My Rosary of Love


Rosary_necklace_wood_necklace_praying_beads

 

“There is no polite way to tell someone
they have dedicated their lives to an illusion”
– Daniel Dennett

I have a Rosary which I treasure.

It was given to me by my grandmother.
The story behind why I still carry it helps explain the love and understanding I have for Christians – while at the same time deeply disagreeing with the religion my Rosary represents.

When I was a boy, I went to Catholic school, I loved my church and grew to love the priests. I still love them. I often prayed with my grandmothers, one of whom made vestments for the priests each Easter, and the other would spend hours talking about knowing how Jesus saved us and the joy of having His presence every day.

I had no negative experiences with religion, no abuse, no painful or cruel sermons to endure. Most priests and nuns in my life were caring and interested people. They came to our home frequently for dinner and many continue to be part of our extended family.

It breaks my heart to know my sudden lack of belief (which I had no choice about) puts me at odds with many of these people. But I do not think less of these wonderful Christians. I am not smarter than them. I am not superior to them.

The Rosary was given to me 40 years ago.
It remains an important token of my Grandmother’s love and caring for me. She hoped it would save my soul – and what could be a more loving gesture? I once believed in the power of prayer as much as she did. I’ve prayed more hours with that Rosary than I would care to number.

And my crucifixes mean a lot to me. I cannot part with them as I cannot part with the love they represent – not a love from a god, but a love from those who cared to hand them to me with their own love in their hearts.

Think of it. Religion demands not just our belief – but our love.

God demands a love which must surpass even the love you have for your own children. Jesus explains that you must love him beyond any other love in your life.

“hate your mother and father…
hate your very life, or you are not worthy of me.”
Jesus (Luke 14:26)

Imagine how it might feel to discover one’s love was genuinely misplaced. Imagine the sense of betrayal to discover there probably never was a god receiving any of that love.

Religion subverts this love, our deepest integrity.
If you believe in God, there is no problem. But the moment God vanishes, as He did for me, the result is profound. It is stunning. And it feels like a betrayal – not a betrayal by God (as He has vanished) but anger that one has been duped; the investment was so deep.

And when God vanishes, there is nothing to be angry about except the idea itself which came down from ancient times. The idea that ‘faith’ somehow validates or proves something to be true.

But faith is far emptier than it appears. A faithful child believes in Santa and at age 7 or 8 learns the faith was unfounded. It hurts. For some it hurts much worse, because they invested more in it.

I am trying to find a way to call attention to the awful ideas in religion, the wrongness of faith and to challenge these ideas carefully without unduly upsetting the believers personally. It is close to impossible.

The Christians in my life were not wonderful because of the existence of god. They were wonderful despite the likelihood that there is no god. Without religion I would still have loved them and they would have loved me. I know this because I have been lucky enough to know many wonderful Atheists in my life also and the lack of religion has not affected those friendships in the least. Far from it.

Today religion has become an unwelcome, superfluous intrusion in relationships. As if I were talking to people who are still insisting ‘Santa’ deserves their deepest love. But I have discovered the hurtful truth – and more, that we should stop giving that deep love to Santa and give it to each other instead.

I HAVE NO INTEREST IN A ‘PRETEND’ LOVE FROM A ‘PRETEND’ GOD  
BUT ONLY TRUE LOVE FOR REAL PEOPLE

I don’t want to be a mean person. Please understand.
I am looking for ways to argue against the ideas in religion, not the people who are in it. And that is difficult. Trying to articulate this difference in a world where arguing against faith is considered a kind of bigotry.

But look, if it is not bigoted to argue in favor of Jesus
it cannot be bigoted to argue against Jesus.
People have rights. But ideas do not have rights. I wish someone had challenged my faith ideas many years ago – it might have opened my eyes earlier.

Furthermore, how can I be ‘bigoted’ when I was one of them?
I’m not smarter than believers. But I have some important information I have learned which they deserve to hear. Information Christians should consider.
Many believers have no idea what could be wrong with religion.
I know this because I was such a believer. I understand that feeling.

But we are told Jesus is all about truth, love and goodness.
Loving Jesus is like having Christmas morning every day.
How could anyone object to that?

Yet, I must. ‘Truth and goodness’ are actually at the center of my effort.
I want to protect others from the terrible experience of discovering late in their lives
the price they have paid for accepting the claims of religion without question. The price of being too afraid to ask.

Religion isn’t worth this price. And God (if he exists) certainly cannot be worth what he puts us through if he won’t let us ask the questions honestly.

When the crashing blow of God’s non-existence hit me in December of 2012, I felt that betrayal. Betrayed not by my loved ones who so personally gifted me with a wonderful life – but betrayed by the religion itself which demanded we all bend our greatest love to a God instead of to the people around us. What a ridiculously high bar.

Religious claims have been carefully designed to play with our hearts that way.

So, I am staring down religion and its ideas – not its followers.
I’m trying to understand how it fools us, how it plays with us; to sort out how religion might be demoted enough to spare at least a few of us the terrible consequences of these beliefs. So I am searching for ways to relay to religious people something about the claims in religion while conveying that I respect their personal integrity – after all, they believe they have religion for good reasons just as I once did.
I’m concerned that religion is more trouble than it is worth.

