Wednesday, July 11, 2012

In the beginning...

That's so cliche. I know it and as many times as I write this post, it's impossible to stop myself. You have to start somewhere, right?

For those who have been following this blog previously you will note that this looks like another first post and it is. I have all the old ones, but the focus of the blog has changed. Now, much less about giving the militant atheist perspective and more about expressing what life looks like when your perspective no longer includes eternal life or a higher power. Some of the topics will be revisited, like my thoughts on atheist parenting, but I wanted to wipe the slate clean and start anew.

So, cliche or not, in the beginning I said, "I don't know."

Growing up my parents were not terribly religious, my grandfather was a minister, but even they weren't what I would call 'religious'. They are the most honest, compassionate people I have ever known. Using what I thought was their model, I did try to be a good Christian girl. Went to Sunday school, sermons on Sunday, youth group on Wednesdays, Young Life on Mondays, church choir practice, I prayed and read the bible... (you get the idea). No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't make it real. Somewhere, nagging in the back of my mind was the ever-present "I don't know."

Does god exist? I don't know.

It was the only honest answer I had, but there was no way I was going to say it out loud. It is one of those questions that as a religious person you are not supposed to waiver on. My church 'home' was accepting and comforting and, more importantly, the only model I had been given. It was simply what was supposed to be done. Not believing in god wasn't even an option that entered my mind.

Fast forward, end of college, I found paganism and it seemed much less rigid, more accepting of nagging doubts. I could pick and choose my belief system, base in the natural, relieve some of the philosophical issues I had with the gender bias and meanness of the Christian god.

It didn't stick, the doubt stayed and my relationship to the pagan community got more and more strained because no matter what I professed or wanted desperately to be true, I still didn't know for sure.

What got me to accept "I don't know." as a reasonable answer was picking up Richard Dawkin's "The Selfish Gene" and finding myself enthralled with the basic expression of natural selection. At the very base of my existence was the need for my genes to thrive, to be passed on. That rang as real, true, understandable, observable - everything my battle with god hadn't been.

It wasn't far from there to understanding that I was an atheist, but it was still several years before I could come out of that closet. It was scary to think that there was no higher power, that the only thing that I had before me was this life, no other. No recourse to set past wrongs right without doing it myself. No heaven, no threat of hell, no one to answer my prayers. Nothing outside of me, my decisions, my understanding of the world and my relationship to it. It was all laid out in front of me, clear and concise - I was responsible for me. And I was the only one who had that responsibility.

Do I know that god doesn't exist? No, that answer is still "I don't know." Have I ever been given any reasonable, rational evidence to believe in god? No, actually, quite to the contrary.

Would I change my mind if I was given that reasonable, rational evidence? Absolutely. Not because I have some desire to be religious or have a belief in god.

I do believe, based on my own understanding of the universe and how we fit in it, that there is no god and no reason to believe otherwise. I believe that religion is harmful, both to the individual and to society. I believe that I am better off without a need for faith in the supernatural. There are just too many amazing things that are observable and understandable to worry myself with trying to have faith in an irrational god.

“You don’t have to be brave or a saint, a martyr, or even very smart to be an atheist. All you have to be able to say is “I don’t know”.” 
― Penn JilletteGod, No!: Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales