“It may be that our role on this planet is not to worship God, but to create him.” –

29 Feb

When I was 16 or so, I moved away from home for the very first time. I was heartbroken-my father was drinking heavily every night-we lived in a small mining town off Lake Superior at the time, and there was little to do but drink, maybe snort some coke, smoke lots of weed, skip class.

I had an emotional breakdown of sorts, and by the summer of 1994, I had decided that I needed to return to southern Ontario,  land of warmth, honey and McDonalds. I missed my friends. I missed the father I had. I missed some sense of family, continuity. My father and I had been reaching, blinding for a number of years for our footing, and somehow kept missing it.

I bounced around from friends houses, eventually landing back with a man I would date, a guy who found me a room with his friends parents, an older couple who had raised 7 children, and several of their friends it seemed. I was comfortable with them-Bob, who smoked on his sunporch with his crippled dog, telling me stories. Dollie, who ran everyone like a drill Sergent, but had a kind, kind soul.

It’s highly likely that in the manic state I was in for most of the near year I lived with them, I abused their hospitality. I wish I hadn’t, as they were very very good people. They filled a void at that time.

About a week after I moved in, before all my things arrived, I awoke from a dream. In that dream, my mother cradled me like a child, and I cried and cried and cried. When I woke up, I could feel her in the room, her touch, her unwillingness to leave, the soft sense of her.

Of all the people I’ve told this story to, I’m the only one who believes my mind manufactured this.

I’ve noticed the incredulous sounds and stares I get when it becomes very obvious that I don’t believe in “things I cannot see”, things like gods, ghosts, flying monkeys. I don’t believe in things we cannot prove, things that someone, somewhere can’t logically and rationally explain to me. I’m not a mere cynic-I just don’t believe that angels and fairies are flying around trying to help me or save me anymore than I believe in any sort of higher power.

Besides. Don’t you have just of much chance of the higher power, or the fruit flies or the angels being bad as you do good? Light and dark being two sides of the same coin after all.

I take shit from people when I talk about my atheism. I’m meant to stand by and shush and not ever mention the fact that I find blind faith compelling and yet ultimately limiting. There’s so place for atheists to sit and state their case, to wonder why people, rational people, feel a need, a drive to believe in something more than them. Hell, in most countries, and atheist can never run for political office. We’d be suspect.

It frustrates me. The accusations that I’ve never found peace, that I’m lying, that I don’t know what I’m talking about, that I’m crazy, these things bore and annoy me. I don’t discount your peace or happiness believing in whatever you choose. I don’t get it, but my inability to understand doesn’t make it any less real for you.

I don’t understand the ability to believe in something that has more likelihood of NOT being real than of being real. Father god or earth spirit. Why do you believe? Because of how you were raised? Because you want to belong? Because you heart yearns for something more that the facile existence it’s become used to?

Why is believing in YOU never the option?

That’s ultimately what frustrates me about the entire thing. I believe in ME. My power. My power has moved me in many ways, and will do so into the future. I don’t believe in the crutch of light, god, feeling, desire, want, however you cast your “spirituality”. And if it isn’t a crutch, then why is it necessary? If it’s just a vague warm glow, why do you need it, or want it? Why the secondary reinforcement? Why are you not enough?

Dreaming of my mother was a beautiful moment I will never, ever forget. But it wasn’t her. She’s dead, long dead, living as a lovely memory in my brain, and my heart.

****************************

I’m really not trying to pick at people and cause arguments. If I seem defensive, it’s because I am. The continual sense of “oh, the poor heathen” grates on my nerves, especially when I see comments talking about how atheist blather on and try to convert. How often do we blather without getting screamed down?

How often are we given the opportunity?

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22 Responses to ““It may be that our role on this planet is not to worship God, but to create him.” –”

  1. Kathy February 29, 2008 at 12:19 pm #

    Oddly enough (and despite growing up in a heavily catholic area), I’ve never gotten a lot of grief for being an atheist. My family accepts it, and that’s all I care about. I’m not too open about it, unless it comes up.

  2. thordora February 29, 2008 at 12:29 pm #

    I don’t take a ton of shit for it. But it’s the implication in many cases-my MIL’s disappoval that we weren’t baptising the girls (despite my telling her she is free to take them with her to church when they’re older-it’s their path to find, not mine to enforce.).

    I always feel that it isn’t something I can talk about. I hate that.

  3. thordora February 29, 2008 at 12:30 pm #

    either way, It’s likely that I sound like an asshole since I don’t understand how people can believe in gods or spirits or what have you, but not the tooth fairy. Makes no sense, to ME.

