Atheism is a legitimate belief system

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(Photo by Nick Lachance)

I am an atheist. I am proud of my beliefs, but there are many people in my life who have condemned me for my choice.

As Canadian citizens, we all hold the freedom of religion, whereby we may decide which religion we follow.

However, many people forget that religious freedom also includes freedom from religion. A right I wish more people would respect.

Although I am not a religious man, I do acknowledge the importance of religion in our society. It can provide people with a sense of hope, especially in times of adversity.

Religion allows for the building of a community and the creation of relationships. Some people require religion to explain the existence of the world and create faith in an afterlife.

Nonetheless, I find it unfair that un-religious individuals are often pressured or scrutinized for their lack of faith.

Although most of my family are devout Catholics, my mother decided not to baptise me when I was born. Instead, she concluded that she would let me choose which religion I wanted to follow.

It took me about 15 years to figure out that I did not believe in any god, but once the decision was made, I stayed firm on it.

Although my mother respects my decision, much of our extended family gets upset when I defy Catholic traditions.

One of the most difficult times to stick to my beliefs occurred at my grandmother’s funeral. During the mass I chose to not participate by kneeling or praying with the rest of my family.

Many members of my family questioned me about my actions after the funeral. I do not expect them to understand my reasoning, but they should respect my decision and not pressure me to participate in religious ceremonies.

I would never criticise anybody for their belief in a religion, so why should people unaffiliated with religion be criticized for their choice?

In experiences with my family, I find that religious people have a hard time understanding the concept of believing in something other than a deity.

One of my aunts once asked me, “If you don’t believe in a god, then what do you believe in?” I responded, with the universe. Instead of pondering my response, it quickly got dismissed as simply not good enough.

I do not mind discussing my beliefs with people. But when questions are asked, the responses should be heard and considered.

In the case of my aunt, I would have been listened to if I had believed in any god, even if it was not Christ.

At various times in my life, I have had friends and co-workers who’ve held a wide range of religious beliefs.

Even though I do not believe in any particular religion, I do respect all the faiths which my colleagues may have. But, at times, I find some religious people encroaching upon my freedom from religion.

The most recent example comes from my summer employment. A discussion of my co-worker’s religion came up and they inquired which religion I followed.

When I revealed that I was not religious, my co-worker became focused on recruiting me into her own faith.

Although I demonstrated that I was uninterested, this individual continued to provide me with details about religious literature and videos to watch on YouTube.

She would tell me I needed to “save my soul.” The pressure continued to the point that I needed to let my manager know so they could inform her to stop.

People need to understand that when others are unaffiliated with a religion it is likely for a reason. Not having a religion does not make us free agents open to recruitment.

Many of us have considered religion, but made the decision not to include it within our lives. By pressuring us to join your faith, you intrude upon our freedom from religion.

Whether you are a religious person or not, it is important to stick to what you believe in. Do not let others make your choice but always respect the beliefs of others.

We all have the freedom of religion, but that must also include a freedom from religion.

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