Four Tales of Convenient Believers

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    Dang Martin

    Over the past 50+ years, I’ve met a number of different type of religious believers. There are those few who appear to take it seriously, and knuckle down to do the work to which they are tasked. My first thought goes to a man with whom I worked at a food bank for the homeless. There are those who appear to take it both seriously AND literally, and seem to be rather negative people who are busy casting judgment. My favorites are those who have it mildly integrated into their lives, in a way where they’re not preachy or judgmental, because they are not concerned with that I believe or do not believe.

    But then there are those who seem to employ their religious beliefs, or call upon them, only when it is convenient. There were FOUR notable people in my life who have done this, and I think their stories are worthy of being told. Each had a convenience, and each convenience had a unique impact upon my life.

    He was a singer I met in college, and we spent a lot of time together, writing music. We parted ways after college, but would still re-connect from time to time. It was always about Blues, Rock-n-Roll, and being creative.

    But then his father died. This resulted in the onset of panic attacks and a prescription for Zoloft. I learned about this the hard way, after he convinced me to move across the country to live with him, so that we could create music. When he came home from work, he sat down, flipped through a stack of 30 baseball cards about 20 times, turned off the lights and went to sleep. That’s when I knew there was a problem. I ended up leaving after giving him six weeks.

    Facebook would ultimately bring us back together, for a while. One day he wrote, and said that based on some articles that I “liked,” that he was concerned that I was an Atheist. I told him that I was always a non-believer. This prompted him to write me a 14-page response about how god has always been a part of his life. This was strange, for he never mentioned it, never invited me to church, and never went to church himself.

    He disowned me, because his faith commanded it. Three years ago, after I left social networking and my number of “friends” dwindled, I kept thinking about the great times. So I decide to attempt to be the bigger person, and I actually wrote and apologized to him for being an Atheist. I told him that I valued our friendship, and that I would be willing to never bring it up again. He wrote back and said that he accepted my apology.

    But a few weeks later, he wrote and told me that I was a “fat f*ck.” That was very Christian of him. We have not spoken since.

    Now the ex-wife, we met and dated, then things got serious as they sometimes do. We got married and spend 9 years together before we were expecting a child.

    When the child was born, she very aggressively told me, “He’s going to be raised Catholic!” I asked her why, and she said that it was because SHE is Catholic.

    We never went to church. She didn’t own a bible. She’d had FIVE abortions with her previous husband. And she’s just now letting me know that she’s Catholic?

    It was an effort for her to exert control over me and our son. When my son got older, one day he old me that his mother was making him go to church “for punishment,” because he didn’t clean his room. I said, “Church as punishment? Sounds about right.”

    He is an Atheist today, for two reasons. One is that she used her “Convenient Catholicism” as punishment, instead of instilling it as a positive value [because it’s not]. Someone accused me of raising him to “hate religion,” which is not true. I raised him to think and to question things. He was not put through childhood indoctrination, so that was a final contributor to his non-belief, courtesy of his Catholic mother.

    The ex and I were legally separated, when I met a woman online. We talked for a long time about music, since she was also a musician. We talked for over half a year, almost exclusively online. Eventually, she said that I should fly out and meet her. I did just that, and we spent New Year’s Eve together at her gig.

    Her apartment was very neat and organized. There were a few photos of her, as well as photos of her deceased parents. The place was clean. There was just one issue, and that was a room, just off the kitchen. She said to NOT go in there, because it was “for storage,” and a mess. Fine.

    Shortly after that, she begged me to move in with her. I really liked her, so I agreed. I packed up and moved out.

    When I got there, her place looked different. There were two children, both daughters, ages 4 and 8. I should have turned around and ran, but I did not.

    She wanted to be sexually active, but I was hesitant. She said she was on the pill. Not one to be trusting of that, I would bring the birth control pill to her with water, in bed, and make it a romantic gesture. She would protest a bit, saying that it was “a sugar pill that’s just there to encourage the habit.” I still insisted.

    The night that we got to the REAL pill, she refused and said we needed to talk. She asked me a rather big question.

    “What would you do if I got pregnant by you?”

    I told her we’d have to think about what was going. The hard truth is, I have a son and am barely scraping by, you have two daughters with no father, your parents are dead, and you’re barely scraping by. Based on all of this, I’d have to say that our three kids take precedence, and I’d ask you to consider an abortion.

