Thursday, 21 October 2010
"And he to me: 'This miserable way
is taken by the sorry souls of those
who lived without disgrace and without praise.
They now commingle with the coward angels,
the company of those who were not rebels
nor faithful to their God, but stood apart.
The heavens, that their beauty not be lessened,
have cast them out, nor will deep Hell receive them--
even the wicked cannot glory in them.'"
"'Those who are here can place no hope in death,
and their blind life is so abject that they
are envious of every other fate.
The world will let no fame of theirs endure;
both justice and compassion must disdain them;
let us not talk to them, but look and pass.'"
"After I had identified a few,
I saw and recognized the shade of him
who made, through cowardice, the great refusal.
At once I understood with certainty:
this company contained the cowardly,
hateful to God and to His enemies."
Dante's Inferno, Canto III
These passages are from Dante's journey through the Ante-Inferno (just above the first circle of hell), the home of the "Virtuous Heathens." When I was reading this for my world literature class, I found myself in strong disagreement with Dante's views on those who chose not to side with God nor Lucifer. It's repeated by both Virgil and Dante that these angels are cowards for not making a choice.
I'm sorry, since when was choosing not to be involved in a war cowardly?
Choosing not to choose is a choice. What if you were forced to choose between murdering a man or a woman? Personally, I'd choose to do neither. I would choose to not pick a side, or which life to end, which would be bravery on my own part because I'm not giving in to the whims of someone calling all the shots.
I do understand that turning your back on God is a pretty big deal. But Lucifer, the bringer of light, did it. He had reason to. What if these angels, these neutrals, had good reason as well? Did anyone ever think of that? Perhaps they didn't want to be involved in war. Maybe they were peace-loving. And maybe, just maybe, they were brave enough to believe in themselves rather that siding with whoever they thought would win. Why did they have to make a choice that could easily end up in death? When is fighting better than peace? Someone disagrees with you, and now you want to fight them? What gives?
Since I'm not a religious person, the concept of faith is pretty much foreign to me. I understand that many people completely rely on God, and that's fine. I understand that many people don't believe in God, and that's fine too. What I don't understand is why people think agnostics, those who choose not to choose, are so horrible.
When I state that I'm an agnostic, I often hear the phrase, "I don't care what you believe in, just believe in something." Why must I do this? First of all, it's my own life, my own choices, and my own beliefs...please stop telling me what to do. Secondly, you just contradicted yourself. If you don't care what I believe in, why do you care that I admit that I don't know?
If the speaker of this response is religious, isn't a major part of religion acceptance? And if the speaker is an atheist, he or she is usually telling me that I don't have any guts. But, my guts are in my admittance that I'm unsure. I'd rather admit that I don't know something than pretend to go along with it. Choosing a side just to be on a side seems much more cowardly to me.
Then there are those who try to change me. One, that offends me. Two, if I haven't made one of your choices so far, what makes you think you'll say something to change my mind? Do you really think you'll have the magical answer to "cure" me of this affliction? Which is not an affliction at all, by the way. I'm a human being just like you. So much for equality, religious tolerance, and all that jazz.
I'm not saying that all religious people and atheists are complete assholes to people like me. I'm just reporting on what I've experienced - a lot. It saddens--and, admittedly, angers--me that I'm practically not allowed to choose to question the existence of a higher power. I know that technically I'm completely free to believe whatever I want--it's just the closed-mindedness of others that depresses me.
Yes, I think those who look down on agnostics are closed-minded. Am I closed-minded for being hurt that my beliefs, however unsure, are scoffed at? I don't think so. That, to me, would be like Nazis blaming Jews for being closed-minded and not supporting them in their decisions to persecute them.
People always say that persecution for one's beliefs is unfair, primitive, and ultimately useless. So why do I continue to be looked down upon for mine? I just don't understand.
Can you help me understand why many people don't like agnostics? What do you think of agnostics?