Saturday, March 8, 2008
Inspired by a recent conversation with my mother, and kicked into high gear by VWXYNot, I figured this would be a good time to elaborate on my position as an atheist. It seems my mother never truly understood what I did (not) believe, which is probably an indication that we don't talk often enough. (Note to self: talk more often to mother).
I was not raised in a religious household. My mother had been raised catholic, my father protestant, but I don't remember my mother ever going to church or praying as I grew up, and my father was an atheist for as long as I can remember. I may be wrong about this, but I think my mother takes the position offered by Pascal's wager. (2nd note to self: talk more often to mother). She's not entirely convinced there is a god, but just in case there is one, she's unwilling to piss him off. Of course, I never did ask her what she thinks would happen to her if all this time she had believed in the wrong god, and one day she'd have to explain to her (the real god) why she wasted her entire life thinking the Jehovah guy (or someone like him) was real.
I did talk to my father about religion on numerous occasions, so I do know his position fairly well. His atheism was a result of what organized religion has done to people and the world over the centuries, and because it was incompatible with the scientist in him. This wasn't always an easy position. When my brother died very young, it hurt my father to the core to know that there was no afterlife, and that death was permanent, and that my brother's life was over except in our hearts where our memories keep him alive.
I don't think I ever truly believed in a god. I did on occasion attend church and a synagogue for some reason or another, and I'll admit to a few occasions where I shot a prayer up "just in case." But actually believe in the gobbledegook? No. Never.
My ex-husband always considered himself a christian, but didn't seem to mind initially that I was not. Eventually it became apparent that it was important for him that I went along with his christianity. So even though it didn't mean a damn thing to me, and he knew it, I got baptized, and we got married in a church. The funny thing is, he knew perfectly well that I didn't believe in the nonsense at the time, and that was fine, as long as I bowed my head and said the words. Ridiculous of course. My father (and I presume, my mother) at the time, didn't understand why I would do this, and just assumed that I had converted. Nothing could have been further from the truth, and in fact it was the beginning of the end of the marriage. Religion became a major source of contention, as my ex insisted on me attending church with him and performing in ceremonies that was all just a big joke to me. I wanted to keep the peace, and it really wasn't all that hard, and it didn't shake my lack of faith. I was never remotely tempted. In the beginning it wasn't a problem, but as time went on, it became clear he thought he could convert me. Fat chance! No amount of attending church or pretending to pray was going to change my mind. Quite the contrary!
Would I do it again if I had to do it all over? Probably, yes. For the same reasons as in the past. It didn't mean any thing to me, and therefore it didn't really bother me. Unlike maybe, someone who believes in Zeus, but has to pretend to believe in Buddha. That might be a problem, because one would have to betray the god one believed in. I didn't betray anybody, because I didn't believe in a god, and I didn't even betray myself, because I never fooled myself into thinking I did believe. It was all very easy. Bow head when told to do so, fold hands, say silly words, end with "amen." Very simple. The songs were kind of boring, but the choir sang nice. I can still appreciate the melodies and the poetry, even if I don't believe in it, can I? I like reading fiction too. And there was a sense of community that was very comforting. I could certainly understand why people were attracted to that kind of institution.
I don't think I could do that any more now. As I get older, I'm becoming more set in my ways and lack of believes. I don't "believe" in anything. I accept things based on the evidence I see for it. I haven't seen any evidence for the existence of god, gods, golden-egg laying ducks, elephants with 7 trunks, talking trees, flying tigers, immaculate conception, and the like, and therefore I don't believe in any of these. As any good scientist, I reserve the right to change my mind if I do see evidence to the contrary of the things mentioned above, or other unmentioned things I don't believe in. Pictures of one religious figure or another on pieces of toast are not evidence.
P1 doesn't believe in god either. But I'm a much more radical atheist than he is. He is for example in some ways superstitious, whereas I can joke about it, but no, I really don't mind taking cashier #13. In so far as there are degradations of atheism, I'm more atheist than he is. I must say though, that the fact he was atheist, was a big point in his favor when we first started dating. The older I get, the less able and willing I am to live with a believer in supernatural beings. It's a good thing P1 is very unlikely to change his mind in a hurry, because like before, it would probably be the beginning of the end. I would lose respect for him in a big hurry, and respect is another big pillar of our relationship.
I find it rather insulting if people ask me how I explain the existence of morality without believe. The bible is obviously not a source of people's morality (have you ever *read* that book? It's morals are horrible!), and if you think that you need to believe in god to remain moral, you don't need god, but the police right next to you all the time.
Although some people in my position might call themselves agnostic, and say that they withhold an opinion on the existence of an imaginary skydaddy, like VWXYNot, I'm perfectly happy stating that I don't believe god exists, until I'm proven wrong. And I mean *proven* wrong. I'm afraid that bible does not constitute proof, so you can spare me the quotations.
Oh, and if you wonder if people who don't believe in god can love (now who would come up with some ridiculous statement like that?), read the poem by Cuttlefish.