Part 4: Spirituality and Superstition, in which I unintentionally offend
7) I am an atheist. This is not because I am rebelling against a religious upbringing. In fact, my parents -- a lapsed Catholic and a lapsed Methodist -- specifically avoided pressuring my brothers and I into any sort of religion in the hopes that we would find our own way. That and any attendance to religion would mean that they would have had to get up before noon on Sundays. That would have been a sign of the Apocalypse right there.
My atheism is also not because I demanded something of god and did not receive it, or because something terrible happened and I got mad at god for letting it happen. I’ve met people who say that they are atheists, but they really have a deep attachment to god. They have been disappointed by their expectations of god and find that they only way that they can hurt god is by not believing. I always, after about age 6, knew that god was not Santa Claus, and faith was not a gift to god in exchange for services rendered.
My atheism is not because I came to the conclusion that the Bible was a set of stories that could not possibly be true. Even when I did believe in god, I did not believe that the Bible was anything more than stories. (My deep relationship with stories, however, is another story for another time.) Besides, I've read the Bible, I'm not sure people who go on and on about god, for better or worse, are speaking of the same character. So, I tend to doubt that many of the professed Christians that I have encountered use the Bible as their spiritual reference source either.
My atheism is not the result of rational thought or deep theological questioning. I have not read deeply in theology nor in anti-theology. My atheism is, instead, simply a lack of belief. At one time, I believed. Now, I don’t. Nothing big happened. I just stopped believing. Or, rather, I stopped seeing the question of belief as necessary in my life.
I would like to take the time to read more about atheism, its history and philosophical questions. At the same time, I also like reading the Weblog with all of it's Christian-identified participants, because Adam Kotsko and his colleagues seem to be on a quest to fully comprehend faith. I like my dad's friend, the Methodist minister, for the same reason. In fact, what I respect most about them is that they do not presume to speak for god or to know what god means. They approach religion as something intellectual and demanding rigorous examination. They are better Christians than I am an atheist in that regard.
Indeed, as I write this, I begin to realize the spiritual question that most interests me, when it interest me. What is the origin of the impulse for belief, or for the lack of belief? Given that both are concerned with the unknowable, the conflict between the two really cannot be resolved. Perhaps the impossibility of resolution is the reason that I do not see the question of belief as necessary to my life, but rather an interesting puzzle to ponder because so many people have and do consider it necessary to their lives.
I really don’t begrudge people who have faith. I only become angry at those of faith when they try to force that faith on me through the state, through attempts to convert me, or through overt attacks upon my or other people's humanity. I also question the strength of someone's faith if my lack of belief shakes theirs, especially since their faith does not shake my lack. My lack of beleif is not really their concern. Faith is not “majority rule.” Faith just is. In me, it is not.
As for morality, mine never came from fear of punishment or affliction by an angry god. My morality came from the sense that I should treat people well because I would like to be treated well. Not that one leads to the other, but because I respect the humanity of the other person the way that I respect my own. I know that "do unto others" is a Christian idea, and that my upbringing in a Christian culture probably taught me this idea; but I do not think of it as a pronouncement from a higher power as interpreted by Jesus.
I, in fact, question (question -- not refute -- I approach this as a historian) the existence of a historic Jesus. I like to think of him as a Lt. Kije or Capt. Tuttle, a fictitious front for the activities of a group of philosophers who imbedded in their own story their explanation for having a front: bloody death by crucifiction. Whether or not he existed, however, should not take away from the messages of the Jesus stories if you think that message is good. I seem to have absorbed some of those messages as good; but, to reiterate, I do not think of them as pronouncements from a god. Observing those messages is not an act of devotion to a god on my part, but an act of respect to another person.
So, perhaps you could say that I am an Egotist or Materialist or even a spiritual Anarchist, in that my atheism and my morality spring from my Self and from whatever cultural, experiential, and intellectual influences created that Self, not from an objective or omniscent higher power. I'm sure there is already a school of philosophy that deals with that, I just haven't yet gotten around to looking for it.
See? Not necessary to my existence.
8) My lack of belief extends to ghosts, superstitions and any other phenomenon that is predicated on some higher intelligence that willfully manipulates events on earth.
Except for pennies. I will run into traffic to retrieve a penny just to get the good luck -- although any good luck was probably used up in not getting hit by a car.
I never knew about the head-up, tails-up differential until I was over 30. I heard about it in Connecticut, so my reaction was: "What kind of Yankee regional bullshit is that?" A penny is good luck, no matter what side is up. Nevertheless, when I find a heads-down penny, a tiny irrational voice now tells me, "Ooooh, tails up! That's not really good luck!" That pisses me off.
I act as if this matters. I am a crappy atheist in this regard, as well.
There you are: Eight things you now know about me!
In conclusion, we can surmise a few random things about Clio Bluestocking. First, she cannot differentiate between a "fact" and a "story." Second, she has terrible verbal incontinence. Third, she seems to seek out extreme experiences, even if she herself does not live extremely. Fourth, she is intellectually inconsistent ("Do I contradict myself?"). Fifth, she and maturity seem to have only a passing acquaintance. Sixth, her immaturity can also be interpreted as being a late bloomer, since she seems to have done nothing worthy of note until age 25 ("I pass over all that happened at school..."). Seventh, she has left very few roads untravelled; and, Eighth, her guiding philosophy is "what the hell?"
The final portion of the game requires me to tag eight other people. I am too shy to tag anyone specifically. Plus, I do spend a great deal of time requiring people to provide me with written answers through the course of my week. Should anyone who reads this or who is linked in my sidebar care to respond on their own (hint to Claire, John "Ivan" R., Babu, and Xena the Warrior Kitty), then by all means do so!