  4. Caitlin February 29, 2008 at 12:54 pm #

    Leaving Louisiana was the best thing I ever did as far as my beliefs go. I’m at my devoutly Catholic inlaws and my father in law refuses to believe that I don’t believe – “But you’re such a nice person and moral…”. I learned my way around their hometown, because when I used to catch a ride with him to Walmart, we always seemed to end up with a church.

    It also drives me nuts, because I have to dodge the question when my niece and nephew ask about why I don’t go to church. If I said it was because I was agnostic and did not believe, it would stir up so much shit. How dare I “promote” agnosticism to innocent children! But funnily enough, no one has a problem with passing on the Christian mythology as truth to my son.

    I guess when it comes to death though, religion can be very comforting. My inlaws lost their middle son and it was very obvious he was in a lot of pain as he was dying. It was such a senseless way to die and he was just 21. I guess maybe believing their god had a reason for it is comforting and I know that it does bring them a lot of comfort knowing that he was “right with God” before he died, since he’d made a confession a few days before he died. I think people might have a harder time accepting that type of comfort just isn’t an option for you, because it would help them in their grief.

  5. Gwen February 29, 2008 at 1:01 pm #

    You know, neuroscience claims that there’s a center in the brain that creates religious belief. Perhaps the need for god is an evolutionary response, since the kind of morals that underpin working societies are easier to enforce with the promise of an after life.

    I guess I’m more of an agnostic, although I envy the thoughtful people of faith I know. I can’t prove that a god-like being exists, but I can’t prove that she doesn’t either.

  6. radical mama February 29, 2008 at 1:05 pm #

    I think everyone is a little defensive when it comes to their beliefs, Christians and atheists and others alike. Do you think a Jew could run for president? Or a Quaker for that matter? Look at how hard Obama is pushing his Christianity to counter the accusations of him being a Muslim when that is so much less important than his Congressional record.

    I could get defensive about what you have written here, for instance. Implying that because I have faith, there is something irrational or illogical about my thinking. You can’t say that you don’t discount others beliefs and then go on to say that those beliefs are pointless. Just sayin’.

  7. thordora February 29, 2008 at 1:37 pm #

    I suppose you could get offended. But I question how people believe in one potentially make believe thing, and not the other. I question, and consider illogical any belief in things that cannot be proven to exist. Because it’s not logical, period. It’s not a personal attack.

    The beliefs aren’t pointless because YOU believe them. They have a point for you. I believe that it’s irrational to believe in what isn’t real. I have real trouble with fantasy, especially fantasies that guide lives.

    But then, who isn’t guided by fantasy in some way?

    A jew, a quaker, any believer would have a better chance at office than a non believer.

    Caitlin-I tried praying, believing, tried making it real when my mother died. Nothing. My heart, my being wasn’t it in. I even wonder what would happen in court-would I still need to put my hand on the bible, if I don’t believe.

  8. Lgirl February 29, 2008 at 1:54 pm #

    Atheist here.
    Oh no did I just out myself?

  9. Hannah February 29, 2008 at 2:06 pm #

    I’m not an atheist. I’m an equal-opportunity believer – I believe in everything. A higher power, Santa Claus, fairies, ghosts, souls. I don’t critique people who don’t – my husband for example thinks I’m nuts, but we co-exist peaceably (we only fight over housework, never religion).

    I don’t feel I’m getting defensive when I say I do find it hard sometimes when atheists laugh at my gullibility because I can’t PROVE the existence of any of those things, but I still choose to believe in them. I don’t try to convince anyone that there is a spiritual component to humanity. I don’t agree with anyone trying to “convert” anyone else. But I think atheists can be zealots just as much as fundamentalist Christians (or Muslims, or Jews) can.

    Not sayin’ you’re a zealot, you understand. Just trying to join the discussion as best as I can. Difficult to quantify “faith” – spent my whole first year of university arguing with people about this very topic. Parts of my brain I haven’t used for years are creaking a little bit.

  10. Marcy February 29, 2008 at 2:47 pm #

    Talk all you want. I don’t mind you being an atheist or talking about it.

    To you, it’s patently obvious that my faith is based on no more evidence than Santa (funny, my fingers typed Satan even though my mind said Santa). To me, there’s a world of difference. I could write about the evidence that supports (doesn’t prove, but supports — different than pulling stuff out of thin air) my faith, but I don’t think it would make a difference in how you perceive it, so I won’t take up space with it here.

    And I think it is a lot more intelligent and humane and ethical and all that to not baptize your kids when you don’t believe.

