“When I became convinced that the Universe is natural — that all the ghosts and gods are myths, there entered into my brain, into my soul, into every drop of my blood, the sense, the feeling, the joy of freedom. The walls of my prison crumbled and fell, the dungeon was flooded with light and all the bolts, and bars, and manacles became dust. I was no longer a servant, a serf or a slave. There was for me no master in all the wide world — not even in infinite space. I was free — free to think, to express my thoughts — free to live to my own ideal — free to live for myself and those I loved — free to use all my faculties, all my senses — free to spread imagination’s wings — free to investigate, to guess and dream and hope — free to judge and determine for myself — free to reject all ignorant and cruel creeds, all the ”inspired” books that savages have produced, and all the barbarous legends of the past — free from popes and priests — free from all the ”called” and ”set apart” — free from sanctified mistakes and holy lies — free from the fear of eternal pain — free from the winged monsters of the night — free from devils, ghosts and gods.
For the first time I was free. There were no prohibited places in all the realms of thought — no air, no space, where fancy could not spread her painted wings — no chains for my limbs — no lashes for my back — no fires for my flesh — no master’s frown or threat — no following another’s steps — no need to bow, or cringe, or crawl, or utter lying words. I was free. I stood erect and fearlessly, joyously, faced all worlds.
And then my heart was filled with gratitude, with thankfulness, and went out in love to all the heroes, the thinkers who gave their lives for the liberty of hand and brain — for the freedom of labor and thought — to those who fell on the fierce fields of war, to those who died in dungeons bound with chains — to those who proudly mounted scaffold’s stairs — to those whose bones were crushed, whose flesh was scarred and torn — to those by fire consumed — to all the wise, the good, the brave of every land, whose thoughts and deeds have given freedom to the sons of men. And then I vowed to grasp the torch that they had held, and hold it high, that light might conquer darkness still.
Let us be true to ourselves — true to the facts we know, and let us, above all things, preserve the veracity of our souls. If there be gods we cannot help them, but we can assist our fellow-men. We cannot love the inconceivable, but we can love wife and child and friend.
We can be as honest as we are ignorant. If we are, when asked what is beyond the horizon of the known, we must say that we do not know. We can tell the truth, and we can enjoy the blessed freedom that the brave have won. We can destroy the monsters of superstition, the hissing snakes of ignorance and fear. We can drive from our minds the frightful things that tear and wound with beak and fang. We can civilize our fellow-men.
We can fill our lives with generous deeds, with loving words, with art and song, and all the ecstasies of love. We can flood our years with sunshine — with the divine climate of kindness, and we can drain to the last drop the golden cup of joy.”
– Robert G. Ingersoll, 1896
This wonderful passage was borrowed from The Agnostic’s Wife, who borrowed it from her husband. 😉 This probably sums up the reason for my lack of belief better than any words I could ever muster.
I was the kid in church (Church of Christ, fyi) who realized pretty early on the information just didn’t jibe with what I knew (even at a relatively young age) to be logic. Let alone what I consider to be the profound nature of existence and humanity. It just didn’t make sense, and I recall feeling isolated and strange. Why doesn’t everyone else see this is pretty silly? Am I the only one who thinks this is nonsense?
I realized pretty quickly it was just a bunch of fables and parables to teach people how to live, mixed in with a lot of stuff to keep people oppressed.
1 TIMOTHY 2:11-12
“Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man, but to be in silence.”
I mean, really?? Women were not allowed to speak in our church. Incidentally, my use of the term “our church” is about as loose as a city cop’s ticket-writing hand on a holiday weekend. It was the church we attended, pretty much on Sunday mornings only (and not even every week) for a handful of years. I stopped going not far into my teens.
Now, that’s not to say I didn’t struggle with feeling “wrong” and “sinful” about my dissident thoughts (or just, you know, life in general) – religion is a hell of a torture device, no pun intended.
Anyway, that was just one red flag about organized religion. At my mom’s funeral, one of her closest cousins (also a woman) wanted to get up and say a few words about what my mother meant to her. While they were polite (in the typical Anglo-Protestant fashion of gentle condemnation), the preacher and church officials were quite uneasy at this suggestion. The indignation!
You’d have thought Beelzebub was about to rise screaming through the church floor the instant cousin Barbara opened her mouth at the podium. And that she did. Get up and speak, I mean. I applauded her bold move, for bucking convention and telling the church of EFF off in a subtle way. Sorry, Preach, nothing trumps a grieving family member’s intent to say a final farewell to a beloved relative. My grandmother offered an apology to the preacher after the service, which I admired her for (for keeping the peace) whilst simultaneously rolling my eyes (and seething with anger). That really was the final nail in the coffin for organized relgion to me.
While I respect everyone’s right to hold belief in some sort of religous context – and understand the inclination, mind you – I see religion as a whole as something of a poison, that oppresses people in the name of eternal liberation, and man’s struggle to make sense of the inconceivable.
This is why I am not a militant non-believer, and why I (if I’m pressed to do so) would call myself an Agnostic-Atheist. In short, I don’t believe in the existence of a Supreme Being (certainly not the type force-fed us by the world’s major religions), I have no first-hand proof either way – and neither do you. That said, I believe in the “divine” nature, if you will, of the natural universe and it’s many wonders. I believe in the shared spiritual connection between humans. I believe in the mystery that is ‘love.’ I believe in compassion, understanding, the seemingly supernatural, transformative power of art, music, and knowledge.
I believe there may well be something beyond the veil – indeed, I hope after I expire here, my next journey will be a wonderous cosmic voyage beyond anything my human brain could conceptualize! – but there’s simply no way I could know that. All I can do is try to live a principled, compassionate, thoughtful life with some meaning that adds to the greater value of my species. Beyond that, everything else is but grasping for light in a dark world.