I Owe You an Apology
I owe you an apology.
In one of my prior posts, Event Horizons, pt. II, I left thingsâ€¦ a bit raw. Honestly, I railed. I railed against an old wound that I was picking at, and I railed against, wellâ€¦
I railed against religion.Â
I should explain myself.
In the beginning, there was faith. Faith lived in my heart before my consciousness coalesced. My parents were (are) religious. Both Christians, both raised in the Church of Christ, both devout–then and now. They taught me and my brother to have faith.
Later, there was apathy. In college, I stopped caring about faith. Really, I stopped caring about most things that didnâ€™t lead to immediate gratification. Faith receded from my everyday mind. At first, its footsteps echoed in my head as I watched it leave. Eventually, it was just a speck in the distance, constantly moving away.Â
Finally, it was gone. At some point between my freshman year and my graduation–at some point between two deaths, two addictions, one nervous breakdown, and one moment physically touching the face of all existence–my faith disappeared completely. In apathy it had withered until what had been a fragile blade of grass dissolved utterly to the barren rock below.Â
Thatâ€™s the horrible day I woke up to a couple years after college. Not the realization that I didnâ€™t believe; but the realization that I had no faith. In my heart of hearts, I didnâ€™t feel that connection, that intuition. The realization felt like abandonment. Like betrayal. I was stunned, and I can still remember sitting at my desk that day, with the bright sunshine streaming through the windows, not quite able to grasp what I was feeling.
For days or weeks after that thunderbolt moment, I tried. I searched for a way to believe. I tried to jumpstart â€œfaithâ€ in my heart, but I couldnâ€™t remember how. How do you reconstruct an emotion–a framework–that you learned literally unconsciously? How do you make yourself feel something as instinct-like as faith?Â
In short, you donâ€™t. Or at least, I couldnâ€™t. It felt like trying to give CPR to a corpse.
So I tried logic. If intuition and feeling couldnâ€™t give me faith–and if faith was required in order to believe–then logic must be the next tool out of my bag. Could I, I wondered, piece my belief back together by walking logically through a case for it–a case for God, if you will.
In short, I couldnâ€™t. I canâ€™t. It doesnâ€™t work. Everything I know (insofar as I know anything) disagrees or conflicts with the tenets and assertions of the belief I once had. It seems apparent to me that there was no â€œGenesis,â€ that there was no forbidden fruit, and that man is not forever shackled by sin. If there was no creation, as such, and there was no Fall of Man, exactlyâ€¦ then the rest of it falls apart. Logically. No creation = no sin = no sacrifice on the cross. And, if thatâ€™s the case, then why even allow for the overarching argument of my old faith: that there is an all-powerful, all-good God who loves us. If nothing else about the faith makes sense, adds up, or is logically consistent, why even entertain the notion that some kind of God exists? Or, at the very least, why entertain the notion that my old beliefs had anything correct to say about any god(s) or goddess(es)?Â
Thatâ€™s where I found myself, after days of attacking the problem from multiple angles. Faith was gone, logic didnâ€™t hold, and my belief had utterly departed me.
So, why do I owe you an apology?
Because, despite what it may have read like in that prior blog post, I donâ€™t hate you. I donâ€™t hate religious people, I donâ€™t hate â€œGod,â€ and I donâ€™t hate the concept of spirituality. My intent with that post was to describe the way I felt in that time and place (a time, according to this capsule history, when I was firmly lost in apathy). I didnâ€™t write all that I wrote as an indictment of faith, or as a dig on Christianity. I wrote about a moment that nearly destroyed me, and all the attendant emotions I can remember.
I donâ€™t hate you. I donâ€™t hate the concept of faith. If anything, I want tolerance. I should know, because now Iâ€™m in the minority in this country. â€œNon-religiousâ€ may be the second most common response on a survey of Americansâ€™ religious preferences, but itâ€™s still dwarfed by the number of people who describe themselves as Christian of some sort. I depend on your tolerance. Itâ€™s only right that I do my best to extend mine to you.
Today, Iâ€™m an atheist, but I hold no ill-will for religious people who use their faith to benefit themselves and those around them. At the same time, I have no patience for anyone who abuses faith (or the lack thereof) to hurt and manipulate others. I want tolerance, I want harmony. I want this, from a speech by then-Presidential candidate John F. Kennedy:Â
â€œI believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end; where all men and all churches are treated as equal; where every man has the same right to attend or not attend the church of his choice; where there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kind; and where Catholics, Protestants and Jews, at both the lay and pastoral level, will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division which have so often marred their works in the past, and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood.â€