See, I am an atheist through and through, but I really love religious lore. Truthfully, I love adventure cartoons, but in the words of my Kierkegaardian friend, "The Bible is an awesome comic book." Fire raining down from the skies destroying whole cities; supernatural beings saving God's chosen from mobs and slow death and a roaring furnace; the rise and fall of the chosen nation in frustrating, excruciating detail. Smack in the middle of it is an erotic poem the makes absolutely no mention of God, and then God makes his big appearance as a helpful if not eccentric drifter. There is philosophy that rivals its Eastern contemporaries in timeless relevance and poetry that is beautiful even today. A philosopher I know even said to me "those writers had genius," and I think I only appreciate it now, having deconverted and read the alternatives. It's a shame so many people take this book so seriously because it really is an amazing read.
Over the Spring, I took a Bible as Literature course with a hymn writer, a doctor of divinity, and a whole slew of Catholics, Unitarians, and undefinable believers. Many of my classmates struggled with needless and confusing stories, such as the Levite's concubine in Judges, God's compensation to Job, and basically everything from Leviticus through Second Kings, but no one lost their faith. Besides me, there was one other atheist in the class, and due to my self-identifying as a "post-theist" as well as my English Major tendency to indefinitely suspend my disbelief, the rest of the class thought I was a vague theist until the very end. Despite wildly differing backgrounds and irreconcilable interpretations, we never had a fight, never an awkward moment. We understood each other and worked off one another, and while I think we all left more secure in our own beliefs, our edges were rounded off.
Truth is, I liked the Bible so much that it nearly brought me back. I had been really angry at Christianity and the Bible since my deconversion. For the first 20 years of my life, I took my Episcopalian upbringing about as seriously as one can at that age. It was a liberal church, and God was a friendly dad. I had been head acolyte and a lay minister, which meant I could serve you wine and it was still blood. I would go to my pastor's rectory after school and discuss theology with her, and for a decent period of time, I even wanted to go to seminary. My eventual deconversion had nothing to do with figuring out evolution or making gay friends or discovering the existence of jerks like Fred Phelps. I found it impossible to reconcile the image of a being that has the movements of every mote of dust planned out with the indefatigably random and bewildering unfolding of my own life, the planet, and the universe before me. I didn't want to do it, it was an Occam's Razor thing, automatic and unchangeable. Either there was a being in the sky with a seriously convoluted plan to achieve something we can't understand, or it was all made up in an ancient effort to comfort ourselves, the only sentient beings in a cruel and lonely landscape.
I didn't choose to believe this, it was the only reasonable conclusion my brain could reach. I've heard deconversion compared to mourning a loved one, but I don't really think that's appropriate. When a friend dies, the pain comes from knowing that no more memories of yours will involve that person. Plans are made to commemorate the dead's lasting influence on so many lives and, in expansive and subtle ways, the world has to adjust for the sudden void, a grand acknowledgement of that person's former, but definite existence. When you come to the conclusion that you don't believe in God, the realization isn't that you don't have God anymore, but that he was never there in the first place. You, like a sucker, have been throwing your money away and talking to yourself like it was doing something helpful, Sunday after Sunday and then some, giving credence to the less savory adherents to Abraham's God. It's truly one of the most opprobrious experiences I can remember in my lifetime, and what made it so scary was that I knew there was no going back. I was inevitably atheist.
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