The Texas Bohemian

Word artist. Jack of all Trades.

The Reluctant Atheist

This morning a question was posted on a group I participate in on Facebook, The “A” Club, that asked members if their value system changed when they became an atheist.  Some folks said it was their value system that led them to atheism.  I must say the same is true for me.  The constant lying, denial of truth and reality, refusal to consider any point of view not consistent with their programming, these things drove me crazy for years before I abandoned faith.  It was not the beliefs but the failure of ‘believers’ to actually live their faith that ended my sojourn in Christendom.

Another person, however, said he was happier now as an atheist.  I cannot say that I am.  I am no more happy now than I was before.  Nothing has changed within Christianity.  The millions I once called my brothers and sisters remain deluded, programmed, and confused.  They practice a moral standard far removed from that taught by their Jesus.  And worse, they dismiss the whole of humanity and life on the earth as unimportant, fleeting, and temporary.  Their obsessive and insane belief in heaven leads them to devalue life.  I cannot be happy when so many people–including  every member of my family–are so oppressed and oppressive.

I moved from Christianity to  Buddhism.  What most people do not know is that Buddhism is an atheistic religion.  It hardly qualifies as a religion at all in the general sense.  Buddha believed there were ‘spirits’ or other realms.  He believed in a form of reincarnation.  But he did not believe in a ‘god’ in the same sense that religion does.  Buddha was the first evolutionist.  Essentially he believed in the existence of a ‘life force,’ for want of a better term, a thread of energy that moves through every living thing.  I do not translate the beliefs very well but the fact is that a true Buddhist is an atheist; he does not believe in a god or a ‘creator.’

I miss the idea of a creator.  It was a comforting thought.  Many people leave Christianity and other mainstream religions only to become Deists or New Age mystics or something similar because they can’t abandon the idea of a god altogether.  Whatever I may have thought about Christians it was still very difficult for me to put aside the thought, “I see a sunrise and know who to thank.”  Nothing in Christianity destroyed that feeling.  Something else did: a photograph.

Ever since I was a kid I looked at the stars with a sense of wonder and excitement.  The night sky has always overwhelmed me.  Knowledge of the universe has increased exponentially since I was a kid.  I was as excited as anyone could be when the Hubble was launched.  Little could I know then that the Hubble would prove the death of faith for me.

Christians so blithely quote Genesis, that god created the ‘heavens and the earth,’ without giving a single thought to what they are saying.  We’ve become aware of how incredible and immense the universe is.  The simple, medieval belief in creation does not fit.  It makes no sense that a creator with such power and ability would be all that interested in an obscure planet such as ours.  I managed to rationalize my beliefs for a long time.  Then I ran across the Hubble Deep Space Survey.  That single photograph changed everything.  It hit me that the idea of a creator was ridiculous.

With my discovery of the Hubble Deep Space photo came a total realization that belief in a creator was absurd.  Thus the final string was cut between me and religion altogether.  But that does not mean I like it.

Furthermore, I am, unfortunately, still far too “attached” to ideas, ideals, and humanity itself to be content with the knowledge I have.  It was much easier to dump stuff on god than it is to face it directly.

I was taught to believe in the value of mankind and the necessity of ‘making a difference.’  These things remain a part of me.  I am not content just to know truth myself.  I am driven to figure out a way for all of humankind to find truth, too.  Truth, I believe, is the answer to all our problems and conflicts as a race.  But truth is very hard to pin down.  Truth is much more a recognition of “what is not” than an understand of what “is.”  I very often get the overwhelming sense that truth is in some way being withheld from us, not by ‘god,’ but by someone/something beyond our known world.  That feeling really pisses me off.

I cannot accept the general scientific theory that we evolved.  The gap between humanity and all other species is too great.  There may be some superficial similarities between us and apes or chimpanzees but there is no other species that comes close not only to our intellectual abilities, our ability for abstract thought or appreciation for art and beauty.  Apes do not make cave paintings.  Chimps do not gaze at the sunset with adoration.  And no species is as capable of selflessness or selfishness as humankind is.  We are too different, too far removed from the nearest species to be directly descended in an evolutionary way.

I am forced into isolation for an assortment of reasons.  Were I living in a place where there were a number of people who thought as I and I had a social life I might not dwell so much on these thoughts.  But here I am, stranded, and thus forced to ask the proverbial ‘why?’  I ask, ‘who,’ too, but discard the idea that the ‘who’ we do not know is a ‘supreme being’ or god.  I’m somewhat like the child crouching in the corner of a shack surrounded by the ravages of war asking, “what the fuck is going on?”

