Please read the title again. Because I’m going to go where the polite masses have been taught for generations that it’s not okay to go.
Yesterday, it was confirmed for me that there is no God.
I’m going to tell you, extremely honestly, that if you believe in God or Buddha or Allah or Wicca or any other deity that is your business and I respect it. Many of my close friends are devout Christians and we have respectful relationships. It took me awhile to be okay when they would say “I’m praying for you”. After awhile I came to understand that it really meant they were thinking good thoughts for me. And I can live with that. We all need some good thoughts in our lives.
My own religious path started as a child. Somewhere around age 8 or 10, I asked my mother if we could go to church. I was curious. I didn’t understand why some of my friends got to dress up and go to a special building on Sunday (In Wonderbread-white Maine, there were pretty much only the christian varieties). My mother told me it was fine to go to church, that she would drop me off. She would even pick me up, she said. The tone was unmistakable and dangerous. Topic closed. As I got older I found out that my Canadian-French descended family was deeply Catholic and deeply flawed. In my mother’s school pictures, she sported her classic 1960’s catholic uniform, badly home-cut bangs, and a broken nose delivered from my grandmother. My mother went to public high school and got pregnant as soon as possible and out of wedlock. She was pretty much forced by society and her Catholic family to get married. I’ve seen her wedding celebration pictures just once. She is round as pumpkin with a 7-month fetus that would be my oldest brother and sporting a blue dress. It was still a faux pas for a non-virgin to wear white. In later life, my grandmother, having traded alcoholism for an addiction to pain pills, only ever asked for a priest right before she went into surgery. Apparently, for her, the imminent threat of the afterlife was the only reason to celebrate her faith.
The lineage of my father’s religious upbringing is a little harder to trace. He told me once that his family went to church when he was a child and showed me the little white church whose denomination was unclear to me. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to get 11 children to church. It gives me the cold chills. But my father didn’t carry religious acts like praying in any form into his adulthood so far as I could ever tell. I’m not sure but it’s possible that some of his personality traits were born in that little white house. My father was a kind man. And he believed in helping where ever he could whether that was chopping firewood for a neighbor or being on call to help our neighbor’s elderly mother out of the bathtub when she fell. I’ve mentioned that I was half adopted. My father is the half. When my biological paternal grandfather fell ill with end-stage lung cancer, my mother would visit her former parents-in-law. My father would go along and do whatever it was that needed to be done around the house and yard. I don’t know if that came from religion or from his mother, my grandmother, who was one of the kindest people I ever knew. With 11 children, my grandmother had no shortage of grandchildren. When my father scooped me up and made me his at age 2 1/2., my grandmother didn’t bat an eye. She scooped me up too and made me hers. In that family, I was never anything other than one of theirs.
Still curious, as a teenager and camp counselor I would volunteer to drive the Catholic campers to church. I would sit with them in the rather uncomfortable pews. Why are church pews always so uncomfortable? Is it because some people fall asleep so it’s been ruined for everyone? I can’t even tell you how many weddings (which I generally consider awful anyway) I’ve sat through with an aching bum. It’s just not right. Anyway, back to business. While keeping the girls at appropriate levels of attention, I marveled at the ritual of Catholicism. I loved the incense, Latin, and the rhythm and chime of the recitations. The stained glass windows and art sparked my interest and love and still do to this day. Someday I would love to be able to tour the churches of Europe just for the art and architecture. But it did not spark my soul. And it did not ring true to my heart.
In college I took courses in English and philosophy where I read the whole damn bible, books from other religions, and some on the foundation of religions. The kernels of a belief formed that have grown into not-so-popular popcorn today. I do not believe that the bible as it is used today is a literal document. I’m sure there was a man named Jesus who proselytized and was probably a great guy. So someone wrote a book about him but filled in a whole lot of blanks. I believe the bible is more fiction than fact. I have no issue with religions following the general spirit of the Bible. Be a good person. Okay, I can handle that. That’s a message I try to get across as well. But I cannot tolerate it when people use literal quotes from the Bible to skew other religions or people who they believe are wrong. It’s like me using Lord of the Rings to justify not liking you because you’re not a hobbit. That makes me a hobbit, by the way. People who know me are giggling because it’s true that I’m a shorty.
