Saturday, November 11, 2006

Atheism

In grade 7 my friend David and I had a clandestine conversation about religion in the school library one afternoon. After some diplomatically chosen lines of discussion I realized that I was not alone in thinking that all this talk about God and heaven seemed quite silly. A huge weight was lifted off my chest as I was finally able to talk openly with someone who shared my skepticism. I guess coming out must feel a little like that. I went home thinking that I had just made a new best friend with whom I could be open and honest.

The next time we were in school together David seemed to avoid me all day long. He seemed estranged and nervous when I finally caught up with him. Standing across from me, the first words out of his mouth were something to the effect of "you're wrong you know, Jesus Christ died for our sins". Awestruck, I stood in silence and listened, feeling like that woman in the last scene of that new movie I had just viewed, when she calls out to Donald Sutherland's character only to find that her last friend and only lifeline has become "one of them".

Disappointed and crushed, I politely mumbled something and walked away. We were never really friends after that. By the time I had made it to high school I threw off any pretense of diplomacy and started a campaign to promote Atheism to anyone who would listen. Being fully out, I wasn't shy about it and my zealot's drive to convert carried through into University. My naive faith in progress lead me to believe that people would eventually see the truth if it was persuasively laid bare and that our societies at large would eventually shrug off these ancient superstitions and become more and more atheistic.

I've had a hard time reconciling this expectation with what has been seemingly happening over the last decade or so. Judging by the triumphs of the Religious Right in America, the rise of Islamic Fundamentalism, and the ever deepening quagmire of the religious dispute between the Jews in Israel and the Arabs around them, we don't seem to be progressing at all or one has to go further and throw out the notion of progress altogether.

I've been largely in exile from this conversation for more than a decade, wandering the desert, waiting for a sign.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Just because the Divine may only exist in our minds, it doesn't mean it doesn't exist or we shouldn't let that experience shape what we make of our lives. Math only exists in our minds. A blue sky only exists in our minds. Hell, love only exists in our minds, maybe even time. I'll accept the reality that says they are real, thank you very much, and let myself open to such directions. And why are you so afraid to look silly or believe in something?

JakeJakob said...

I have plenty of opportunity to look silly everyday and I will submit to believing in all of those concepts like numbers and love and honour etc. as long as we don't confuse that they are of a different category that can only be "verified" and "justified" within a framework of social consensus. Any such framework should be open to questioning and possible abandonment where required.
An important thing to consider is that my friend was clearly coerced, bullied and scared into believing by his mother and he was not allowed to question it. Any belief system that claims to be absolute and discourages re-examination is dangerous to knowledge, to society and to individual psychology.