. I also respect thst people have different beliefs. However, I have a very hard time respecting the idea that one group is “right.” Kind of drives me nuts.

    1. I didn’t know you were Jewish! You know all about Sabbath and the restrictions based on Leviticus then. The Seventh Day Adventist church, in my opinion, was just a Jewish denomination that believed in Jesus. They held true to all the old practices and felt like they were better than other churches because of it.

      Is it Jewish on a whole who say you don’t have have to believe in God, just act like it? Or just your family? I think that’s very interesting, considering what I said about my atheist friends being better Christians than my Christian friends.

      But yes, I don’t understand how anyone can think they’re right when it comes to religion. Religion is so strongly based on our location and culture. Like you would expect most Indians to be Hindu, Chinese to be Buddhist etc etc. There’s a reason for that. It’s all culture.

  4. Thanks for taking the time to respond to each of your posts. It’s a gift to us that you can balance your time to express appreciation and stay in touch with your readers.

    With my newfound freedom, I’m going to run my own health insurance agency. I just realized that’s not exactly a break from corporate America, but it is breaking out of the cubicle and office politics, and allows me a flexible schedule of part-time work hours.

    I plan to travel more, write more, volunteer in the community, and to invest in my health and wellbeing so that I’ll be more fit at age 45, than at 25, when I had my first of three sons. I want them to live with me until they’ve finished school and have established self sufficiency so they’ll have their highest chance of success in the world.

    Thanks for indulging me here so I have a public written record of my goals, which should help me achieve them. I wish you all the best, Alexis!

    1. You’re welcome Joanna! I do try to interact with everyone. People could be anywhere else reading anything else and I appreciate you guys coming here to spend some time with me.

      Running your own show is impressive! It’s a break from just being a cog in the wheel.

      You should definitely travel and write more and work on your fitness. And you’ve come to the right place for that encouragement because that’s what I focus on too. I’m 13 hours away from home right now haha.

      As for keeping the youngins home, my mom’s brilliant idea was to buy a house with a basement. Saves us money! Separate entrance, big yard and all. 🙂

  5. Hi, Alexis (that’s my middle name, by the way). I just discovered you today after posting my first blog on WP yesterday, and I LOVE YOU! Your writing and perspectives are SO impressive, and I absolutely love the risks you’ve taken to live the life so many of us dream of living. I will make my big break from corporate America on December 31, 2017. There it is: without a deadline, a “goal” is just a dream. Anyway, I wanted to offer an explanation about Job. It’s about the Creator’s choice to make humans with free will, as free moral agents who can choose to obey him and do things his way because they love him, have a personal attachment and affection for him, and believe that his way is the best way, or we can choose not to follow him, but carry on as we see fit because it appears that we were given the intellectual capacity to do so. A beautiful, powerful angel challenged the Creator’s right to rule the human race and set standards and laws, and said Job, and any human for that matter, will only serving God for selfish reasons, like a fair weather friend, not for the reasons above. The Creator allowed this test of faith for Job and everyone else as an opportunity to show where we stand on the issue. There’s evidence that humans would thrive under divine guidance and actually need it just like our bodies need air, food, and water to live. Self-rule without this guidance has not been totally successful, when you look at devastation humans have caused to one another and to nature throughout history. We “pass the test” when we live in a way that says we’d like to have things as the Creator originally intended because we believe it’s better overall than what we’ve done independent of him. All of this testing is a temporary thing for the human race, because the argument and debate will one day end, and we can all live in peace, treat one another with love and respect, have perfect reasoning/logic/decision-makings skills and take care of this planet so we can enjoy life with everyone and everything functioning at it’s full, perfect potential. That’s my personal hope. Please forgive me for writing so much! I hope I’ve shared some enlightenment of sorts. You’re awesome, and I will keep up with as many of your blog posts as I can. Thank you!

    1. Great middle name! Haha. Thank you for the kind words and congratulations on making that big break from corporate.

      I wish you all the best. Feel free to keep dropping by for encouragement on that journey!

      What are you planning on doing with your new-found freedom?

      I’m not religious, but I understand your hope and your dreams for humanity. I once held those too, but in the end it starts with us. Just as Lucifer could ask questions in heaven and cause disruption, if there is a Heaven, so will we if we don’t sort out our crap down here first.

  6. It’s funny how you mentioned how Christians usually suck at being Christian. Lol. That it is because they are ” tempted by the devil” and that non believers can live good lives because “they are going to hell anyway” and the devil doesn’t tempt them. Well there’s a problem with that argument ( just like any argument from a faith orientated standpoint). If God was so powerful and necessary in avoiding temptation, they should have some advantage, even with the attacks and wiles of some malevolent, horned beast. But, no, non Christians are more likely to have self control because they know their power is within them ( at least those that realize this) and realize that partaking in sinful activities or behaviors usually have consequences to the well being of their lives, rather than just transgressing some offended deity. Non Christians have the ability to look at things practically. Also, according to Christian theology, it is God himself who “let’s the devil tempt people “anyways (book of Job)It isn’t some thing acting on its own free will. Like you I studied the bible for myself. Rigorously actually, for about 2 years straight. So, like you, I know the fallacies and inconsistencies more than probably 90 percent of people,even pastors, which is why I will never be able to fully accept it. Sometimes ambiguity sucks but I learn to live with it!

    1. Haha. It might interest you to know that that came from a very recent conversation just this year. I would say it was in May, thereabouts.

      I definitely believe that non-believers have simply decided to take control of our own lives, because we don’t have a fancy fairy thing in the sky to lean on.

      You are right. I always had a gripe with what happened to Job. The irony is this though: if God is all-knowing (omniscient) why does he need to test us? If he planned our very existence and knows us inside out and all our ills and wills and decisions, why do we need to be tested?

      I studied the Bible for roughly 13 years, in and out of church, and keep that knowledge keen for the occasional religious debate with Christians. They are always astounded by how much I know.

      Ambiguity does suck, but I would rather admit I don’t know than say it must be God. I refuse to be an Arawak…

  7. Great post. I can relate to almost all of it. Especially the part about preferring to sitting on the fence and looking from a vantage point. I don’t know. But, I do like to look at things objectively. For the most part, I do not believe in God, though I tried to and had my own pleadings with Jesus. Nonetheless, like you said I can view atheists just as biased and fanatic as Christians and couldn’t rightly discredit everything and lean all the way to atheism. If I do that, I don’t possess objectivity which is a great virtue to me.
    Thanks again for the post.

    1. Hi Justin — thanks for reading. I’m glad you liked my post, and that it was something you felt you could relate to. I wish atheists could take a more objective look at themselves and realise that many have become even more evangelical than Christians. They are all over Twitter and Google Plus, trying to un-convert one sinner at a time. People need to make their own decisions. Present the facts and let them think for themselves. Indoctrination is never okay – even when it’s rational.

      Thanks again for reading!

Leave a Reply to nimitode Cancel reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.