But this is a journey about my love for the people of my life – my true love and caring – and not some imaginary love from a pretend god in a pretend holy story full of yet more pretending.

I keep my Rosary for what it represents to me; The love of my grandmother, who was real, who really lived and who actually cared. I cannot honestly say the same about the God I’ve been told about.

My Grandmother has been gone for many years. She would not like to hear me say these things.

But what choice do I have? What else could I say to my Grandmother?

In the end it is her love which I can be certain about. Her love which speaks loudly, clearly and so undeniably – her love was real. But God just bobs and weaves like an illusion.

She loved me as I was. Even years after her death, my Grandmother’s love is easier to access in my mind than the supposed love of a fabled phantom. I can imagine her asking me:

“You are an Atheist, now?”

“Yes, Grandmother. I grew up, I remembered you often and I stayed honest. And my love is true.”

 

 

16 Responses to My Rosary of Love

  1. Teresa says:

    You should use your grandmothers rosary to do a little scientific experiment. We believe God draws closer to is when we draw closer to Him. Say your rosary with an open mind for a month. See if you feel any differently about Gods existence.

    Like

    • Atheist Max says:

      After 40 years of praying with the rosary I have learned many things about prayer:
      1. If you want God to exist it is easy to convince yourself he does.
      2. If your prayer is not answered it is easy to excuse God if you have already decided you want him to exist.
      3. If your prayer is answered it is easy to believe God did you a favor if you have already decided you want him to exist.

      Unfortunately, if God really existed you would not have to ask him to exist in the first place.

      Like

      • Teresa says:

        He’s not a waiter. It’s not just about all you want. Prayer is a conversation. It’s creating a closeness with God out of appreciation for everything He’s given us already

        Like

        • Atheist Max says:

          But Jesus said prayer is about getting
          exactly what you ask for
          on more than 12 separate occasions:

          1. “And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified….” (John 14:13)

          2. “And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” (Matthew 21:2)

          3. “And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.” (Matthew 21:22)

          4. “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” (John 15:7)

          5. “Therefore I say unto you, what things so ever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” (Mark 11:24)

          6. “Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:24)

          7. “For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.” (Mark 11:23)

          8. “When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:6)

          9. “Whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.” (John 5:14-15)

          10. “…I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them.” (Matthew 18:19)

          11. “And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” (Mark 16:17)

          Praying to Jesus has been shown to be no different than praying
          to the moon or the sun.

          Like

        • Teresa says:

          Gods will is for us to be holy and finally join Him in heaven. If your desires wouldn’t lead you to that end, they wouldn’t be answered. Even suffering has redemptive value for us. We are supposed to be “like clay” when we pray. Flexible and open to Gods will.

          Like

  2. Atheist Max says:

    “God’s will”
    How do you know what God’s will is? There is no evidence that any the gods are real.
    These bible stories appear to be fables from ancient cultures. You have been told by your parents to believe they are real – but they were afraid to question this.
    Isn’t that right?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dean says:

    Contradiction: you say Christians are too busy loving God instead of loving each other. Yet you clearly stated how much love you got from your Christian family ?

    Ps. Stop repeating yourself and tell us why you decided to give up God?

    Like

    • Atheist Max says:

      I didn’t give up on God. God simply disappeared. It is completely different.

      Right now you think you see a God. You have been told since childhood he exists so you have figured out a creative way to imagine god into existence.
      But one day you may find you cannot see it anymore. And when that happens you will realize there never was any god at all.

      Then you see religion for what it is. A lie.

      Like

      • Dean says:

        Yet another contradiction, If you say God disappeared then he had to be there first before he disappeared, if he was not there in the first place how can he disappear ? What caused him to disappear ?? We’re you doing something that wasn’t allowed by Christianity and in order to not feel guilty you decided to make him disappear. You see. I could not see a God. I was like you are now except my journey was opposite to yours.. I had little faith, until I asked. I asked God to show himself to me, I asked him to increase my faith.. And I left it. Until those certain questions were answered via unique methods to me. It’s a personal relationship you need to develop it….. Have a look at this video. Your prayers of your grandmother will be answered. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=-xHsAsy6Ols

        Like

  4. Arava says:

    You seem to get a lot of Christian apologists on here, trying to bring you back into the fold or somehow counter your conclusions derived from personal experience. I find it interesting that they are so eager to negate the validity of your personal experience and conclusions and instead try to supplant or counter them with the supremacy of their own. Many of the replies come across as rude, tone deaf and obtuse, as though they did not hear a single word that you said about this being a disagreement of ideas and not an ad hominem attack on people holding those ideas. It bewilders me too when people base their counterargument on a premise already established to be not held in common between you and the respondent; it’s a complete conversation non-starter that doesn’t go anywhere.

