Thursday, November 7, 2013

A God Shaped Hole

I grew up being taught that the worst type of people on Earth were not the rapists, nor the murderers, but the atheists. My uncle on my father's side was an atheist and every flaw he naturally had as a human, was automatically blamed on his atheism.

He gambled.
He drank.
He didn't volunteer.
He never bought us birthday cards.
He got a divorce.
He wasn't loyal to his wife and married the lady he was rumored to have left her for.


As a rational adult, I don't see how any of those things on their own or as a whole immediately call him out as atheist. I think those traits can apply to any human, even a Mormon one.

But I was taught that my uncle did those things because he had a god shaped hole that he was trying to fill.  He tried to fill it with vices and he would never fill them until he found the truth of the gospel.

My uncle was raised by Catholic parents. Italian Catholics. They didn't go to church the same way I did growing up. They went on Christmas and Easter. And possibly Ash Wednesday, if I recall correctly. That was it, short of a Communion, or wedding.

And, as a child, I almost felt like my grandparents must have failed him if the belief in god didn't even stick with him. My aunt was still Catholic and my father had been converted to Mormonism.  But they knew god was real, even if my aunt had everything else all wrong.

But not my uncle. He was a lost sheep. And because of that, my mother did not want me to get too close to him. Atheists are the worst, they can use their logic, reasoning and anti-Mormon propaganda to pull even the most devout of Christ's followers away from the gospel.

So I never got to know my uncle the same way I was able to get close to my Mormon family members. I saw him every Sunday night at my grandmother's house for our weekly spaghetti dinner.

My aunt would buy us gifts for Christmas and birthdays, and write his name on the card beside hers. My mom made sure to tell us that they weren't really from him, our aunt was just trying to be nice to him.

Granted, my uncle was only about 12 years older than I was. So when he didn't buy me a gift for my 8th birthday, I don't truly believe it was because he was a heartless, soulless atheist. I believe it was more than likely because he was a 20 year old college student, focusing on mid-terms and girls. But you wouldn't have received that answer had you asked my 8 year old self.

My mother did her best to make sure myself and three younger half brothers knew that everything wrong with my non-Mormon family was due to them not being Mormon.

Grandpa smoked because he didn't have the gospel.

Grandma drank coffee because she didn't know the truth.

Our uncle gambled because he didn't have the light of Christ.

Our aunt lived with her boyfriend because she wasn't Mormon.

Any good traits or strong examples they set for us, were swept under the rug. As though everything 'bad' thing should be attributed to them not having the gospel of Christ, and every good thing was just a silly coincidence, they were acting as a follower of the gospel and unaware, or was because they were trying to showboat.

But my uncle was always the worst offender. I sometimes think that it was because being an atheist prevented him from having a way to repent. Did my mother feel like he couldn't truly be sorry for any wrong doing because he never repented? Or did the option of repentance being non-existent, make him come across as a narcissistic asshole?  I am not sure. But I do know that he was the example of the type of person that was definitely going to hell.

Was he a rapist? Nope. (You can repent for that.)
Was he a murderer? Nope. (You can repent for that too.)
Was he a pathological liar? Nope. (Another 'repentable' offense.)

He was an atheist. And all my opinions of atheists were formed at a rather young age, all based on my mother's biases. All of which made it so much more difficult for me to come to terms with facing my own cognitive dissonance.  And made it damn near impossible to utter the words aloud, that I am an atheist.

My uncle is an awesome man. He is an awesome father and an awesome person. I hate how I was raised to see him in such a negative light, all because he didn't believe in a god or gods. I hate how I was raised to look at my Catholic family with such disdain for their beliefs. I hate that I wasn't raised to love them as purely as I loved my Mormon relatives. I don't understand how my mother thought that would be a wonderful idea. It only hurt me, disabled me, and stunted my growth as a good person.

Judging people, even people you love, based on something so trivial, is mind boggling to me.

I hope that I can raise my daughters to love freely, without having to view people through a kaleidoscope of labels.

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