Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Are You There God? It's Me, Danielle.
There isn't much talk in blog-land about being a non-believer. There's a lot of religious talk, a lot of "I believe," and many beautiful sentiments about life and thoughts and talk of whatever god people want to put their faith into. But there isn't a lot about the lack of god or lack of belief from the other side. I am one of that other side, someone who doesn't follow a religion, and someone who isn't really sure if they believe in anything, really. I believe in Science, if that counts. But as far as a god, or an afterlife, or even a higher power of any kind, I'm not sure. And my "not sure" leans a lot more towards no.
It's kind of scary to put that out there, when I know that it's easy to judge, but it is what it is and that's me. I have plenty of close friends who are religious, and plenty who aren't. In my world it doesn't make a difference to me what you believe in, just that you are a good person with a kind heart.
I grew up Catholic, going to a big, beautiful church in our New Jersey town. I was baptized as a baby, received Communion in the 2nd grade, and was confirmed in the 7th. I can still recite the entire Catholic mass, beginning to end, and have vivid memories of the confessional, memorizing the Ten Commandments, and even scary Monsignor Donovan who would slap your cheek if you took Communion the wrong way. I loved Church growing up, but not for any reason other than I thought that all of the rituals were fun, and I enjoyed hearing the stories each Sunday in class. Most of our friends attended with us, and I even had my first kiss right outside of those big wooden doors in the 6th grade.
We moved to Arizona when I was 14 and we went to a new church a few times, but my Mom stopped making us go, so eventually we stopped going all together. My Dad was actually born and raised in South America, where he traveled with his Reverend father and missionary family translating the bible, but by the time he became a parent himself he had taken a few steps back. My Mom was raised Catholic and attended a very strict private Catholic school and at that point still attended church on special occasions, but without the pull of our friends and our holiday traditions, we all slowly stopped attending.
In college I met quite a few friends who considered themselves atheists. For awhile I thought I could identify with that group, but I soon figured out that labeling myself as that was the same as labeling myself a believer. I wasn't sure either way. And at the same time I wasn't really agnostic because I wasn't sure if I believed in anything at all.
Maybe it's weird but this has never been a big deal to me. I'm not searching to figure it out, and to be honest, religion (or my lack of), doesn't cross my mind most of the time. Recently it's only been a bit more in the forefront as the election looms closer and there's this huge debate regarding the separation church and state, but for the most part it's a non-issue. At times I feel like it would be a bit easier to have a religion, to have faith in something. But at this point in my life, and maybe for always, I know that's not for me. If I had to really talk about my beliefs, what I think really happens when we die, I look towards physics and science and astronomy. I look to people like Carl Sagan, who I find to be incredibly inspiring, and whose words almost always make me think. Science is my jam. And on the other side of the coin I gravitate towards some Buddhist principles too. Really, I am open to the possibility that one day I might say, "Oh, hi there God. So there you are." And I'm also open to the fact that it's highly possible that when I die, I just die.
In a way, I think this outlook has allowed me to be fully in the now. This is my one chance to live and to love this life with everything I've got. At the end of the day I can say to the universe, "THANK YOU," and maybe someone's listening, and maybe they aren't. But I have gratitude, I have a love in my heart for every single day I am given on this Earth, and for now, that's enough for me.
I'll leave you with one of Hank and my very favorite quotes from Ann Druyan, best known as the wife of the late Carl Sagan:
"When my husband died, because he was so famous and known for not being a believer, many people would come up to me — it still sometimes happens — and ask me if Carl changed at the end and converted to a belief in an afterlife. They also frequently ask me if I think I will see him again. Carl faced his death with unflagging courage and never sought refuge in illusions. The tragedy was that we knew we would never see each other again. I don’t ever expect to be reunited with Carl. But, the great thing is that when we were together, for nearly twenty years, we lived with a vivid appreciation of how brief and precious life is. We never trivialized the meaning of death by pretending it was anything other than a final parting. Every single moment that we were alive and we were together was miraculous — not miraculous in the sense of inexplicable or supernatural. We knew we were beneficiaries of chance… That pure chance could be so generous and so kind… That we could find each other, as Carl wrote so beautifully in Cosmos, you know, in the vastness of space and the immensity of time… That we could be together for twenty years. That is something which sustains me and it’s much more meaningful…
The way he treated me and the way I treated him, the way we took care of each other and our family, while he lived. That is so much more important than the idea I will see him someday. I don’t think I’ll ever see Carl again. But I saw him. We saw each other. We found each other in the cosmos, and that was wonderful."