God Called Me to be an Atheist
Bad grammar works both ways: “I didn’t make the original claim, so it ain’t my job to prove anything about it. Without real evidence, only a fool would believe it. Rhetorical evidence cannot be verified in the real world, so it carries no weight. It only serves to inform you about what scares a person, like those ghosts hiding under some people’s beds.” We learn what people think, and nothing about truth.
So, by that, no one should believe the wild claim stated in the title; yet, most people, to support the standard of evidence they claim to uphold, are forced by their own claims to support mine. And, they should. According to their standard, my claim is true. The cognitive dissonance it induces, a common feature of faith-based standards, is one with which they have learned to live. If the majority of people can live with that, so can the skeptics among them. Maybe reading my story will help them understand why my claim is true.
I know you must have heard many stories told by those who felt they had been called to some duty by the god named God. They describe the still, small voice that seems to come from nowhere and everywhere, who whispers so loudly they can hear it above the din, yet remains quiet and persistent so they have to pay attention. They tell of tears shed in the midst of conflict, and the pangs of guilt suffered after each denial. Some call it the voice of God, some name it conscience, or scruples. For me, it’s the perceptive awareness of truth. I realized as a youth that truth is not a thing that exists. I realized much later that truth is about the accuracy of our perceptions. Cognitive dissonance exists to show us where truth is absent. Science exists to show us where truth can be found.
Truth is absent from my story because I have not shared it. Fear stilled my voice: Fear that I would fail to make its plain truth obvious enough; fear that I would be accused of mistaking Lucifer for the god named God. They are easy to identify, even in the Bible or any spoken or written expression: Just ask yourself about it, “Where is the love in this?– or does it spew hatred?” Apply that to any verse in any holy book, and to everything written and anything heard. You will find love in unexpected places, and hatred where you dreaded its appearance.
I was raised in the common American fundamentalism of the 19forties and fifties. A skeptic long before I ever heard such a word, I became known as “that smart-ass kid” with the bad habit of asking the wrong questions. A quiet and shy kid, I never deserved such a title, even if my brow stayed furrowed from trying to figure out the improbable antics so many adults presented as true. Discovering the truth about Santa and the Easter Rabbit filled my head with questions that led to, “If adults lied for my whole lifetime about Christmas and Easter, what else do they lie about?” Still a believer, my trust eroding, I began keeping my questions to myself. “Why all the pretense about Santa Claus while still acting like everything else is real? How can I know for sure what is true? How can I know for sure what’s not?
“If it’s in the Bible, it’s important.” I found many more rules in the Bible than the ten Moses accredited to God, so many more that the ten commandments would never raise a splash in a pool of them. Worse, rather than teaching how to care for our asses and slaves, preachers make up rules that were never mentioned in the Bible, and lie about where they came from. For example, early in the first book we find the reasons given for denouncing nakedness as a sin:
- Adam and Eve disobeyed God.
- Adam and Eve realized they were naked.
- They fashioned garments and hid from God.
- God cursed the serpent for misleading (“beguiling”) Eve.
- God punished Eve with painful childbearing.
- God punished Adam for listening to Eve, and for eating the forbidden fruit.
- God made Eve and Adam coats and banished them from the Garden.
That is only one example from a multitude. No punishments were meted for nakedness, but only for what led to the realization of their nakedness. The true original sin was that for which God cursed the snake, that act which led others astray. Nakedness was never denounced as a sin or a crime. It was, in this case, made plain that only that which fosters an awareness of oneself as naked, called ‘self-consciousness, leads to punishment, by God. Draw your own conclusions.
I felt no sense of certainty that drove me away from religion. One day I prayed to God my promise that I would follow whatever evidence to wherever it might lead me, no matter what; that I would stay on that trail, without regret, until I reach its end or my own. The trail is endless. I have not learned much compared to what remains. Be there a god or none, I still keep my promise.
“A question: How can you claim to be an atheist and also claim God called you?”
My own question in return: “Should I rely on the old saw about ‘God’s mysterious ways,’ or simply redirect you to the foregoing paragraph about getting the call?”