This is my first blog post, and probably the only one I'll make in for a long time, but this a little story, a scene that happened in my insignificant portion of Humanity's history that I call life.

I'm Portuguese, and it's often said that about 90% of our population is Catholic. The fact that there are so many festivities, religious monuments and "saints" or catholic figures (usually by the name of "Our Lady of -something-") is kind of proof of this. In fact, religion is so ingrained in Portuguese society it's almost sickening. Even our "praxe", an academic tradition, has practices that are rooted in religion.

Now, naive as I am, I assumed when I went to college I would see and meet less religious people and more atheists, people of science and reason. I was half right: most of my professors are atheists (and very often give subtle hints of that). Yet, and here was my disappointment, most of my colleagues were practicing catholics or at least believed in God without even thinking about why. Worst, when I casually state my atheism (I don't shove it down their throats, though i might include my atheism in a joke or comparison), they stare admired (not in a good way), ask me all sort of questions (little gems like "you HAVE to believe in something!") or just ignore me completely after that.
I get dumbfounded by the sheer illogical situation this is. It's an engineering university, and I'm in mechanical engineering, where we learn a lot of advanced theoretic and applied physics. My colleagues laugh when someone states common misconceptions of physics or evolution (most of us have studied biology at some point), yet here they are, believing in this fairy tale without even questioning it. I try not to offend them, so when I slip and say something that could be considered "heretic", i just change subjects. But I didn't do it in this particular Friday:

Regular morning: got up, breakfast, commute, classes. Boring old routine. But then came lunch. The cantine was serving both chicken and codfish dishes. I'm not a big fan of codfish, so chicken it was. When it came my turn, I noticed almost nobody was picking chicken, but I didn't care. MORE CHICKEN FOR ME!
It was when I sat down with my colleagues that I noticed how "heretic" my choice was. It's lent right now (check it on Wikipedia if you don't know what it is), and it's tradition here not to eat any meat on Friday's on lent. Words couldn't describe their faces frozen in awe and shock as I started eating my chicken with curry slowly and with pleasure. But that wasn't what bothered me. This particular girl was. I kind of liked her, so again my naive me though she was different... You know where this is going... She started all "How can you be eating that, don't you know it's lent?". I just shrugged and said "I'm not bond by laws of the immortal one, only by the laws of my sweet sensitive taste buds. Besides, you guys don't even know the reasons for this tradition". And yes, she hasn't spoken with me ever since.

This was very upsetting. I haven't met any atheists in the almost 7 months I've been here (never mind the fact that I only know 4 other atheists), and the fact that I'm being alienated for things I LOVE doing, like eating, is just... *sigh*

After the afternoon classes, I picked the bus to go home. Luckily, I was with my best friend who is also an atheist. I discussed this particular incident with him, when this lady, who was "overhearing" (aka, eavesdropping, privacy is underrated here) said: "I feel sorry for you two. How can you ever know what happiness and joy is without Jesus? Your life has no meaning without Him!".

yup... I know what you're thinking. Regular old religious lady. But that one hit a nerve. Very hard. I have to face constant hardships and pressure to stay in college and have good grades, as my family doesn't have many resources and I want a better life for me and my family. It's hard by itself, add the fact people label me with such bad connotations due to a trait of my personality I'm so proud of. So this lady saying that I couldn't find joy and meaning without being deluded? You might call my response divine inspiration, as I'll never say something like this again:

"I find joy in people, I feel happiness in success, I discover the meaning of my life every time I get home and hug and kiss my little sister. I live to better myself and those I love. I feel accomplished every time I get out of a class knowing I now understand the world and it's inhabitants a little better. I don't need God. Life is my guide, my savior and my confident. I have meet this guy 15 years ago. We got separated for 6 years when we were kids, yet we still knew each other perfectly when we got together again. Jesus never played football with me, never was there when I was acting stupid and he never shared a drink with me. This guy has. You need God to feel well? Good for you. But know that whenever we overcome an obstacle that was put in front of us, I knew me a little better, I know him a little better, and I fell alive!".

Hope you found this little story at least interesting and worth your time. Be free to add any similar stories you may have to share.

Views: 5297

Comment by Gerald Scott on April 9, 2011 at 8:44pm
Great post.  Thanks.  I can never think of anything to say when someone questions my beliefs.  About an hour later something will pop in my head, but too late.
Comment by Serendipity Rose on April 9, 2011 at 9:10pm
Excellent story and excellent response. :)
Comment by Beefaice on April 9, 2011 at 11:16pm
Fantastic. :3
Comment by Carlos Lopez on April 10, 2011 at 3:12am
You post a good article. My limitations in english does not let me try to do the same, but maybe one day. However let me tell that your history made me feel in deep connection with your situation related to your "ex-future-girlfriend". In my particular case I have been going thru a jungle with my wife, who was born and risen in Kentucky, so... you might figure out how hard the situation is, but you can say... why did you get marry with her?, well... I was not an atheist at that time and nowday my perspective of freedom is exrtremly delightfull to be into the closet. I am an open atheist here and enywhere and I cant tolerate the stupidity, by the way I am used to be a big mouth, so... that is the way it is. Congratulations for your history, you are not alone buddy. I will see you in the texas freethought convention up here in Houston in next months. 
Comment by Gregor Basić on April 10, 2011 at 7:39am
Don't believe in curses, but sometimes I think that human race is cursed to be this way. Like in those stories when somebody gets cursed not to see something, like in our case the truth, facts, reason, logic and so on.
Comment by Richard Raymond on April 10, 2011 at 11:24am
Oh godlodytes, oh godlodytes, how ignorant thou art! I hope evolution will speed up and eventually rid us of the creatard godlodytes.
Comment by bay_naam on April 10, 2011 at 12:01pm

I m also an atheist and lives in Pakistan in my country 99.9% are muslims who believe in allah. Speaking against religion with someone in my society means you are inviting a suicide for yourself.

Dear Tiago, To speak a "naked truth" we requires open minded humans. So be effective part of atheist sites. because few atheist Generals are planning about creating about world's biggest cyber force ever on this planet which will bring positive changes all over the globe.     

Comment by Jeanne B. on April 10, 2011 at 2:08pm
I applaud your honesty!  As a former Roman Catholic myself, I know how deeply entrenched one can be being brought up in this church.  The statues, the special devotions to certain saints, the creepy indulgences purchased with a monetary gift to the Roman Catholic church.  Shameful!  While I'm American, I was raised with Italian, Portuguese, and Irish Roman Catholics, and the chuch/culture DEFINES you!  To question or to break with it would be almost demonic!  Heaven help those of us who want to use reason (as we have been given this faculty) in our own interpretation, or even just explore.  I think this is WRONG.  It feels WRONG to be beaten down with dogma and superstition at the penalty of burning somewhere for eternity.  How effing CRAZY is that?  I say QUESTION everything until your last day on this earth.  Everything!  As I work with women that categorize themselves as "fundamentalist" type Christians that anything goes really, as long as you wear a big crucifix around your neck.  It's been my experience that the most catty type of women are the "religous" kind, who pass judgment on everyone who experiences difficulties.  I find them a disgusting breed.  Not a kind thing about them. 
Comment by Jeanne B. on April 10, 2011 at 2:17pm
Oh, and one more important thing.   The reverence exhibited towards the clergy is not only stomach turning, it's wicked.  These individuals are not "holy" be any long shot.  You give any human being the title "Reverend" and look out!  These people are just as effed up as anyone else on this planet, and let's never forget this! 
Comment by Jeanne B. on April 10, 2011 at 2:18pm
meant "by any long shot."


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