I became an atheist with reluctance.  I did not want all I believed in for forty years to be a lie.  I could not, however, hide my head in the sand.  I cannot accept any notion that is not provable, logical, rational.  But in loosing ‘the faith,’ I am bound up in a conundrum.  The ‘god’ idea wrapped life in a nice little package and placed ‘the unexplainable’ in a little corner where I could say, ‘some day god will show me.’  God went away but all those unexplainable events, ideas, realities, did not.  They’ve come out of the corner and dance around my head like a troop of malevolent ballet dancers.

Worst of all, I realize now that it’s unlikely I will ever know the truth.  All I have is the life I live.  Time is very short.  My ability to discover truth is extremely limited.  And that ultimate expectation that god would explain it all to me ‘over there’ is completely gone.  Thus there is no happiness.  There is only longing and desire for answers.  So I continue to seek, to question, to look, and, in total contradiction to what I believe, to hope.

Whatever we may be.  Wherever we come from.  Wherever we’re going, there are answers and solutions.  Either my days will end and I will dissolve into nothing and it will not matter or at some point before my last day it will all become clear.  Until then, I remain, the seeker.

May 17, 2011 Posted by | Religion | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Yes, Mom, I am an Atheist

a⋅the⋅ist – a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings. (Dictionary.com)

Yes this is Christmas.  I’m back from hiatus for a short time.

A few  years ago in my zeal to put the local idiotic right wingers in their place I wrote letters to the paper.  True to form those “good Christian brethren” responded with nasty words and accusations.  One of the accusations was that I was an atheist.  My mom was still with us and her dear old Baptist friends had shared with her something of the letters and she was worried.  One day while I was re-roofing her home due to hurricane damage she looked up at me on the house and asked, “son, are you an atheist?”

“No, mah, I’m not,” I said.  And I wasn’t.  I was at that time trying to hold onto some kind of faith after having been ripped asunder by a collection of cowardly Christians (the story is in the archives of this blog).  I tried hard.  I really did.  But faith just would not come.

As my mom lay dying in the hospital and I spent every minute with her (more archived stories here) my faith in a so-called God fizzled away.  My conservative Christian siblings were in large part the main reason I lost all faith.  As I’ve written before here, by the time Mom died I’d become a true Buddhist.  But I wasn’t yet ready to call myself an atheist.  That seemed so hopeless and final!

Buddha, of course, believed in the existence of “gods,” spirit beings, though he did not consider them any more than consciousnesses on a higher plane.  He did not from all accounts ever believe there was a “supreme being” of any sort.  For some time I tried to believe in the “Higher Power” concept, that there must be a creator or “God,” just not the one described and worshiped by the Big Three, Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

Over the course of the year since Mom passed I’ve wrestled with that word “atheist.”  It is the antithesis of everything I stood for for more than forty-five years.  Atheists were, at one time, the ultimate enemy.  I moved closer and closer to the term “Agnostic,” which means “a person who holds that the existence of the ultimate cause, as God, and the essential nature of things are unknown and unknowable, or that human knowledge is limited to experience,” according to dictionary.com.  It’s a convenient cop-out for a lot of folks who are really atheists and for a lot more who just won’t accept all of their particular learned religion but can’t turn loose of it altogether.  But being an “agnostic” is merely choosing not to deal with the subject: “…yeah, maybe, sure, there has to be a God or something, doesn’t there?  I mean, just look….”  The “just look” is followed by assorted “evidence” provided by that person’s learned religion.

I was just like that.   I didn’t want to call myself an “atheist.”  it sounded to final, too cold.  But I knew I could not accept the idea of a “supreme” God.  I have no problem believing there are entities that some call spirits that inhabit some kind of existential or other-world place.  I’ve witnessed things in my life that makes it hard to deny there are some kinds of evil spirits around, or at least spirits that contradict Christian belief.  Or maybe it’s all part of a spiritual game being played on us by the other-world entities, or aliens, or who knows what.  I don’t.  But what I cannot any longer believe is that there is a “Creator” who created the whole universe.

