Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Maybe I'm an atheist

The last couple of years have been pretty weird.

I think it was roughly three years ago, before I ragequit Facebook, that I changed my "religious views" field therein to "Agnostic". It's weird if you consider three years before that I was posting some rather .. uh .. gnostic posts here.

How did that happen? I read those posts just now and seems past me was already leaning quite hard on the "maybe" philosophy. Some things I read make me want to slap myself repeatedly, but I choose not to edit those posts. Those are historical documents! The following will contradict my previous writings, but I feel I kinda understand what the dude who wrote those was thinking.

It has been established that I will not rewrite history, so let's add more context, instead! Cue the flashback sound effect!

I was raised a catholic. I was baptized and all... but then that was pretty much it. My family only went to church on special occasions. I got the basics, sure, I was able to fit in with the masses. But I had many, many unanswered questions.

In my pre-teen years I'd lay in bed thinking for hours. If god created everything, what created god?

By the time I was done with high school I was a closet atheist. I never brought it up for fear of being disowned. Oh, and yes, there was a sliver of fear left. I didn't want to anger god in case it turns out he was there all along.

But then suddenly I was in a pew, admittedly to impress a girl. But eventually I started liking the church. The people were friendly, it was a fun atmosphere, and then there was the fallacy I didn't see coming. The false dilemma; I was given an alternative to catholicism, along with a long list of things that were wrong with catholicism, and I reasoned, much to my eventual chagrin, that if A was wrong, then B had to be the answer.

I have no regrets. The whole thing lasted about 10 years. I did not hurt anyone, and I didn't make any harsh decisions. But I wouldn't do it again if I had a chance.

In my last years of church going I started seeing the cracks. The congregation stopped smiling. The pastor started scolding. I felt the constant judgement and contempt. I don't think they changed, though. Maybe they saw something in me, and gave up on me. You see, I tried very hard to believe, but my prayers were never answered. Things kept going wrong. I kept losing one job after another. Me and my wife argued more and more. I was convinced something was wrong with me. I suppose I was not the only one.

Pentecostal church is very physical. Lots of instant gratification going on. People being healed, the dancing, the speaking in tongues, the falling back when hands were laid upon you... Oh, yes, the laying of hands! I remember getting a few good shoves while I was being prayed for. It was pretty rough at times! Every time I took a step back to regain my balance. I waited for the real thing. I was supposed to black out and have a supernatural experience, and instead I just got pushed. I think this enraged the pastor.

I started seeing people lie at the pulpit all the time. I saw people with questionable morals telling others how to act. I was outraged, but for a good while my faith didn't falter. I was trained by the church not to lose heart due to people being flawed, and I was warned about the false prophets.

One day a guest preacher said that god had asked to pray for someone who was born with a deformed arm. Nobody approached the altar. We all knew who she was talking about. A few days, in casual conversation, this person brought up that the arm was fine at birth, and it was deformed in an accident. Busted.

To make things worse, every sunday it became harder and harder to get the kids all dressed up on time. So we started missing services. Sleeping in on sundays is divine, let me tell you. And in those days where we might be able to make it on time, we chose not to go.

I stopped praying. I stopped wishing. The habits died pretty quick. The bitter thoughts came back, slowly and steadily.

I started to carefully play attention to science subjects I had only skimmed through before, looking for answers. I made a point to understand the theory of evolution and the big bang theory. I also learned what a theory is! I think that's when the agnosticism clicked. All these years I had missed (and my old blog posts will prove this) the true beauty of science.

A true scientist is not ashamed of saying "we don't know, but we'll get back to you on that as soon as we find anything". A true scientist wants to be questioned. There are no absolutes, no authorities, and nothing is sacred. I learned that science is not an alternative to religion. Science will not provide answers to spiritual questions. You're not supposed to believe it, you're supposed to understand it.  So I stopped trying to believe in science at about the same time I stopped trying to understand faith.

Today I'm perfectly fine knowing that I will rot and be forgotten. All record of my existence will be obliterated. Maybe in three or four generations, tops, but that's a negligible amount of time when you consider infinity. Oh well, hopefully this blog will be around for a few years beyond that.

Life is not pointless, all my actions will make infinitely small ripples through the cosmos. I am a good person, not because of a fear of hell, or a promise of heaven, but because I want my legacy to make the universe better when I'm gone, and because I want my limited days on earth to be happy.

Am I an atheist? Maybe, sometimes. I don't go preaching godlessness. But I'm not preaching anything I can't prove (and explain) either. Sure, sometimes I feel outraged and want to choke people while yelling "BUT THERE IS NO GOD!" straight into their misguided little brains, but that's only sometimes. For example when people use their faith to justify an evil act, or when they're being assholes.

So, is there a god? Is there an afterlife? I have no reason to believe so, but I'll get back to you if I find something, in the meantime, follow the teachings of Wil Wheaton (don't be a dick) and you should be fine!