April 05, 2006

Deconversion, Part 3

Part 3: Atheism

When I left Judaism I sank into deep depression for a while. I felt like a failure. I felt rejected by god. From betrayal to misogyny to atheistic books my path out of religion wore on me. Brokenhearted and feeling very alone, life sucked for a while. During that time the theist assertion that life is nothing without god felt like it was incredibly true. I was reading more and more atheistic literature, but since at this point it was too early to give a name to the new thoughts in my head, and to soon after spending so much time in religion to get over the loss of it, I was detached from it.

Then, more death. My best friend from childhood was one of those guards for armored vans that pick up and drop off money from banks. In August 2004 two men in full body armor robbed them as they came out of the store. My friend, who'd just turned 29 and whose son had just turned 1, was shot three times. The thieves never spoke - they never demanded the money from him. They just killed him and took it.

I hadn't talked to him in years. I hadn't seen him in even more years. This was about seven months into my abandonment of religion. He was one of those friends (that I hope everyone has) that even when you were feeling like the entire world was against you, you knew this person was in your corner. If we had met again, we would have picked up right where we left off. He was the most innocuous and gentle person I'd ever known. He was a neo-pagan (when I knew him) and would never have hurt even a fly. Cliche, but true.

I mourned him. I went to the memorial service. Because of his death, a few long lost friends were reunited for a little while. But his son will never know the wonderful man his father was. His wife, who suffers from Huntington Disease will ultimately make the child an orphan.

The religious and atheist sides of myself were warring it out. The religious side was saying 'how could the loving lord do this to this family? They were good people, they didn't hurt anyone, they didn't deserve this. How could a loving god make this part of his plan? I don't understand. I should pray on it."

Then, a truly revolutionary thought occured to me. If there was no god, there is no "divine plan". God wasn't rejecting me. God didn't make it part of his plan to make me fail with religion. God wasn't out to punish this innocent family. God didn't allow the two worthless fucks who killed him to get away scot free. God isn't there at all.

That thought rocked my world. Here I was, after all those years of study, realizing what Isaac and Simon were trying to tell me. It wasn't that they followed god because it made them happy whether it was true or not. It was that they made themselves happy via religion. They didn't care whether or not there was a god.

I FINALLY got it. The question isn't "Is there a god?" The question is "Does it matter?"

Religion is a man made thing. It attempts to describe god, give attributes to god, and assign desires to god that are human-based. People wrote the words, people repeat the words, people believe the words - all without a shred of evidence. Because it makes them happy. Ultimately, religion is an attempt to be happy and stay happy in the face of reality. All the other bullshit that comes with it, is the fault of humans, not the myths they create. It creates a sense of community.

What I found out is that atheism does that infinitely better. Instead of creating divides between people - catholic xian v baptist xian, shiite v sunni, reform v orthodox, muslim v hindu, xian v muslim, black v white, gay v straight etc etc etc - it gives us all equal footing. Atheists are united by one thing - a lack of belief in gods. That's it. Therefore, it doesn't matter if you're a transvestite hooker from Queens, or a big game hunting republican from Texas- we're all just atheists.

Religion also creates a sense of superiority. I.e. Baptists don't like Catholics because they "worship Mary", Catholics don't like non-catholics because they strayed from the one true church(tm). Muslims don't like other religions because they aren't Islam. Etc etc (note: Judaism is the only one of the big three that says that non-Jews -providing that they are righteous people - will still go to heaven. Odd that its theological children (Xianity and Islam) do not.)

Even the variances in atheism - strong v weak - never cause us to take up weapons and destroy each other. I've never seen a strong atheist tell a weak atheist that their less of an atheist because they don't agree. Doesn't mean it doesn't happen, of course, as there are assholes in every bunch. But, it still never causes death and destruction. Northern Ireland, Israel/Palestine and now Iraq can all attest that the same is not true with religion is part of the mix.

It was then that I caught the scent of The Selfish Gene (by Dawkins) and The Meme Machine (by Blackmore). Those of you who've read them (and if you haven't, do so immediately!) know exactly what happened then. "Religion is a mind virus".

(It should be noted here that at this point I was dating a guy who claimed to be an atheist - and in fact directed me to some more research material that further aided my search - but who turned out to be a hardcore xian. Apparently lying about "devotion to god" is forgivable - esp if it gets them some ass.)

There isn't anything in the bible that praises intelligence and now I know why. But in this modern, highly interactive age, there is no excuse for remaining ignorant of facts. Learn. Read. Explore. Whether or not god is out there doesn't matter. What matters is how you live this life, how you treat other human beings. It's clear religion is counter to both of these things. It focuses on the next life and how to get yourself into it. It does not improve life or those who believe it. It teaches them that even though they're gods special people, they're also still dirty, evil sinners. But instead of blaming religion, they blame themselves. It's a con job. A total mind-fucking con job. Voltaire said: "The first priest was the first scoundrel who met the first fool." There is no better definition of religion.

Theists have repeated the old lie that atheists are just full of hate, or depression and they just hate god a million times. I was a god-hater for a little while. Having been betrayed, lied to, told the because I'm female I'm second rate, having seen the divisive damage religion does - I did hate it for a little while. I know now, though, that at that point I wasn't an atheist yet. Maltheist, definiately. Not an atheist.

It was that realization (and a lot more reading and researching) that forced me to reconsider and become, truly, an atheist.

My desire (and follow through) to do more volunteer work sky rocketed after I figured this out. My compassion for all humanity skyrocketed after this. I no longer see walls that can't be broken down. There is only . . . possibilities. The saying it true - without god, all things are possible. There isn't a divine plan beating me down, there are no divisions between people that aren't man-made, there is nothing to religion but recycled myths and old superstitions. Do I hate religion? Yes. Because it does nothing but damage and hinders human growth. Do I hate theists? No. I forgive them; they know not what they do. We are opposition to their indoctrination. So of course they hate us, of course they don't trust us. (and I think, they fear we're right.)

So, every time a theist tells me that I just don't know, or that I haven't given it a shot they should know I flip them off. I looked deeper and longer than the average theist does. When they tell me they feel sorry for me, I do feel sorry for them. They're adults who haven't escaped. And when they tell me they'll pray for me, I say thanks for not doing anything.

So in conclusion:

I have no regrets. I lost the fantasy that is God, but, I still have that white teddy bear, pictures and keepsakes from my dearly departed and the confidence that comes from "been there, done that". These things are real. These things exist. God does not. And that is a wonderful thing.