  11. Bon February 29, 2008 at 3:33 pm #

    um, if i say “amen” is that funny or sacreligious?

    i believe in the possibility of the holy and the sacred. i think it’s in all of us. and that’s about as far as i personally am able to get. i am not a believer in anything remotely religious or even god-like, and yet not an atheist or agnostic either.

    i think we humans struggle to have these conversations, grope around this thing that is so hard to put into words, and then sometimes get attached to the particular words or version that first felt at all comfortable for us. which sometimes closes the conversation.

    thanks for opening it.

  12. kate February 29, 2008 at 3:33 pm #

    I also us the arguement about the Tooth Fairy (or Santa or Easter Bunny). For people who WANT to believe in those things (also fairies, fairy-god-mother, gaurdian angels etc.) there is plenty of “evidence” to support (ie justify) their beliefs.

    I understand that it is human nature to look for explanations, for comfort…and I don’t blame them. For some, the thought of not believing in God or any higher power is TERRIFYING…fllying without a parachute, if you will. But I personally take immense comfort in knowing that I am accountable for MY life, the good, the bad, and yes, the unexplainable.

  13. Candy February 29, 2008 at 4:10 pm #

    Nicely put, and as always, thought and comment provoking.

    I was raised without religion, and felt no need for it in my life, other than for a need to “fit in.” I hated the fact that all my friends went to church and I didn’t. Eventually, after my parents both died and my children were born, I indulged that need to fit in, got my kids and myself baptized and started regularly attending the same church all my grown up friends attended. In time, though, I began to realize what I was seeking wasn’t a god, but acceptance into some club that had always been withheld from me.

    Finally, at my ripe old age, I’m happy with my atheism and hopefully raising my kids to think for themselves.

    Unfortunately, I can judge people by their belief. Maybe because I always feel like they won’t rest until I’m “one of them” again. I get tired of having my soul saved for their sakes.

  14. Judy February 29, 2008 at 5:29 pm #

    Funny the talk about Santa, because it was when my parents first told me “the truth” was when I started to question religion. They told me about Santa, and then I said, “I guess that means there is no tooth fairy or Easter bunny either?” Later, I thought, “What about God? Is that a lie too?” I was 7.

    When I told my mom this, she said she never should have allowed me to believe in Santa. ???

    I consider myself agnostic now. Some times I want very badly to believe – yesterday would have been my dad’s 68th birthday, for example, and I wish desperately that he could have known his grandsons. And there are times when the world *without* a higher power makes as little sense to me as one with.

    Mostly, lately, I don’t think about it much.

    Funny, too, that here, in a land that is VERY Catholic, we take little heat for our lack of beliefs. I think we’ve only ever had one door-to-door Jesus salesman at this house. When we lived in Protestant Missouri, it was constant.

    I do dread having to explain death to my sons. With my daughter, I was still trying to believe, and so she got that explanation (although now she is an atheist).

  15. thordora February 29, 2008 at 5:33 pm #

    We’ve started the death conversations with Viv, or rather I have. I never received any “good” answers to that as a child, and had to piece it together since the catholic line was creepy really.

    We regularily get “thumpers” at the door, and I get incensed. Last place we lived was infested, but our “Proud Supporters of Satan” sign helped with that particular problem. 🙂

  16. elle February 29, 2008 at 7:58 pm #

    There is an interesting book out about religion, specifically Christianity, titled “What’s so great about Christianity”, by Dinesh D’souza. It addresses many of the points that you make.

  17. Freya March 1, 2008 at 1:02 am #

    I appreciate this discussion and what you’ve said so far and for the most part have the same view as you. Interesting, I’d been working on a post on this topic for a bit but still not quite done. Raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, I questioned everything from day one, completely different from my sisters who believed. Of course, I was never fully accepted into the congregation because of this but I am grateful I never believed. Like you, I believe in myself and the power I have to accomplish much, as well as my ability to make horrendous mistakes. One of my closest friends is Catholic, attends every weekend (more than most I’ve known), seems to fall all the rules, except he’s gay. And yes, he continues to believe and live a life according to the religion even though he is not approved of. I don’t get it. I don’t understand how he can continue to do so, but that is choice, one which he doesn’t push on me, so I’m ok with that.

    It is like my mother and her continuing faith in God as a JW and her disappointment in me she has made clear. I don’t know how she could possible keep this faith in an organization and god that has yet to fulfill any of the promises given to her in the past. Yet, a part of me sees how she clings to the hope of seeing again in the “New System” (she has been blind since she was 8), seeing her son she lost so many years ago. I don’t believe that will happen but I feel it is the main reason she holds strong to such an illogical religion and faith.

