In the Beginning, There Was “Huh?”

I’m an atheist. And I go to church. Yes, that’s right. Doesn’t make sense? Read on.

Let me start by defining my atheism. (Unfortunately many of us end up defining our beliefs in terms of our disbeliefs, but I’ll fix that in a sec.) What I DON’T believe: God, Allah, Jah, Yaweh, Jehovah, Goddess in all her forms, the divinity of Jesus (although there is reasonable evidence to suggest that he WAS a guy, one among many who were bucking the system at that time; so if he existed, he was a sh*t-disturber, which I can absolutely get behind),  the devil, ghosts, reincarnation, the Rapture, Atlantis, Zeus, Xenu, unicorns, Big Foot, “aliens-built-the-pyramids”, telekinetics, astrology, spontaneous human combustion, elves, transubstantiation, apotheosis, heaven, hell, etc. I am always willing to examine new evidence for any and all of these things, because one thing that I DO believe is that science is eternally disproving itself in one way or another… which is kind of the point of science.

One of the nice things about not believing in any particular religious dogma is that it frees you up to believe in morality, which means how you live your life in a way that hurts as few other beings as possible. I do not, for instance, find myself bound to a particular ancient text that may or may not insist that I hate one group or another. I am free to interpret ancient texts in all kinds of new and creative ways and learn from them in a way that does not fundamentally threaten my acculturation or community, as it would if I was a devout believer among devout believers. (And let me tell you, many of those ancient texts are amazing, enlightening and inspiring when contemplated in terms of humanism rather than religiosity. More on this later.)

When it comes to what I DO believe, I think I have to break it up into two chronological categories: Before Glide and After Glide.

Before Glide what I believed was that religiosity was the single most destructive human-driven force in the history or present of the world. I believed that bound up in religiosity one found ignorance, fear, untrammeled anxiety and rigid defenses taking the form of hatred and rejection of the Other. I believed that one did not exist without the other.

After Glide I believe that many, many, too many people exist in the above definition, but that it is not fait accompli. I believe that the rigidity is the enemy, not the metaphysics, and the place to start the battle is with my own rigidity. I believe that the passionate connection some people feel to the divine has the potential to expand on acceptance and freedom rather than foreclose upon it, and that the passion is at the heart of our connection to one another as human beings. I believe that hidden in the religious documents used by repressed individuals to oppress everyone else can be found radical humanism and inclusion, the politics of tolerance and a clarion call to change.

What is Glide, you may ask? Well, it’s a church. A Methodist church, officially, although I think there have been many times when the Methodists have wished it were not. It’s a singular and strange church that doesn’t actually care if you believe in God, or Goddess, or the Buddha, or Ganesh, or little green men, or nothing at all. It’s a group of people who believe that at the heart of every religious, spiritual and liberation doctrine is an invitation to unconditional love and acceptance, and they practice it every chance they get. And I do mean “practice”. That sh*t is HARD.

I’ve been a member for nearly a year now, and it has been one of the strangest journeys of my life. Many people, both religious folks and atheists, have been utterly baffled by it, as have I on occasion. When I talk to people and they begin to grasp the reasons why I drag myself to church on Sunday mornings if I don’t believe in God, they invariably tell me that what I’m doing is kind of radical and important. And judging by the atrocious atmosphere of either/or, them/us, right/wrong that’s out there right now, I think maybe this is correct. I’m engaging in the arduous work of both/and. It’s messy and wierd and uncomfortable, and I think the world could use a little more of it right now.

So I’m doing what any good citizen of the 21st century does when they think something is important: I’m blogging. We’ll see how it goes.

Amen, hallelujah, right on, shalom, salaam, namaste.

4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Sean H on April 2, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    I am really happy that you go to glide church and talk to all these people of different beliefs. It is important for people to see what they have in common. The media in general right now focuses on the hate. Generally I find (as I am sure you do) that people want and believe almost all the same things. We should not let the very few things that differ us divide us. Keep up the “good” work and let me know if there is anything I can do to help (besides go to church).

    Reply

  2. As a Secular Half-Jew (of Jewish and non-Jewish descendant, proud of our cultural heritage, but not believing in a god)…we number in the thousands (if not 10’s or 100’s of thousands…and have for hundreds of years), so we are here to stay. Get over it. I am not here to destroy your belief systems, what ever you need to be kinder to your neighbor and better to yourself. I am a convert.

    However, once a year focusing on the traditions of my other half, the American consumerist and giving spirit and a strange combination of paganism, christian, viking, Russian and Spanish traditions I suspend my disbelief. I believe for a month (during Hanukkah) in Old St. Nick. Best part of the year.

    Thanks for adding your voice, old friend.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Fagel on April 8, 2010 at 7:04 pm

    What the hell!!!!! You don’t believe in Big Foot? Guess I’ll have to tell him to stop believing in you then. I on the other hand not only believe in you but love you more than him. 🙂

    //the swede

    Reply

  4. Icheoku dropped by as promised and I see nothing wrong in an atheist who finds something good in a gathering of people bound by a common desire to do a common good and in betterment of humanity? Your analytical deductions is superlative and I agree that it should not always be either or as between black and white there is the color of grey? Anyway I will link your website as also promised and I hope we continue to explore what it is that drives and divides humanity. It is indeed a pleasure! And talking about practice what you preach, Ghandi once told some catholic visitors, ” I have read your book of teachings, the bible, and it is one heck of a good book; but the one thing that worries me is that you Christians do not practice what is in your book or what you preach?”
    Cheers!

    Reply

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