Is that what I’m supposed to be longing for? A narrative?
The structure of the Christian worldview relies on a person to fix herself into a grand scheme and purpose. I’m not ready to make that leap yet, and I may never get to a place where that compels me. When it comes down to it, I’m pretty concise. I’m an Occam’s Razor kinda gal. Least common denominator and all that. Whatever fits inside my mind pocket and is easy to carry. Those are the things I hold onto as I continually expose myself to complexities. I’ve no need to compound my views with a sin/salvation story. I’ve felt grief without god, and I’ve felt joy without god. I can’t be forced to be concerned.
Where a system exists, so does the opposition. I stand in opposition to a supposed non-system, so I’m skeptical of the legitimacy of my rebellious flare. The nice thing about what I’m about to say is that those who oppose what I say will only make this position seem more validated and those who agree have probably already had these feelings bubbling under the surface if they’ve not already expressed them much more eloquently themselves.
In short, I’m at a point of being disillusioned by atheism as a thing. Sure, yes, I am an atheist, but I don’t need to discuss it beyond claiming the label. Atheists say all the time that they simply “lack a belief” and that atheism does not signify what they do believe but rather what they don’t. And yet, I see and hear atheists debating religious people and insisting that religious people are wrong. They defend themselves as atheists, asserting the atheist position. They wear a scarlet letter ‘A’ as a badge for their non-belief. Allow me to right here and now disavow myself from that system.
When I stopped being a Christian, it was not a decision I made to leave God or leave my church family or leave a pursuit of truth. I stopped calling myself a Christian because I do not see the world through that lens. I understand that we all feel pain at times and joy at times. I see the complexity of our experiences and how little of life can be explained. What brought me to atheism was my complete and utter lack of certainty. The depth of my ignorance shocks and exhausts me. It neutralizes me. I’m an atheist because I don’t know what I am, and what captivates me is the certainty of uncertainty and all the contradictions therein.
I’m not an atheist because I think religion is evil, and as an atheist I do not subscribe to a system of atheism. I am not wedded to non-belief. I am only acutely aware of it. I am an atheist because of my own experiences and exposure to the world, and I will not deny that.
Because of all my reasons for being an atheist, I have no platform for promoting atheism. It was a thing that happened to me, and it is not a thing I necessarily think should happen to all others. This existence of atheism as a system both confounds me and leaves me cold. I didn’t leave the certainty of religious faith so that I could hold enough certainty in something else to defend it. Certainty is my enemy, not religion or notions of god. False assurance is my greatest fear, and I do not have a need to parade my ignorance when I would merely be parading the core of myself which we all share.
When I first became an atheist, I thought it was a huge deal. I’ve come to discover that it’s not. The difference is that I actually feel the freedom as an atheist that Christianity promised I’d feel, but there is no difference in how I view and care about other people. I still strive for the greater good and loving others to the best of my ability, and I do these things without feeling like I need a reason to justify why I do these things. No amount of certainty in “absolute truth” needs to be reached for me to say, “I love my life, I love others, and I want to make the most of what I have.” So really, you go ahead and believe in god, and I won’t. The notion is moot. As long as we are propelled toward bettering society, I don’t care if a tree told you to love your neighbor as yourself.
Note to religious people: When atheists are angry about religion, it’s because of compassionless doctrines, not because of a hatred toward god. I hope more people will question when their god wants them to hurt others for the sake of a “greater good.” I also hope atheists will question where they get off hurting people by dismissing others’ experiences and not exhibiting compassion themselves. We’re all inconsistent in our convictions.
For people like myself who used to believe that homosexuality is a sin for religious reasons and have now come to understand homosexual relationships from a naturalistic perspective, it’s very difficult to listen to not only the religious arguments against gay marriage but to the disparagement of gay relationships and seeing them branded as sinful. This issue grieves me for so many reasons, so I tried discussing the possibility that evangelicals are misunderstanding what the Bible says (or does not say) about homosexuality with my dad, who has a PhD from a conservative Reformed Baptist seminary.
When I presented my challenge, he said, “I still don’t get why people who don’t believe in God feel the need to modify Christian documents in order to make more palatable to themselves a position that they have indicated they will never hold due to lack of evidence.”
To me, this point he is making is like saying, “I don’t understand why we should compromise on anything. I believe what I believe, and nothing you atheists can say will sway me in any direction.” Now, I know that’s not what he said or meant, but it doesn’t seem far off. I’ve consistently said that I have no intention of trying to pull my friends and family away from their Christian beliefs, but I do feel compelled to challenge them when they believe something that negatively affects others. I am not trying to “modify Christian documents,” and I honestly don’t care whether or not I myself find anything in the Bible palatable. I still won’t believe it’s true. My concern is how people who believe it use it as a weapon. I have history on my side in this argument. How many times historically have Christians reinterpreted scripture? Can I not trust that such a thing can happen again in a new time? I’ve not smudged out anything in the Bible. I’ve only suggested that the original copies and contexts be revisited for the sake of trying to understand why it is necessary that so many loving people continue to be belittled and shamed by modern interpretations.
My dad’s statement is also an example of the Christian perception that everyone is out to destroy their truth. On the contrary, I’m trying to work within their system to make for a more loving, hospitable society. I am accommodating to their rules by looking at the original language. As has been the case more often than I’d have anticipated, I feel like I’m basically being a better Christian than most Christians I know. This is the greatest irony of being an atheist humanist.