Friday, 6 February 2015
Hi, I'm Matt, and I'm an Atheist
So, no, rather than "bugs" or "violence" or "apathy", the Word of the Day is: 'ATHEISM'.
Atheism /'aythee,izəm/ n. The principle or belief that there is no God.
Now, I have talked around my atheism before, on topics such as Islam, Agnosticism and Faith. But then, it wasn't really the subject of the post, it was just sort of a footnote. Yes, I am an atheist. But, after watching those creation counterargument videos which I mentioned last post, I've been thinking about it lately. The reason being, I see a lot of these people talk about religion and their experiences, and I get the feeling of sort of being at an A.A. meeting - hence the title of today's post - they're like "Hi, I'm Greg, and I haven't believed in God for 23 years.". It's not always in those words, but that's what it feels like. There's this relief that they finally got over this burden.
I guess I just feel weird because I can't really say that. I don't know what it's like to believe in God, because I never really did.
See, this is what I remember. I remember going to Sunday school and making a lot of stupid shit. A lot of it involved staples, glue and colouring in. I guess they were trying to indoctrinate me, but they didn't do a good job because I wasn't listening. I didn't care, I was playing with crayons.
Now, I "knew" this stuff, I was being told it and that's how I know a bunch of it, but I never believed it. To me, it's like binomial functions. I can tell you the basics of the brackets and how you put the numbers in and they somehow make a graph . . . but I don't know how. I can tell you some of the details, but the part that puts A to B to C? Yeah, that's not there. I don't know how people do that.
So, while I was young, I understood "Yeah, there's a god, and his son, and he died but he didn't die, then pop, we came into existence." I didn't know how it worked, but I didn't have to. Adults had to worry about that shit, I could just ignore it and leave it up to them to understand.
When I grew older, that's when I started to have them questions. What does life mean? What's the point of all this? Why am I here? I distinctly remember a moment when I was in the garage and my Dad told me that the sun was going to explode one day. I can't remember why he told me, but even single-digit year old me, still in grade 2 or 3, was pacing back and forth in the garage trying to work out what the point of this was, if everything was going to explode one day.
I still don't really have the answer, but as a child I decided that our goal would be to outlive the sun. Leave this solar system when the time comes and find somewhere that hadn't exploded and live there. That was the goal. It seemed like a simple enough solution to me.
The first time I started to question all this god shit that I didn't understand was in grade four. See, we had religious study or whatever in primary school, and I noticed, in every one of those classes, one of the girls left the classroom. And the teachers didn't give a shit, they were like, "Okay, she leaves now, and we do the thing."
I was bothered by this. I even asked the teacher: "How come she gets to leave?" and they said something like "Her parents don't want her in this class."
And I was cranky. She gets to leave? How come she gets to leave? I hate this shit too, it's boring. Could I leave? Hell, why just this class? Could I leave other classes too? I hate sport, could I just walk out of sport class?
But, I answered my own question pretty quickly "No, you can't leave Sport, Science, Maths or English class - that's stuff you have to learn at school." and that's what really got my mind ticking. Why would I - or anyone else - not have to learn something we were being taught in school?
I already knew the answer, but I wasn't quite putting it into words. I just had this feeling that "religious studies" - that thing which I don't understand and found boring - was something that I didn't have to know.
It was at a later point in life, when I started wondering about not just the end of the sun, but the end of me. Death. What exactly was heaven like? I asked my parents about it, and they said (basically), "It's what you want it to be like."
They told me that because I was a child, it was late at night and they wanted to go to sleep. And at first, it calmed my mind.
"Whatever I want it to be like?" I thought "Well, I really like videogames. I like Croc on the PC, that's a lot of fun. What if heaven was like that?"
But then I started to think about it, and I got worried.
"What about everyone else? What if the other dead people don't like Croc? Hell, I can only play it for 30 minutes before getting stuck, what if I don't like Croc forever? And that's the thing, it is forever, dead is forever. Does that mean if I died now, tonight, then I'd have to live in the heaven I want right now? Or does it change all the time? And if it does change all the time, is it the same for everyone, or is it all dependent on what each individual person wants? Does that mean that it will be this convoluted mish-mash of what everyone wants it to be? That sounds horrible."
It was then that I realized that my parents didn't know - nobody knew. I mean, no one can know what the afterlife is like because everyone who has been there is dead, and doesn't come back. So we don't know, we can't know and anyone that says they do know is lying.
And that's how I decided that religion wasn't being honest with me. Sure, when I was a kid, I tried praying and stuff. But, I quickly realized that whether or not you prayed, the same shit kept on happening. So, praying was useless, heaven was unknown and I wasn't learning anything by going to church.
But the nail in the coffin, the absolute death knell that swept the last crumbs of religion out from under my mental rug, was a friend of mine - aptly named "Christian". See, Christian was funny, and he was a good artist. In fact, he was the person that got me into writing. See, he would write funny and interesting poetry, and I realized "shit, if someone else my age can write well, maybe I can too." That's how I realized that I could write stories, and after practice, that lead me to what I am today.
But, another way it affected me was in class one day. I can't remember why, but I had recently learnt about evolution. It had been explained to us the ways that ape-like ancestors had evolved to become human.
I thought it was pretty freaky, I mean, I didn't feel like a monkey, but I understood that this was a very long time ago. I understood it, but it was still a curious thing to think about. So, I asked my friend Christian, "What do you reckon about all this? I mean, we're all monkeys, pretty freaky, right?"
And he responded adamantly: "No, we're all descended from Adam and Eve."
I didn't reply, because in my head I was listening to a very loud clunk - the sound of the last piece falling into place. And in my head, I actually thought the words:
"No . . . that's wrong."
I mean, Adam and Eve is a fucking fairytale. Talking snakes? Garden of paradise? Some naked chick that just walks around with her sexy bits exposed? That's pure fantasy. So, if I'm expected to believe what the Bible says, over science?
Yeah, no, that book is going to way of the dodo.
So, no, I never actually believed in religion. It hung on for a while there, a good 6 years, but I never really believed in it - and while I like to believe it's because I was particularly smart for my age, the truth is, it just never made sense to me - I was just repeating what I was told. I can never honestly say that I was ever a Christian, because I didn't understand what they were trying to tell me. Perhaps I never could understand, since it doesn't actually make a lot of sense.
As for God? I never believed in that either. I gave it a go, but to me, it's like smoking. People said, "it's relaxing", so I gave that a go a few times, but it never really stuck, and I never saw (or felt) what everyone else said I would. I prayed and got nothing out of it, I I never got what these other people seemed to get, so I discarded the cigarette, and I discarded the Holy book too.
That's why I'm an atheist - because I always was an atheist. I never started not being an atheist, because it just wasn't something I could believe.
In conclusion, I was talking to my girlfriend about "intelligent design", and something that always bugged me which is, surely, intelligent design is far outweighed by unintelligent design. Things like the recurrent laryngeal nerve which connects the brain to the larynx (i.e. your head to your throat) by looping around the aortic arch of the heart, a pointlessly roundabout route; or whales and dolphins breathing air despite living in abundant, oxygen-rich water; the parasitic wasp which burrows into a host insect, and ingravidates it with larvae which eat the caterpillar alive; cancer in any and all of its devastating forms & the appendix, which serves no purpose except to occasionally become infected, with no way to naturally resolve it.
In response to this, she merely said: "God should get an MBA" -
Well, he'd learn a lot more about efficiency that way.
I'm the Absurd Word Nerd, and if you still believe in a god . . . keep it to yourself. Even if I started to doubt for a moment that I was right, I am not going to pick up your book for answers.