So what ties the previous two blogs together? In the first blog, I talked about sometimes missing the comfort the church provided me. I spoke of speaking in tongues and the joy of sharing spiritual experiences with others.
In the next, I wrote about one of the best nights at house church. What happened that night felt wonderful, a pleasure not entirely unlike the non-sexual part of one’s wedding night. When you get married, there is this joy that seems to exist independently of the joy of sex . It’s the joy of belonging to someone totally and them belonging to you. There is a spiritual sharing, a knowledge that this person is really, finally, yours.
And that was the feeling I felt that night. My life would forever be tied to those people in that room. We had all adopted each other, so to speak. We had committed ourselves to love them, to care for them, to help them be the best they could be, and they committed the same to us. There were perhaps 30 of us in that room, and we conscientiously decided we were going to be the early church together, God’s little point of light in Westport, Kansas City.
The feelings I felt that night were real. The elation, the warmth, the affection. All of those feelings were real feelings. It’s just the premise which was false. None of us really loved each other, not like that. We all thought we did; I don’t doubt anyone’s sincerity that night. It’s just that our hearts were writing checks our lifestyles couldn’t cash.
I remember once taking an old, rotten wood and canvas canoe down a river. My father and I began with the feeling that everything would be OK. The boat fell apart over a little 3 day trip, patched beyond repair. The next year we began another river trip, this time in a heavy aluminum jon boat. Again we began with the same hope, excitement, expectation and the feeling that everything would be OK. That trip was OK because our feelings were founded on solid fact, unlike the first, when the feelings were not.
The comfort of the church I miss is the false comfort of kindly lies. I do miss the comfort of naivety, but not at the price of living a lie. To be naive because you are ignorant of the truth is a normal part of youth. To be naive because you choose to believe lies rather than truth is the first step toward mental illness.
Above all, I guess what I missed was the friendship, but upon reflection I realize, I didn’t have real friendship, but rather real feelings about non-friends. An acquaintance asked me the other day if I still wanted to be friends with her. I laughed out loud. Real friendship isn’t something you choose to do, it’s something you cannot chose not to do. And that sort of friendship takes time measured in years and decades, not months.
Let me plug my friends Jason, Paul, and Ben here. I have known all of them for 16 years. Any of them would lay their lives down for me, and I for them. We aren’t friends because we know how to be, we are friends because we don’t know how not to be. All saw me through an awkward adolescence, the turbulent nine years of teenhood, 3 failed attempts at college, a failed engagement, marriage, fatherhood, ministry, and finally atheism. And nothing I have done has made it possible for them to stop loving me. That’s friendship.
I am not super atheist. I do miss the comfort of the church sometimes, but it was real emotions based on false events. I miss the feeling, not the falsehood.
I have an online acquaintance who is disabled. She speaks often of a struggle she has, which she calls the “Super Cripple” complex. (Read her blog here). Are you familiar with positive stereotypes? A positive stereotype is a belief which infers imaginary abilities to a group or subgroup, such as black people being better at sports or Asians being better at math, etc.
She deals daily with the struggle to accept herself as she is, rather than a Hallmark Movie caricature of herself crafted of positive stereotypes. She calls this caricature “Super Cripple”. SC never gets tired of campaigning for human rights. SC can wheel-up gradual stairs. SC is super, she doesn’t need help from ANYBODY! The reality, of course, is that disabled means “less able” and she does need help. The real strength is accepting the reality of needing help, rather than trying to pretend she doesn’t by playing the fictional part of SC. Accepting this every day remains a challenge for her.
My struggle, or one of them, is to not be Super Atheist. Super Atheist finds purpose and joy without God or religion. Super Atheist doesn’t need faith; Super Atheist has reason! Super Atheist never believes sincerely with one part of his mind something that another part of his mind knows is actually false. Super Atheist finds happiness in holidays like Easter and Christmas, because even though he knows there is no God to celebrate, he is with his family and that is what really counts. Super Atheist never wants to go to church, or take communion, or pray for the broken of the world. Super Atheist can do anything!
But the thing is, I’m not Super Atheist. I miss the comfort of the God hypothesis. The idea that I am here for a capital “P,” Purpose, a participant in a grand narrative. I miss the afterlife hypothesis. The idea that what we do on earth has a greater meaning than the handful of lives we touch, and that evil which is not caught in the here and now, will someday be punished in the after life.
I miss crappy church. I miss getting dressed up and going and singing once a week. I miss real church…a lot. I miss sitting in a room full of adopted family, and singing and praying and feeling loving and loved.