I make it my purpose to understand the teachings and practices of religions. I’m still curious, I guess. In my latest years, I would have categorized myself as an Agnostic. I’ve known for a long time that I don’t believe in a traditional, literal God. But someone who was trying to get me to go to an Overeater’s Anonymous group — They use the same 12-Step program as AA — tried to get me past the opening bit about surrendering myself to a higher power. Most people in the AA tradition have a God. I was uncomfortable. I wasn’t about to give myself to something I didn’t believe in. This person told me that some people use other things as their higher power like the ocean, running, or the universe. The universe made sense to me. I believe in science and evolution so it made sense to believe the universe is the highest power.
We recently had a friend die after a year-long battle with leukemia. He was 32. Just three years ago we were celebrating his wedding. We knew he was fighting leukemia and thought a bone marrow transplant was going to save the day but instead he was given a terminal diagnosis. Within a few weeks he was gone. And I just couldn’t understand it. I was really sad. I still am. And Mini-me picked up on it right away. I explained why I was sad and Mini-me asked what I thought happened to us when we died. I didn’t lie to him. I told him that I don’t know but I like to think that we become stars so we can watch the people we love and help them through their lives. Even through this, I believed in the universe. But I started to slip on their being a reason for everything. I can’t come up with a reason for losing Eric. I can’t come up with a reason that his wife has to feel so much pain. I know someone who would tell me that God works in mysterious ways. But I don’t believe in God, remember.
So now we come to my audacious statement way up there at the beginning. There is no God. I’m choosing there is no God over God is a sick deviant because it’s less incendiary. Yesterday, we had a bit of a concern over whether I could get to Mini-me’s city to pick him up because the freeway had been closed since the wee hours and traffic was snarled. There’s only one freeway between our cities and it runs along the ocean. It’s a beautiful drive but any emergency like a car accident or a mudslide can completely cut off the state. Traffic cleared by the time i needed to leave and all was well. On my Facebook page I get a bunch of news feeds from different area newspapers. When I checked my Facebook while Mini-me was playing, I saw the story on the accident. At first it was sad but pretty routine.
A 16-year-old got on the freeway going the wrong direction and hit a semi-truck, and his car flipped several times. Tragic without a doubt for so many people. But the story added a line that curdled my stomach. The car landed on its roof, on top of the boy. That was the moment any wispy vauge, back-of-my-head uncertainty disappeared. I went from cynic to certain. No benevolent, loving God would allow this to happen to his sheep. This is just disgusting, creeping pain that will leach out to everyone who knew and loved this boy. And even to some sensitive souls who didn’t know him, like me. The only God I can envision in this is a predator. A cruel, malicious, sneeking invisible force.
Someone out there who is still reading despite my heresy, is bound to ask about the good things in life. Miracle babies, lilacs blooming, an unexpected hug, the perfect golf swing. And I have to say that I don’t have all the answers. It seems more like evolution and science blooming rather than a God cheerily creating life. I know when I believe something because I get a physical feeling behind my breastplate. And I just don’t have it. I’ve been through hell and I’ve witnessed miracles (not in the Hail Mary sense) but I’ve never had a sense that there was a God with a firm hand on my back.
So, what am I then? Am I still an Agnostic believing in the universe or an Atheist who is giving up on it all. Do I still believe there’s a reason for everything? I suppose I am still an Agnostic, believing that our dead become stars. I want to believe that boy under the car is now up there shining bright and watching out for other kids. Believing in nothing at all is still too hard for me. I believe the reason I’ve gone through Hell is that someday someone will meet me or read this or hear me speak and have the strength to fight another day. I need to believe that or else I’ve been through Hell just because. And I’m not prepared to accept that.
And I understand that people, in general, need to believe in something in order to get them through the little indignities of the day and the large indignities of life. I’m not a religion hater, other than the ones that feel its’ okay to hurt others like Westboro Baptist. If God or Buddha or Allah or praying to Michael Jackson gets you through then by all means, go to town. I won’t complain if you say that you’re going to pray for me in a nice way(because there is a nasty way) because I take it as a compliment. By broadcasting my beliefs, I’m not trying to say that believers are wrong. Who am I to be a spiritual dictator? This blog is simply an antennae for how I experience the world. Today my experience is a power-shortage on faith.