I've found that words don't come easy for me lately, when it comes to talking about the important things in life. I used to be asked, seemingly out of the blue, what it is that I believe. It's a hard question to answer because it's not just asking what you believe, but what is important to you. I think I have an answer.
A few years ago, my answer would have been something along the lines of "Love," with a dual meaning of god. Unconditional love, the perfect way that I longed to be real. But something felt wrong with that answer, and I couldn't figure out what it was. However, I felt it in what was around me. I saw it when people would gloss over other people with their eyes, continually wait for their turn to speak, brazenly show their apathy about other peoples' difficulties that were supposed to be their friends. I watched as people that touted love as the supreme virtue disregarded and minimized the opinions of those not like themselves, and I began to wonder if I did the same thing.
I've missed the accusations that used to get flung at me within Christian culture. For me, it was a confirmation that I was being compassionate, that I was listening to all sides of a story, that I was at least trying to be objective. It is that intuitive knowledge that began to disturb me most of all, that largely, if you ask questions and are unafraid of answers, if you seek to be kind and compassionate in what you do, and if you listen to the people you're told not to, you will end up with people praying for your salvation at best, and attacking you and calling you sub-Christian or heretical at worst. It becomes a badge of honor to be attacked, a sign that you were doing the right thing.
The problem is, this only happens if you still claim the name "Christian" and believe in god. Atheism is treated with detached disdain and condescending dismissal by some of the religious "intellectuals," and with confusion and by being ignored by others of the faithful. Truly, it's scary to some people when someone thinks differently than they do. Some have to find convenient ways of disregarding or defeating the evil atheists. I sometimes will seek out these people, the ones that will become angry with me and try to defeat me, because it demonstrates some level of caring from an institution/movement that labeled me unacceptable and invisible long ago.
This is not a cry for help. This is not me being depressed or sad because no one's paying attention to me. This is an observation that I find sad. Those who profess and worship unconditional love fail to show even a basic ability to listen to anyone that isn't within their group, and then disdain those unlike them for attempting to form some kind of community, by calling it a "religion," or "church." It's unfortunate, and I am sad to see that otherwise reasonable, kind people can be so hostile and cold to those not like them. Ignorance just makes it worse.
The reason I know this is not merely observation, but because I've done it. I understand how freaked out you can get when you talk to an atheist. You think they've got all of these philosophical arguments that they've designed just to trick you, or they treat science as a religion, or they're going to get angry and yell in your face if you say you believe in god or are religious. Furthermore, it's easy to dismiss people who don't think like you do instead of ask questions and listen, especially if they're scary or easy to write off. This is a human trait that religion happens to exacerbate with its' tribal nature, but it's by no means confined to the religious.
People want to be known and heard and accepted. It floods every piece of media we consume. We watch how even the most despicable characters are listened to, how they all have some redeeming characteristic, even if they're a "high functioning sociopath" or something of that nature, or perhaps they're just interesting. The problem is, many people think that they're the interesting one, and that everyone else should be interested in them.
The truth is, none of us know what the hell is going on in this life. We may think we know, or we may have some pretty good ideas, but there's always something that needs to be rationalized, always something to get around so that we can keep going until we either can't anymore, or we stop listening to hold onto what is important to us.
It's hard to continue to be enraged by the injustice you see when you realize this. You instead want to correct it in order to make things better. You want to shake the person who seems to have a soul that's asleep, drifting through life without caring. You want to argue down the angry fundamentalist just so he'll realize how destructive he's being. You want to tear down the false compassion you see when people don't understand those who are different and are condescending and ignorant in their attempt to be kind. You want to scream down the people that are going on and on about how terrible another group that they don't understand is, like atheists, often claiming to be a former one themselves who's "recovered" in order to fabricate an understanding they do not possess, and display their ignorance of every time they open their mouth. And most of all, when you see these in yourself, you want to correct it immediately, no matter the cost, just so you won't hurt anyone else. The past has shown you how hurtful you can be, and you want to do some good, to make people happy and to be happy yourself in life.
I believe in happiness. Not simply my happiness, but in happiness for everyone. I think it's a goal worth striving for. In a world full of people claiming confidence in their absolute morality and smug armchair philosophers who think people can be easily dismissed if they don't think the same way, happiness is an ideal that flies in the face of it all. There's power in the simplicity of it, and it moves a person forward like nothing else.
I'm still angry with those who've rejected me, and I don't know if that will change. It always hurts more when good people who were your friends either decide to or have to think of you as unacceptable, or when people you trust to help you decide to not care, or to work against your ability to move forward in life. However, I think if one thing can heal a person who's been wounded, it is long term happiness with their life, and in sharing that with those close to them. This is what I believe in, and I believe it because I choose to.