I want to tell you right away: I don’t consider myself a Christian. I don’t believe in a God, any God, no matter how many or under which name they are portrayed. How I can technically still be a Christian is due to the fact that I’m both baptized and confirmated; actually in the exact church you see in the picture underneath.
The first one I didn’t choose myself, my parents did (obviously), but the second one I was pretty clear about. Not because I’m religious but because it’s tradition (and I do like tradition). My siblings chose to be confirmated and all my classmates were as well – I assume for the same reasons I was since Denmark is one of the least religious countries in the world. I don’t regret my decision because I actually enjoyed the whole process of getting ready and being confronted with more tough ethical and moral questions by the priest. In many ways a lot of topics are related to philosophy which is always an interesting subject. Another cool thing about living in Denmark – and this has been highly debated – is that a priest doesn’t necessarily believe in God, and the priest I was taught by didn’t either; that’s what was so cool about her. In some weird way, knowing that a person, who is also a priest, is not religious makes me trust them more. I think it’s because you assume that they’ll always keep an open mind. I also think that that’s why I love science. Some things are facts, but other things are debatable and can be changed if proven wrong. In my experience some religious people seem more rigid and sometimes refuse to change their beliefs no matter how much something speaks against it. Like a child stubbornly claiming that the ocean is red when everyone knows it’s blue, and doesn’t want to realise the truth.
Another detail that technically makes me a Christian is that I’m still a member of the Church. Let me explain: in Denmark the Church is supported through the normal taxes we pay; I think it’s about 1% of your salary (in some cities a tiny bit more, in others a tiny bit less). You can choose not to be a member, save your 1% and not have anything do to with the Church. What other people want to do is fine by me, I don’t really care. I have made the conscious decision to keep my membership to the Church because I want to use their facilities. You have to pay for a venue, right? Why not let it be slowly through taxes and in return you get a gorgeous building for your wedding, if you want your kids baptized and they want to be confirmated, and for a nice funeral so that your loved ones feel like they got to say a proper goodbye. Real churches are stunning creations with great acoustics, that’s just a fact!
A MAN IN THE SKY?
As a kid, I remember sometimes thinking that it could have been nice to believe in a higher power but in my very core I knew that that would never be the case. I assume that inner knowledge – how you just know something is true (at least for you) – is something religious people have as well, which I find kind of funny, but that’s life I guess.
During religion class in school (you’ve got to learn about the foundation of your culture, right?) I remember drawing “God” as a man in the sky with a white beard. Later, it struck me how weird it was for God to be a man. Women have, with a bit of fun help, the ability to create and grow a tiny human. A HUMAN! Just think about that for a second. It seemed logical to me that a potential God should be female – or at least an IT; like an everything being. Even later I started thinking how insulting it actually is that some people think Mother Earth isn’t strong, powerful or amazing enough to create and evolve all these wonders we surround ourselves with. Why settle for 6 days of God-like magic followed by 1 day of rest compared to eons of time and all of the ancient creatures that dominated this earth for millions of years? Why isn’t the vast, ever-expanding universe that lives inside all of us wonderful enough? People who think that religion and science are two incompatible things have not yet grasped how similar they actually are. The difference is that one is based on belief, the other can, for the most part, be confirmed to be incontestably universal facts. Presented with the choice I will always choose knowing. I don’t want to purposefully keep myself in the dark. I will always choose the light.
ARE DANES HEATHENS?
I get why many people is comforted by their beliefs. I assume this is why humans are prone to being religious in various degrees because the world can be big and scary. To quote Anne of Green Gables: “Does life never frighten you with its bleakness?” and the answer is “yes, sometimes it does,” but what I like is that by not believing in a God you harvest the sunshine as well as the rain; meaning that you have the sole responsibility for your happiness, and when you succeed it is because of you and only you. You don’t have to share the spotlight with a God. It teaches you to take responsibility and by not offering something to hide behind – an excuse if you will – it forces you to choose which person you want to be through the decisions you have to make in your life, and stand by those decisions. Right about now I expect that some religious people are beginning to wonder why this sounds strangely familiar. It’s my way of showing why it doesn’t really matter if you’re religious or not. If you’re human – and I strongly suspect that you are – you are born into a society that, for thousands of years, has had a certain set of moral and ethical rules. A Danish journalist once interviewed people on the streets in the US and they all wondered how a non-religious person would know these rules, let alone live by them. Why is it that even though Denmark is one of the least religious countries in the world we are at peace and haven’t spiraled into turmoil and chaos? Some, definitely not all, religious people don’t understand that it’s not religion that gives you a moral and ethical code. It is called being human and being guided by your upbringing and social and cultural environment. Even more curious is it that close to non-religious countries seem to be more at peace with generally happier citizens. It’s not a coincidence that said countries also have a solid healthcare and welfare system. You see, people don’t want to be free to suffer from huge unpayable hospitals bills and a ton of worries. They – we – are free because we don’t have to worry as much. Actually, now that I think about it, it is a perfect example to show that money isn’t everything. As long as your dire needs are taken care of, and have stability, people generally seem happy. And no, I am not saying that Utopia exists because nothing, and no-one, is perfect. Sorry, I went off on a tangent.
During my teen-years I suddenly found myself in a diverse class. Nothing shows how small a village I grew up in, how small a school, than the fact that my first experience with diversity in a classroom was at the age of 16. Sadly, the following year taught me that the more religious a person is, the more aggressive they get if you have questions about their religion. I’m talking real, honest, pure curiosity. To this day I’m still annoyed by the fact that if you want to talk religion – I mean really talk – you have to find a non-religious person; and the discussion would be so much more interesting and diverse if you could sit and have an honest discussion without any sour endings. I’ve never seen it done. Ever. If you’re religious – any religion, it doesn’t matter – you might have to think about that. Not all people are out to get you. There are people like me out there who are generally curious and want to educate ourselves about the world even though we will never believe in a God (or several) ourselves. Perhaps it’s doable once this era of over-sensitivity is nothing but an annoying chapter in a history book.
The last thing I want to say is that if you’re sitting out there thinking “I’m going to pray for you,” I’m officially donating that prayer to someone who needs it more, and is going to use it for something. Then they can enjoy their prayer while I enjoy my tea.
What are your thoughts on the subject?
Have you ever had an informative discussion about religion with a religious/non-religious person?
Be sure to leave your thoughts and comments down below.