Monday, May 28, 2012

My Path To Atheism


I feel the need to make the following clear in print and in public: I don't think that God exists. I write about God and lot and think about God a lot and use the word God a lot, but when I do so, I'm often taking advantage of the flexibility of the word and the concept. To clarify, then: I don't believe in a supernatural being who's behind all this. I'm not a deist who believes that a god created the universe and became uninvolved, and I'm certainly not a theist who thinks that there is a god who answers prayers or performs miracles or has any direct effect on our lives. I don't believe that such a thing as Yahweh from the Hebrew Scriptures exists or that Jesus is his son and died for us or that Allah is the one true god. I don't even believe in a more abstract "force" that guides us in any way. There is nothing.

I'm also pretty certain about this, so I'm not an agnostic. I only hesitate to use the other "A" word because it merely describes part of what I am -- not all that I am -- where gods are concerned. I don't believe in gods in the same way that readers of The Catcher in the Rye don't believe in Holden Caulfield. Readers, of course, take their disbelief of Holden as a given (no special term needed), since his nonexistence doesn't prevent him from being talked about, analyzed, or loved. I feel this way about mythology. I love Zeus and Christ and Ra and Krishna. They're important to the world and they're important to me and the way I think. And while I think the literalism of religion misunderstands what gods actually are, I often take issue with the dismissive way that nonbelievers treat gods as well. But, in spite of this hesitation and disclaimer, atheist is an accurate label for me. I'm an atheist. Here's my story.