I’ve been working on writing a response to a trash-talkin’ barista for my March ejo but have come across a few obstacles to that (travelling, moving house – and the attendant lack of internet – and contracting what feels like Killer Triad Hong Kong Swine-Bird Woolly-Mammoth Flu, which I am still recovering from). I really want to give this barista the time and effort he deserves, so I’ll save that for next month when I’m feeling more lucid.
So, I’ve had this crazy flu (eight days and counting). On the third day I got a text from an old acquaintance I haven’t seen in several years asking how I was – and I took that as an opportunity to have a bit of a whinge about how miserable I was feeling. Next thing I know I got a reply saying “May the Almighty Father bless you…”!!!
Normally I just roll my eyes when someone sends a religious “blessing” my way. This time I didn’t roll my eyes. I got a little bit mad. Lately I’ve been getting more and more of these “blessings” and quite frankly, it’s not OK. I wonder why religiously inclined people think they’re doing me a favour by forcing their shit onto me? I don’t go around bestowing an “eternity of oblivion and nothingness after death” to my religious friends and I would appreciate the same courtesy in exchange.
Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not intolerant of other people’s beliefs. Not at all. I give each person the freedom to believe and practise whatever religion they wish to participate in. Whilst I believe that there is no god and no afterlife, I don’t judge anyone who believes that there is. Each to their own. I might have my opinions about why people turn to religion – but I keep those to myself. And I shan’t go into them here. If you’d like to find out, let’s have dinner and we can go into it over a bottle of wine. But I would never look down upon someone for believing in a god that I don’t think exists. That’s not my stripe.
So let’s go back to why people think it’s OK to foist a “blessing” onto others. Are they doing me a favour? Do they pity my lack of faith? Are they even taking the time to think about the landscape upon which this “blessing” will land? I have some friends who (in the past) have dabbled in Satanism. If these people were to go around telling their sick friends, “May the Prince of Darkness relieve you of your suffering soul…” as a form of comfort or solace, would it be considered offensive? I have a feeling it might. So why is a Christian blessing considered harmless. I actually find it an affront to my own beliefs. Your god can’t make me feel better. He doesn’t exist for me, so please keep him to yourself. If you really care about me, don’t pray for my wellbeing. Try bringing me some home-made soup instead. Praying for me is meaningless. It is as arbitrary as writing my name on a piece of paper three times and burying it under a tree and thinking that will make me all better. It’s very sweet of you, but it won’t achieve shit.
And here’s where I’ve struggled with religion and people’s “blessings” in the past. The intention is always good, so how can I be offended? An old friend recently told me she had a gift for me – my very own Bible. Let’s skip over how horrified I was that she knows me so little that she would get me a fucking Bible as a present and move onto the fact that I felt obliged to accept the gift. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings, because her intention was good. And it’s the thought that counts. Right? I rationalised it by comparing it to receiving other gifts for which I have no use. Cheap perfume. Books by authors I despise. Clothes I wouldn’t be caught dead in. I don’t tell the givers of these unfortunate offerings to keep their damn presents. I don’t tell them that their taste is a little off. I don’t tell them that their thoughtlessness upsets me. I just smile and accept it. And then I throw it away or give it to charity. So perhaps that’s what I should do with religious “blessings” too. Just smile and then forget it. Well, that’s what I have been doing. But I’m not sure I want to do that anymore.
Let’s spin the whole gift-giving concept around. If someone gave a vegan friend a meat platter for their birthday, would that be OK?? If someone set up their lesbian friend on a blind date with a man, would that be acceptable? But what if the intention (“he’s a really great guy”) was good? See, I don’t believe that intention is enough. I don’t go around beating religious people over the head with scientific arguments about why god simply does not (and cannot) exist. Even if my intention is good, it’s not right to force your own beliefs down other people’s throats. So, from now on, if someone tells me that they hope, “Sweet baby Jesus is looking down” upon me from heaven (and yes, that is one of the “blessings” I’ve received lately) I will politely, but firmly, tell them that I would prefer they keep their “blessings” to themselves. No offence.