I miss speaking in tongues and the emotional high that it brings. Actually, come to mention that, I really miss it. Someone would come forward and we would all put them in a group hug. We’d all go around the circle and “pray a message of God’s heart for that person” which amounted to telling the person how valuable they were, how loved, how special. It felt great to do and to have done to you. Then we’d pray in tongues. The reason part of the brain idles down, and the emotional part revs up. I’ve never taken 3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine (Ecstasy) but speaking in tongues seems to have the exact same effects. From wikipedia:
- Mental and physical euphoria
- A sense of general well-being and contentedness
- Decreased negative emotion and behavior such as stress, anxiety, fear, and paranoia
- Increased sociability and feelings of communication being easy or simple
- Increased urge to communicate with others.
- Increased empathy and feelings of closeness or connection with others
- Reduced insecurity, defensiveness, and fear of emotional injury
- Decreased irritability, aggression, anger, and jealousy
- A sense of increased insightfulness and introspection
- Mild psychedelia (colors and sounds are enhanced, mild closed-eye visuals, improved pattern recognition, etc)
- Enhanced tactile sensations (touching, hugging, and sex for example all feel better) Ask any married Pentecostal if you don’t believe me, by the way, sex after praying in tongues is an amazing spiri-sexual experience.)
And I miss them all. Above all I miss feeling like I was apart of something really special: a 2000 year old Royal guard, still fighting the rebels to have the kingship of the true and most high King recognized. There is a romance to words like “Kingdom”, “Knight of the Cross”, “Sacred purpose”, “Most High” that words like “country”, “community advocate”, “special reason”, and “President” simply cannot match. Though administratively identical, they are rhetorically worlds apart.
I am not Super Atheist. I confess, I have a desire in my heart to gather with believers, to sing songs of worship, reverence, sorrow, penitence, and heroic victory. I long to kneel, to dip the broken crust in the wine, to speak the words of my heart to a friend and Lord. My only caveat is that he not be imaginary. I desperately want to sing, worship, kneel and gather my community around a real God.
I long for a god, a religion, a purpose, and grand narrative. I long for everything worthy religion gives man. My disbelief in God is not the result of a lack of longing, but a lack of God.
Happiness is a funny thing.
It’s so transient. Today was my last day on 60+ hour weeks. My box of bike goods arrived, and my new duty time is 0630. So I will be riding my bike to work again. I will be seeing my family again. I am getting rid of my little Panda. (I liked the Panda, it was a fine little car, but I’ve learned all I can from it. I’d like to have small car that I can hot rod a bit, and if I fix up the Panda I’ll have the world’s fastests P.O.S.) I’m getting a used Volvo V90. I’m putting it on finance to work up my credit score, though I could afford to buy it in cash.
Everything is working out my way for the first time in awhile, and today I am happy. I thought for a moment that I sort of missed being able to thank God. But then the one sidedness of that relationship came back to me.
I think I would still be religious if it was OK to get angry at God. I had a great day today, and I wouldn’t mind thanking God for it if when at some point in the future, when I have lousy, lousy day I could be pissy at God. I mean if a good day is His fault, then a bad day is too right? He’s either Lord of all or He’s not.
But no, bad days were always somehow my fault. Even if I didn’t cause the ‘badness’, I was sinning by not blessing God in a bad situation. I was sinning by doubting, sinning by having such a poor attitude, yadda, yadda, yadda.
Today I am happy. Sometime, sooner than later, I won’t be. Crap happens. While I am happy I will celebrate with my loved ones. When I am sad, I will be sad with my loved ones. No fault, no failure, no blame. Life is so much simpler and more peaceful as a spiritual atheist than as a Christian.
This is going to be a deeply personal post, sort of a public “Dear diary”, so if that’s not your thing, please don’t read it. All others, I post this publicly to receive a public review of my thoughts and keep a record of the process. Feel free to comment.
I have recently told my parents I am an atheist. Now, I know that this is very painful for them, but I’m finding the post closet experience particularly frustrating (and ultimately painful) for several reasons.
They don’t really know what an atheist is, so they alternately (a.) don’t think I am really an atheist or (b.) ascribe to me the beliefs that they think an atheist has. They (c.) don’t really understand why I became an atheist, and as such (d.) think it is because they were bad parents.
(a.) They see that I am still spiritual, ethical, and looking for truth and they assume that it is a vestige of Christianity. Number one, wouldn’t that mean any moral person was some sort of a partial Christan? “Christian” is not, last time I checked, a substitute for “moral”. Ideally, yes, all Christians would be bastions of morality. Some are, many aren’t. Further, ideally, all Muslims, Buddhists, and Pagans would be intensely ethical people. Some are, many aren’t. Number two, it says “All those years that you were moral? Yeah, that doesn’t count, because that wasn’t the authentic you, the authentic you is incapable of morality without Christ.” And as a logical extension of that belief, then all the emotions I had were inauthentic as well. Morality isn’t free. Sometimes we want to do immoral things, and there is a cost to being moral instead. Moral means desires differed, sometimes forever, and to have the work I put into being moral just written off kinda sucks. To be told either the “Christian me” or the “atheist me” is less than the authentic me is very insulting.
