Friday, January 28, 2011

Wikipedia Search: A Series of Unfortunate Events

If there’s nothing out there, then what was that noise?”

One of my atheist friends waxed to me one day, “I guess I just find it funny that you’re so quick to explain all of this mundane stuff as a ‘miracle of God’ when it’s so clearly the work of science.”

I looked around and saw nothing mundane. I guess I stopped being an atheist because personally I found it kind of boring. Yes, this is going to be one of those writings. The one where I actually talk about stuff. That’s actually stuff to talk about. Oh groan. Oh well.

My claim of atheism is a little broad. Truth be told, I just stopped thinking about God for a bit. As I ignored the guy who apparently to Abraham to kill his own son and got Moses to part the sea, no lightning bolts came down and smote me  while the words “jezebel… harlot… non believer…” filled the air. No snarky face in the clouds like a Monty Python movie, no Lucifer raised and laughing in victory, no feeling like a character in my own, ahem, series of unfortunate events. For a year or two, this seemed like all the proof I needed that there was indeed no God.

Now I see I got it all wrong; I cannot think of a better example of God. Mercy is not casually found in nature. This certainly is not proof for everyone, or even anyone, but moments that are special cannot always be poured into some fevered blog rant. I type this hesitantly; generally when I go this far people get eager to dismiss me as a fevered follower and logic hater. This is why I would like to set up a general disclaimer about my life.


-I don’t knock on your door and ask you if you know random deities. I swear. I do however send these people to your door to get them off my back. Look, I’m sorry, but honestly, Tyra reruns are on, I do not have ten minutes to talk to these people about some guy I have already heard of. (Jesus is pretty famous actually… most people know who he is. Maybe you guys want to try a new approach.)

-I like science. Like, I have a crush on science. This is not to say I’m any good at it. Insert “because you’re a woman” joke here. Laugh. You inserted it, not me. Anyways, moving on, science class allows me to randomly slice up brains and stare at the insides while yelling “Cool!” and “Gross!” Apparently there are laws against doing that in Church though. That is one of many victories for science.

-Evolution and climate change yes yes yes yes... really people? You do not believe we affect our planet because it snows in the winter?

- I am smart enough to get that not all atheists are the same and have the same views... other than the one maybe about the whole not believing in a higher power. Atheists are pretty cool with agreeing to that, from my experience. I’m sure there is one God loving self professed atheist out there though, attempting to launch "The New Atheism" through homemade magazines, offended by what I am typing, and to you I say do not worry. You may hate me now but your unique disregard for basic logic will surely get an indie documentary film crew at your house in no time. You might even win an award! People love to give awards to films about individuals who “are unique.” Just keep passing it off as “unique” and not “idiot who does not own a dictionary” or “self important person with a sense of entitlement from the universe.” Society does not like to give those kinds of people awards, unless you are well off, stare at people in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable, and have facial hair.

Oh wait now…

Anyways, I struggled for a while to come up with some nice logical reason to explain my new re-belief. Or perhaps I never even didn’t believe. I was as appalled with my commitment to Christianity as my high school English teacher would be at the last two sentences, but I didn’t change either. It was very confusing for me at first, having this faith in what I admitted to be a powerful guy who watches me all the time. Because don’t mistake my belief in God for puritan values; according to this mentality God watches me yell at inanimate objects from drinking too much beer (to be fair, this hasn’t happened in like, a week), eat in bed while watching gratuitous movies passed off as art (the French can find any reason to show two people getting it on), and having premarital sex with my boyfriend (including what might be the biggest sin of all for a woman: enjoying it.) Yes, I am a STRONG, FIERCE, LIBERATED individual RAHRAHRAH GO GO FEMINISM. You don’t like it? Eat my BIRTH CONTROL because it’s covered by my INSURANCE.
So how could I do something as ‘old fashioned’ as pray? If I was in control of myself, why was I ‘naive’ enough to throw myself into the universe’s hands?  One day it hit me. Just as I bitch about the Canadian government but appreciate the Canadian government for letting me legally bitch about them, the fact that I did not get smote for all my ‘deviance’ is to me proof of God, not against. By coming to terms with God as a powerful but fairly democratic guy, I started to notice the noise.

