“‘Atheism’ tells me what I am not, and I yearn to know what I am.”

Because I don’t feel stuff-and-logic-based explanations deep down in my toes. There are no miracle stories of flying children there, or brothers reborn into the land where the sagas come from. The language of ‘stuff is all there is’ tells me that I can — even ought to — be rational and sensible, but it doesn’t make me want to be. ‘Atheism’ tells me what I am not, and I yearn to know what I am. What I am has a spine, it’s a thing I must be true to, because otherwise it evaporates into the air, dirt and water of the hard world.

Maybe I — we — need to start small, rebuilding gods that we talk to, and who talk back. Or just one whom we can plausibly imagine, our invisible friend. Maybe part of our problem is that we don’t actually want to talk to the voice of Everything, because Everything has gotten so unfathomably huge. George Fox, the founder of Quakerism, didn’t have to think about light years, let alone billions of light years. The stars now are too far away to be our friends or speak to us in our need. Maybe we could talk to a god whom we imagined in our house. Maybe we could ask what is wanted, and hear what is needed. Maybe that god would tell us not to tramp over the earth in armies, pretending we are bigger than we are, and that dying is OK, because it’s just something that happens when your life is over. Maybe we would ask for help and comfort from unexpected places, and often enough receive it and be thankful for it.

—Nat Case, “I contradict myself”

http://aeon.co/magazine/world-views/im-a-quaker-but-i-dont-believe-in-god/

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12 thoughts on ““‘Atheism’ tells me what I am not, and I yearn to know what I am.”

  1. myatheistlife

    I am just myself, I speak for me and no one else and no one else speaks for me. I like it that way mostly.
    In the long silent journey I took from evangelical to anti-theist I discovered many things. One of the most comforting of those discoveries is that the voice I always thought was god was just me talking to myself. That might not sound so comforting but it is when you understand that the real you, the one that knows the rules in your conscious mind better than you do is the one talking with you AND you can talk back. It doesn’t make you crazy. It feels exactly like when I talked to god except I know I’m not going to ask myself to blow up a plane or kill my son.

    In those moments when you just need a voice to smile back at you or remind you of what you already know in your ‘heart’ … there is no better person than you to do it. I comfort myself when there is nobody around. I have learned to let that voice forgive me and I promise it that I’ll do better tomorrow. I ask that voice to remind me to do better the next time. As it turns out, we’re a pretty good team.

    I don’t know if it will work for anyone else, but it works for me. I don’t need a church.. a bench in the shade by the lake at the park works just fine. I don’t need a song book, the birds sing to me. I don’t need a congregation… the flowers, trees, ants, squirrels… they join me along with others. We commune with my god and life goes on.

    As a nihilist, I know that I am real, and if I can’t do well enough to please myself I can’t please anyone else either. My god comes before everyone else, not because my god demands it but because I want the best me that I can get to share with others. It turns out that find a local god wasn’t hard. the hard part, as it always is, is listening to that god when it speaks to you.

    Peace, squirrels, and geckos to you

    MAL

    Reply
    1. ardaasura Post author

      Squirrels and peace back at you! Thank you for your thoughts!

      I never had to break away from evangelical thinking. I just read the book _When God Talks Back_ which deals with evangelical thinking, and the practice of night constant prayer. It’s a practice that I actually kind of stumbled upon by myself, and one that I like, but I don’t like the baggage that comes with it in most religious circles.

      I guess I came to a slightly different conclusion, having stumbled upon the practice myself, because the god who started to speak to me was very much his own person. It would be fitting to compare him to certain video game characters, but his mythology is far older. Learning about his mythology and his nature helped me too come to terms with some aspects of myself that I may not have been able to accept if I felt like my god were just me. Somehow, being able to say, “But a god, an amazing god, is not too different in this respect,” makes all the difference in my ability to accept myself.

      Just to throw it out there, I don’t think that people like me, who perceive external gods, are necessarily in danger of blowing up buildings or killing kids. Those kinds of tendencies are tropes that people who identify as theists have to face far too often, and doing so gets very tiring especially when people are just trying to be themselves. I can assure you that I will never have to deal with such a commandment, nor will any of the theists I know. Common sense goes a really long way in steering clear of those kinds of perceptions.

      Reply
      1. myatheistlife

        Imagine the tropes that I and others put up with. I’m an atheist and nihilist… surely I eat babies and worship the devil and have no morality so could murder at any time.

        I think that in the end it doesn’t matter that you think you hear external gods, but where you get your morality and what those gods say to you.

        Your assurance about commandments seems to imply that you are certain what your gods are like and what they will and will not do. How do you know that?

        There seem to be some who are convinced that god was not talking to the 19 who blew up the world trade center, or that it is not god that tells mothers to drown their children and so on… that god is not responsible for any of the things he is credited with if they are bad.

        How can anyone know that their god did not inspire or command those things?

      2. ardaasura Post author

        Maybe I’m not up on my nihilism, but why does where I get my morality matter to a nihilist?

        I know that gods tell people to do horrible things. You’re right that it’s where a person gets their morality that’s what matters, because people should understand that there’s no difference between murdering at the command of a god and murdering at the command of a psychopath.