(b.)To a Christian, atheist means one who wishes to reject God. So they ascribe to me the beliefs of one who, in their heart, believes in God, but desires not to. It’s not that I wish to reject the God hypothesis; it’s that evidence compels me to reject God. Working from the assumption that I wish to reject God they think I believe things that I don’t. They make assumptions about why I became an atheist and what atheist means. Which goes right to (c.) I publicly profess atheism because it is the cry of my heart and mind. I can no more just wake up a Christian that I could just wake up gay. This is what I am. To public state otherwise is to live a lie. I expected a lot more “Good job, son.” It takes a huge amount of courage to challenge everything you were ever told and disagree with 96% of the population. I thought the attitude would be a lot more, “Well, we disagree with you of course, but we understand why you believe what you believe, and we’re proud of you for having the cojones to admit it.” I am proud of having this courage, and I feel like someone who really knows me and loves me would feel the same way.
It leads me to believe that my parents aren’t responding to who I am, but rather to who they think I am. Which is terrifying because it leads me to ask the question, “Did they ever…?” Did my parents ever really understand who I am? I think, sadly, but reasonably, no. It wasn’t even their fault exactly. Even I didn’t believe the evidence of who I was. I was suicidal in high school. My usual day consisted of waking up, putting a loaded gun to my head and trying to find the courage to kill myself. Accepting my total failure of inner strength, I could then find a reason to eat breakfast and shower: maybe I would get laid that day, and then I would either go crazy with lust and die in a whore house in a few years (suicide on the installment plan) or I would be so disappointed for pointlessly giving my virginity away that I could pull the trigger and, of course, I would have gotten laid. This is not the thoughtscape of a Christian.
Several thoughts prevented me. Putting a hollow point in your brain is an ungodly mess. It didn’t seem fair to have my parents come home to find my head inside out, running on the wall. I didn’t want to make them suffer, I just wanted to not hurt inside anymore. It didn’t seem right to kill myself in some odd way that hid the body either, because I heard from people whose kids were never found, that the not knowing is horrible. I was a little concerned about hell, because no “real Christian” would want to kill themselves for years on end, but I predominately worried about two things. One, that I would give myself a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and make myself a quadriplegic. Two, that there was no sex in heaven. I was worried about TBI for two reasons: one, I’d never get another chance to kill myself because no one would kill me just because I asked, and two, I wouldn’t be able to feel my penis anymore, again preventing sex forever. For probably 3 years or so, I couldn’t make myself get out of bed without holding a 9mm and saying something like, ” I can get up today, because no matter how much this day hurts, I am in control. I can always end it”…and they never noticed.
Which leads me neatly to (d.) They think I am an atheist because they were bad parents…
Ok, in several ways my folks were not bad parents. I was never sexually abused. I was never physically abused (though I did see some in our home). I was never verbally abused. They made sure I knew the Bible. That’s a fantastic start. The world needs more parents who don’t rape, hit, or ridicule their kids. I no longer believe the Bible is inspired, but they did, and I understand and respect their motivation, if not their application. The thing is….um….that was sort of… it. When I was 8 years old, I told my mom that I was planning on killing my sister because she was sadistic bitch. My mom told I loved my sister and I didn’t mean that and made no effort to put away any of the loaded guns littering the house. I mean, I’m not a perfect dad, but I’m pretty sure if my daughter said she was going to kill someone, I might, oh, I don’t know, put away the guns (if I had any).
Number of times my dad played catch with me? Asked me what I was doing in piano? Asked me who my hero was? What I wanted to be when I grew up? Asked me what I learning in school? Yeah…never. Number of times my Mom taught me to cook? She didn’t. I taught myself (much to her surprise). She never asked me why I wanted to play piano (because I wanted to play jazz). Neither parent ever asked me what I planned on after high-school, where I wanted to go to school, what I wanted to do with my life. They made sure I was fed, clean, and educated. They made sure that certain tests (my ACT) were done, and paid for my health care. They were the best foster parents the state could have appointed. Except, they weren’t foster parents. They are my blood parents who brought me into this world at least partially on purpose. And as far as what makes me, well me, they never gave a damn. Some of this is explainable by the fact that my dad was pretty invested into drugs and my mom into codependency in my early life. Fair enough. But why, my senior year did they not say “Hey, where do you want to go to college?” They never asked. They never asked where I wanted to go, what my major might be, never asked a whole lot of things. Nothing that would really mark me as me, my dreams, my hopes, was ever talked about. They had no interest in knowing me at all.
