What’s an atheist to do?
I’ve been an atheist for over twenty years now. Raised in a traditional semi-dysfunctional Christian family, it has been quite a journey to overcome the sheer inertia of the superstition in my head. My mother was always as right wing as one could get without becoming a card carrying fascist. She was also quite religious for most of her adult life, but it wasn’t until I was about 13 years old that she took the plunge into an all out evangelical conversion. All it took was a sudden move into a new place, a near bankruptcy, and about 1500 hours of watching Tammy Fay Baker on the PTL channel ( that’s People That Love) or Pat Robertson and the 700 Club ( I still don’t know what that means) and she saw the “light”. She would call it an epiphany. I would now term it a traumatic brain injury.
There was no going back. The brakes were off . The hill was long and steep. Dad converted soon after. Now my father is a good person, decent and loving, but he seldom has an opinion that my mother didn’t put there. I have often thought that that was why they married, he had an opinion deficit and she had a opinion surplus, thus she had storage for the extras, and I think he kind of liked that full feeling. As a marriage, it works, but it isn’t what I would I would choose. Both us kids succumbed shortly after, and we made a cute little “born again” family. Having nowhere else to go we plunged ever deeper into an ocean of religion/superstition with my mother’s hand firmly on the tiller.
Mayhap, you think that I am being a tad unfair. That my parents truly loved me and were only doing what they thought best, that they needed something to fill the emptiness. All this is true, I freely admit. I seldom felt unloved as a child; dominated and misunderstood, oh yes, but loved. As to what they thought best, what would you think if these same parents converted to Buddhism or Hinduism or hard core Islam and drug their families along. Would it be unfair to criticize then? And then there is the emptiness, that inner need to feel like you belong somewhere, someplace – anywhere, anyplace. We all get it from time to time. But to counter the emptiness by backing up to whatever manure pile is being advertised on TV for a small donation and filling up the trunk to overflowing seems less than wise. But then to demand that everyone else must fill from the same pile of shit, to dismiss those who fill from different piles as unsaved and those who refuse to fill at all or actively spend their life shoveling the accumulated shit out of their respective trunks as evil, this is unkind.
You may think I exaggerate, judge for yourself. We attended every revival meeting in western Montana for years. I saw people speaking in tongues, people rolling on the floor screaming, demons cast out (mostly from the same people, apparently they have poor firewall). I heard preachers preach fire and brimstone. I saw “healings” (same people, same ailments, every time). And I believed!! I begged for God to speak to me. And what did I hear? Nothing. Ever! It was a nothing that echoed off the lustful thoughts in my head. It was a nothing made me feel unloved. It was a nothing that filled me with sadness and self loathing. It was nothing. It was only later that I realized that the reason I heard nothing was that there was simply nothing to hear. Nothing. At all!
After graduation from high school, my parents wanted me to attend a good Christian College. So I attended the University of Mary in Bismarck North Dakota and became an atheist. This was not quite as fast or painless as I make it sound. It was a long hard journey. Nor was it quite what my mother intended and the manure has hit the fan on and off ever since. You see, if you’re not for my mother, you’re against her. If you don’t believe the exact dogmatic superstition that she does then you don’t love her. You ungrateful child! Sigh.
Needless to say, my atheism as been a bone of contention ever since.
In arguing with my mother over my not submitting to the ONE TRUE GOD (copyright 4004 BCE) her unfailing final response was “read your Bible.” This never actually made sense to me. If you don’t believe in God, the Bible assumes no more spiritual importance than Homer, or the Epic of Gilgamesh, or, for that matter, the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy . But after years I have started to change a bit. Oh, not that way. The Bible is still just a work of literature. But perhaps, there would be a value in reading it, but reading from my perspective and mine alone. Maybe a daily dose of contradiction and death, murder and mayhem, rape, incest and adultery would truly change me. I jest, but a careful reading would firm up my own lack of faith. It would force me to put down my thoughts and thereby making me think. And though rare, true thought is seldom a bad thing.
So I start my atheist bible study. pull up a chair, dust your bibles off and for nary a god’s sake get a glass of wine. This shit’s dry. Let’s see what this God is all about. Let’s dig him out, look in his closets and see what he has swept under the rug. Let’s dig through that lump in his backyard and see where the bodies are buried. We are going to be the paparazzi of religion. We will leave no cruel or senseless act unturned. We will find God and drag him kicking and screaming into the light for all to see. We are off on an adventure. We are taking a journey through time to a formless void, back some 6000 years (and change) Genesis, chapter one. In the beginning…