Having been raised in the south, and grown up in churches in the south... this for me is a big thing.
Nearly if not more so than when I came out that I am gay. I figure it took me about 4 or 5 years to get the nerve that time around. Well then surely 15 years is long enough now. I know not everyone will agree with me, that's ok. I respect your beliefs and choices. I hope that you will do me the same courtesy.
For a little over 15 years I've been struggling with this question in my head. I've gone back and forth many times on it, but each time I've come to the same conclusion in the end, the one that makes the most rational sense to me and that I feel I can logically support. To say this has been a difficult journey would be to greatly diminish just how much of an impact this has had on my life over the years.
For a great many years I was a believer. I had faith in my church, faith in a god. And then as I realized that I was not the same as most of my friends or the people I knew I began to see things from the outside looking in. It was an odd sensation at the ages of 13-15 to have seen the world of religion from within it, then to be left to feel so totally outside of it that you couldn't help but look INTO it but not a part of it.
My mother and father both have a great belief in Christianity, though from varied points of view to be sure. They are more committed now than I can remember them being even in my childhood. And I'm happy for them, that they are comfortable in their beliefs and that they work for them. But me being me, apparently, I'm off to the beat of a different tune...
The more I learned of history during school, the more I wanted to learn about the beginnings of Christianity and how it traversed the ages to its current form. To say that a new perspective had been gained would be an understatement. Discovering how a book written by man, translated by man, voted on by man, and designed by man had so radically impacted nearly every civilization on earth and often in a negative way... it was a stunning moment.
That the adoption of the old faiths and beliefs were taken in each time Christianity was used to expand the flock that it so easily was added to or tweaked or revised to suit the needs of the leaders at that time. Both political and religious. The statements allowing slavery, stoning, not eating shellfish, be fruitful and multiply... They ALL have a logical basis from their time frame. Shellfish could lead to illness due to spoiling more quickly as a result of no refrigeration, not as we know it anyway. Be fruitful and multiply, do not lay one man with another man as a man lays with a woman... all evidence of a small human population and a genetic, animalistic, desire to propagate the species. Also adopted as a formal policy to encourage a growing Roman population by Ceaser Agustus, so that he could have larger voting blocs and more tax income for the empire and himself, and so the wording was taken and fitted to the texts when Constantine converted to Christianity at the end of his life because he saw it as the rising power over the old faiths.
There are certainly lists of examples that go on forever. And many of these lists include some of the absolutely bloodiest and most brutal ages of man. All in the name of Christ the deity. The all loving and all forgiving Christ. Something that surely he would have opposed, yet allowed to happen as per the clause of free will by man, though interventions were not unheard of in the texts. So why then and since then have these things been allowed to happen and continue to happen both in a secular manner and in Christs name? Surely an omnipotent being could put an end to such senseless destruction without being too terribly late for the Heavenly Angels Choir practice one afternoon?
Why is it that over the ages as man has discovered and learned more and more and through science been able to explain so many of the mysteries that the Religious Powers That Be of so many societies claimed were all works of an unseen deity and that to question, learn, or explore such things was to be blasphemous. Perhaps a celestial being and the wonders and intricacies of science are not independently exclusive to one another? The trouble is that there is an ever growing mountain of evidence as to how things evolve naturally and happen through scientific study and empirical facts. And the same claims are made by religion that must all be taken on faith and faith alone.
No. For me the evidence and ideas and facts that are right in front of me that explain and make sense of the things in the world and the worlds histories, and often directly contradict the so called infallible Bible. Which chapter and verse do we read about the T-Rex? Wait the planet isn't that old? Science begs to differ.
At any rate!
The last 6 or 7 years I have been more focused on discerning my beliefs. Probably a result of becoming a (hopefully) more mature adult. And this is pretty much what I have come up with.
For a time I interpreted it as the universe and all in it was a mass of energy, not growing or shrinking but always changing. That there is a natural flow to this energy through each of us and our lives and how we choose to live them and as they say, go with the flow.
And the more I thought about it the more I think that's not much better than the idea of a dude on a throne on another plane controlling everything.
The most common and logical answers I kept coming back to were and are based in the sciences. The human body contains, produces, and burns energy. It is done through the chemical and physical consumption of fuel (foods) and the action of using that energy or not using it. And that there is a minimum amount of energy required to function least we die. But all around us are energy fields. The planets, the air, the stars. One feeds off the next and produces for the other and so on. So why then is the idea of a relatively constant energy level in the universe not feasible? It would explain "ghosts" or trapped human energies that for whatever reason have been unable to be reabsorbed into the natural flow of energy around us. Or unwilling. Who's to say that when we die that we must ascend to a heaven, fall to a hell, or get stuck in between? Personally this is the only area in which science hasn't yet been able to explain to my satisfaction the mechanisms of so called souls or life force or life energies. So my theory is that as with each choice we make in life there ends up being a road not taken, a potential or hypothetical alternate existence, then why is it so impossible to have different planes of existence. To be in our form here today, and to continue life in another way that is both real and exists and measurable? After all until we finally left our own solar system we couldn't see and didn't know that there are other planets capable of supporting life. It just took time to make the discovery and develop the means to study it.
That, is as close as I come to questions outside of the pure scientific view.
Through study, and education and an open approach to what I was taught in church as a child, viewed against a planet full of variations and contradictions, and held up to scientific standards I've come to this...
Each society through its evolution has needed a mechanism to explain the unexplained or unexplainable at that time. It was needed to bring understanding and order so that the society could grow and mature. And each society has evolved at one pace or another. This does not make one right and all the others wrong, and it does not mean that one group has all the answers. And each society has felt the need to espouse their beliefs to one level or another amongst those from outside of the natural societal evolution.
