At yesterday’s wedding, I was sat at the Maryland table and not the New Jersey table. I understand why, since they needed to balance out the tables, but it was a sad moment for me. Damn it, I am from New Jersey, and proud of that. Having said that, the Maryland table was pretty interesting. I was sitting with another atheist, a retired soldier, an individual trying to become a deacon with the Roman Catholic Church, and a contractor with her own religious beliefs.
The conversation started with politics, always a bad sign. However no fights broke out and very shortly we moved onto a conversation about religion. And it was an intelligent conversation from all parties. Much like the new pope, even the soon to be deacon treated us all with respect. And I think that was key. He listened, he talked, and he didn’t try to convert me. He did say the obligatory “You will always be welcomed back” statement. But I have no problem with that.
It was the respect and the intelligence that was brought to the table that made the conversation worthwhile. I always enjoy intelligent conversations about religion (and politics). No one is likely to win me back to believing in a higher power, but I do enjoy the discussions. I admit I was a little shocked when the deacon admitted that someone could be a good person without believing in a higher power. I have been told in the past that I must not have morals, that I have no soul, that I cannot be a good person because I do not believe in an afterlife. It sometimes feels like someone being gay is more acceptable in society than being an atheist, and that is a sad statement. We all should be accepted.
But it all comes back to respect. If you respect that others have different beliefs and different opinions and can still be a good person, you open up entirely new possibilities. You can believe in different things and still work together and in some cases still be friends.
And that is the problem with people today. We do not treat each other with respect.