(Somewhat continued from two weeks ago)
Both during my days of questioning my religion and during my time as an atheist, a great point of anxiety for me was finding The Truth. I wanted to know, with absolute certainty, whether God existed and in what way He influenced things.
Whilst on the faithful side (aka, amongst believers), I squirmed at odd expressions that often seemed optimistically ignorant. The experience reminded me of when I sought a good school for my oldest child to attend. I toured several charter schools and a handful of private ones; without fail, the phrase, “the best school” dropped from the lips of those attending. No, the one I ultimately chose was not #1. Yet, parents and staff loved claiming superiority.
Insisting that God exists or proposing that I live as if He does isn’t real. That isn’t faith and belief. It’s fake it till you make it behavior.
I thought, therefore, that my admitting there is no God was a refreshing reset to my thinking and my life; a blank slate upon which to write my own opinions and testimony. From there, I could learn answers without bias or influence.
Instead, the opinions I heard and scornful pride I felt from atheists were similar to theists’ claims of accepting Christ and being saved. The experience reminded me of a section in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy where Man discovers the highly-improbable Babel Fish, a naturally-occurring creature that can translate languages for the user and live off the user’s thought waves in symbiotic repayment for that service:
The argument goes something like this: ‘I refuse to prove that I exist,’ says God, ‘for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing.’Douglas Adams
‘But,’ says Man, ‘the Babel fish is a dead giveaway, isn’t it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don’t. QED.’
‘Oh dear,’ says God, ‘I hadn’t thought of that,’ and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.
‘Oh, that was easy,’ says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove that black is white and gets himself killed on the next zebra crossing.
I am aware that Adams did not believe in God. It’s clearly a poke at pursuing logic as religiously as zealots pursue faith.
Both sides, religious and atheist, are the same. When one removes personal bias toward one or the other, s/he/it sees that accepting God as creator is accepting Stephen Hawking as expert. Believing in The Creation is believing in The Big Bang. Smugly claiming salvation is smugly claiming secular ethics. Assuming eternal life is assuming a return to dust.
I was not finding truth, because I was finding the same dandelions on the supposedly-greener side of the fence! So, what was I doing precisely? While I did (and do) receive answers to my probing questions about life, the most important realization in my journey of faith was that I was not seeking truth in an unbiased fashion. I was, in fact, seeking the approval of others. What made me uncomfortable and anxious was the embarrassment of being wrong.
This realization brings to mind a scripture story found in the Book of Mormon, referred to as Lehi’s Dream. Lehi, a prophet around the time of the biblical prophets Huldah, Jeremiah, Obadiah, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah (Footnote 3), has a vision in which he finds some amazing fruit and wants his wife and children to eat it with him.
So, Lehi looks around and sees his family. They look a bit lost, even though Lehi’s standing at a fantastic, glowing beacon of nature. This makes Lehi notice other things, like that there are mists obscuring the way. There’s water and a strait path. There’s a rod of iron that leads up the path, through the dark, and straight to the amazing fruit. There are more people who wander in, and some make it to the tree and eat the fruit.
Then, there is a “great and spacious building:”
And I also cast my eyes round about, and beheld, on the other side of the river of water, a great and spacious building; and it stood as it were in the air, high above the earth.1 Nephi 8:26-28, The Book of Mormon
And it was filled with people, both old and young, both male and female; and their manner of dress was exceedingly fine; and they were in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers towards those who had come at and were partaking of the fruit.
And after they had tasted of the fruit they were ashamed, because of those that were scoffing at them; and they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost.
Whether I wanted to eat of God’s word or not, I was too concerned about the mocking, pointing, jeering crowd of humanity. I didn’t want to appear the fool. I wanted to appear the educated expert.
This same concept is found in my favorite psalm, Psalm 146:
Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.Psalm 146: 3-4, The Bible, KJV
His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.
I wasn’t ready to accept God as my savior and be eternally saved, nor was I ready to trust Him enough to blindly walk across any chasms. I was, however, ready to stop worrying so much about everyone else and instead worry about what God, Himself, told me was true.
Or, to accept His non-existence if no one answered me.
©2023 Chel Owens