Let us bow our heads in prayer…

Paul Wong
Dustin J. Seibert (The Manifesto)

And so goes the ritual that I am all but forced to endure every Easter when I make my annual trip to church, as well as when I attended my youngest sister’s baptismal ceremonies and every time I get together with family to feast (that is, if I want to get my hands on even a scrap of food). It is a prayer of emptiness to a deity that I don’t identify with, with words that seem otherwise completely outlandish to me when I hear them. So I play the role for no other reason than to appease the people around me, who will take it as a sign of disrespect if I don’t comply.

Being an agnostic in this society has forced me to stay “closeted” on so many topics in many different situations – people don’t care to hear that I have the audacity not to subscribe to their god, let alone any god for that matter. I suppose, however, that it’s a good thing that I reject most dogmatic beliefs in this particular society, as people around the globe have and continue to get slaughtered for no other reason than their religious beliefs. Long ago I read a quote that stuck like glue: “Religion is the ultimate form of separation … ” Truer words have never been spoken.

Why do I consider myself agnostic? Well, I wrote a 10-page paper on it last semester, but for the sake of space and interest, I will provide two paramount reasons: God exists to me conceptually … that is I can accept that something created what we understand as the universe and that everything follows from an initial creation. Said creator can be dubbed “God,” but that’s all that I can accept of its existence. My problem comes in when man-devised attributes are tacked on, such as immortality, omnipotence, or benevolence, and especially when God is given a name and identity. (If a “benevolent” God created and dictates the world that we live in, then “He” must have a hell of a sense of humor)

In addition, we have the three main monotheistic Western religions, in addition to countless other belief systems worldwide, and the proponents of the three claim that their path is the right path … the only true path. The million-dollar question, of course, is which belief system is correct? I personally don’t believe that any of them carry any significant weight, but if I were to choose one, it would be assuming that all others are wrong … and who am I to make that deduction? Essentially, choosing a religion would be, for me, like picking out the nicest piece of fried chicken – which of the batch looks more appealing? Please believe that no man-written text will influence my decision; perish the thought of having me actually dictate my life around one.

Since Christianity is the primary belief system in this country, I have, needless to say, had many encounters with its followers who have left a bitter taste in my mouth. Let it be known that I respect most all religions and belief systems, but when they don’t respect me in return is when problems arise.

Many have an unsavory habit of trying to convince people that their life is meaningless without Christ and that those who don’t believe or don’t exact their lives as such are “lesser” individuals. I grow passionate and defensive when I hear this, because they are not respecting my beliefs as I respect theirs. I imagine that, if there were a hell, that there is a special place in it for anyone with the unmitigated gall to tell me that I am going there. You are human like me, you bleed like me, and you think to tell me that I am going to hell when I die? Fuck me? No, fuck you!

I truly hate it when people tell me that they couldn’t live without their faith. I think about this country and how the religious grounding of its citizens prevents breakouts of chaos and immorality, and it saddens me that people can’t stay grounded on their own merits. At the end of the day, I consider myself a good guy – I don’t kill, cheat or steal; I look out for those in need; and my heart is basically in the right place. Not believing in heaven or hell doesn’t make me go out and do hellish things. I am a free thinker, and I look at the big picture and I (usually) take all things into account before I make big decisions. If I am to be sentenced to eternal damnation as a result, then bring on the hot coals.

Though I, like everyone else, am not without my issues, my life is going quite damn dandy right now. Everything is falling into place as it should, and I have no real complaints. I don’t credit the salubriousness of my life to any deity, nor would I do so if I were on the other side of the spectrum. I place merit into my own abilities, and I am absolutely incapable of giving credit to something that I have never seen, can’t understand, and will never, ever have absolute faith in.

So, to those of you who have tried with right hearts to indoctrinate me, please forgive me. Forgive me for not believing that homosexuals are damned to hell for their “immoral” lifestyle. Forgive me for not believing that the billions of non-Christians on the planet are damned to hell. Forgive me for not wanting to play slave to a deity while the tigers n’ shit run freely in the wild. Forgive me for living. This one is for all of those who ever had a glimmer of thought that there may be something deeper than what has been forced into your way of thinking your whole life. Yeah, my arms are long enough to box.

Amen.

Dustin J. Seibert can be reached at dseibert@umich.edu.

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