For years, I’ve struggled with these memories of my first girlfriend. Which, honestly, makes me feel like a doofus. 28 year old men do not pine away for the 18 year old they dated 10 years ago, at least healthy ones don’t. She and I were both very lonely, very sexual people, but because we were Christians, we never slept together. A lot of the obsession went away when I called her a few years ago. We talked about the breakup and the relationship and how we had both hurt each other. We parted not-quite-as-hurt anymore and accepting that we had other lives now that couldn’t reasonablely include each other. But, I still think wistfully about making love to her more than I am comfortable with, and I’ve never understood why.
Then this week I got it. I did a lot of the things I did to impress my parents. I read Brave New World as a nine year old so I could impress my parents with how smart I was. In fact, reading was about the only thing I ever got positive feedback for, and read like crazy. I read to find something smart to say, so I could get some parental approval. I aced algebra because my mom said her kids weren’t good at math. I graduated with a 4.0. I went to bible college instead of a engineering school because I wanted my parents to be proud of decisions, and nothing else I wanted to do would have pleased them as much. So what happened when I brought the woman I wanted to marry home from Bible college, the woman that I loved sacrificially as Christ loved the church (I wanted to marry her to redeem her reputation)? They called my beloved a slut, said she dressed like prostitute (she wore silk pajama pants and a camisole to bed), and refused to leave us alone together so we wouldn’t have sex. When I went to stay with her in her hotel (She was fairly offended and left) they commanded me to come back home. I could have disobeyed, but I did not, because my father was appointed over me by god. To disobey him was to disobey God himself, and he told me so when he commanded me to come back home. They called my beloved a whore and told me it would be best if I broke off my engagement. So I did. 10 years later, it still hurts because I showed them the one thing in the world it was most important to me for them to be proud of and they said….nah, she’s a whore. It’s the rejection by the people I loved most in the world that made the wound so deep.
So, am I an atheist because my parents were bad parents? Absolutely not. Had my parents been really great supportive people instead of emotionally distant and judgemental people I probably would have realized I was an atheist by the time I started high school. I can’t and do not blame them for any of the really stupid decisions I made after I was 18. But up to 18, they were my life, and I do blame them for a lot of the guilt I felt and the stupid things believed. They asked me recently to forgive them for “any harm we caused”. Which, I can’t really do. A bit because an open ended request for forgiveness is worthless: “I’m sorry that vague things I don’t care to understand and refuse to accept responsibility for hurt you for some odd reason.” Ahhhhh, no.
But mostly, because a request for forgiveness is saying to someone “Teach me to treat you better”. I really should carefully and lovingly delineate to them how they messed up and how this doesn’t relate to atheism, the opposite really, but I don’t believe them yet. They didn’t care about my core identity for 28 years. Now they respond to me the way they think an atheist feels instead of the way they think a Christian feels, but they still seem to have no real interest in understanding what makes up my core, my true self. They ask me no questions about why I believe, or even the specifics of what I believe. Instead of talking to me about what I believe, they would rather to talk to to others about what they think I might believe. They knew I was blogging, and that my blogs were asking hard questions, yet were completely surprised by my confessions of non-faith. Why? Because my blogs made them uncomfortable they stopped reading them.
There is a chance that they will read this, and feel they must ask me questions about myself. Then they will most likely be offended when I don’t want to answer. A date you have to tell to compliment you isn’t much of a date, is it? The time to care about what made me me was a good quarter a century ago. I’m very selective about my friends, and they don’t make the cut. I will continue to be kind and friendly, and call at appropriate holidays, but I no longer care about their approval one way or the other, and I could care less about really trying to have relationship with them. Perhaps most tragically of all, since they never knew what a constitutes a real relationship to me they will probably never notice the difference. Continue reading
Posting poetry pretty much kills activity on my blog. I just can’t tag the poems well to get them read. Atheism, religion, faith, skepticism.. these are things which people want to read about. I generally don’t have the skills to write poetry about things like that, but I am working nights of late. On my days off, I can’t sleep, and since I have 8 hours to write, I took the time to write a poem about my experiences in the church.
I’m not sure how good of a poet I am, so I’ll spell it out a bit before hand. I was raised a Christian, from day one. I prayed the sinners prayer as a 2 year old. My whole life was struggle. I struggled constantly to be the person I was supposed be, to love Christ as he loved me, and do with my life things that would please him. This was pure misery, but I kept with it because I loved God and wanted to do Right. I was searching my whole life for people who had something about that God that they could give me so I could enjoy being who God wanted me to be, instead of working so hard for something that only brought me heartache. Since God is the giver of good gifts, I knew that my pain must come from my failure to love him and not any fault of his.