Noise is a term stolen from The Boyfriend when he has a headache. Noise is the other people talking in a restaurant that he can’t help but overhear, the clatter of spoons being picked up and forks being put down, and the person murmuring into a cell phone that keeps him from always focusing in on the conversation we’re having. Noise is an indistinguishable jumble we frequently ignore, but sometimes should not. For some people, noise is always there.

My noise is different. My noise is visual, and my noise has multiple scents. My noise can be when I’m lying in bed next to the Boyfriend and I get the weirdest, happiest feeling in my stomach or when I’m standing in the middle of a rain storm. I saw noise in the plumes of ash that erupted from the volcano that shut down the airlines and said “You guys honestly think you’re in control of this planet?” to everyone.

I understand that my God is not your god. All of the excitement and happiness I get from praying is probably seen as some ridiculous attempt to try to sound pure and persuade you, but it is not. My noise is dismissed as trite on paper, but to me, my noise is what is powerful and great about life. Great in the truest sense of the word, not in the 1980s high fived accompanied slang it’s become. My noise may have led me to God, but it is not necessarily religious. Once again, I do not try to convert, but I do hope that everyone, no matter how committed to the marvels of research, logic, and academia, can stop and see that just because there is an explanation does not mean it is mundane. Belief should not be taboo; this does not make society more fair. I am all for secular laws, but does this have to mean we have unquestioning souls? It is worth remembering that there is also something mysterious and ‘noisy’ behind science as well. People frequently look over it because it is ‘the way things are.’ I think that’s a shame.

I guess I resent the fact that so many people feel religion and science are mutually exclusive, and tend to side with what feels more modern. Science may have created the wonders of laptops, electricity, and stem cell research, all of which I embrace, but I support my moral is that it was science, not God, who created noise canceling headphones.

Do you frequently think about where we come from? Do you feel comfortable talking about beliefs with friends, regardless of what they are? Did your parents ever try to force beliefs on you? If so, how well do you think they have fared? Have you ever tried to pinpoint why you believe what you believe?

More? Pretty biased writing, but interesting study idea / Interesting discussion in the comments, including this gem: " they get hit with questions from every direction: atheist professors, student clubs that have the muslim society [...?!...], the buddhists, the Ayn Rand student group, and hundred others." Hahaha. Oh dear. This is why.../ 4%?! / Why is the Vatican going after Nuns? / John Keats/ This
pictures of James Cameron and volcano are from imdb and Reutgers


andy said...

Wow, this was very interesting and I'm even slightly afraid I might sound stupid trying to comment on this post.
So I'll just say that, even though I share your enthusiasm for science, I am quite pleased to find out there are still people who pray and can say it without feeling embarrassed. I think about this subject a lot and the more I find out about evolution and genetics and similar the more I get this feeling that it's childish of me to still believe in God. But I can't help it, I just do. I guess it gives me hope. If I imagine a world without a God (higher creature, the creator, whatever you call it) I feel terribly lonely, like we're here on our own and everything we do is completely insignificant. Science can explain why we look the way we look but what about the soul, the feelings? That's my proof, I guess. Like your noise. :)
I hope this made sense.

P.S. Your posts are always so informative and interesting and clever, it's one of the most amazing blogs I've seen lately. Also, your comment made my day. I'm clad I'm contributing to your travel list decisions and I think you should definitely come to Croatia. It's wonderful, especially in the summer. Foreign people have this strange belief that we are still at war and live in catacombs or something but it's really not true. :) Uh, I'm making it sound like it IS true, aren't I? Well, it isn't. :D

Emily, Ruby Slipper Journeys said...

Well I'm with you on a fair bit of this... just not the believing in God part. To me the great mystery is how people even go around thinking of this guy in the sky. But I guess that has a lot to do with my upbringing as a fourth generation atheist. I'd never heard of God until first or second grade, and recall being told in fourth grade "If you don't believe in God you'll go to Hell." Ermmm. Any bitterness and science-upholding in my personality has resulted from that sort of behaviour, and also from people who say things like "God willed that I would find an apartment, so I did," and "I'm first a servant of our lord Jesus Christ, and afterwards a wife/mother, etc." (And I am not for one moment suggesting that you are one of any of those people).

