Losing My Empathy

We were sitting on the couch, talking about whatever as I skipped between browser tabs and eventually committed to chain-playing 2048. David reclined, I had my legs slung across his lap. It’s in those quiet moments when I’m not working, tackling homework, or reading articles that startling questions are given the opportunity to spring to mind. That night it was a question I had been trying to avoid for while, days, maybe weeks. “David, do you ever feel that the longer you’re away from church, the more absurd–“

“Yes!” He didn’t even let me finish the question.

We’d both been feeling it, not constantly, and stronger at some times than others, but feeling it nonetheless, the growing absurdity of everything we’d been raised to believe. Somewhere along the line we’d started laughing at Jesus-zombie jokes, and side-eyeing people who spoke of a literal snake in an ancient garden geographically located on earth. At some point promises of prayer lost their comfort, and the notion that we would willingly construct our moral understanding around an ancient Middle Eastern manuscript full of mythologies, and translation errors began to appear arbitrary and strange.

The disassociation from my former beliefs feels ironic somehow, given that I spent much of the last two years defending the rationality of Christians to their detractors in the various secular social media groups I frequent for support. “They’re not all crazies.” “Fundamentalists represent a small percentage of an ideologically diverse whole.” In the past, such phrases have left my fingers with great conviction, but this does not change the present reality. Having lost my faith, I am now losing my empathy.

I’ve avoided this admission for awhile now. I’m not entirely sure why. Perhaps because it’s a realization that further removes me, culturally and emotionally, from the bulk of my family and large swathes of old friends. Perhaps because I don’t want to admit the swaths of old friends are no longer relevant to the culture I embrace, my day-to-day life, or my vision of an ideal world. Perhaps because I can feel myself relating more and more to people I’ve generally disliked for their lack of empathy, arrogance, and pride. People like Richard Dawkins and Bill Maher. The kinds of people who turn valid challenges to biblical authority into rude heckles and cutting attacks. The kinds of people who only augment the stereotype of secularists as cold, uncaring, immoral, haughty jerks.

I can’t stand these people, but I laugh at their jokes.

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