Secular Sunday: This I Believe(d)
With this being my birthday weekend, my gift to myself is once again not having to read CFAC. I thought instead I would go back to a pre-blog journal that I wrote when I was still a devout believer, and post a few segments of what I used to believe and express.
I have to say, I kind of wish I’d read CFAC instead. I find some of the things I said to be truly alarming, drawing comfort only from the knowledge that I eventually pulled my head out of my ass.
But let’s not be coy, let’s dive in.
Here’s part of one of the earliest entries, from May 2003, in which I explained that I had just survived a head-on collision that I believed I was lucky to have survived (and still do believe that part):
If I never had solid, concrete proof that God loves me and is watching out for me, I have it now.
Now you all say, sure, but where was God when the guy cut you off? Why didn’t God stop the guy from doing it in the first place? Well, the answer is simple. God doesn’t get in the way of people making their own choices. I dunno if the guy was drunk, or just stupid, but he did what he wanted to do and God let him, because that’s the great (and terrible) thing about how he lets us live our lives. But He was there with me, and stepped in to take control when I could not, and spared my life…
I’m sorry, I can’t resist commenting. I know that talking to Dorkman ’03 is kind of a moot point, but I know there are other people out there who believe the same things, or nearly so, and so I’m talking to them from the other end of this.
So of course, the standard chestnut. Free will, free will, free will. There’s a lot of problems with the notion of free will — prayer for intercession is a request for God’s interference in how people live their life, and Christians (among others) like to uphold answered prayer as proof of God’s existence as though this wasn’t contradictory. There’s also the fact that Biblically, the notion that God doesn’t force his will on people is also contradicted. See, for example, when he hardens Pharoah’s heart in Exodus to prevent Pharoah from releasing the Hebrews from bondage — something that, supposedly, God wanted him to do. And I’ll save the topic of free will’s conflict with omniscience for its own Sunday.
But elsewhere in the entry, I say this:
If there was any doubt before of His presence in my life, it is gone. If there was any question that my life belongs to Him, it too is gone.
Along those lines, a portion of an entry I made in December 2003, as part of a longer rant about the commercialization of Christmas:
Let’s say you don’t believe in God. We’re walking skin-sacks of meat and fluid. What gives us the gall to believe we deserve money, or possessions, or fame, or credit, or friendship, or love? Each of us is the result of an astoundingly against-the-odds series of coincidences and it’s the pure luck of the draw that we even exist at all. We’re born, we exist, we die, and what the hell right to [sic] we have to believe we are owed ANYTHING by the unfeeling cosmos?
It is true that we are not “owed” anything from the cosmos, but the “cosmos” are not the source of money, possessions, fame, credit, friendship, or love. Other people are. And I’ll agree with my former self on this: we do not inherently deserve any of those things from anyone. They must be earned.
Actually, I was fairly accurate in this paragraph from a factual standpoint — it’s the tone of it with which I now have to take issue. The standard degrading of the human form as “sacks of meat and fluid,” and the lack of awareness that the sheer odds against our very existence are a perfectly good reason to stand in awe, wonder, and gratitude for being alive — moreso, in fact, than being the playthings of a deity who created us on purpose.
But let’s get real. God created us, and if He was a mad tyrant who liked to set us on fire and watch us fry like so many ants, who are we to believe we deserve better. He created us, He can do whatever the fuck He feels like with us, and we have no rights at all to our existence or the circumstances thereof, frankly. We’re just lucky we have a loving God.
This is what I mean when I say that I find some of these writings alarming. First of all, the God of Christianity is a mad tyrant who likes to set us on fire, according to the mythology. I know that I believed in the existence of Hell, so I am actually rather baffled by the fact that I essentially described Hell and then asserted without irony that the Christian God did not torture people with fire.
I seem to have meant that he didn’t do it while we were alive, and therefore did not kill us at a whim, but I’m not sure why this comforted me compared to the idea of torturing people for all of eternity — also, essentially, at a whim.
But look at the overall gist of the paragraph, an all-encompassing dismissal of the dignity of human life. This is what riles me up the most about religion now — the idea that there are people out there like me, who believed that people were worth nothing, that life was worth nothing, and that everything was worthless without a deity to patronize us by pretending to care.
Even if a God exists, and even if he created me, I flatly reject the assertion that he owns me, or any person, as a result. He threw us into a game in which he makes the rules for no good reason and didn’t even ask us if we wanted to play. I’m supposed to jerk him off and tell him he’s wonderful because he’s got a gun to my head? No, it doesn’t work that way, and saying that I love a God like that — or accepting the notion that he loves me — completely devalues the concept of “love.”
What I have written here is “My man beats me because I deserve it” and, even knowing that I finally came to know better, that horrifies me.
I can’t find quite as many concrete examples as I would have expected, other than the occasional “Praise God” or “Thank you Jesus” interjected after a happy story here and there. And the occasional post about confronting evangelists on campus who insisted on preaching about all the people the Biblical God hates. I was quite sure at the time that they must be wrong but, having actually done some reading of the Bible, it’s quite clear that they knew it better than I did in this regard.
The next time I see a serious entry about faith, it is from May 2006 — when I lost mine. That perhaps also deserves its own post, but I just want to note one brief excerpt from it. After going on a bit about how I no longer believed in Christianity, as I had realized there was nothing that made it more or less true than any other professed religion:
I’m not an atheist, in case it’s unclear. I don’t think I can ever be — although my sabbatical from Christianity was rather unforseen as well, I admit, so who knows where my spiritual development will take me.
Goes to show you never can tell.
- I find it interesting to notice that I did not include “respect” in this list, though I’m not sure I can accurately psychoanalyze why.↩