|Evolution of my Atheism - Part 1.
||[Jul. 29th, 2010|02:16 pm]
Sometimes you’ll hear people of faith talking about how their faith has matured over time, or that their understanding of it has changed with the passage of years. I would have to say that my atheism has undergone similar transformations. Perhaps it’s simply true that any set of beliefs you hold over time are going to evolve as you yourself age and gain new perspectives on life.|
I can remember, really, the first time that I consciously started to reject the idea of God. Through most of my young life my parents had made me go to church and Sunday school, and there was even a period where I more-or-less voluntarily said my prayers before going to bed at night. But it was always done with a sort of self-conscious sense that I was just putting on a performance for myself, or at best for my parents should they happen to be watching – that no one was really listening. But I just kinda thought that was what it was like and didn’t give the issue a great deal of thought. But what sealed the deal for me, what turned vague discomfort into conscious rejection, was the story of Job.
I imagine most people reading this will be familiar with the story. Job is an extremely pious man with a rich farm and a large family. By all measures of the time, a very prosperous guy. So one day God and Satan are talking and the subject of Job comes up. To paraphrase the conversation, Satan says “Job only loves you because he’s got such a great life. I bet that if you let me take away all the good stuff he has, he’ll curse your name.” And God says “I’ll take that bet!”
So Satan heads off and turns Job into a pauper, then collapses the guy’s house on his kids, killing them all. And when Job doesn’t start cursing God, Satan afflicts him with painful skin conditions as well. Still no cursing, though there was a bit of “what did I do to deserve this,” going on. Then we get a bunch of Job’s friends showing up, and then God Himself, to explain to us how Job didn’t really do anything to deserve getting dumped on, but it’s really arrogant to think that anyone has the moral authority to suppose He needed any real reason anyhow. ‘Cause He’s God, y’know, and can do whatever the heck he feels like.
Then, for keeping faith, Job gets to be twice as rich as he was before and gets to have ten more kids, including the three most beautiful daughters in all the land.
Now, I’m told that the lesson we’re supposed to learn from this story is that “evil” things happen to good people because it’s not evil when God does it. It’s just what He does, He has every right to do it, He’s beyond our judgment of what’s good or evil, and we just have to have faith that He loves us and it’ll all be good in the end. Well, the lesson I got from it is that God is capricious and cruel, and certainly not deserving of worship or moral authority. Hypocrisy is hypocrisy, regardless of how powerful the hypocrite is.
So that was pretty much the death of it right there. I wouldn’t say this was the moment I “lost my faith,” because I can’t say with any certainty that I actually had any faith to begin with. Up to that point I just had a desire to please my parents and a collection of confusing stories on which to hang that desire.
So initially, my atheism was based on resentment. I wasn’t completely committed to the idea that there was no God, just that I wasn’t going to worship Him – it was purely rejection.
Hopefully, I’ll get around to discussing how my understanding has evolved since that point. I’m in a much different place now.