I can see the beauty and the miraculous in every day, but it never for a moment occurs to me that it was created by anyone or anything but the sands of time. And that's all, I guess.

mckenzie. said...

I myself am the questioning daughter of two very atheist parents, but this post was absolutely fascinating to me.

you define your own beliefs, you don't have to adhere to ones created by others, if they don't feel right.

I would call myself more agnostic than atheist for the reason that I cannot deny the existence of any deity - I am human, after all - as unlikely as it sounds to me, I truly do not know even magic for certain or uncertain, nor do I know God.

I am sure I will find myself, alond with my beliefs, in the end.

Claire said...

I was raised Unitarian Universalist, aka very liberally religious, in a church where it is likely that a sizable portion of the congregation is atheist. My mother believes in god, my father is an atheist, and I am too. I'm not sure exactly when that happened, but it's been a number of years. Since UUism doesn't have a set creed, I never experienced the sort of religious fallout a lot of my friends experienced with the faiths in which they were raised.

I kind of hate the term atheist though. There are too many atheists that just lump believers together as a bunch of crazy zealots, which you touched on in your post. I try my hardest never to do this. But I'm lucky enough to live in a diverse community where I've been able to meet people of many different faiths and many different levels of faith. I will also never be the sort of atheist who believes that no religion would lead to world peace. That's incredible oversimplification. More and more, I like the idea of Humanism, even if it's more of a philosophy than a faith. Being a humanist doesn't make me any less of an atheist, but it makes my rationale for not believing in god easier to explain.

Anonymous said...

hmmm... i don't know if i should comment for the very reason that i might not get my point cleared or i may at some point hurt other people's feelings.

i knew God for as long as i can remember... i grew up believing that somewhere out there, there really is one Father who is always watching, guiding over me... i may not understand fully and i may never find out the reason for everything... but i believe in Him. the happiness and contentment that i feel every time i pray, or the security that embraces my heart after i ask for His help... being Christian completes me... i'm not against other religions, in fact, my idea about other religions is quite little. but i respect them. it just hurts my heart when i read about or someone i know tells me my God isn't real, that Jesus wasn't really there, when i know in my heart He is the very reason why i keep on breathing and beside Him is where i want to go when i die...

this is me and this is my religion...i love it as much as i love much as i love my boyfriend, my friends and my family...

thanks for reading... i hope i didn't step on or hurt someone else's feelings... believe me, i didn't mean it... :)♥

Daisy said...

Good post..really good ! I pretty much, near enough feel the same. i always think about where we come from. How we got here. I always think about our little world inside this big solar system and how/why/where/when did all this happen. I do believe in God.. but also i am very open to many religions and ideas, I find it all so very interesting. I don't know if I think there is just one God, I don't know how I would describe God. Not as a physical being I don't think... but I do pray..

tess said...

This was an intriguing post and very well written. You're brave for bringing it up in the blogosphere, but this post was respectful and witty at the same time. Bravo for daring to actually have a conversation.

I come from a secular Jewish mother (who never sent me to Hebrew school because she hated it as a child, it's something she's always regretted but has never bothered me. My cousins got bat mitz vahed and never went back to the temple, oh well.) and an atheist father. He is the dominating voice on religious subjects in my family and growing up with his point of view and my own personal beliefs/conclusions, I stopped believing in God at age 14 and I've never gone back. I've never felt I needed or wanted to go back. Praying never accomplished much for me personally, it only felt like an extra responsibility. Frankly, it fueled some mild OCD I had in junior high. That is not to say when I stopped praying the OCD went away, but I know that prayer was one of the vehicles I used for it. However from ages 14-18 I replaced my lack of belief with resentment for religion. That was not okay and certainly not respectful. I viewed my religious friends as ignorant when really I was the ignorant one.