I now know that I was so unhappy not because I didn’t trust God, but because I tried so hard to trust him. Had I committed my life to the the ways of Superman, Marge Simpson, or Paul Bunion (other imaginary people of impeccable morals) I am sure I would have had the exact same experience. Trusting someone who isn’t there to save you isn’t going to work.
I bought my misery with my faith.
The last few years has seen me become a progressively more liberal Christian, then not a Christian at all, and finally, now an atheist. With each shedding of lies and mistruths, my life became more joyful. My highs got higher, and my lows got higher too.
Right now, I am pretty lousy atheist, not in my belief in the Divine, which I think I can safely reject, but in my bitterness at the church. I’m not bitter at Ford for trying to tell me that my life would be better if I drove one, or bitter at Coors for telling me that if I drank their skunky beer, I would be surrounded by beautiful, half dressed woman. Those too are lies that large organizations tell people to get them to give away their money. I should have the maturity to shrug my shoulders at the church, and write of the time I spend there chasing unicorns and dragons as a learning experience. Someday I will, but as of today, I still have to much of my identity invested in the wasted 25 years of my life.
This poem is an attempt to put some of my impotent rage behind me, that I feel for allowing myself to be treated the way I was. I also write to accept my part in the spiritual abuse of others. Abuse I approved of by continuing to participate in being abused and allowing others to abuse.
I write as tribute to the following people, broken for, by, and near the Church:
Jason, who never gave up. Paul and all other Z kids who suffered for no good reason. Kat, who prayed everyday for a conscience. Christopher, who joined a cult. Mom and Dad, who did their best. Lydia, who endured more pain than I can ever imagine. Travis, who will never understand.
Holy and true were we
Heads and hearts bowed low
Broken hearted, on bended knee
Our source to you did go
We were born for You
A generation set apart
Our first breath for You
Always seeking Your Heart
We grew up in Your house
Clothed in Your words
Worldly desires doused
For Your presence we burned
Our youth, one dream chased
To live our lives true to Faith
First there was our Father
The reigning King of All
Who’s love and wrath ran like water
Beating us, breaking Adam’s fall
To save us from His wrath
He sent His only Son
Bloody death, His ultimate task
Our sins murdered the Holy One.
And to keep us Right
He sent his Holy Spirit
Teaching us Love’s flight
Lest we fear it
Our youth, one dream chased
To live our lives true to Faith
Last we loved our Divine Mother:
The Church, His Son’s Bride
His Love through Her, our cover
and to one another, our hearts tied.
In each other we saw God
Our love was His reflected
When on each other we trod
The failure ours, God neglected
In Her, His Beloved
We would stay forever curled
Side by side, we Beloved
Loving, apart from the world
Our youth, one dream chased
To live our lives true to Faith
But the eyes grow old
Though the heart does not
Truth be told
Our brothers and sisters fought
And did everything
Which our Father had banned
Sex and drugs and anything
A devious sinner could plan
The Bride was filthy
Her gown in tatters
Tithes and taxbreaks made wealthy
But bankrupted spiritual matters
Our youth, one dream chased
To live our lives true to Faith
We could not complain
The Bride was each other
If she was roughly arraigned
We were failing one another
If Father took away
If Spirit did not heal
All was His any way
Everything in the world
The pot dares not whine
To it’s master the Potter
He made and makes things fine
To Him we would totter.
Our youth, one dream chased
To live our live true to Faith
Led by Fools
With used carman smiles
We buried our tools
And deleted our files
Mastered by louts
And ruled by musicians
We hid from our doubts
And murdered statisticians
The facts were Bible
Anything which disagreed
Was prone to be libel
And not guarenteed
Our youth, one dream chased
To live our lives true to Faith
Questions were good
When they lead right directions
Encouraging one to “Should”
And not source inspections
We, the young set apart
With sharpest of minds
with purest of heart
Were told doubt is what one finds
In a heart full of lust.
Such thoughts were not level
“You’re not one of us…
Your of your father, the Devil.”
Our youths they were wasted
Desperate dreams, never tasted
Sweet mother Church,
You call this defection?
You and us these questions hurt!
We need Your affection
She threw a holy fit
and said, “We will be One.”
I watched in amazment
As she ate us, her young
Our youths, they were wasted
Desperate dreams, never tasted
Unity at any cost?
Dissent must be crushed
We were damned, lost
Under the rug, our questions were brushed.
On the outside
Afraid and alone
Learning she lied
My reason was honed
Free at last
Her “teachings” but splatters
Faithless, with happiness
I know now what matters
Our past, it was wasted
But I sip the Real, a wine rarely tasted
October 1949 is the official birthday of the People’s Republic of China. Any student of history can tell how poorly planned economies work. One needs only to look at the Great Leap Forward to see how badly planned economies can fail. And yet, for the first few years after the Communists won, things went better. Why?
