Ok, so I’m officially frustrated. I attended today’s event In Hamilton and I must say that it totally missed the mark as to what it was presented to be.
I belong to a local MeetUp group In Hamilton Ontario Canada for fellow Atheists. http://www.meetup.com/hamilton-atheists/ Come visit us and join in if you’re interested in meeting like-minded people.
One of our organizers received an invitation to go to this event but wasn’t able to attend so 3 days before the event she sent out a message to see if anyone else was interested in attending. Being raised Roman Catholic and being involved in the church until well into my teens and still having many of my family as practicing Catholics, I thought I’d see what this was all about and maybe even be able to give my perspective, after all of all the religions I have knowledge of the Catholics are the ones I know the most about. I had very high hopes for this event. It seemed like an interesting topic and I actually thought the Roman Catholic Diocese would give the title justice.
I was wrong….So when I got home I actually said to myself “Wow, I just mean wow”. I was a little bit fuming and had to decide between a beer or a submarine sandwich. The submarine sandwich won out this time ;-) Hey, I didn’t end up staying for lunch…..
The title of this meeting was “A Conversation for the Year of Faith among Christians, Atheists, Non-Believers and Free Thinkers in the Diocese of Hamilton”.
Where was the “conversation”?
I honestly felt that I was the only actual Atheist in the room although there may have been more but there was certainly no conversation happening. There were quite a few priests and nuns and some obvious Catholic parishioners in the seats as well as several Catholic Youth group organizations filling the spaces but my “fellow Secular Humanist” radar didn’t give me any indication that anyone else from “the loyal opposition” were in attendance. I don’t even think the fourth presenter David Cayley was an actual atheist. His own description of his believes indicated that he more likely conforms to Pantheism rather than atheism. I believe that he stated that he considers the idea that god IS the universe and that he “feels it around him” or something similar which is Pantheism not Atheism. He also stated that he fits into the description of atheist but then again doesn’t so he’s not really…. (David can clarify and correct me if he feels I got it wrong. ADHD sometimes gets the best of me and my focus can wander….the word “squirrel” comes to mind)
So what was the point of this event if not to actually have a conversation with people of other views if not just to pat one another on the back for all agreeing and then to be able to tell the Pope that they fulfilled their obligation?
http://www.communiohamiltondiocese.org stated “Thus, we intend that this event will foster mutual understanding and friendship among believers and non-believers through conversation, music and a social gathering at the Cathedral of Christ the King Thus in Hamilton”
Really, it actually DID feel like this was organized to “preach to the choir” as I was warned by my fellow free thinkers who wisely declined the invitation to attend with me. It seems like they just naturally let it become about showing off the Cathedral and have us listen to inspirational music while continuing to talk about Catholicism. I don’t really blame them, it’s what they do. I did indeed enjoy the speakers in the initial discussion panel (especially Father Lewis and Sister Bernadette) and was interested in their 15 minutes of talk time and the subjects they brought forward but the intended “conversation” seemed to be missing which defeats the purpose of this event…..
If their true purpose was to actually have real conversations with Atheists, non-believers and free thinkers then they actually need to HAVE conversations with Atheists, non-believers and free thinkers but that didn’t happen.
I’ll let you know that I stayed for the whole event. After the panel and the Q and A, I indeed looked around the Cathedral, which I hadn’t been to in more than 25 years and then went downstairs to see what was happening but all I saw was a whole bunch of like minded people talking about Catholicism. Even in the “Q and A” the topic arose about how to bring religion MORE into the daily lives of the people rather than talk about what “secular” really means in the workplace. I wish I could say I feel bad for the woman who couldn’t tell her patients that “god is there for you” when she works in a PUBLIC hospital but as a secularist I really, really cant. I didn’t feel welcomed nor did it seem that the purpose was to continue with the topic of religion and the “atheist” which I don’t believe actually started earlier in the first place. I walked out without attempting to speak to anyone simply because I didn’t feel it was appropriate to interrupt someone and say “hi, I’m an atheist, can I intrude into your lunchtime conversation”? Now don’t get me wrong, I am NOT shy, I LOVE to talk (ask anyone) and I love to talk about science, religion and especially my atheism but it didn’t seem like the event for that. The initial “panel discussion” seemed hurried and the “Q and A” afterward was abruptly ended so that we could all go into the Cathedral to listen to pretty music rather than continue with the many questions people seemed to have. None of it regarding “Secularism”…Ok, there was one quesiton about “the myth of secularism” but I didn’t really get the answer and I think neather did the audiance member asking it.
I did plan on speaking directly with Sister Bernadette since she seemed like she actually enjoys the style of conversation that I presumed was going to occur today. She was rather funny and she spoke about being one of those who enjoys conversing with people in the “online world” about these topics. I figured she might have also noticed that the “conversation” part never actually occurred. I waited around uncomfortably for a while but she was in a conversation with yet another believer so I simply packed it in, walked out and headed home. Ok, I admit it, I was fuming just a little bit :-/ (and a bit hungry ;-)
I must also admit, that is not what I was expecting when I heard that the Catholic Church wished to have a “discussion with atheists, non-believers and freethinkers”
So now this group can get the message to the Pope telling him that they fulfilled their obligation of the “communio circle” and had a conversation ABOUT atheists even though they didn’t actually have a conversation WITH atheist….
I hope you can see my frustration.