One of the clinchers for me was a wonderful but terrifying graphic derived from Hubble called the Deep Space Survey.  I think I’ve written about that here too.  Considering the unfathomable size of this universe it’s impossible to believe all that is “out there” was “created.”  If it was, if that entire vastness was or is the creation of some kind of deity, there’s no logical reason such a deity would visit itself on this planet as the Big Three contend.  We’re a speck on a speck on a speck.  Our galaxy is a dot on a slide on some distant alien’s telescope.  We are nothing.  So no, I can’t accept the idea of a “Creator.”

Beyond that, I cannot accept anything the Christian church teaches with the exception that a man named Jesus may have existed.  There is really so little about him in the book Christians use and so little paid to the teachings attributed to him that he’s really an insignificant figure used as a figurehead for a religion full of cruelty, condescending attitudes, hatred and fear.  Especially fear.

In Christian circles one hears the word “love” thrown about as if it matters.  Many quote the “Love chapter,” a very nice set of verses in an otherwise unbelievable and contradictory collection of “letters” supposedly written by a guy named Saul/Paul.  Don’t kid yourself.  Christians are not Christians out of love.  They are Christians out of fear.  There is such tremendous and deep-seated fear within every Christian that they with few exceptions ever step outside the walls, ever listen honestly to anything “non-Christian” or ever for a split second consider abandoning their religion.  To do so is to send oneself to hell.  It is fear of hell, not “love of God” or “the love of Jesus” that keeps them nailed to the cross with Jesus.

I know.  I was one of them.  Nothing matters more to an evangelical Christian than being “saved.”  My mother on her dying bed sought me out and asked me, “son, are you saved.”  I smiled a kind smile to my beloved mother and lied.  “Yes, mom, you don’t have to worry about me.”  To say anything else would have meant she would die with a broken heart.  So, I told her what she wanted to hear when by that time I had concluded there was no such thing as “salvation.”

Long after my mom died I felt an obligation to family (and any who might be a friend though I have so very few) to “respect” their faith and not be so blatantly defiant by saying I did not believe in their god or their religion.  I still think it’s rude to verbally slap someone in the face deliberately with my lack of belief but I am no longer skittish about saying I do not believe or that I think Christianity is a bad thing.  It is a bad thing.  If it were truly based upon the teachings of the Christ they claim for “Savior” it would be a good thing.  Christianity is not based on that person’s teachings.  Not at all.  It is a political concoction designed to enslave ignorant populations.  It did just that for many centuries.  It still serves to enslave though fortunately in some places the ties with government have been cut to some extent.  In America the ties were never entirely severed even with all the talk of “freedom of religion.”  In the past decade conservative Christian fools managed to dig in and increase the corruption of our already corrupt system.

Now that the greedy people behind the scenes have the control they’ve sought they have thrown off their conservative Christian facade, much to the chagrin of conservatives who now twist in the wind.  They went from believing they were the power behind the president to recognizing they’re the village idiots and they just don’t like that at all.  Nothing proves the illegitimacy of Christianity more than the way so-called Conservative Christians have been acting since they got kicked in the balls by the present administration.  For all their grand claims and intensive prayer sessions and really naive views they get nothing but the boot.   Some powerful god they serve, huh?

Although the U.S. government has excised religious conservatives Texas still suffers from the obnoxious fumes of conservative Christianity.   Our state government is in a terrible struggle against the idiotic attitudes of religious nuts who want to cram their ideas down our throats and our kids’ throats.  I sure hope they loose.

In this little ramble I’ve sure stirred a lot of hornet nests.  And all I started out to do was declare that I am an atheist.  Finally I can say that without any qualms.  The idea of a supreme god is absurd.  The Christian view of a god who on the one hand loves us all and on the other is firing up the furnaces of hell for the vast majority of the earth’s population doesn’t sound like a god I’m interested in.  The Catholic view of god isn’t much better.  Of course the Jewish and Islamic views of god are even worse.  God is good and loving, so good and loving he sat back and watched six million of his people roast in Nazi extermination camps.  Muslims can kill themselves and win a few virgins in paradise or they can fuck up just a little and find real retribution right here as they loose hands, fingers, eyes or whatever at the hands of their religious governments.  But god is love, right?

I’ve seen the fools storm the White House and get duped.  I’ve seen my beloved state turned to crap by religious idiots.  I’ve heard all the arguments.  I’ve measured all the “evidence” and sifted all the bullshit.  There is no supreme god.   yes, mom, I am an atheist.  But I know you still love me, where ever you are!  Merry Xmas.

December 25, 2009 Posted by | Blather | , , , , | Leave a comment