Coming from a Catholic background where I received my First Communion in the second grade, performed Confirmation in the 7th grade, and grew up listening to my mother sing in her Church choir every Sunday, certain principles were engrained in me from childhood.

The expressions, “Everything happens for a reason,” “God has a plan for you,” and “Nothing that happens is of your doing,” were instilled in me from the very beginning of my private school education. Oh, and runners up – “My future is already preconceived,” and “you can do absolutely nothing to change it,” so “do unto others as they would do unto you” were common religious fueled phrases that lived among my family’s walls.

God was omnipresent, that’s just how it was. He was looking down on me, walking beside me, guiding my footsteps. He woke me up everyday and gave me the beautiful gift of life, one I never took for granted.

Unconsciously, or maybe whole-heartedly, I’m not really sure– I’ve always dated men with similar beliefs. It was considered a transgression to even question His existence. It was blasphemy not to capitalize the G in God.

So when I met someone who didn’t believe the hype, my world skipped a beat.

“I don’t believe in God,” he said.

Me: “What do you mean?”

Him: “The idea of god comes from a religious standpoint. People are taught that. I don’t necessarily think there is anybody watching over us.”

I stared at him, my spirituality clinging to the nape of my soul. He was serious. For a moment, goose bumps ran alongside my body. This was not the first conversation like this. But illogically, I had ignored all prior ones. Deep down I couldn’t stomach this. I just knew he was wrong. He had to be. He would come around.

He didn’t.

I thought to yell at him, tell him to go to hell – of course, he didn’t believe in such a place. I thought to agree with him– but that would be as if I was denouncing God, and well, even though I didn’t go to Church every Sunday, I still considered that a wildly radical response to my years of upbringing. So I did the most rational thing for the moment.

I broke down and cried.

I didn’t know what it was like to not believe in God.

I didn’t want too.

This tore me apart. Though I was brought up to properly catechize everything, my belief in God was a truth I seldom questioned. When he asked me to explain my reasoning for believing in God, I talked about the spiritual connection with Him.

Yes, Him. Capitol H.

“How do you know god is a he?” He asked.

“I don’t. God could be a She or an It. It doesn’t matter.”

“Well, you’re personifying ‘it’. That’s one of the problems I have with religions. You don’t know who or what god is. No one does. That’s why I question if one exists.”

I look at him like he’s crazy and try to pick apart his argument. Then, like a boulder, it hits me. When I attend Church service on Sundays it’s because I feverishly need to be reassured that I’m going to be okay. Selfish as it may sound, I think many people view Church and religion through that eye- the stories read are the same, but so is the reoccurring mantra: ‘You can get through this. God is on your side. You will be ok.’

So to be with a God-less man seemed antithetical to anything I had ever known. Even if deep down his belief in a God were to someday come to pass, there was a big probability that he would ditch the idea completely. And what do you do with a man who impedes your soul’s progression?

In the most self-serving way, I needed to hear the words, ‘you’re going to be okay,’ even if it was a lie.

So if this man who I shared so much with had no concept of God or prayer–after all, who was he praying too?–How could he possibly give me the injection of spiritual awakening I needed when I felt helpless?

Maybe analyzing my beliefs wasn’t really the problem. Maybe the problem was that in my shame I resorted to reducing the issue to something much smaller and insignificant. I became callous and unhinged, and told him flat out that I wouldn’t change my core beliefs. For me, it became much more than a mere difference between us, it became an issue that I was unconsciously fighting for on behalf of all believers. My sheath was Matthew 16:26 – “What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul.”

I remember the look of defeat on his face. He just wanted me to understand where he was coming from.

I couldn’t.

It was the one place in our relationship where a blemish had formed. But overtime it had metastasized into a cancerous hole. And for me to even think about it would be the death of me. The death of us.

I thought about Bill Maher’s documentary, “Religulous,” where he debunked the beliefs of religious leaders. Then I think back to my good friend who told me that the devil is always waiting in the wings to turn our minds away from God.

I considered the crazy religious fanatics who make headlines. I thought about the crime and destruction, heartless banter, and years upon years of slavery that was done under the name of God. I remember reading up on the psychology of God in Robert Wright’s, “Evolution of God”, and the preface of Richard Dawkins, “God Delusion”:

“There are lots of people out there who have been brought up in some religion or other, are unhappy in it, don’t believe it, or are worried about the evils that are done in it’s name; people who feel vague yearnings to leave their parents’ religion and wish they could, but just don’t realize that leaving is an option.”

I sensed I was becoming one of these people. But how was I supposed to date a man to whom I had no spiritual connection? If we got married, “one marriage under God” would mean nothing, and the foundation of our relationship would be broken before it even started.

I thought back to the lyrics of Erykah Badu’s song, On & On:

“The man who knows something knows that he knows nothing at all.”

I feel low. Maybe he was right. He’s not pretending to understand anything. Here I am showboating my beliefs, and I can’t even back them up.

But I realize in the smallest part of my mind and down to the most selfish bone in my body, all I care about is security, and in no way can a God-less man provide me with that. There is also no way that I can persuade him otherwise.

French philosopher Albert Camus once said, “I would rather live my life as if there is a God, and die to find out there isn’t, than live my life as if there isn’t, and die to find out there is.”

And that really is the truth.

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  • ennui

    Well said, Humanist Howard! btw, if that’s a pseudonym and you’re really Norm Allen, Jr., I love you. :-)