I am an Atheist.
There. I said it. Okay, I wrote it. It is in print, and soon to be published, and then it will be floating out there on the internet for anyone to see.
I have not yet been struck down by a lightning bolt, because, see? I am still writing. If this does make it to published content, it will mean that I managed to avoid the Wrath of God. Which would negate my belief, or lack thereof, if The Wrath of God did strike me dead for making this pronouncement. This is a steep hill I am climbing, right? It’s confusing. Let’s move on.
When did I become an Atheist, you ask? I have to be completely honest about that and answer that I always have been. I have fronted a lifetime of lies to myself and others about what I truly believe, deep down inside, because it was necessary to do so. Call it self-preservation, or call it a journey. I don’t care at this point. It is what it is. When I was growing up, it was not popular, or even “edgy”, to refuse to believe in God, or to refuse to follow the flock into church. It would have been dangerous, even. Not only would my family have been angry, but society would have shunned me even more than it already did for being a poor, fat, homely bastard. I did what I needed to in order to navigate the murky waters of life back then.
When I was little, I feared God every bit as much as I feared The Devil. They both seemed to be filled with anger and punishing acts for those who disobeyed. We were taught that The Devil liked it when we were bad but that God would punish us. I always thought that this tactic was a double-edged sword, because if we were bad, wasn’t the threat of Eternal Damnation punishment enough? Why did we deserve to be punished by the Creator of All Things as well? I spent my childhood both cowering when I was bad and quietly gleeful when I was bad and didn’t get caught. Sure, the threat
God sees all
was always in the back of my mind, but if I did something bad and nothing came of it and life went on, well, what the hell did that prove? Either that God didn’t necessarily see all because there were too many people doing too many things, or that God was a big load of hogwash. And no, you don’t need to know the bad things I did and got away with because fuck you, that’s why. You can take your judgment and tuck it right up your pooper. You’ve been bad, too. Oh yes, you have.
But oh, the guilt. I was raised within the confines of the Roman Catholic faith. Hold your apologies, because it wasn’t all bad. The church was pretty. The stained glass, the flowers, the breathtaking statues and art, the incense; all of it was heady in the sensory overload department. I loved all of that. I loved the ritualistic way Mass was said. It pleased me. I loved the Latin and the music. It gave me peace.
That’s what I loved about religion. End of story.
I did not love the exclusiveness. I did not love the threats of peril if one did not follow the teachings of the church. I did not love the begging for money every Sunday so that the church parking lot could be replaced or that a bunch of young men I didn’t know wanted to make a pilgrimage to some Third World country to organize the natives. Most of all, I did not like how we were supposed to take the Bible seriously. Like, all that shit really happened. Give me a fucking break.
As I’ve gotten older, it has dawned on me that I have made a ton of mistakes, thought a whole lot of bad thoughts, and sinned my ass off. And yet? I am still blessed with a multitude of good things. I am blessed with wonderful people in my life. I am blessed with the ability to see all of this and to also understand that the sum of my actions add up to the cost. God didn’t figure that out for me; I did. By myself.
God has never spoken to me. Neither has the devil (although during one very specific, vivid dream, he did appear as Dave Grohl to tempt me mightily, but you nevermind about that, okay?) And I am positive that we don’t float around in Purgatory, atoning for all the little, white lies we have told. Here’s the thing: bad stuff happens. Something or someone is the cause of them. Usually, we can draw conclusions from what happens. There’s science, and logic, and pure emotion. When you use one or all of these tools at your disposal, you can almost always find the root of everything. It’s not some Eternal Being, pulling the strings. It’s, well…..it’s probably YOU.
PLEASE. Don’t tell me you’re going to pray for me. Don’t try to change my mind. I believed this a long, long time ago but it was reactions like that which kept me quiet. I’m going to go on sticking to my convictions because really, so fucking what if I am wrong? No one has ever returned to tell me that, though. Unless my lilac bush out in the front yard spontaneously bursts into flames and an ominous voice speaks from the depths of the fire, I think I’m okay, alright? You do you. I’ll keep doing me, because me is kind, and good, and caring. Me is who I want to be, and no religion can enhance that which is perfect: perfectly flawed, perfectly human, perfectly myself. In a world that has gone batshit crazy with religion and politics and outrageousness, I’m good. It’s all good.