Well, it’s not that Communism is that great. It’s not. It’s simply that the system of overlapping warlords it replaced was so truly awful that anything, even Maoism, was a distinct improvement. Within about 5 to 10 years, Chinese Communism had reached its systemic limits and began to deeply hurt rather than to help China.
The point here: it’s not that Communism was so good, it was that the existing system was so bad that even Communism was an improvement.
Atheism is not a perfect fit for me. I can’t honestly say I am an atheist. But I can honestly say that not expecting God to help me with day to day struggles and challenges has been one of most rewarding experiences I have ever had. I am thus, presented with a conundrum: I believe that God is very likely but find the less I have to do with Him the more joy and happiness I experience.
So why believe in God at all? Why do I wish to believe in God? Well, to be honest, though intellectually weak, one reason is because my parents do. I’m not pleased with that as an answer, but honestly, if my parents were conservative Muslims instead of conservative Christians, my philosophical struggles would be of a different nature. Had my dad been an astrophysicist and golfer with a penchant for tintinnabulation instead of charge nurse and Sunday school teacher with itch for IV Demerol, I would be a very different person. So if I am going to be honest with myself, at least one of the reasons I believe in God is because I always heard it at home. I can’t reorder my intellectual DNA anymore than could my physical DNA.
I shave the stubble of my brain with Occam’s razor. To quote Wikipedia… “This is often paraphrased as ‘All other things being equal, the simplest solution is the best.’ In other words, when multiple competing theories are equal in other respects, the principle recommends selecting the theory that introduces the fewest assumptions and postulates the fewest entities. It is in this sense that Occam’s razor is usually understood.”
Occam’s razor applies to two instances for me.
The first (the objective one) is the huge amount of evidence for the big bang theory. The big band theory is not a perfect explanation for the the origin of the universe. It is certainly not nearly so complimentary as the idea that the whole universe is a vast and complicated diorama created with humanity in mind to help them mark the changes of seasons and draw their attention to God. Regardless, it is the best available theory.
Its weakness is that parts of the theory seem to operate in a manner inconsistent with the laws of thermodynamics. Matter cannot be created or destroyed, yet the matter had to come from somewhere. Until further evidence is available, I say God seems a likely candidate. Yes, I know this is the “God of the Gaps” theory; that we invoke Gods to explain things we don’t understand and if we do, those Gods’ jobs gets smaller every year. So what? To me Occam’s razor says, considering the evidence, there was most likely some force which existed before force existed. That sounds like the realm of the Divine to me.
The second and final one, is an answer to a prayer I received. I know this is subjective, but subjective doesn’t mean false, it just means subjective. You see, after many days of some really horrible experiences that I am not going to detail here, I pulled into a grocery store parking lot. I needed to get another week’s worth of groceries, but I couldn’t make myself get out of the car. To me, at that moment, buying another 7 days of groceries would be saying that I could carry on for another seven days, but I couldn’t, not alone. So I prayed for a friend. I needed a friend whom I could trust enough to be myself around. Someone who would love me and let me love them. Someone I could be vulnerable with. Someone I could hold and touch and be held and touched in return. So I prayed for it. I prayed for the love of a kindhearted woman.
And having prayed that, I walked into the grocery store. And I met this beautiful checkout girl. We’ve been together for almost 8 years now.
Now, I could believe that my subconsciousness did this and that, and that in an infinite number of universes representing an infinite set of possibilities that this is mere chance. I asked an invisible being for something and got it 30 seconds later. I take 3 possible routes with this.
(1.) Pure coincidence. (2.) Invisible workings within me. (3.) Invisible workings outside of me.
I find the first to be unlikely. So, it’s a battle between the second and third. To me, the second seems unlikely because I have the happiest marriage of anyone I know. I work hard at my relationship with my wife with enormous rewards, but I had worked hard on my relationships with the girls I knew before her, too, and without the rewards. My (now) wife had prayed earlier that week for a man to really love her. It seems like this relationship was very special, from day one. To me, Occam’s razor here again says God.
So now I must admit, I believe in God. But despite me belief in God, I believe that my life goes best when I live like there is no God. I believe in God, yet persist that the atheist perspective brings freedom.
Well, I wrote the blog before to complain about a world of miracles. This was the world I tried to inhabit before, a world which was influenced by my beliefs themselves rather than how my beliefs affected my actions. It was a horrible place to live. Everything bad was my fault, for not believing right. Everything good was a miracle I could not claim credit for.