    Anyhow, I could discuss so much more, but I’ll stop for now. I am not sure what label could be slapped on me, but I do know I don’t believe in any form of a god. I believe in myself, the power of suggestion, and the concept of Karma, that what you give out come back in multitudes, positive or negative.

  18. Jenn March 1, 2008 at 8:02 am #

    Interesting subject, I love this one! Nothing else could be so bathed in argument and debate. I was raised in a Catholic family so all I can really argue points on is what I am knowledgable about. I desided when I was a teenager that what I was being taught in the Catholic religion was not for me. I can not say I am an athiest I can however say that I do not for one moment understand organized religion. The first thing I noticed when attending church was how everyone inside the building was shaking hands, praying for peace and wellbeing to their neighbours etc, but then an hour later go in the parking lot and just take a look around. People fighting, arguing, scores of cars trying to exit the parking lot honking horns and being impatient with everyone else. Even at a young age I couldnt understand this. As I grew older and I began to think more for myself weaning away from blindly following behind my parents the more I questioned the Catholic religion. I just couldnt get my head around why religion and god could be so intollerable? Why something so all loving could harbour so much hatred? And God forbid I turn out to be a lesbian, we wont even get started on that one.
    I believe in something I just believe that something resides in me and you a thread if you will that holds us all together that links us all in some way. Life is one gigantic shit sandwich and the one thing that keeps all of us moving forward is love so if that “higher power” is anything at all in my eyes it is love, pure unquestioning unconditional love and the string that binds us all.
    People are always looking, looking for answers, understanding, something more. All it is is love. Thats it simply. Love me, Love you, love the person you cant understand and most importantly love yourself. If we could all loose the ego and stop judging and picking eachother and ourselves apart there would be no more space for that hole in us we feel we need to fill with answers and ideals and purpose, it would be filled with love and understanding. At the end there would be no more reason to look.
    I refuse to live my life based on how some man living in his ivory tower interpreted the musings of a prophet of another time. Scriptures, writings and thoughts put on paper are nothing more than ideas shared to make us think and question, when did those ideas become a book of laws by which we should all live our lives?
    These are nothing more than my personal understandings, to each their own, whatever brings you peace is fine by me just please dont approach me like a used car salesman on commission and relentlessly hound me with your ideas for my saviour. Because as far as I am concerned I dont need saving. That is the one thing that drives me nuts. Believe whatever it is that helps you sleep at night but dont assume I have trouble sleeping.

  19. Lgirl March 1, 2008 at 1:34 pm #

    Jenn I love the parking lot example. That’s exactly How I feel about it as well. I have been damned to hell by my BIl and Sil and they feel “sad for our children” and that we aren’t doing the right thing! So apparently the right thing to do is to judge and condemn innocent children who are impure because they haven’t’ been dunked in a tank or tap water, that has been fed through a garden hose no doubt!
    My then 7yo was told she is going to Hell by another child at school because she doesn’t believe. I told her to tell them back that isn’t very God-like of them. Now I tell her to tell them there is no hell!

    So sad we can’t just be kind.

  20. Jenn March 1, 2008 at 2:26 pm #

    LMAO!!! You have got to love the holy water! Tap water that some guy who dedicated his life to his beliefs “blessed” An educated Christian who went to school and got a degree in religion can now say a prayer over a tub of tap water, call it blessed and we flock to it with a mass mentality to dunk our kids in it… Essentially because society tells us we have to believe in SOMETHING… I believe I will leave the bathing of the children for the upstairs bathtub in my home. Not that I have chiildren but if i did… im just saying.

  21. Marcy March 1, 2008 at 9:11 pm #

    “So sad we can’t just be kind”

    Yes, there are many who, intentionally or not, come across as mean about believing that other people are wrong about their beliefs.

    But theoretically, what if their religion is right? What if there is only one way, and their way is it? Or, even more theoretically, what if they really believe they’re right and they have the only way? Then they would be very unkind indeed to not tell other people about it, not to offer this way to the people they care about.

  22. bipolarlawyercook March 1, 2008 at 11:11 pm #

    Religion’s a tricky thing. I think it gives so many people meaning they can’t otherwise find, and if it increases their happiness… There’s a lot of evil to be done in religion’s name, but lots in nothing’s name, too. That said, I agree that if you can come to a belief in your self, with or without religion, then that is the most important thing. My god and my religion don’t require me to tell others they’ve got to do it my way.

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