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The Atheist and the Catholic

This isn't the usual fare for my blog, but this topic just keeps sticking with me. Now, before I get into it, understand that for this blog I need all of you to be absolutely respectful and show maturity. If this were anywhere else on the internet I wouldn't even consider doing this. However, the people at GIO have consistently proven themselves to be adults capable of rational discussion. This is the only place I post where the comments are smarter than my blogs.

That's why I'm taking a leap of faith here. Please, please don't make me regret it. So... if you can't behave in a polite manner, leave now and forever hold your peace (and you might have to hold it for a while, this blog is a bit long).

Now that I've scared off some of my audience, let's get started.

One of the interesting parts of high school was meeting different people. Like I said before, I was raised in Ohio in the most typically suburban environment imaginable. My parents raised me Catholic and sent me to all Catholic schools, including my high school. Thus I was brought up with an intricate familiarity of religion, especially Christianity. For as long as I can remember back, everybody I knew was Catholic.

It felt like this guy was our neighbor.

High school changed all that. For the first time, I met people who were totally different from me. Despite going to a Catholic school, we had a fair number of Protestants, Jews, atheists, and one kid who was Hindu. To be honest, I didn't really care. Religion came second to whether or not I liked someone personally.

An exception to that rule was the atheists. Atheists are consistently rated the least-trusted group of people in America, and for good reason. Koobholes like Richard Dawkins love to get up on stage and call everyone who's ever believed in God an idiot. A couple of the atheists at my high school were like that- “Oh my science. You really believe that? You're so deluded.”

But on the other hand, the hardcore Catholics at my old high school weren't any better. One kid even refused to sell prom tickets to people who were bringing Protestant dates. Some of the extreme believers were just as condescending and rude as the atheists.

No two people better exemplified the divide than Greg and Seth. Greg was a hardcore atheist, a guy so liberal he'd bleed Medicare if you cut him. Seth was the very definition of bible-thumping conservative. Needless to say, the two didn't get along. It was somewhat difficult for them as all of their core beliefs were completely opposite.

That's why I laughed my ass off when I saw their senior year schedules. Greg and Seth not only had every single class together, they sat next to each other in all of them as well. Seating in every class is alphabetized, and their last names were right next to each other. Our teachers weren't too creative with the seating. But whatever. The point is that those two spent literally the entire year next to each other.

Like this, but with no hugging. Yet.

At first, it wasn't pretty. They bickered, fought, and were generally unpleasant to each other. However, as time passed, Greg and Seth stopped fighting and actually became... well, not friends, but friendly.

How's that possible?

The two of them were forced to constantly interact with each other. The more they interacted, the more they bonded over one common ground they shared: basic human decency. The truth was that Greg and Seth were actually paragons of their respective beliefs. Greg wasn't a jerk to religious people. Seth tried to mimic Jesus as much as possible by being an all-around good person. The two of them made their peace over the idea of just being nice to others, even if they don't believe anything you do. That included each other.

That really struck me. I realized that all this time, it wasn't atheists or Catholics I disliked. The real offenders were the pushy people, the insecure ones who felt the need to put others down to lift themselves up. It's the extremist jerks from both sides that annoyed me so much. Greg and Seth both realized that the best way to demonstrate the value of atheism/Catholicism was to be a good person. St. Francis said to “go out and preach the Gospel, and use words when absolutely necessary.” Atheists follow a similar but simpler motto: “Don't be a condescending d*ck.”

That's the real lesson. I know this story sounds cheesy as hell, but it all really happened. By the end of the year, I got both of them to admit (separately, and in private) that the other was a good person. That's what all of us should emulate: common human decency. It's simple, and it's powerful. Nothing else could have brought the atheist and the Catholic together.


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