Sunday, August 25, 2013

It’s Okay: A Letter to Atheists

To Atheists I know and will know:  

I have wanted to write this for some time. A few acquaintances and relatives have disclosed over the years that they lost their faith in God, are agnostic, no longer believe in the existence of God or revealed that they never actually believed in the first place. This has not shocked me. I have read the current studies stating that people are leaving organized religions in droves, especially in the U.S. and Europe.  Many had these systems imposed on them simply by being born into a family that shared a particular religion and have left during the beginning stages of adulthood. I find that there is enormous tension between believers and non-believers; tension I feel should not exist. I believe in God and also believe that we are all entitled to believe in what we want. We must respect these beliefs, even if we do not agree with them. One thing history teaches us is that tolerance takes time. This goes both ways and I do not think we should waste time arguing on it. This is very important as all societies are heterogeneous in some way or another and humans will never share all the same beliefs. 

All atheists are not equal. One atheist that I know is okay and not threatened with my beliefs and we openly talk about each others, whereas an atheist relative, always wanted to tell me how foolish I was and literally argue with me for my belief in God. Every single conversation I had with this atheist centered on the existence of God. It was like this was the only topic that mattered. I tried for months to just keep things calm but it kept coming up. It was to the point where I was attacked over everything I said, even non-trivial subjects like the weather and I could not even say a greeting. I chose to break ties with this relative but I hope one day to try to recover the relationship. I wondered if and why some atheists are like this? I see my faith as a journey and not a destination. Those who do not believe are on a journey too, one of acceptance. I want atheists to know that I accept them, but I would like for them to accept me as well. I do not want to persuade you to believe in God, or subscribe to the same faith system as I do, I just want get along with you. I like Neil deGrasse Tyson and science, especially astronomy. I even like Bill Maher. 

Just as I do not want to be lumped in a category as all believers, namely Christians (Catholic in my case), I do not lump all atheists in one box. In fact, I do not even believe in categorization. I often struggle with my faith. That does not mean I want to just let it go though. I believe the greatest challenge that my faith has taught/teaches me is to love everyone unconditionally; even those I feel have wronged me or do not believe what I believe. This is going to take a lifetime to achieve and I am very likely never to get there but my faith propels me to try. No one is perfect but that is what makes us humans. As the world’s belief in religions evolves with time, tolerance is very needed. The next generation will not be raised the same way I was and globalization is changing how people view beliefs in a higher existence.

So this letter is to call a truce and apologize to atheists that I know and will know, my friends and those in my family. I am sorry if your coming out as an atheist/agnostic has brought hurt, judgment and pain from believers. Know that all believers are not alike.  I would like us to both challenge ourselves to attempt being friends with each other and end the bantering that gets us no where.  If I am the only believer that accepts you, then let us be an example to others. Feel pride in who you are and what you believe and know that there are believers out there that are open-minded and want to extend an olive branch.  

Thursday, August 15, 2013

My Must See Documentaries Part II

Premise: “There is so much beautiful humanity on display in this documentary about modern-day Uganda and the push by some to criminalize homosexuality to the point of executing gay men and women. Enduring such ugly discrimination, the Ugandan gays in this film are vibrant, soulful, beautiful people and offer sufficient counterpoint to the wicked justifications of their enemies simply by existing. Eye-opening does not begin to describe it, and as events unfold, it becomes one of the most emotionally intense experiences of the year.” Regardless of your viewpoints this is one to see.  

Venus Vs. (2013)  

Premise: This documentary is a part of ESPN’s Nine for IX film series. Nine for IX is a series of nine documentaries about women in sports by female filmmakers. Inspired by the 40th anniversary of Title IX, Nine for IX will give the chance to highlight the work of women, by women. Venus Vs. tells a story the US press largely ignored, the story of Venus Williams fight with Wimbledon for unequal treatment of female competitors. She took them to task and in 2007 won, now Wimbledon awards equal pay to all competitors, in all rounds. Well done Venus!

Premise: “A racially-charged criminal trial and a heart-rending love story converge in this documentary about Richard and Mildred Loving, set during the turbulent Civil Rights era. Long Way Home: The Loving Story is a story of love and the struggle for dignity set against a backdrop of historic anti-miscegenation sentiments in the U.S. The Lovings, an interracial couple, fell in love and married at a critical time in American history, and, because of a confluence of social and political turmoil our reluctant heroes bring about change where previously no one else could. They are paired with two young and ambitious lawyers who are driven to pave the way for Civil Rights and social justice through an historic Supreme Court ruling, changing the country's story forever.”

Under African Skies (2012)  

Premise: Filmed by BBC Imagine Paul Simon returns to South Africa to explore the journey of his Graceland album, including the political backlash he received for allegedly breaking the UN cultural boycott of South Africa designed to end the Apartheid regime. Another film I can watch over and over again.

These last two suggestions are not documentaries per say but they are excellent choices if you are interested in geography, history and politics. 

Premise: Simon Reeve travels around the edge of the beautiful Indian Ocean. The journey starts in South Africa and travels around the coast of the Indian Ocean, heading up the east coast of Africa, around India and back down the western coast of Indonesia to southwest Australia. The adventure takes Simon to 16 countries, as he confronts the front line of the conflict in Mogadishu. Somalia, one the most dangerous places on the planet, to the Maldives, Mauritius and the Seychelles. Simon travels by boat, car, train and plane. He encounters pirates, dives with sharks, patrols with Dutch Special Forces, goes underwater spear-fishing, dines in an underwater restaurant, stumbles into a seedy drug-den, visits a 5-star seaside palace housing thousands of refugees, meets a Yorkshireman on his Seychelles island paradise, and has close encounters with the amazing wildlife of the Indian Ocean, including lemurs, penguins, dolphins, elephants and manta rays. 

I enjoyed this series. After a while you feel like you are traveling with Simon. He shares his enthusiasm, humor and curiosity while exploring parts of the world few outsiders get to see.The BBC film-crew captured stunning images around the ocean from land, sea and air. The videographers did an amazing job with the landscapes they are simply beautiful. The only thing it is that we are not seeing these places through the local perspective as Simon is judging them based on his lens.

BBC Lost Kingdoms of Africa Series 1 (2010) 
In this series British art historian Dr. Gus Casely-Hayford explores the pre-colonial history of some of Africa's most important kingdoms. The Lost Kingdoms of Africa was shown in BBC Four's Wonderful Africa season, a wide ranging season of films that looked at the arts and culture, life and landscape of Africa in advance of the 2010 World Cup. 

Series 2 (2012) 
Part 2 was a carryover from the first series and explored more areas.

I hope everyone enjoyed these posts. Click here to see more Documentary suggestions for 2013. Happy Viewing!