“There is nothing to writing.All you do is sit at a typewriter & bleed.”
(Ernest Hemingway, American author)
If the truth be told, I am often tempted to turn to atheism. The idea that there is no God is not foreign to me, nor is it unappealing. I have considered it many times in the past. The complexities of science, humanism and my faithlessness towards my God seem almost easy in comparison with theology, dogma and most religious people. I have looked outside of theism for the answers, well knowing no one else has them either. Examining other religious traditions has left the same bad taste in my mouth, only taken from a different cup. I find it difficult to understand how human beings can continue to justify their gods as they do. For all our convincing, for the struggle to know, we seem destined as a people to suffer greater in the realm of stupidity.It is our inability to understand or to profit from experience that defines us as a society. We do not learn from the past and we constantly repeat it. We claim to have Faith yet war over the one true God. We place “the bottom line” above humanity and the planet. Every day across the world, people pray to Divine Beings that would kill, ravage and threaten complete annihilation in the name of goodness and right. Everything we touch appears to warp, then melt into a puddle of narcissism and self-indulgent tripe. Billions of well-intentioned people around the world claim to worship one God or another, yet we continue to ignore the very basic truths that the revelation of each deity holds. We seem blind to the true meaning behind words such as compassion, mercy and forgiveness yet have no problem bestowing them upon ourselves. If you pay close enough attention, even Love itself seems absent most of the time. It is not just unavailable, it is deficient.
A friend of mine pointed out to me the other day that I already was an atheist. He assumed having no formal faith structure left meant that I had abandoned “the realm of make believe” altogether. He is not far from reality. I don’t believe that any of the world’s religious traditions and esoteric concepts fully represent the true nature and quality of God. It is not that they are wrong, I simply doubt, with much certainty, that we are ever able to truly know God while in this mortal coil. We think we know, but I believe that deep inside, we all ponder and question and scream.
“There lives more faith in honest doubt, believe me, than in half the creeds.”(Alfred Lord Tennyson, British poet)
All kinds of people have Faith in something Holy. Unfortunately, most don’t act on this Faith. They do not follow the tenets of the very religion they claim to serve. I would rather be a man without Faith and help the sick, be kind to others, and live life with a regard for my fellow man than to claim a seat in heaven only to rest on my laurels. I would rather abandon God Himself than allow an institution to validate harm against anyone. Mankind has the propensity for such goodness but seems crippled by its own overwhelming ego and religious imaginations. We all make grand claims for peace and unity but expect others to come to our way of thinking for resolution. We fill the air with such sweet songs that turn bitter with our sting. It is more than enough to convince me that there is nothing else at all without, just me still sitting and collecting the dead.Some claim that I am running away from God. Somehow my thinking, my new definition, no longer falls in line with the status quo. As if I am a lesser man for challenging, confronting and channelling new ideas about God and what He represents in the greater scheme of things. Each are trapped inside themselves, unable to think, unable to evolve. They are so high and mighty that they have nowhere left to go but down, way down. To have no Faith is like searching and searching only to discover in the end there was nothing to find. I do not suggest that the religions of the world have no great purpose and do not reveal part of the nature behind the Divine. I suggest that each is tainted, spoiled by the very creature they are meant to save. When religion is corrupted, our vision of God is corrupted. Apparently, Faith can be quite blinding.
“No one really runs away from anything. It’s like a private trap that holds us in like a prison. You know what I think? I think that we're all in our private traps, clamped in them, and none of us can ever get out. We scratch and we claw, but only at the air, only at each other, and for all of it, we never budge an inch.”
(Psycho, Norman Bates 1960)
(Psycho, Norman Bates 1960)
The same friend who assumed I was atheist because I no longer professed faith in the Christian God also assumed I had abandoned any desire I once had to proceed with searching for answers on a spiritual level. He was surprised that in light of my experience, I continued to strive to understand God based on any Faith, particularly the Judeo-Christian platform. I have explained over and over to him that lack of evidence does not negate existence. Just because a room is dark does not mean it is empty. I have attempted to make him understand that, on occasion, even the most intangible idea has great substance. Just because we can’t see or touch something does not mean it isn’t there. He occasionally mocks me for my blind faith. He just doesn’t understand. “Am I in or am I out?” he pleads for clarity. I often refer him to the story I have shared many times in the past. I digress but for a paragraph.Once upon a time, (I usually begin), men of God headed into the far north to evangelize the aboriginal communities. They were unenlightened and they did not know. Branding weapons of salvation against these heathens, each missionary struck out to save as many souls as possible. With translators, the Bible and Jesus at their side, they went forth with vigour and the Grace of God. Their great commission was bent on revealing the truth of Jesus Christ to every last ignorant one of them. Entire villages were saved from themselves and their falsehoods. Ancient cultures that had been preserved for hundreds of years were infected with the truth that only Jesus is the way to heaven. One shaman, secure in his own philosophies, seemed to question everything that these strangers had to say. He did not know. He would listen carefully, through a translator, then a completely new set of questions would spew from his toothless mouth. He dared to question the authority of a scripture of which he knew nothing. In frustration, one priest played the nastiest card in the deck. Hell has always been trump when heaven just won’t do. When the dangling had concluded and the brimstone was put away, the old man once again sought understanding amidst this chaos. He asked in his own tongue, “If you had not come here, if you had not revealed your God and sin to me, would I still go to this hell?” The priest, bewildered by the man and his inquiry, answered, “If you did not know, then you are not accountable.” Without hesitation, the witch doctor replied in proper English, “Then why in the hell did you tell me?”
“Why are you scared to dream of god when it’s salvation that you want?”(Conor Oberst, American singer-songwriter)
I am a man without a Faith. I no longer believe the way I used to believe. I have witnessed, and experienced, the damage that a manmade god can do. I wish I had never listened to what I am supposed to believe, who I am required to worship. There was no screaming in my head before I was told the only Way. I find the irony almost more than I can stand. I am supposed to believe that by accepting Jesus, I will be saved from Jesus. No devil can cast me into hellfire. I am to rely on salvation from the very thing that might condemn me. There is much to this paradox. To threaten punishment unless one believes seems to me more like something Hitler or Stalin would do than a loving, benevolent Creator of the universe. The missionary position has always been to save the sinner. In light of my conversion away, I wonder what we really need saving from?
“The paradox is really the pathos of intellectual life and just as only great souls are exposed to passions it is only the great thinker who is exposed to what I call paradoxes, which are nothing else than grandiose thoughts in embryo.”
(Soren Kierkegaard, Danish philosopher)
(Soren Kierkegaard, Danish philosopher)
I have experimented with the idea of abandoning it all and becoming an atheist. I have even left my obligation to Christ behind me. While I may no longer have a Faith to live by, I still have much faith. I am certain that everything will be okay in the long run. I have tried to turn off the voice inside my head but it still calls to me, urging me to keep on going, to keep trying, to attempt to understand. I can withdraw from Christian thinking, turn away from a systematic process like organized religion, but I cannot find it within myself to deny the existence of something out in the void, greater than myself. I may be laden with questions that have no answers, but I find it impossible to stop asking them. I want so much to believe despite having a Faith no more.
“A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word 'darkness’ on the walls of his cell.”
(C S Lewis, Irish novelist)