Friday, October 17, 2014

Am I an Atheist?

This is me, crawling through color,
in joy here in Mérida, México.
"For every complex problem 
there is always an answer that 
is clear, simple, and wrong." 
  - H. L. Mencken

A few days ago, there was a small, humorous post on Facebook that kept niggling away in the back of my brain until I had to stop, find it again and think it through. I’ve wondered off and on over the years if I were an atheist, and here’s the post and my answer … like all answers, for me at least, it is subject to change.

Atheism: the belief that there was nothing and nothing happened to nothing and then nothing magically exploded for no reason, creating everything and then a bunch of everything magically rearranged itself for no reason whatsoever into self-replicating bits which then turned into dinosaurs. 
Makes perfect sense.

I know the intent of the message was to make atheism seem completely ridiculous. However, an equally ridiculous rendition could probably be written for every existing view of the Universe's cosmology. While our understanding of what happened, how it happened and when expands every day, our grasp of “why” is like holding onto jello. And, for me, “why?” is always the most interesting question.

The reason I don't think I'm an atheist is the same reason I don't think I'm a Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Jew or Christian ... I don't quite know how we got here … and definitely don’t know why. If I do have a belief system, it centers on the infinite unknown ... what I prefer to call "the mystery." Where I believe all religions, as well as atheism, go wrong is in thinking they have the answer ...  or even that there is "an answer."

It is a whole lot easier to have an answer, or answers, to life's mysteries ... or I have to assume it would be. But, I also find comfort in knowing that I am too small to understand the infinite, so I don’t have to worry about it. I just have to live my life.

My problem with atheism is that it seems to be trying to tell us that there is no mystery, that all will be explained by science eventually.  Perhaps, but I don't think so. And, for me, every religion I've explored seems to be trying to explain the mystery in terms we can understand so it can be closed up in a box with a ribbon tied around it … all neat and tidy … and so un-infinitely mysterious.

Why not just embrace the mystery and be joyful 
that we have an infinite sandbox to explore and play in?

A friend died unexpectedly this week and I have found myself wondering about the common questions ... Where is she? What does she know now that she didn't before she made the transition from one state to another?  Does she still exist in the sense of the person I knew? But, if I knew the answers to those questions, would I live my life any differently? I guess it might depend on the answers.  

However, it seems to me that we each get a gift of some amount of time ... we don't know how much but we do know that it will end and that it’s our choice as to how to spend it ... not because there might be a payoff at the end, but because it's all we have today and every moment we spend in joy seems to contribute to the radiance of the world. So my clear, simple answer seems to focus on finding what brings me joy and sharing that joy as brightly as possible.

Perhaps I should become a priestess of "mysteriosa" ... should I wear a robe? … or at least a tiara? The real question is how did H.L. Mencken say in one short sentence what I’ve been contemplating for days. Perhaps he should wear the tiara.


  1. I was nearly 50 before I was baptized. I wanted to be part of a community of faith, which is different from being part of a community of believers. For me, it's the mysteries that impel and, as I have learned, having answers (explanations) for those mysteries is not at all the same as having faith.

    1. Maureen ... the community aspect of faith is very enticing and, down here, as I watch all the fiestas and celebrations, I have to admit I am envious of that strong community that people have here.