        As an agnostic experiential polytheist, I listen to gods, but I don’t take what they say as morally superior to my own ethical senses, which have been honed by experiences and reason. If my gods tell me to do something, more or less, bad, I can flip them the bird and find new gods if I deem what they said to be bad enough.

        But I’m fairly confident that they won’t, given that they’ve taken far more interest in things like food, friends, and computer code than murder…

        People can know that their god doesn’t command atrocities if that jives with their personal gnosis. There’s no requirement that anyone adopt others’ personal gnoses regarding their gods. If someone disclosed to me that one of my gods told them to do something questionable, there’s no requirement on my end that I adopt their experiences as part of my own understanding.

      3. myatheistlife

        Though I do not believe in gods for reasons not important here, I do not find a belief dangerous unless that belief demands the adherent spread it around and run the lives of others. In this, the most evil of religions are monotheistic and the top three are responsible for far more pain and harm than any religion has a right to apologize for and be forgiven.

        Your explanation of your gods does not appear to be harmful. Your source of morality is not different than my own despite that we see the world in different ways. That your morality can change as your understanding of the world changes is a good thing. Such is not permitted in monotheism, and that is why monotheism must be hobbled.

      4. ardaasura Post author

        Well, that depends on what kind of monotheism you’re talking about… 😉

        People in polytheistic circles like to demonize monotheism kind of like how people in atheistic circles like to demonize theism. People who study polytheism often come to believe that monotheism is unnatural, even though very old polytheistic texts have monotheistic overtones. The two seem to be able to exist simultaneously to some extent, and it’s possible that some people are more naturally monotheistic than polytheistic.

        The kind of monotheism that believes itself to have universal gnosis–the dominant variety today–is deeply flawed, but it’s also not the only kind of monotheism out there.

        Also, apologies if my initial question in the last reply came off as an opportunistic remark. (I realized after the fact that had that kind of tone to it.) I actually pulled up the Wikipedia page on nihilism because I was confused and curious, and I could relate to it to an extent. I see certain imperative morals as discernible through analysis, and actually fairly concrete, but I realized that beyond those kind of baseline morals I’m pretty nihilistic myself…

    1. ardaasura Post author

      Right, but whether or not those wonders speak to people or move people isn’t a given. There are wonders outside of science, in the realm of artistic creation, which speak to people who may not be moved by scientific discovery, as wonderful as scientific discovery is.

      People should be able to do what makes them feel alive, even if that means following mysterious inclinations.

      I tell people that, for myself, nothing seemed alive until I gave into my theistic side. When I accepted that I needed a god’s help in seeing the wonder in the world, then things came to life in a way that finally made sense. I even needed a god’s help to appreciate science, and there isn’t anything wrong with that. That’s just the kind of person I am, apparently.

      Reply
      1. hitchens67

        I believe beyond established science and find beauty in art and other things. I am just 100% certain that an anthropomorphized GOD has absolutely NOTHING to do with anything! Yaweh is an amoral construct of the bronze age mentality meant to control crowds. The beauty is believing in that which humans can NEVER assume upon and it IS NOT a GOD! It is an energy that if we were more advanced, it could be quantified. It is just SO FAR beyond our simple imagination and primitive deity constructs!

      2. ardaasura Post author

        “I am just 100% certain that an anthropomorphized GOD has absolutely NOTHING to do with anything!”

        100%? Well, that’s fair if you’re talking about yourself, but for a lot of people an anthropomorphized god has a lot to do with a lot of things, and it’s been that way for a lot of people for a really, really, really long time. To dismiss that is to dismiss something kiiiind of important, at least from an anthropological perspective– and anthropology is also kiiind of important, in terms of understanding our natural inclinations and building a sound society.

        Hating on Yahweh is fair for reasons that anyone with a copy of the Old Testament can discern. But theism, and phenomena and concepts related to gods–even anthropomorphic gods–are much bigger and greater than the cultures surrounding one prominent deity.

        What is this energy you propose? And why is it so far beyond us?

      3. hitchens67

        Hating on Yaweh is not my point. Yaweh is a human construct that is mythological and needs to be replaced with the love of science and reality. Any psychologist will tell you that perpetuating the illusion is ultimately damaging, and reorientation into reality is best.

      4. ardaasura Post author

        Actually, psychologists–ones I’ve spoken to personally, as I need mental health assistance on occasion–are often partial to having an element of faith or spirituality in one’s life, because it often offers objective health benefits. Psychologists of theists whom I follow have not taken offense to their perceptions of gods, and in fact they’re happy that these people have commitments to gods because it seems to do them good.

        You’re making claims you can’t back up, and I find your insistence that people love–not just respect, but *love*–science about as disturbing as any person’s insistence that people love only people of a certain sex or race. People will love how they will, without regard for anyone else’s insistence.

        I do see what you’re maybe perhaps *trying* to say, but have you considered that the affinity that many people have for gods is something that shouldn’t be forced to be reoriented? So what if some people love or need or innately experience gods of some kind? That’s not something that can’t exist alongside a scientific mindset or a respect–or even a love–for science. In fact, that’s what I’m trying to demonstrate through the concept of polygnosticism.

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