However I eventually realized that resentment didn't get me anywhere but whining and actually I was rather fascinated/curious about religion. I wanted to take religion courses and talk to my friends about their beliefs (I don't do this with everyone, it depends on how close I am to the person, but I don't rule out discussing their beliefs and my lack of beliefs as a conversation topic). And the few Christianity courses I've taken have been enlightening. People who aren't religious whatsoever (and I've always gone to liberal arts colleges) usually look at me funny when I say I'm academically intrigued by religion like I say I'm joining a nunnery or something.

But as a global citizen it is my duty to know what most of the world believes in. I want to understand them and more importantly respect them. I am open to all religions. I want to know about all of them. I just don't want to subscribe to their beliefs. It's not that I'm "incapable" of believing or "missing out" on something, but I just don't need it in my life. But I am happy to read these comments and your post and see how God does effect people on a daily basis. There is nothing backwards about being a 21st century woman who believes in God. And I will admit those who have God in their life seem to be happier or at less whiny, so I'd prefer to have a conversation with believers most days over my atheist friends.

Jem said...

I suppose that I may differ then most of the other people who commented on this wonderful blog post. First off, once again I must applaud you for writing an article which made me think.
I was raised as a reform Jew, I went to Hebrew School for four or so years, had my Bat Mitzvah, etc. I've always grown up with religion, I don't know anything else. What I mean by this is that I've always faith in Judaism- I believed in G-d. I can't explain exactly why I still believe in a higher power, but I think it has something to do with hope. I hope that there is something that is greater then me. For some this is not enough, but for me it is.
Even though I am Jewish I am still so, so interested in other religions. I want to understand why other people think a certain way, why they believe in a certain G-d. I've always thought people need to explore what religion or no religion is right for them. In fact I have a friend who always says, "my religion is science." He doesn't believe in a G-d but like you mentioned, science.
I've always been really bothered by people who think you need to pick one or the other- science or religion. Can't they just co-exist? Just like I believe in my faith I also believe that science is a source of great power and amazement. Science helps to provide facts whereas faith tends to provide hope. And sometimes, for me, facts and faith are just enough.
Also, I had a fortune cookie yesterday which read, "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen." I loved this fortune for it reassured me about my feelings. :)

Erin said...

I really really love this post! I was raised protestant for a while, but I never had any beliefs forcibly thrown onto me. I'm thankful for this because I was educated about religion but also able to decide my beliefs for myself. After a while I considered myself spiritual but not religious, but I still prayed to God because I didn't know who else to pray to. After I went to college and started studying astronomy, I started thinking about it a lot more. How can you not think about that stuff when you're studying the entire universe?! I thought it might turn me into an atheist, defining the universe in terms of scientific laws, but it actually had the opposite effect. I started noticing all the noise (to steal your term for it) and all the beauty in the way things work, and decided that there has to be some kind of something out there, like some kind of higher purpose that we can't even imagine. "Just because there is an explanation does not mean it is mundane" is the perfect way to describe how I feel! Science and "religion" (or spirituality, or a higher power, or whatever you want to call it) are not mutually exclusive for me at all. It seems dangerous even to consider one without the other, which is basically why I decided to do a double major in astronomy and philosophy. Anyway that's my story, thanks for this post! I always struggle to put this stuff into words, but you seem to have a natural gift for it!

Always Something said...

Everyone: Thank you SO much for the amazing, thought provoking comments! I was really pleased with the maturity of everyone, especially because I was not sure if only religious people or only atheists or only one kind of mentality would reply, and that's always a bit worrisome. I am beyond thrilled with the amazing ideas and views you have shared with me and really appreciate them.

Also, I do not condone religious people who are mean or intimidate at all, so please let me apologize for their abhorrent behavior!

xxx Allison

~ Faith said...

Such a great post, and refreshing to see in a sea of materialistic blogs!

Me, I was born and raised Mennonite, but it was never thrust upon me by my parents. I went to a Christian school growing up, so I was surrounded by other denominations and the dialogue that resulted, which is probably the reason why I chose to stay Mennonite. It just made the most sense to me: the adult baptism, pacifism, sense of community.

I guess I believe what I believe because it's become a part of my identity, of who I am. Without it, I would be aimless and lost.