Sunday, January 23, 2011

Are You Scared?

Laying in bed the other night, my wife and I talked about my movement away from religion. My wife, since I met her, had always held religion at something of a distance, and only engaged in church going to indulge me (I was pretty religious in the beginning). On the subject of God, she has consistently said she thinks there is something to it; on the subject of organized religion and the divinity of holy books, she has always been highly doubtful. If she is the middle, I have traveled from her far right, to her far left during the course of our marriage.

After a moment of silence, she asked me, 'Are you ever scared to say and write the things you do about religion?'

'No', I said after a second of consideration. 'I used to be sometimes, but not anymore'.

There was a time when I would worry--those 3am moments when you're the only one awake and your mind is flooded with 'what ifs'--but that time has passed. The religion I was raised around smelled vaguely of fire and brimstone. As  I grew older, my religion became more liberal--more about 'thou shalt' than 'thou shalt not'--and God seemed more compassionate to me. Kurt Vonnegut's Jesus became my own eventually, and that Jesus wasn't here to condemn as much as he was to point the way. Once I tossed the whole thing out the window, I was pretty far removed from that easy-to-caricature, old-time-religion God anyway.

Strangely, part of the reason that I am not afraid of the reprisal of any possible god for my current unbelief is that I expect that a good god--the religious folk who would condemn me to hell as a heretic and atheist always say that their god is ultimately good--wouldn't punish me for my honest dissent. I find Christianity to be inherently immoral. I have known many, many, wonderful Christians, but my claim is not that it is their religion that makes them good. They are good. If they use their religion to express their goodness, that is fine, but I can't believe that they derive the source of their goodness from the holy bible, which is a mixed bag at best.

The other religions aren't even an option for me. I was raised in a Christian nation, surrounded by Christians.  There is no chance that I would ever be tempted to internalize the myths of any other culture as literally true.  I don't believe in any of the Gods that have been proposed to me, because of lack of evidence, lack of credibility, or both. I am not afraid of the reprisal of any of these possible gods because the gods that I have heard of have either been vindictive, snot-nosed little tyrants, or perfectly reasonable libertarians who seem to trust their creation to get on without too much intervention from them. There's no point in even trying to appease the first kind of god, and the second is already hip to' all that is the case'.

So, no, I'm not scared. I have too much faith for that.


the elegant ape said...

the only thing more unsettling to me then absolute faith. Is absolute certainty........

Lodo Grdzak said...

Nothing to fear but fear itself.

Willie Y said...

All thinking men are atheists.

Ernest Hemmingway

Bridget McKinney said...

Thinking women are atheists, too.

Billy Deaton said...

Great piece, Spencer. You know, it always comforts me to know that if there were a god of any sort that cared if I believed in its existence, I'm sure it would find a clear way to send me that message. I mean, if it were really a god I'm sure it would take no effort at all to express to me, without any doubt or questioning suspicion that I might be hallucinating, that it is real. Seems like it'd be pretty simple to prove it to everyone, the mystery of its existence, to me, is evidence that it probably doesn't exist and I'm happy to live my life as if it doesn't.

I fearlessly call myself an atheist today and I expect to do so for the remainder of my life. Thanks for being fearless with me.

Spencer Troxell said...

Mr. Ape: I wonder if you could use those terms interchangeably.

Lodo: I think there are some things that are well worth fearing. Zombies, for instance.

Willie: Let me introduce you to Bridget.

Mr. Deaton:We're of a mind on this subject. Nice to meet you!

Willie Y said...

Sorry Bridget.

No Gods - No Masters.

Margaret Sanger