Every single negative thing in my life became my fault for not believing right. Every good thing was God working. I could not like myself for what I did right, only hate my self for my constant failure. I wasn’t poor because I couldn’t get a good job. I was poor because God had something to teach me. I needed to suffer more to get enough of God to be happy. I wasn’t unhappy because my life sucked, no, no. My life sucked because I was unhappy. If I had only had the discipline to make myself be happy when my world was spinning apart then my life would be great. I would be OK that I didn’t make enough to feed my wife and daughter, because God would provide. It would be OK that we couldn’t afford health insurance because God would either heal us or miraculously provide for us.
When I was eight I prayed that God would make mommy and daddy stop screaming, would make mommy stop breaking things, would make daddy stop hitting sister, would make mommy stop hitting daddy, would make brother stop cutting himself. Home schooled and living in the country, I would pray for a girlfriend, so lonely for human touch that I would have panic attacks when I saw two girls hugging. Later on, a charismatic acolyte, I prayed for a paralyzed woman. Marked her forehead with olive oil, laid hands on her and prayed she would walk. I am to this day haunted by the vacant, pained look in her eyes as she sat and tried to get up (“Raise up and walk, in Jesus name!”) and found herself no more healed than when her husband laid her in the chair.
Researching afterward I found that God’s likelihood of “healing” someone is directly proportional to the likelihood of spontaneous remission for their particular disease. Spontaneous remission is not the same as placebo, and is most common among “debilitating and progressive diseases such as cancer and tuberculosis.” But totally unheard of for people with amputated limbs. Not surprisingly there is no verifiable case of limb regeneration, leading some to ask what God has against amputees.
If there is a God out there, as I believe there probably is, he has enormous respect for entropy, physics and freewill. Such that 99.9% of the time it’s just like he’s not there at all. I leave 0.1% for highly subjective experiences like mine, and other experiences that I have heard of from people.
But one does not dare trust 0.1% to save their life. I don’t think God’s 0.1% miracles are enough to protect us from our own stupidity. I don’t earn a lousy paycheck and expect God to foot the rest of my bills. I used to. Thats how I ended up $12 G’s in debt. (Which I worked my ass off and repaid, btw.)
Further, if we, as a species, are looking for improvement, it will not come from any number of prayer meetings or prophecies. They will come by working really hard for change. The early church (which changed the world) was different from today’s church, not primarily because of belief, but because of behavior. They didn’t have canon to argue about. They didn’t have a professional clergy sponging off the laity. They didn’t have buildings to pay for. In short, they focused on being loving and easy to get along with and taking care of their poor. They were the change they wanted to see. The early church only trusted God to take care of the poor after the the church’s money had been spent.
Now, if the world around us will not be changed despite sincerity of belief, can we ever change it? What comfort can there be in an indifferent universe? How ever much we choose. True, physics will not be bent for you, though you may pray frequently. True, God either does not act or will not act (if you are are a Deist) or does not exist (if you are an agnostic or atheist). But we choose whether we will care about our fellow man. If the world is indifferent to our suffering it is because, by and large, people have chosen to be indifferent.
Does this mean I am saying I put my trust in man, rather than God? A qualified yes. History shows God cannot be trusted to stop wars, famines, and plagues. Though man can be trusted to start them, he can also chose to fight them.
So, I am a weak Deist. I believe the only sane world view to have is that God pretty much leaves this earth alone and I reserve the right to say he may influence people’s hearts once in a while. But when someone tells me they have message from God, I will respond with Luke’s famous line to Vader in Robot Chicken, “That’s very… unlikely.” I will not trust God to do anything for me. I will not give him credit for the good that happens to me, nor blame him for the evil.
So, this is tomorrow blog today. I’ll be on the road tomorrow going from KCMO to Mississippi. I want to write about miracles tonight. Some of the people who read this blog are Christians, and for them I say, I mean no disrespect. I am not saying that I am right or that others are wrong, I merely state my confusion.
The laws which physics describes are the engine of the universe. It is these laws from which develop our concept of faith. Faith in physics in the metric for faith in God. It is because the universe functions consistently rationally that we even have a concept of faith. The fact that one second at my apartment is equal to one second at work is both why I am able to get work on time, and why my employer is able to to have the expectation that I do so. I never look at my clock and think, “Perhaps time is faster at work today than it is at home. I should call them and see if 0630 has come quicker there and I need to go earlier.” All of us human beings have such faith in the non-subjective nature of time, that we can all use schedules, send messages, use phones, etc.
Miracles are a suspension of physics. Be it the physics of water, physics of entropy, physics of time. Miracles are the laws of physics being stretched and bent.
And for whom? For God. For his designs. Through out the Old and New Testament, miracles happen to those who please God and those who don’t. Physics are bent to make a away.
