The posts are fantastic! I am really into reading them. I am wondering why this is even on my blog, I am the least interesting one writing! I feel Sheldon and Norma and Mcglk have done so much in terms of answering Michael. I don’t know what more I can do. I really loved Bookeraptor’s comments about how, even framing the arguments about science as anti-God makes the discussion give more weight to the super-naturalists. I laughed really hard at the anti-Keebler elf paradigm. If you did not read this post, go back to the last one and find Bookeraptor. That is so right! It’s like the word, “atheist.” Just that word sets up the faith argument in a way that puts non-believers at a disadvantage. As I think Sheldon pointed out, Christians are also atheists about, for example, Zeus. What does atheist really mean, anyway? Mcglk, I really liked your posts in response to Michael regarding Denton.
And Norma made me laugh when she wondered whom the descendants of the New England tribes say “thanks” to, and… why? As far as my own thanks on Thanksgiving, I usually try to take a moment and think about all the effort that has gone into the meal. All the labor that has gone into the meal – not just from the preparation, but even all the ancient farmers who helped evolve the wild grasses into something that could be planted intentionally. And the animals that were bred over eons into something that could be kept and bred in captivity.
I wanted to respond to Anonymous, who wrote, “I'm angry, I'm scared, I'm overwhelmed at the realization that I can make my own decisions and run my own life without waiting for Divine Intervention, Guidance or Permission...things that I'd sometimes LIKE to have!! Julia, when things get screwed up in your life these days, where do you find comfort? Can you still feel like it'll all turn out alright in the end, or do you just hold your breath, cross your fingers and hope for the best after doing everything that's in your power to do?”
So may answer is: Yes. It is really scary. I think I don’t emphasize that enough, because I feel pressured (from myself) to make people think that being an atheist is so wonderful! And I DO feel it’s wonderful, insofar as letting go of god made me capable of such a deeper – and fuller - wonder. But it IS a cold, heartless abyss out there. And even though – if you think about it deeply – the idea of a loving, caring God is absurd (given the reality of how people’s lives are played out) and even cruel (when you think of people blaming themselves for bad luck, for example) – it is also true that accepting a cold, indifferent universe is no small pill to swallow. It’s practically unbearable. Which is why I think so few people can really do it.
I am reading “The Denial Of Death” right now by Ernest Becker. It is tough. (A poster on my blog actually recommended this book and I can’t remember who… but, thanks!) It talks about human ego, and the anxiety about death being the basis for all our heroic struggles, our wars, our tribalism, everything. For the last several years, I have been saying to myself, “Everyone is the tragic hero of their own life story.” And this book is saying much the same thing. But it’s really tough to take. It’s dark.
So, I guess what I am saying to the Anonymous that wrote to me, I guess I find comfort in a variety of things. Like, just relying on statistics is even helpful. For example, I will think (if, say, I am worrying about the outcome of safety of someone) the chances are they will be safe. Or chances are that it’s going to work out amenably to everyone. Or, chances are, even if this one thing blows up badly, in the end, people will find their way. Or, more specifically, I will find my way.
Another thing I do is that I recognize that the God I was praying to, before, was just me. I have a lot of good advice inside of me, for me. I can ask myself, my smarter – better – more rational self – what would that ME do? And I get a lot of good answers that way. Also, I acknowledge that when I prayed before, all I was really doing was “hoping.” And “hoping” is okay! I can hope! I can have a lot of hope! And that is comforting to me too.
Bookeraptor wrote something that I thought was amazing:
“Schopenhauer said something like "The world shapes itself chiefly by the way in which it is seen." Seen through the anthropocentric eyes of western theology, the world was created solely for the benefit of man, and is merely a stage on which our ultimate fate is played out. But nature as revealed to us through science is an impartial, elegant and intricate system within which man stands and falls equally with all other life, unique only in the quality of awareness and the responsibility of intelligence. Of this magnificent universe it is quite as possible to be reverent as it is to be reverent of the various intellectual constructs we have invented for man's reassurance and glorification (read, gods). If some people find their egos deflated viewing the universe in this way, others are exhilarated and find new grounds for wonder.”
I am squarely on the exhilarated side of the no-god equation. Seeing the world without relying on God has made me filled with such deeper wonder than ever before. I wouldn’t trade the comfort I used to get for that wonder.
Sometimes I think that if I were going to sue the Catholic Church, it would be for denying me the natural “wonder” that I might have had for the world for almost forty years. That’s the worst thing that religion does, it quells the natural curiosity of human beings towards their surroundings. It’s a drug that makes you feel good in the short run, but makes you pay highest price, it takes your curiosity and awe away.
Film update: after much thought this weekend, I have decided (at least for now) to shoot Letting Go of God on a stage just like I did God Said Ha! I have really, REALLY appreciated your comments. I wrote more notes in my script and it seems to work (in the version where I would do it in my own house) until I get to the second act. And then, because it’s so heavily science-driven, it seems to slow down in my mind. Whereas, when I am onstage, I think that the second act is really more dramatic and moves faster than the first act. So I want to protect that feeling. This is mostly on my gut feeling about this piece. But I think the most conservative and most reliable way to film it is like I did God Said Ha! And plus, I know how to do that. So that’s where I stand on that topic as of today, November 20, 2006.