Pretty sure I don’t believe in God. (Surprise!)
That is probably not surprising to you (lesbian feminist anti-racist bloggers aren’t usually the religious type). But after years of trying to hang on to a steadily wilting pseudo-christianity-cum-agnosticism, it was a bit of a surprise to me.
My childhood was a pretty spiritual one, but not as deeply spiritual as it could have been. I remember the night when I was 11 or 12 that I crept into my parents’ bedroom, tearily woke my mom and told her I needed to be baptised. I remember some “mountain-top” experiences at church camps, and some moments of clarity when I knew the utterly simple, beautiful purpose of my life: to do whatever brought me closer to God.
I also remember a lot of stifled aching confusion. I couldn’t get over the fact that all my really smart friends didn’t believe in God while none of my super-religious friends seemed able to think an independent thought. During one of the periods when I was committed to reading a chapter of the bible every night, I remember crying myself to sleep multiple times, trying to figure out what I was supposed to do with the chapter that described awful bloody ruthless battles as God’s will, or the chapter in which God slaughtered thousands of Egyptian babies, or the multiple chapters that told me I was unclean, shameful, unfit to speak in church, and that I should submit myself to and be ruled by men. In high school, one of my best friends came out to me and I told him how hard that was for ME, because God, instead of being there for him.
Fast-forward to last year, when I was incredibly ambivalent about Christianity, still believed in a God of sorts, but didn’t care enough to put energy into finding a church or a religion that would feel right: spiritual but still intelligent, a moral compass but not blind submission to religious authority.
My ex told me to read Richard Dawkins’ “The God Delusion.” I was reluctant because I knew I was so close to the edge of believing in anything that reading Richard Dawkins, of all things, would push me over… but I read it anyway. It felt weird and uncomfortable to read, even though I totally swallowed every one of his arguments. My brain agreed with what I was reading, but at the same time, it couldn’t change the fact that I could still feel God in my head just as much as I could when I was getting dunked in the river as a pre-teen.
A couple weeks after finishing the book, I was on my bike half-consciously whining to God about how everything was too messy and complicated and why couldn’t he just make things clear and easy for us? And suddenly I thought “God would want me to accept the truth.”
I think it was the kind of moment that religious people are talking about when they say they’ve “heard the voice of God.” It was as if the words had been plopped into my brain, like they came from somewhere other than myself. I knew of course that it’d just been my own brain–but for some reason, thinking it came from God made sense. At that moment, God was still an acting figure in my mind, a thing that could WANT something. But what it wanted was for me to just accept the fact that none of it is real. God wouldn’t be capital-T Truth if his will was really for me to pretend to believe in a magical guy-in-the-sky who listened to my thoughts and was impervious to the laws of the natural world.
As ridiculous as that moment was, it totally gets to what I think I’ve truly believed all along: God is there, in some kind of way, but is not Creator (at least not like out-of-clay-missing-rib creator), not Prayer-Answerer, not Judger Of Sins. God is everywhere and everything, God is truth, God is love, God is knowing, God is oneness.
Dawkins says it’s misleading and counterproductive to go on calling such a thing “God” at all– but for now I like it.