I realize that I spend a lot of time pointing out the differences between “us” and “them,” between those who believe in god and those who don’t. Truth is there’s hardly any difference between us. We’re 99.5% or more genetically similar to our neighbors.  (Although we’re also 80% genetically similar to cows.)

Our intangible thoughts and beliefs make us unique but not markedly so. At the end of the day, the atheist reads her child a bedtime story and kisses her goodnight.  The Christian still worries about the kid that bullies his son.  And we are all horrified at the murders, child abuse and rapes that happen here or across the world. When there is a crisis, we all want to help. So I should celebrate more often the ideas and the people who bring us together.

I came across this tribute to Irene Sendler, known as the female Schindler.  She was not as well-known, but she was even more of a hero. As a Roman Catholic social worker from Poland, she risked her life to save 2,500 Jewish children from deportation to concentration camps.  Her story is amazing, and if you have time, you will not regret reading this moving account of her life.

I love what Sendler said in one interview:

I was brought up to believe that a person must be rescued when drowning, regardless of religion and nationality.

When it comes down to a time of crisis, I’m confident that we’d all jump in and help, too, no matter our views about god.

In late 1943, Sendler was caught by the Gestapo. When she refused to expose the underground network that helped rescue the children, her interrogator ordered that Sendler’s arms and legs be broken. She was then taken into the woods, where she thought she would be executed. (She was saved and lived out her life in Warsaw, but she did not think of herself as a hero.)

This is what she said a few months before she died, which is reminiscent of our attitudes after 9/11:

‘After World War II, it seemed that humanity understood something, and nothing like that would happen again….Humanity has understood nothing. Religious, tribal, national wars continue. The world continues to be in a sea of blood.’

But she added: “The world can be better if there’s love, tolerance and humility.”

Ironically, she did not summon forth her god to make the world a better place. She realized that all we need are those things that we humans have the ability to control here and now.  I’d say we’d all agree on that. It’s something we can teach our kids every day in the way that we reach out or talk to those we know as well as those we don’t know.

The intention of this post is simply to say: No matter your belief system, I recognize our sameness, too.


26 responses to “Sameness

  1. You do have an ability to write eloquently of not-so-easy subjects. Just like what we perceive as race is more or less just skin-deep, our differences when it comes to recognizing a deity or not are even less so. Just like you wrote, a xian puts his kid to bed and after a goodnight story kisses her on the forehead and wishes sweet dreams exactly as I do too. A muslim parent is worried sick when their kid does not come home when he should´ve and doesn´t answer his phone – exactly as I do – and is exactly as relieved when he does come home.

    Ms Sendler showed with both her heroic actions as well as her words later on the thing we unbelievers have told a million (!) times – the Golden Rule is enough and being good for goodness´sake is the moral position.

  2. Beautiful post, Debbie.

  3. I looooovvveee the story of Sendler. What an incredible women. I always wondered why she didn’t get the “fame” that Schindler did. She was a brave soul.

    I had read that tribute to her before, and what stuck with me was how she said it was soooo hard to convince the parents to give up their children (understandable) and also how hard it was for the children those first few nights away from their parents (also understandable). Of course, in these days re-connecting with your child after the war (if you survived) was NOT easy…. and often times when they did, the child only had memories of their “new” parents. What a heartbreak that would be. Such a difficult thing. I like to think I would be a selfless enough parent to give up my child if it was what was best and be happy if they loved their new adopted parents so much, but boy, that would be hard…

    • @Molly Seriously–When I read that, I was really, really touched. I can’t imagine. I like how Sendler admitted that she couldn’t guarantee the kids would live, but could guarantee that they would die. As a mom, you also don’t want your kids to think that you abandoned them. It’s only as these kids aged that they understood. I thought it was touching, too, when one of the rescued said she had 3 moms….

  4. I have often had long philosophical discussions with those I trust enough to share my non-beliefs with, especially on the subject of morality. Their shocked reaction to our mutual agreement on many issues is a testament to the sameness we all share. Yet I continue to feel a great sadness that their initial reaction is a shock that someone without religion and belief can be morally straight. Without revealing my beliefs they all assume I am religious, just not a church goer. I guess that is the 1% difference between us.

  5. It cuts both ways. If the Xian I’m speaking with can understand our sameness as well, we can usually have a dialogue. I don’t think all Xians are crazy. Most that I know are not, an even then, the “crazy” ones just have wrong beliefs that they don’t see as such. I always strive to keep this in mind, not just because I remember how I was as a Xian, but because I know some of those same tendencies to marginalize and exclude others still exist within me. It’s a human failing, not just a religious one.

    • @MichaelB Great insight: ” I always strive to keep this in mind, not just because I remember how I was as a Xian, but because I know some of those same tendencies to marginalize and exclude others still exist within me. It’s a human failing, not just a religious one.”

