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Joe DeRouen, Author of the Small Things trilogy: What I Believe

Friday, May 06, 2011

What I Believe

I've been arguing with a friend on Facebook about religion, specifically her Christian beliefs that being gay is a sin. I'm not gay and thus have no horse in this race, other than I believe all people should be treated equally and allowed the benefits that the rest of us enjoy. It's ludicrous to tell gay people that they can't be married. If you believe that your god doesn't like it, well, that's your belief. You have no right to push that belief on others. Morality should never be legislated. If a particular church doesn't wish to marry certain people, I have no problem with that. But to say two people of the same sex can't be legally married, that they cannot enjoy insurance and hospital visitation rights and the other things that come along with being married, is bigotry, plain and simple.

All this got me to thinking, what do I believe? I'm not a Christian, and I'm not an Atheist. I'm not a Muslim, a Buddhist, or a Wiccan. I'm an Agnostic, which, for the uninformed, means I don't know whether or not god exists. I can't know. No one can, regardless of what they tell you. You can have faith, you can believe, but you cannot know. No one can, at least not in this lifetime.

I have a good friend who is an Atheist. It's his belief, as I understand it, that once you die, that's it. You're gone. There is no afterlife. There's nothing.

I don't want to believe that. Maybe it's hubris, but I can't imagine not existing. Everything else in nature recycles, so why not psyches? Why not souls? Thus my belief in reincarnation. As far as an afterlife goes, that makes sense to me. A leaf dies and falls from a tree. It lands in the soil, it rots, and is absorbed into the soil, and, through the roots of the tree, back into the tree itself. The energy that leaf represented isn't gone, just changed. Maybe some people, instead of being reincarnated, chose to wander the earth, observing. Or perhaps they take off for the stars.

I can't believe that everything came from nothing. Oh, sure, I believe in the big bang, I believe that the earth is billions of years old, and I believe in evolution. But there had to be something that sparked it all. I don't believe it's the Christian capital "G" God, nor do I believe it's any of the other gods represented by the multitude of religions humanity has created over the course of time. I think whatever that spark was, that intelligence that started all of this, is unknowable. Hell, maybe we're all Sims in a computer game played by a kid in another universe. I don't know. But I do believe there is something out there beyond what we can currently perceive.

I've experienced enough things in my life that prove, at least to me, that there is more to the universe than what we regularly observe. I've had premonitions, usually in the form of dreams, that came true. And not just once, but multiple times throughout my life. I knew the moment my first wife died, though prior to that moment I had faith that, like every other time, she'd pull out of it and eventually beat cancer. But in that moment, when I'd just left the hospital to go get something to eat, I knew, when there was no logical way that I could.

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,than are dreamt of in your philosophy." Hamlet Act 1, scene 5, 159–167, William Shakespeare. It's an oft-quoted line, because it's true.

I am open to the possibilities that exist in the universe. What I'm not open to is believing in a god that would condemn the 10% of humanity (and animals, too) that are born homosexual. Why would god care? The answer is, he/she/it wouldn't. People care, because they fear what they don't understand and what is different from them. And someone writes something down, puts his own prejudices into a book, and people believe it.

They may not be prejudiced themselves, but they believe that because it's written in the bible that it's true and should be followed. They recognize on one hand that the bible was written by men and translated by other men over and over, yet on the other hand refuse to believe that maybe some of these men had agendas that Jesus of Nazareth (for I do believe he existed, though I think he was as human as any of us) would have wept over if he'd realized that, two thousand years later, would be used to oppress certain segments of the population in his name.

So maybe it's time someone wrote a new bible.

Another friend suggested that I hate Christians. I don't. I hate when people use a religion, any religion, to justify not allowing homosexuals the rights that heterosexuals enjoy. I hate when a supposedly good Christian child at my son's school tells him that if he doesn't believe in god he'll go to hell. I hate when religion is used to put down, separate, or vilify those who don't follow that religion. That's what I hate.

And it harm none, do what thou will. Love thy neighbor as thyself. Those are the two basic principals I try to follow in life. I say try because I often fail. I'm far from perfect. But I'll keep trying, just as I'll keep trying to change the opinions out there that I don't agree with, and if I'm wrong, well, I'll admit it.

The Christian friend I referred to in the first paragraph of this now-long blog entry still believes that homosexuality is a sin, but she hasn't stopped responding to my points, so there's dialogue. I'll take that as a win, at least for now.


At 8:24 PM, Anonymous Bruce Diamond said...

While I agree with your thesis that we can't know, for sure, whether a god exists or not, I use James Randi's definition of atheist: a godless person. Not one who denies the existence of (a) god, someone who lives without god.

I'm also skeptical of the "higher power" beliefs (like Transcendental Idealism, for one example) and of reincarnation, but that doesn't mean I go around belittling those who do. Occasionally, I'll lapse (especially concerning gay marriage, reproductive rights, and other such issues) and joke about such beliefs, but will reiterate that it is a person's right to believe whatever they want to believe. AS LONG AS IT DOESN'T INFRINGE ON SOMEONE ELSE'S RIGHTS.

Voting against gay marriage is infringing upon the rights of gays, plain and simple. Unfortunately, there are those in our society who would like to see any gay rights stamped out, and unfortunately, this kind of belief usually comes from the far Christian right (and from the orthodox/conservative sects of Judaism, Islam and other religions), the fundamentalists. Not always, but frequently -- as a "movement," they're the loudest group about denying the rights of gays (and, historically, the rights of women and minorities).

I'm straying a little. Anyway, I'm mostly in agreement with you. The one point I disagree with is that we have always legislated morality. We feel it's morally wrong to kill someone (in most cases, let's not get distracted by war or justified homicide here), so there are laws against murder on the books. We feel it's morally wrong to steal from someone, so there are theft/larceny/burglary laws on the books. And so on. We're all about legislating morality. What we have to watch out for is the tyranny of the majority steamrolling the rights of the minority. Everyone should be respectfully treated as an equal, decent human being.

Until they prove otherwise.

At 8:52 PM, Blogger sallykuehne said...

Good job Joe! You nailed my beliefs as well...No one knows anything for sure about an after-life..They believe they do but they don't. I applaud your bravery in stating everything you did. To be this honest can be costly....Bravo! I am so very glad we are friends....And by the way, I lost my previous husband to cancer as well, and I knew he would die when the doctors said he wouldn't. Your friend, Sally

At 10:12 PM, Blogger Joe said...

Bruce, I stand corrected. I suppose what I should have said is that personal morality should not be legislated. We have a certain set of societal morals - you can't kill someone other than in self-defense, you can't steal, etc. These are things that adversely affect other people. And then there's personal morality, which is, well, personal. Personal morality should remain just that - personal, and none of the government's concern.

At 12:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found your blog through your wierd website thing. I wanted to say that I am a Christian and I know for a fact that there is a God. How could the Earth have been created just perfectly out of a big ball of nothingness that exploded? It couldn't have happened. God is so much bigger than anything we know and i have a personal relationship with Him!! I wish that you could find that too.


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