Atheists, Creative Spirits, and The Glory of Defiance

For a long time, I’ve been struggling to understand why I continually attract–and am attracted by– Atheists, artists, and creative people.

All my life, I thought I was looking for a “good Catholic man.”

I think I’ve been wrong.

I like having the culture aspect of growing up Catholic in common. But I’m not convinced that I’m only compatible with Catholics.

I’ve learned that I see God in everyone. Whether they “believe” or not. I’ve learned to look beyond the obvious.

If I am looking for a Catholic man, he will also need to be very open-minded. Progressive, not only conservative.

It’s not the answer to simply conform and obey.

It is RIGHT to question authority. To insist on thinking for yourself.

I thought maybe I was attracting these types because MY faith was weak. That I needed to pray more, do more good works, or something. That somehow, it was *my* fault– and this was a punishment.

Because that’s the way we are taught to think, when you’re raised Catholic. Guilt is embedded in your conscience. Any unanswered prayer, any bad thing that happens, there’s always a reason– God is teaching us some sort of lesson. And it’s up to us to figure out what that is, in the void.

I believe that, to a point.

But I think I was misreading it all along.

Now I see that many people who profess NO faith are the kindest, most loyal people you’ll ever meet. They will agree to help you move without even knowing the date, and stay the whole time. They will be your friend unconditionally. They accept people as they are, exude enormous empathy, and in many ways embody the Christian faith and the example of Jesus more than many of the most vocal Christians.

And many Christians are self-righteous, afraid to associate with anyone different, paranoid that allowing their children to meet, befriend or date anyone of a different race or creed. They hate anyone who challenges their beliefs.

And hate is not the answer. Love is the answer.

Empathy and tolerance is the answer.

I still identify as Catholic– but I am quick to qualify that I am also a Democrat.

It is not wrong to be gay. I also support a woman’s right to choice.

People are human– and God made us all. Diversity is the glory of life, not the bane of it.

I am a proud liberal who ENJOYS having friends and dating people who challenge me, who show me a different aspect of humanity. I like learning about different cultures. I like to listen and find out WHY people believe what they do. I don’t just interrupt and say, “Well this is what *I* believe,” and then list all the reasons why someone else is wrong. I’m not out to convert people to my point of view at all costs.

I used to be terrified of change. Now it’s comforting. Change is the one thing you CAN count on.

I accept people as they are, and I’m not threatened because their having a different opinion doesn’t make feel insecure or less of a person. I am happy to agree to disagree.

Some people just want to argue for arguing’s sake. Even if you AGREE with them, they will switch the conversation to another topic they can debate. They don’t care about a civil conversation, they just want the drama.

The only way to deal with these people is to just shut them down.

Truthfully if your faith is strong enough, you should be able to get along with anyone. You know who you are, so you can be anywhere and know that you are the same person.

I wasn’t attracting the WRONG kind of people. I was hung up on labels.

The reason I have such a strong and persistent attraction to Atheists and creative men is deceptively simple.

And it’s only recently– in the past year– that I’ve had the insight to see it.

I learn slowly, but I do work through information I’m given and make up my own mind. I will change my mind, openly admit it, and explain why once I figure it out.

The common denominator is a defiant spirit.

It’s taken a long time for me to embrace it, but I realize that I do have a rebel yell.

I appear to be very “nice”– and I usually am benevolent to most people. Unless given a reason otherwise, I treat people with respect and expect they are being honest with me.

But make no mistake, I have no problem asserting my opinions and calling out bullshit, either.

And men respect that in a woman. Too many women are submissive, desperate to agree. They don’t want to upset their man, they have no opinions, they agree with everything and put up with everything as well. Even abuse, be it verbal or physical.

At times in my life, I’ve been that woman. But not anymore.

I used to be so afraid of confrontation. But not anymore.

You can’t avoid things– they don’t go away. You have to face them and work it out.

Sometimes the only thing to do is fight, for your own dignity.

Because “fun” is not the glue of love, as I have learned. TRUTH is the the glue. When you’re secure enough and respect one another enough to tell the truth, especially when it hurts.

Because I’d rather be told the truth than flattered.

Until now, I had only done this in my closest relationships. My very best friends, and only the romantic relationships that were the deepest. If I trusted another person enough to fight with them and let them have it, that meant they were part of my inner circle. I used to be a woman with weak boundaries, who was too worried about upsetting the status quo to stand up for myself.

I was quite naive, and my kindness was often used against me.

This translated to every area of my life– friendships, jobs, relationships.

Finally, I learned to recognize these manipulators. I stood up to them. I shut them down.

Now, I’m slowly rising in my confidence. In the past year especially, I’ve gotten in touch with my anger. When you’re Catholic, you’re also taught not to express anger– but to repress it, so as not to hurt anyone’s feelings. You’re taught to pray it away. And it doesn’t work.

That’s WHY a heaping majority of Atheists were formerly Catholic.

The truth is, religion can be damaging.

Silence is the weapon that kills the faith of many.

When you’re raised in a culture that teaches you not to talk about what’s hurting you, not to show emotion– just to carry on and stuff it all, it’s not good for you.

Praying is not enough. Confession to a priest is not enough.

We need to defend ourselves as well. We need to assert boundaries. We need to communicate with others directly.

Faith can be a rock in the storm. It is for me.

But it takes a lifetime to work through how to manage it in a way that allows us to balance our feelings, express them when necessary.

I’m still working on it, myself.

But every day I’m getting smarter. I’m less afraid.

And my voice is getting bigger.

This blog is helping immensely.

Sister’s light brought me back to my faith: Common Sense column #12

This is my most personal column yet.

I wrote it in tribute to my aunt, a nun who helped to build my faith. I believe it she who guided me to the opportunity, and praying to her gave me the strength to apply for the job at all.  And as the Year of Faith begins in my church, I declared mine via my column.

Here ya go!