Because to question the mystical beliefs is to court discourse, fear, and uncertainty. But that threat has lessened over time as we as a race have evolved to points of enlightenment and scientific understandings.Some groups do still hold more tightly and feel threatened by those that don't believe as they do, which to me is a product of a bygone era where hard and consensus was required for peace. Almost an anamilistic response to a foreign object or thought approaching.
Amongst all the conflicting beliefs in mystical beings or religious imperatives that will likely never settle themselves, there are constants. Science. Facts based on observable data. Basic human decency, kindness, respect, and support of our fellow human beings. These are the forces with which mature societies come together regardless of religious viewpoints, and can point to and say that this is correct or that is incorrect and is a balanced and fair approach to dealing with all of the citizens of this planet. We are all human, we are all equal, there are facts and observable evidences that prove commonly theories and beliefs based in science across the religious mine fields. We are all susceptible to genetic distortions or differences, and evolve during our childhood into the adults of tomorrow. And just like all living things evolve to survive and to understand and relate to their surroundings, this sometimes produces a dangerous result, and sometimes produces a peaceful result. We see it in animal and plant defense mechanisms, and in how humans personalities morph or modify into variations of the base genetic template it started on.
Out of these commonalities and standards when respect and decency are applied equally to all, things become more peaceful, more equal, and more positive. When we fight to save the mystical or the ancient unevolved belief sets as applied to now as opposed to their intended moments in time, conflict, destruction, hate, and unrest are the result.
Step back and take a look at our world, what is the one leading cause of these things, the tool or the reason used? Religions. Either through greeds need for a stick when the carrot doesn't work, or when the fear of the different or conflicting mystical messages threaten the moral underpinnings of a group of followers.
The Einstines and Openheimers of the world didn't fight out disagreements with bloodshed, no, they sought to support or explain why they could not do so through scientific discovery and facts. And continue to do so. It's when the less enlightened get involved and take those discoveries and twist and soil them by using them as a means to pummel those who believe differently.
And so here I finally make my second coming out... I hereby stand apart from Christianity. I do not choose a title or label. I choose to think for myself, to continue to learn and seek understanding, and to simply be a positive human being in the face of a humanity in crisis against itself. To live a good life, to be kind and supportive, and to inflict is little harm or negativity as possible along the way.
But if a label is required... The only one that fits and stands with what I believe and understand, it would be Athiest. And before some of the more zealous take flight through their respective roofs, please, lets take note and a look at the actual definition. (Please note not a mention of devil worship is made, so lets not go there shall we?)
Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities. Most inclusively, atheism is simply the absence of belief that any deities exist. Atheism is contrasted with theism, which in its most general form is the belief that at least one deity exists.
The term atheism originated from the Greek ἄθεος (atheos), meaning "without god(s)", used as a pejorative term applied to those thought to reject the gods worshipped by the larger society. With the spread of freethought, skeptical inquiry, and subsequent increase in criticism of religion, application of the term narrowed in scope. The first individuals to identify themselves using the word "atheist" lived in the 18th century.
Arguments for atheism range from the philosophical to the social to the historical. Atheists tend to be skeptical of supernatural claims, citing a lack of empirical evidence for deities. Other rationales for not believing in any deity include the problem of evil, the argument from inconsistent revelations, and the argument from nonbelief. Although some atheists have adopted secular philosophies, there is no one ideology or set of behaviors to which all atheists adhere. Many atheists hold that atheism is a more parsimonious worldview than theism, and therefore the burden of proof lies not on the atheist to disprove the existence of God, but on the theist to provide a rationale for theism.
Atheism is accepted within some religious and spiritual belief systems, including Jainism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Neopaganmovements such as Wicca,and nontheistic religions. Jainism and some forms of Buddhism do not advocate belief in gods,whereas Hinduism holds atheism to be valid, but some schools view the path of an atheist to be difficult to follow in matters of spirituality.
The above almost verbatim describes what I've come to realize has been my unavoidable viewpoint as I've matured. It is the definition that, without tweaking it or my beliefs in any way or form, fits exactly to me. So if a label is required, then it shall be "Atheist".
With all of this said I want to make some things clear.
- I respect the right of those who choose to believe in religions with mystical leaders to have those beliefs. They are theirs and it works for them. That is fine.
- I do NOT seek to force my beliefs onto anyone or condemn them for theirs.
- I WILL respectfully disagree with assertions that have no basis in scientific fact and evidence, this is not a personal rejection of the person, but a rejection of arguments not made on factual information.
- I do NOT scorn those who live in peace and respect those around them who may or may not have differing beliefs.
- And I will NOT tolerate those who seek to legislate hate, to espouse hate and ignorance wrapped in religious pompiety against any group to the negative impact of those whom do not fit in their nice tiny little boxes. Arguments that begin with "well the (insert religious reference book title here) says..." or "god says... will not be given equal weight to arguments based on verifiable data and study. While I respect that those arguments hold water for the person(s) espousing them, they are not valid universal arguments that can be made or applied to all societies and all of humankind in an equal and equitable form.
- I WILL respect others choices and beliefs and not personally attack them for their beliefs despite my rejection of same. And I will accept nothing less than mutual decency and respect be afforded to me as well.
And so my coming out stages of life have a new chapter.
Chapter 1. I'm gay.
Chapter 2. I'm an Athiest.
Chapter 3. ???? To Be Announced ????