Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Stories from the Cocoon

I have yet to devote any posting material to the subject of how I actually became an atheist, and I find here and now a good place to start. So I begin with who I was before.

I was raised as a Christian, and have only really attended two different churches in my lifetime. It is important to note that neither of these churches had any association with the purely dogmatic, stereotypical understanding of a church in a modern sense, and I still respect that veracity of some of the things they preached.

The existence of God was always an immutable concept in my mind, a quality of reality that was gradually built into my perception and conscience. I would say that the initial institution of this belief as a child is an awful thing, for what does a child know but what his parents and the world tells him? At that age it is as easy to accept the existence of God as it is to accept the existence of Santa Claus. Fortunately, that metaphor holds true to on the back end as it does on the front end.

I digress. As I developed my own thoughts and opinions, and began to interact within this world, the preestablished notion of an 'all powerful being' worked its way throughout my head and logic. The patterns I utilized to make sense of various happenings as well as more permanent ones were infused with the likelihood that a God was acting and moving within all of it, with some perceivable purpose. Anything that was to occur, my mind- the subtle thought process that would begin to analyze i- would include God into the equation of comprehension. Whether it was why I had missed a goal in a soccer game or how I ended up with such an ignorant mother, it was all the same- God always found some place in it. The gentle voice inside my head that would narrate my life became a conversation with God in many senses, perpetually asking questions in the direction of a supernatural being with the expectation of somehow accruing an epiphany from it. Come to think of it, ultimately I had no belief in God that wasn't inspired by natural events that I had associated with the existence of God. The strange way in which we can easily reassure ourselves of some internalized notion that makes our lives easier is very frightening in the context of belief in God.

Many people hope for certain dreams, little and big, and imagine that were these dreams to come true many of the problems they experience in their lives would disappear. In fact, perhaps the source of false dreams like "as soon as I can get this particular job such and such problem would be gone" lies within a human tendency towards escapism and avoiding the reality of life. It is inconceivably easier to drop all of the real responsibility of our lives into the lap of some omnipotent being with the expectation that all is either in control or will be well. Antithetically, abandoning God does not led towards apathy, but instead towards a heightened sense of accountability, and in my opinion and much more connected perspective with the world and people around us.

So I grew up as a child and eventually a teenager and integrated God deeply within my subconscious. The nefarious dearth of reason that resulted grew to the extent that at one point I firmly believed that a few important decisions I made were acutely intertwined with some halcyon paradise God had in store for me. In retrospect these decisions were foolish to a degree I could not foresee on the front end, and I deeply regret them now.

Essentially, God had become an irrevocable part of me. The best explanation of this relationship is that God was an attribute, and abutment, to my conscience, my internal thinking mechanism. God was controlled by me, influenced by the capricious fate that guided my life, and subject to the vacillating attitudes pressed upon me by the church I attended. Prayer was something that I believed would make me into a better person, prayer at least in the context of meditation, however was always limited to my expectation of visceral nirvana, and never inspired by necessity but rather by belied obligation.

I would say that altogether humans are silly creatures, with immense capabilities but great predilections towards ignorance and stupidity. Religion is the vice that takes hold of the gullible heart at an early age and warps it into something unrecognizable. Indeed, the forces that work against enlightenment are not limited to religion, instead they consist of the full gamut of natural human responses and instincts intended to avoid problems. Instead, the common favor of religion in humans is best described as an innate behavior intended to shield individuals from reality. Within this esoteric mess of ideas, belief, or at least the belief one has a belief, can be most virulent. For belief, I leave another post.

So, albeit my lack of details, I arrive to my earlier teenager years with a strong reliance on and relationship with God . And in a 'To Be Continued' sense I will say that paradoxically the strength with which I believed in God as well as my dependency of the authenticity of what I learned at church, almost directly caused my renunciation of faith.


the chaplain said...

Thanks for sharing your early history. I'm looking forward to reading more of your story.

I was raised in a Christian family, so I understand what it's like to grow up believing in God. That's the only way in which one conceptualizes the world. As a kid, I knew that atheists didn't believe in God, but I didn't know how they arrived at that conclusion. I could not imagine life without god-belief.

I found it a very jarring experience to shed the theistic mindset - I felt like a part of me had been irretrievably lost. Once the crossover has been made, though, there's no returning to the former perspective. One cannot choose to believe in something; one either believes or does not believe, it is not a matter of will.