I’m back, brothers and sisters! Better late than never, eh?
I’ve been busy in my absence, at least: You’ll notice there’s now a shiny new subscription box in the sidebar (hint, hint), and I planned out an actual editorial calendar and stuff. There’s method to my madness now!
Here’s how this blog’s posting schedule looks for now:
- Mondays, I will talk about something newsy, from an atheist standpoint. A lot of these posts will address church/state separation and how it’s being fought – and defended.
- Wednesdays I’ll tackle specific Bible stories or tenets of faith and why I no longer believe in them.
- Fridays will be more personal, like the stuff I’ve posted so far. Thoughts on religion and atheism in general.
I’m open to ideas for pithy names for each of those columns. 😉
And now, without further ado, today’s actual post. Ta!
A month ago today, the Washington Post ran an essay by Elizabeth King, an atheist who finds herself still tethered to some of the habits and mannerisms of belief. I found the essay through a Christian website I’ve been reading (no, atheists are not allergic to religious talk).
The Christian author got a different message from the essay than I did: that Ms. King has a “subconscious awareness of God’s presence.” It’s true that she described an inability to drop all reflexive references to and thoughts of God. But when the Christian author quoted her saying “He’s present,” he missed the first half of her statement: “He’s not real, but he’s present.” (emphasis mine)
Leaving aside semantic arguments, I think Ms. King did a decent job of unpacking the possible reasons for these lingering feelings of “God.” When you’re conditioned from birth to believe, and told that the guy in the book is totally a real person, and that he’s always watching you…well, years and years of that can be hard to just drop with the snap of a finger.
The issue is compounded by the fact that, whether Christians want to admit it or not, we are positively bombarded by their idea of a god every day. Some of the things Ms. King mentioned – like saying “I swear to God…” when frustrated – don’t necessarily come from any faith. They’re just verbal tics, a bit like letting slip an f-bomb when you stub your toe.
Others, like reflexively sending thoughts upward on a turbulent flight – those are more to do with the aforementioned conditioning than an actual belief in god. Habits are hard to break, especially when you’ve been trained since birth to keep them.
But one thing Ms. King didn’t mention, that I think deserves some discussion, is the role guilt plays in this “awareness” of god. See, not only are many of us conditioned to believe, we’re conditioned to feel guilty about doing things that might offend God (we’ll discuss God’s all-too-human fragile emotions some other time).
God is presented as an authoritative father figure, and for those of us raised to be obedient children, leaving that figure behind can cause some cognitive dissonance. Like saying, “God please let me ace this interview,” before catching ourselves.
I can’t speak for Ms. King, since I don’t know her. But I know guilt played a big role in my difficulty leaving religion – and I know that my occasional outburst of “Goddamn it!” has zero to do with belief in or “awareness” of any god.