I’ll be honest, I don’t want to live in world prayer changes things. Oh, sure it sounds great at first. My dad, like a lot peoples dads, is dying. I love for him to be cured. But if the laws the physics are suppended, if entropy is stopped for me, is that the sort of world that I, or anyone else, wants to live in?
I imagine 2 applicants for a job, one the best candidate, the other not. And the inept one gets the job, becase he prayed about it.
Two people work hard to provide for their families. One gets food miraculously multiplied, the other starves, because the first believed in God and the second didn’t.
This is a world hard work means nothing, and were the faith we have in physics suddenly ceases to exist. How would we work? How would we survive? How would we make it?
So, I grew up a conservative Christian. Recently I made the decision to live like an atheist even though I don’t necessarily believe there is no God. I decided to not trust God to make me happy, but to make myself happy, and not trust God to take care of my needs, but to take care of them myself.
I thought at the time that this would truly show me how much I relied on God, and restore my breaking faith. Instead, I found that I was peaceful and joyful. The two things I had always wanted but never gotten from Christianity. I also found I was better father and husband, I guess since happy people are less likely to be assholes than people who are depressive and angry all the time.
Most of my good friends are Christians. Because I love them and am honest with them, I’ve told most of the ones I really care about that I am (1.) A very poor atheist [I prayed about the decision to become one!] and (2.) That I have no explanation for why trying to live like I didn’t believe in God would bring me more inner peace, and make me a better person than than when I tried to live like I believed in him.
There answers are various. At least 3 people have told me that this is the process by which I drop the “false religion” that I learned at home. I grew up in a family that was both abusive (in multiple ways) and Christian, so there is probably some truth to that.
I’ve also been told that this peace is the peace of the damned, like the criminal who stands at ease on the gallows because he has accepted his fate.
I’ve been told that before I was struggling, so now, of course, not struggling, I feel better. I was on the fence before, so I am more comfortable not fighting to be with God. Of all of them, that is the most offensive to me.
I do not consider the 25 years I spent racked with guilt, tithing 10 to 30 % of income, terminating relationships with good people “lest they lead me to sin” and spending hundreds of hours in prayer and Bible study to be “on the fence” I consider it to be the best I could possibly do to walk out my faith. I didn’t think these things earned me a place in heaven, I thought that these works were the mark of faith, the same way my helping my wife with household chores is a mark of my love for her.
Finally, last nigh, I was told that all of that was a waste, because I had been trying to get to know God by what he had done for others. I have to meet God not considering what he has done for others, but investigate on His own, without carrying in any emotional baggage of any existing relationship.
This personal God business is a weird one. In a bit I write more that confuses me about it, the above is just me catching up anyone who wants to know with where I am at.
Published without any editing!
Well thank you, first of all. As to me not being an atheist, a good friend pointed out to me that I am an even worse atheist than I was a Christian! Its true.
But I feel like atheist is more accurate than any other term because “There is no difference between a God who will not act because of his nature and one who cannot act because He doesn’t exist.”
If I call myself a theist, then the next logical question is what does this person of God want from me? The answer I get is sacrifice. I spent the first 25 years of my life sacrificing, throwing away things and people that were valauble to me. It was misery in the name of Joy, pain in the name of Healing, and despair in the name of Hope.
Maybe I can put it best in an analogy. Pretend that tommorow a new best seller tops the charts, its called, I am your God by Kevin Bacon. This book claims that I can have a personal relationship with Kevin Bacon if I just say I believe in him. That his spirit will comfort me when I am broken and he guide my life. He is everywhere, all knowing, and all seeing.
Now, until the publishing of this book, I beleived in Kevin Bacon. I saw him in movies and heard about him on TV. I always trusted that even thought I have never met him in person, only seen his image in movies, that he was real. But now everytime I meet a group of Baconites, they claim that Kevin Bacon is at there Church. When I get there, there is no Kevin Bacon. “He’s in all of us” they say.
Soon, people are being healed in Kevin Bacon’s name. Other people are so upset that that start murdering Baconites in the street. The movement grows.
Now, the most resonable belief at first was that Kevin Bacon was just an actor. Then when absurd claims were made, the most resonable belief becomes that Kevin Bacon is a real person, who wrote a crazy book. But there comes a point… Extrodinary claims demand extrodinary evidence. There comes a point when the claims of the Baconites are so aburd that the evidence of Kevin Bacon’s existence is no longer the most reasonable view. Maybe there never was a Kevin Bacon, it must have all been movie magic.
Hmm, this has weirded me out about the legitmacy of the existence of God or Kevin Bacon so much that I think I will stop here. This makes me see further flaws in my argument, and I’m not sure if that means the argument is wrong and thus its statement, or if it is simply a lousy argument for a true statement.