I'm feeling conflicted about this past week's Glee episode.
Glee is a new television show just starting its second season. The writing is not the greatest, but it's not bad. The characters are over the top and ridiculous, but it's fun in a cartoon way and the music is wonderful. I enjoy it a lot.
The show is about a high school glee club (a group that sings and performs) and a cast of characters from around the school. In this episode, one of the boys gets religious when he sees a face that looks like Jesus on his grilled cheese sandwich.
All the characters are allowed to express their beliefs, but when one child says that he doesn't believe in God it is met with horror. He has every right to his beliefs and his friends ought to respect that. Instead they pray for him behind his back and in the end he apologizes for being upset when they were only trying to help. "You're right," he says, "I shouldn't be pushing my friends away." But what about them pushing him away? His friends are being much, much pushier. "Why are you closing yourself off to a whole world of experiences that might surprise you?" one friend asks. Well, by that same token, would she be willing to experience atheism? She is closing herself off to that possibility in exactly the same way.
I think if you are a friend then you give someone help in the way that they ask for it.
The lack of diversity on Glee upsets me. There is one Jewish kid (and one sort-of Jewish one) and she doesn't seem at all bothered that her boyfriend is the one who found Jesus in a sandwich. Everyone else is Christian. Including the Indian principle of the school. I know it takes place in middle America, but they had an opportunity in this episode to bring in different ways of understanding God and they failed. There is a Sikh acupuncturist, but she gives no mention of what Sikhism is.
The two atheist characters were the evil cheerleading coach (who is an atheist because God did not cure her sister's Downs Syndrome) and the boy who is gay and feels rejected by the church. The message they give is that it isn't okay to believe whatever you believe. It's the default to be religious and if you're an atheist you have to have a reason, some terrible trauma to make you hate God and then you'll eventually get over it. That is not at all true in real life.
I wish Glee had been more sensitive. I guess they gave it a good try. It's a very hard subject. I miss Joan of Arcadia. Now that TV show did a fantastic job exploring ideas about faith and God.
Sneak praying is the worst. There are people in my life who pray for me to find God. Even though I already have. Even though I'm very happy with my God, they pray for me to find their God. Mine is not good enough. That irritates me.
I believe very strongly that every individual person has the right to define how they understand divinity and the way the world works. I have chosen Hinduism and no one can take that away from me. If someone chooses atheism, it is his right to do so.
To me, atheism is not a disrespect to God because God isn't a separate being somewhere out in the universe, keeping tabs on who is being nice to Him. To me, atheists just have a unique way of expressing a belief that they in themselves are enough. And they are, because actually they are God. (And they may very well find that as obnoxious as I find people praying for me to become a Christian, but that's my perspective).
Regardless of whether I understand someone's take on spirituality, their right to believe it must be defended. As I've said before, as soon as any one of us is able to take someone else's religion (including atheism) away, then someone can take ours from us. It is never okay.