    I was actually doing a Google search on rosaries and atheism when I stumbled across your post. I too have a rosary of sentimental value to me, although I’ve been looking to re-purpose it with a meditative contemplation more in keeping with my current values and understanding of the universe and humanity’s place within it. It reminds me of a quote by Leon C. Megginson, mis-attributed to Darwin “it is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself”. The rosary is a tool to get into a certain cognitive and emotional state, and to focus the consciousness on particular values and concepts in a soothing way, as well as a ritual means to develop discipline. Buddhism also uses beads for meditation purposes. If religions and their practices are a collection of memes of perceived benefit to their carriers all competing to spread and perpetuate across time, it’d be a shame to throw out the useful tools with the harmful fictions if they can be adapted to a changing audience.

    A lot of your post resonates with my own experience. I went through Protestantism, Paganism, Judaism, and Catholicism trying to connect to something that I thought was external to the workings of my brain’s circuitry while minimizing the growing cognitive dissonance occurring from dogma and the manipulation and politicization of religious adherence. Dogma and the emotional manipulation and the arm-twisting that goes with it started to look more and more like an emotionally abusive, manipulative relationship. That endless, unconditional love promised came with some major conditions that, from a rational perspective, arbitrarily hurt and shut out people I deeply cared about. You quoted Daniel C. Dennett above. He can be a bit of an ass in terms of how he argues things sometimes, but his thoroughly referenced theses in the book “Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomena” were the last nail in the coffin for my religious belief, and it was a relief. I’ve been much, much happier since, better balanced, and a better person for having to wrestle and critically revise my fundamental assumptions about the nature of the universe and human existence.

    Another book I have really enjoyed and would recommend is Frans de Waal’s “Good Natured: The Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals”. He has a bit of an intellectual debate going on with some of Richard Dawkin’s conclusions in The Selfish Gene, and together they paint a more accurate picture of the biology and underpinnings of morality in social species.

    Thank you for having this blog, for your openness in discussing your experience, your human compassion, and your patience with the inevitable challenges in the marketplace of ideas that is the internet. I appreciate your thoughtful work. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Atheist Max says:

      Thank You very much, Arava.
      It is a wonderful feeling to know there are kindred ‘spirits’ out there.
      We non-believers have quite a chore sometimes in simply trying to attempt reasonable conversation with those who cannot comprehend us.

      I don’t blame Christians or Muslims for being so narrow. They are trained to be narrow by this hurtful philosophy which converts healthy doubt into an irrational “doubt-suppressing engine.” And I speak with compassion for them because I know the self imprisoning doubt-suppressor all too well. I had a very effective one for 49 years.

      All the same, I think religious fervor is coming on strong in the world and it needs at least to be argued about. Even though believers don’t like it. Fanatic religion destabilizes civilizations and politics.

      May the people of the world one day find the happiness reason and rationality can bring.

      Like

  5. Teresa says:

    Jesus lived on earth. He died in seemingly crushing defeat. There, at the foot of the cross began Christianity and it would alter the course of human history forever. How do you explain the enduring myth of Christianity? With all the advances in science, only 2% of the worlds population is atheist. It appears like the most natural thing for a human being to be is a deist. How do you explain this phenomenon?

    Like

    • Atheist Max says:

      Teresa,
      How do explain the phenomenon of Christian belief?
      Quite simple. Geography.

      If you grow up in:
      Kansas you are Christian.
      Saudi Arabia or Pakistan you are Muslim.
      New Delhi you are Hindu
      Parts of Iran, Zoroastrian.
      Parts of China, Buddhist
      And so on…

      Religions are cultural and traditional philosophies passed down through generations without much thought – the only “true” religion is the one you grew up with.

      The world is full of “absolutely true” religions.
      How do you explain 1 billion Muslims? They are certain Jesus was just a regular man who did not rise from the dead.
      Or how about 1 Billion Hindus? They reject Jesus too – and Yahweh. They believe in thousands of gods starting with Ganesha and Vishnu.

      I do not claim anything. I don’t know whether a god exists or not – but I am absolutely sure I DO NOT believe in any of them.

      I don’t know about your god. But I do not believe in it any more than a Muslim or a Hindu would.

      Like

  6. Alex says:

    I really liked this article. I was Catholic, and while I certainly don’t belive anymore, I still find comfort in saying the rosary, or sitting in church. I don’t believe anything is actually listening, but it’s more like I’ve done it for so long, it’s like a security blanket. Or like when you have a stuffed animal that you sleep with when you are little, to keep away the “monsters.” When you pick it up now, you know that it’s just a stuffed animal, and that there were no monsters, but it still makes you feel safe in a way you can’t explain. At least that’s how I feel. But it was nice to read a moderate approach to athiesm, and I am sorry that more people in the comments aren’t more receptive of your wonderful message.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Atheist Max says:

      Your comment brought me lots of joy. thanks so much.
      It is okay to hold our Rosaries and remember what they meant to us – the emotional ties of parents and grandparents are part of it I think.

      thanks for understanding.

      Like

  7. Skyla says:

    Atheist Max, is there any way i can get up with you? I would like to talk to you about being an atheist please, as i am slowly becoming one and i don’t know what to do or think about it. My family is christian as i used to think i was. I am truly lost, can you help?

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s