Thursday, September 17, 2009

I <3 Atheism

I just found this in the Update at the end of my grandmother's death-dealing book Born in Zion (the positive reviews on Amazon horrify me). It's a passage about the process of changing deeply held beliefs, which is a kind of funny thing to stumble across, in the writ of my old beliefs, all things considered. She quotes from Charles Colson's "Against the Night" (an unlikely source for me to agree with). He wrote

"People don't pick a vision (or make a decision) piece-meal, as they might pick a bouquet of flowers in a garden. They come to such convictions (or decisions) within the framework of a braoder set of... asumptions and ideals - more like accetping a story, with all of its internal rules and consistencies

And just as beliefs are not selected one at a time (what might be called the salad-bar theory of decision-making), longheld beliefs do not fall one at a time. In the absence of a deeper conversion of perspective... minds are rarely changed on single policy matters, no matter how persuasive our arguments."
Yeah, that rings true. I dropped belief in emergency faith healing after Harrison died. I dropped belief in faith healing for all non-emergency care as well, after three years walking with a dislocated hip (and a cane - in high school, where canes aren't exactly cool.) I dropped theism/deism in May 2008. It was a gradual stripping away of the deeper core of my mythology. But she uses this passage to "support" her insane lifestyle recommendations and stances on homebirth, prayer, and the roles of women in families. She wrote

"People usually won't decide to have a baby at home, trusting God alone, unless they have a framework - a braod base upon which their life rests - of trust in God for everything else. If they're trusting in banks for provision, in doctors for healing, in pastors for insight from God, in newspapers for their daily word, in psychology for an understanding of the principles of life, in drugs for health, in science for their beliefs about the nature of matter and the foundation of the universe, in the government for the answers to our social problems, in the "experts" for wisdom and truth, then these people are probably not ready for home birth."
Can you see why I fight so hard against blind faith and religious belief? I know the dark and desperate places faith leads to. Faith leads to death, and war, and children being starved, and abusive exorcisms, and fatal home births. True faith, of the kind my grandmother advocated in the vile paragraph above, led to the death of two young boys, life imprisonment for their father, and a slow and painful death by cancer of their cult leader, who worshiped my grandmother. She was a cult leader's cult leader. And she accounts for 1/8 of my genetic make up. We share a serotonin imbalance, and she spent all my life telling me that I was just like her. It's rather horrifying, on the days when my medicine doesn't seem to be working so well.

She quotes Charles Colson once again.

"Plato argued that this deeper conversion of perspective was almost like an awakening - like remembering something you forgot a long time ago. It is the realization: 'That fits! That is the way things should be.' It is a sense of recognition. Something responds not only in your head but in the deeper layers of your being."
He could be describing the emotional release, the pure joy I felt at deconversion. Yes, I feel betrayal from my family for lying to me for all these years. I feel annoyed with myself for not asking more question, more deeply, and more often. And yet, becoming an atheist is one of the best two things that has ever happened to me (the other being the birth and life of my son.) I love being an atheist. Being an atheist gives me such a sense of joy and purpose and peace, all the things that religion promised and instead stole from me.

How could I be joyous, "knowing" my gay and lesbian and non-Christian friends would all be tortured forever in hell? How could I have purpose if my life was mapped out for me, and there was no option but to serve one of two masters, either God or the Devil? How could I be at peace, when I was in near constant pain, hating myself for being a wretched, wicked sinner?

Now that I know there is no God (know with enough certainty for all practical purposes - there is simply no evidence), I finally feel that I can exert some control over my life. If I am sick, I can take medicine to get better, or at least reduce my symptoms. If I am hurting, I can talk to someone - I can listen to the experts, and I can find some solace. If I have needs, I can confess them with no shame. I am an ape - an ape who is responsible for my own actions and decisions, but an ape nonetheless. My failure to live up to the sinless example of Jesus makes perfect sense. My desire to touch and be touched, to love and be loved, to screw and be screwed, is not the product of a "fallen" soul. It's the delightful side effect of reproductive evolution! And now thanks to science and medicine, those experts I always heard decried, I can have that benefit - without having more children.

Religion is the single thing that did the most harm in my life, and I believe it's also the single thing that's done the most harm in the history of our species. It certainly hasn't been good for our planet, or our governments, or our mentally ill. It's not just that religion teaches people they are evil, and that their neighbors are evil, (and worse yet, that their children are evil); religion makes good people do bad things for bad reasons.

I want to live my life based on good reasons. Don't you?

* Sorry for the excessive self-referential linking to prior ATAT posts. I'm trying to figure out how to organize all this mental diarrhea into a book.