When I was in the fourth grade, my favorite library book was D’Aulaires Book of Greek Myths. This was the book I checked out over and over again and never got tired of.
It didn’t take me long to figure out the similarities between Greek myths and Bible stories. Noah’s Ark? It’s in there. Virgin births? A bunch of those. Parents sacrificing their children? Got that, too.
I was not an exceptionally bright child so it seems like it was just common sense that allowed me to draw these parallels, and ask questions:
• “Weren’t the Greeks around before the Christians?”
• “Weren’t these stories around before the Bible was written?”
• “How come these stories are the same?”
Captain Obvious strikes again.
My family attended the Episcopal Church, which really wasn’t too “churchy” back then. We basically went to services (Episcopalian aerobics: stand up, sit down, kneel), Sunday school and I was a member of the EYC. I was confirmed, but never attended a Bible study class and was one of the first of the female acolytes in our parish. For me, church wasn’t a huge deal as far as religious education was concerned; it was more for socializing and they had an awesome bazaar every year. So it probably wasn’t that much of a reach that I made the parallels between the stories.
I stopped attending church after high school and made an attempt when The Big One was about four to go back. I found a church I liked, but it soon became clear that this particular church was intent on becoming a mega-church, and was going full court press to make that happen, no matter what. I finally left after I received a letter from a group of “like-minded members” urging me to vote for a fellow member who was running for office (um, illegal much?) and when the church voted itself out of the Episcopal Church because an openly gay man was appointed a bishop. Plus, The Big One kept begging to not go, and I really sensed something weird was going on with that, since she was very complacent when she was little.
So I went looking for something to fill that spiritual hole.
Here’s what I learned:
Organized religion is a crock.
Even as a kid I figured out that mankind created its gods to fill in for the unknown. Once the human race learned that lightning is caused by electrically charged ice and moisture particles, the notion that it was Zeus throwing them off Mount Olympus was abandoned. As science was expanded, superstitions disappeared.
My theory is that “God” is x, the unknown. For what we cannot yet explain through science, “God” is used as the fill-in. There is so much that is unknown to mankind, and progress is painfully slow. I’ll feel we’ll eventually catch up, but it will probably take about 10,000 years.
I’ve had people argue with me that they have proof of God in that when they pray, God answers their prayers. My response is that everything contains energy, and since so little is known about how energy can really be moved, wouldn’t it stand to reason that when a person is directing their energy in a particular manner, it disrupts and moves other energy, so that there is a change. They usually look at me like I’m a nut at this point, but if they are allowed to believe that there is an invisible man who lives in the sky who is in control of everything, I’m allowed to believe that energy can be moved. When they say they always feel better after praying, my answer is: “Of course you do. You’ve released that energy from your body and your body can physically feel that.” Again, the crazy lady looks.
I finally came out as a full-fledged atheist a couple of years ago, after seeing Julia Sweeny’s monologue “Letting Go of God.” She was able to articulate what I could not, I immediately had an “ah-ha!” moment and realized it was really okay to be an atheist and still be a good person, and in an instant, let go of that part of my psyche.
Here’s the really weird part: almost immediately I started experiencing major positive life changing events.
• The Big One’s academic team won their state title and a place at the national competition in Washington DC.
• Out of the blue, a friend was able to procure gratis lodging for us for the trip
• I received a job offer when I had not been looking for new employment, with a substantial bump in salary
• I met my future husband
• Because of the salary raise, I was able to refinance and get The Ex off the deed for my house
• I had several unexpected windfalls of over $1,000 each
All these things happened within the first three months of my coming out. I am positive that they happened because I had let go of beliefs that were not working for me, and that made space for things that would work for me to come in.
The Little One is at that age where she’s adamant there is no Santa Claus. At first, I said “Are you sure? Because that’s something you don’t want to mess around with.” The other night I told her, “You know, if I don’t expect you to believe in God, I shouldn’t expect you to believe in Santa. They’re both just make-believe.” I got no argument from her and we agreed to still pretend some of the presents are from Santa.
The thing is, I think I lead a better life now that I’m not constrained by some pre-determined dogma. I’m more open to listening to both sides of a story, and more open to new ideas in general. My kids have always been kind to others, and for me, that’s one of the best qualities they can have.
And they’re doing that without the benefit of an invisible man in the sky.