    She screamed at me. “An abortion! I’m Catholic, and that is against what I believe!”

    Ah, another “Secret Catholic.” I told her that “living in sin” with sex outside of marriage, which is what we were doing right now, was also against what she supposedly believes. I asked her why she was picking-and-choosing which part of her surprise religious beliefs was important. Instead of answering, she asked what I believed.

    I told her that I did not believe. She generously gave me ten minutes to get my things together before dumping me off at a Greyhound station. This was after I paid all of her rent.

    I later learned that the father of her children was permanently brain-damaged in a drug deal gone wrong, and could never provide. I also learned that, in her state, the law is such that if I had gotten her pregnant, then I would be “legally obligated to be responsible for the welfare and lifestyle of all children involved.”

    I got lucky.

    CONVENIENT BELIEVER 4 of 4: Mother
    This one was the most shocking to me, and may shock those who know my story. If you do not know my story, the high level is that religion was NEVER mentioned when I was little. No church, no bible, no god, no prayer. Nothing. I learned the hard way in first grade, when the other kids realized that I did not believe, because I’d never heard of any of it.

    We were discussing the history of her parents, which includes my closest grandmother, and how they met. The story went that grandmother was Catholic, and grandpa was Protestant. They were told by their respective churches that they could NOT get married, citing that the “other” was a horrible person for subscribing to the wrong belief system. Grandma cited another marriage, where the husband was an unemployed, physically abusive drunk, but the church sanctioned THAT marriage.

    With that, they both thumbed their noses at their respective religions, got married, and made a family together.

    I took this story to mean that my mother was not raised in any religion, and that was why she never mentioned religion to me as a child.

    “Oh, no. I identify as Catholic.”

    I was in shock. “Mom, I’m 43 years old. It must not be that important to you if it took you THIS long to tell me.”

    She then told me the story of how she met my dad and wanted to get married. But the church told her that she could NOT marry my dad, because he was divorced. She thumbed her nose at the church, married him anyway, and started a family.

    Apparently, my grandfather said that the kids could be “raised Catholic.” They had some mild indoctrination, but church ended up not being that important. Apparently, mom had enough indoctrination that she considered herself to be Catholic. She had never read a bible, and had not been to church since the mid-1950s.

    To be clear, the issue is NOT that they’re believers. The issue is that they kept it a secret, we were involved, and then it suddenly became important, at least for the first three. I think about how things would have gone, had they been honest [as their faith commands] and up-front about their beliefs.

    The musician and I would have still been friends in college, but the end of school would have been the end of the friendship.

    The wife would have not even dated me, because it would have been important to her that I was not Catholic.

    The lying schemer would never have been honest. She needed the money. So moral!

    My mother would have had the most impact. Best case, she could have talked to me about religion before I went into first grade, and would have given me a warning that you DO NOT admit that you don’t believe in god. If anyone brings it up, and they will, then lie about it, and say that you do believe, like the Christians who scurry to church twice per year. Lie about it, and then never, ever bring it up again.

    Had she done this, even though she clearly had no interest in my indoctrination, I could have gone to first grade prepared and as full of shit as many of them. I would pretend to pray in order to fit in, like many of them, and be done with it.Then I would have had a better social life and school experience. This would have had an impact on my adult life, no doubt.

    Instead, I got caught off guard and everyone knew that I didn’t believe, because I had no idea that any of it was a thing.

    These four people and their “convenient beliefs” had quite the impact on my life.

    QUESTION: Have YOU ever had an experience, where you found out that someone is religious, and then it had an impact on your life? What happened?



    Way back in 8th grade I felt brave enough to admit I didn’t believe in God after the teacher somehow brought the subject up about faith or belief systems or something like that. Someone I had hoped to be friends with spoke up in shock at my comment, seriously concerned for my soul or something… I was taken aback by his shock and didn’t know how to react. Even the teacher was surprised, and all other students just remained silent until she changed the subject.

    The revelation to me was about how most people had no clue about each other, which I later learned was how clueless many people were even about themselves, prefering to default to playing the most “acceptable” social roles and then trying to actually believe in and justify those roles.

    So even as an early skeptic but being socially naive and inept, I decided to learn why people (and myself) are the way they are, but without many people’s tendency to be so judgemental about each other. I made friends based largely on how open minded, observant, humble, and non-judgemental they were.

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