  6. Love this!

  7. Food for thought: While it is true we look and walk and talk pretty much the same but I find the differences negate the sameness with gaping holes. This makes me sad in more ways than I can tell you.

    I live where agnostics and atheists are powerfully outnumbered by the “believers” and always will be. Just to hint that you are a non-believer will cause the seemingly nicest co-worker to stop short of any interaction with you except superficial politeness. Cause your neighbors to “pray for you” and send you spiraling to the bottom of the list in your community of just about everything. The only thing that would cause me to treat a person that way would be if they were threatening me in some way.

    So, different or the same? I wonder…

    • @unglued one, I’m not trying to speak for Debbie but I interpreted her description of “sameness” in the fact that, believer or nonbeliever we both have similar goals, desires, dreams, hopes, and needs. We both want our kids to be safe and healthy, we both worry about things like gun violence, we both cry when we see that innocent children are killed, we both worry about things like the war in Syria, we both are heartbroken when a loved ones dies.

      Despite a difference in belief system (or ethnicity, or gender, or income bracket, etc….) we are all more similar than not. If we are able to recognize this, I think we take a huge step towards understanding, acceptance, peace, and harmony. For example, if your bigoted co-workers or neighbors could realize that you are like them in more ways than not, perhaps they would treat you the same, despite your non-belief.

      • Molly, I really wish that would happen. But getting a person “of faith” to see or understand that is not something I have ever seen. At least not in the Bible Belt of the South.

        • Absolutely, Molly. I really wish more folks were like you. I don’t think that you judge me for what I believe about god, but rather what I say. You see the individual.

          I also get what the unglued one says because I do know people who won’t associate with me any more because of my beliefs. Yet, I would–and have–welcomed them into my home. Frustrating.

  8. Another great blog, Deborah! Thank you for this. Love Irene’s quotes.
    There is a great post making the rounds on Facebook, a quote from George Carlin: “……I love and treasure individuals as I meet them. I loathe and despise the groups they belong to and identify with.” To which I added: “i understand the need to be part of a tribe. for me, being part of the human tribe is enough. breaking the tribe down into more and more boxes/labels just seems to alienate folks and be-little the tribe of humanity.”

  9. Found this quote I posted elsewhere without attribution that somewhat relates —

    In the end, it doesn’t matter if love comes to you or not, or if doesn’t come to you in the form or with the force you may have wanted. All that matters is that love exists somewhere in the world, and that we strive to make a world where this astonishing fact — which alone gives meaning to life, and is itself immortal — can flourish in all of its manifestations.

  10. I liked this replay at the site —

    Anatole France wrote, in his Le Jardin d’Epicure, in 1895, probably the best rejoinder to these idiots – in the original for us purists:

    ‘Étant à Lourdes, au mois d’août, je visitai la grotte où d’innombrables béquilles étaient suspendues, en signe de guérison. Mon compagnon me montra du doigt ces trophées d’infirmerie et murmura à mon oreille, “Une seule jambe de bois en dirait bien davantage.”‘

    (translation: When at Lourdes in August, I visited the grotto where innumerable crutches were hung, as proof of faith healing. My companion pointed out to me these trophies of infirmity and murmured into my ear, “A single wooden leg would have been more convincing.”)


    • s/b reply

    • @LT “A single wooden leg would have been more convincing.

      Great one!

    • I´ve thought this sameness thing over a bit more. If one could think of us consisting of HW and SW – HW part is 99,5 percent the same, only the size and colouring differs within limits. SW on the other hand – I guess we all have almost the same capabilities (meaning that most of us are smarter than guinea-pigs) but there is a huge variation in the programming. Because of that we are actually not same at all – religious affiliation is only one aspect in that. You might divide people on terms of being conservative/liberal or rational/emotional etc.

      In my earlier post I was thinking about the sameness in comparison with parenthood and the feelings we all have towards our kids no matter what we believe in, or don´t. I read a forum last night and there was a lively debate on crea/evo. The “arguments” the crea side threw showed a horrible picture – there is apparently a world-wide conspiracy of scientists trying to deny God (Yahweh I suppose) and they do it in part brainwashing the kids at public schools. I´m not claiming that there are no wacky atheists/evolutionists but the other side is almost 100% crazy, certifiably delusional. Where´s the sameness in that?

      “There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread … nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'”
      -Isaac Azimov

      • @saab93f I think I was involved in that debate, or at least one similar to it. There are folks here in TX who want “creation science” in our texts. Freaking unbelievable that we are still arguing about all this.

        I understood what you meant yesterday, and there are definitely difference between people and how they perceive the world. We just also have a lot in common–like the love for our kids, spouses, country, etc.

  11. Beautiful post. You have a good heart, Debbie, and I’m glad to “know” you.

  12. We are all in this together, by ourselves. ~ Lily Tomlin

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