The first year of my religious journey, I was only a few months in when Easter arrived. I decided to skip the church-going that Sunday. I knew in a way I was cheating myself. I had endured the gloomy crucifixion only to miss the celebratory conquering of death.
Part of the reason I decided to take the day off: I’m not quite sure what to think of the supernatural aspects of Jesus’ story. Making blind people see, walking on water, and, most astounding of all, rising from the dead. Some modern theologians suggest these events never occurred—at least not exactly as written; the stories about Jesus were told by word of mouth over many years until they developed these fantastical elements. If I preferred, I could choose to see them simply as powerful ideas that resonate on some profound level.
But, to be honest, that was more of an excuse. Here’s the truth: one of my pals was throwing a brunch.
After several weeks of reserving my Sundays for God, I was feeling homesick for my old ways. For Nones, Sundays are for getting up late, lazing around at home and, if we do go out before noon, we are most likely up for one thing: brunch.
But at my brunch date, I had to wonder if my None friends and I aren’t more influenced by religion than we realize—even those who might balk at the suggestion. In ways we might not even recognize, our day-to-day lives are shaped by religion. The concept of a weekend comes from the Jews. Our historical calendar is divided into “before” and “after” Jesus. Even something as innocuous-sounding as “holiday” comes from “holy day.”
I accept Jesus’ principal message on a fundamental level, as do the people to whom I’m close. From a very young age, I understood that others are no different from me and that every person is a significant and equally valuable being. I find it difficult to imagine a time in human history when this reasoning wasn’t the norm, when certain people were considered no better than lion bait, existing for the sole purpose of being ripped from limb to limb for entertainment. I can imagine that Jesus’ “Golden Rule” must have seemed like a novel idea back then. The Roman Collosseum was completed about 80 years into the Christian Era, so the “good news” hadn’t gotten around much. But have we evolved past this? Could it be that the spiritual exploration and evolution of our ancestors has accumulated in our DNA so that what were once alien teachings are now fundamental to who we are as people? Is it possible that some of us have adopted Christian concepts in the building blocks of who we are? Are my cells Christian even as I declare myself a “None”?
I read about a recent spate of billboards being erected in a few key cities paid for by an atheist group. They picture smiling individuals with the quote, “I can be good without God.” I have no doubt this is true—that the people pictured are kind-hearted and well-meaning—though I might argue that technically the “without God” is a bit misleading. They are likely leaning on the spiritual work of previous generations. So that while these individuals may be taking a break from thinking about God, their great-grandmothers and great-great grandmothers probably spent quite a bit of time honoring the divine. Whatever wisdom these ancestors gathered they passed down to their children who passed it down to their children, and so on.
But this billboard raises an excellent question: isn’t religion about much more than being good? I hope so. I’m not looking for motivation to be good—like the atheists on those posters, I don’t necessarily need help in that area (though a little brushing up couldn’t hurt).
I am shooting for something more along the lines of deep inner peace.