Today I celebrate a quarter-century of atheism.
A quarter century? Why yes. Here is an entry from my journal 25 years ago today:
October 28th, 1984 10:58 PM Sunday
God. I used to believe in God. But do I now? I don’t think so. I can’t see any reason to. And if I must accept the existance [sic] of God simply by blind faith, why the Christian God? I don’t know. Religion has become very confusing. I’ve been strongly conditioned to believe in God. I can use this to explain away any feeling that there is “supposed to be” a God. But it also makes it harder to reject Christianity.
Goodnite — BPE
At the time I wrote the journal entry, I was a mere whelp of 17 years. I still remember when it dawned on me that I was Christian by mere accident of birth. This revelation and its consequences were deeply painful for me, and remained so for years. (My greatest regret, in retrospect, is that I did not share my thoughts with my parents. I thought it would cause Mom unnecessary grief. Yet, how arrogant of me to think this way — to suppose that my own mother who gave me birth couldn’t handle a frank discussion of spiritual matters.) Since then I’ve progressed through a number of stages in my thinking. What began as a simple exercise in logic soon undermined everything I believed; I spent years reconstructing myself on a different foundation.
So today I call myself an atheist (no, not an agnostic) but of course that’s only one of many labels I might put on myself, and it’s only describes what I don’t believe. That’s what I’m celebrating today — my apostaversary, if you’ll pardon the neologism. It’s the anniversary of my apostasy, my falling away from the faith in which I was raised. In some ways I feel that my life-journey beagn with that negation. It was difficult but necessary, and nothing about it felt like a choice at the time.
I know many people have negative associations with the very term, “atheist.” And, it must be confessed, some atheists behave in a way that feeds that negative image, angrily denouncing the deeply held beliefs of others, eager to deny any value to the variety of religious experience. At the same time I recognize that some religious teaching is coercive and corrosive and harmful and frankly immoral. Just as I don’t want to be lumped in with all atheists, so I try to avoid lumping all religious experience together. Over the years I’ve learned better. There are religious philosophies that are not theistic. There are conceptions of God that I can respect. Most of all, I believe in the value of the sacred. It makes perfect sense to me that certain places, certain times, even certain people should be held apart and considered special, revered, reverenced. I wouldn’t want a world without that.
My experience of atheism has encompassed a broad range of emotions. Pain, sorrow, fear, anger, defiance, confusion, ambivalence, acceptance, compassion, humility, wonder, ecstasy. I’m sure I could write an essay on each of these moods, but in keeping with recent practice I thought I might let the music do the talking. Here are not one but two mixes so you can choose your poison.
First, how about some stereotypical snarling angry defiance? NSFW!
And if that doesn’t tickle your fancy, here’s a mix that I hope might catch some people off guard, songs that are, for the most part, gentle, mellow, laid-back. I think these songs capture the sense of melancholy and humor and even the romantic side of the atheist heart.
Believe me when I say I’ve felt every bit of emotion expressed in every one of these songs over the years.