I made a comment to my dad the other day about something I heard on NPR.
“No wonder you’re so liberal,” my dad said. “You listen to NPR.”
Reflecting on his comment a few days later, I realized why it bothered me so much. Instead of giving me the respect of an adult with critical thinking skills who can come to her own conclusions, he assumed I’ve been blinded and brainwashed, jumping on various bandwagons of opinions. Weak minded.
Of course we are all products of our experiences and our beliefs form as a result of them. But I wish he would give me more credit. I DON’T BELIEVE IN GOD not because I am hurt by the church, disillusioned with religion, listen to atheist podcasts, or brainwashed by the devil. I don’t believe in God because it just makes so much more sense to me that he wouldn’t exist.
I felt similarly when I talked to a Christian friend of mine recently. She wanted to know the details of my unbelief, so I explained how it came from experiences we had overseas. The suffering of masses, extreme poverty, pain of children (specifically, their being raped and sold for sex), and anthropological history of religion creating an extremely low probability of the truth being in Christianity (and even if we just so happened to be the very very very few lucky ones, what does that say about all the others who never heard?)… This last one can be represented in the following picture:
However, these things would be better described as catalysts for my disbelief rather than its source.
“God can handle your fear, Teal. He can handle your hurts, your pains, your questions.” My friend responded to my explanation of “what happened to make you not believe” similarly to how my dad responded to my listening to NPR. It felt so condescending, a lack of acknowledgement of myself as a valid free-thinker coming to her own valid conclusions.
Yes, those things did bring me to the point to be able to say, “Either God loves white middle-class Americans more than anybody else, or he doesn’t exist.” But that question was just the beginning. Over the next days, weeks, and months, a cascade of a shift in my perspective — let’s call it an Awakening, and Enlightenment– occurred. Now my disbelief comes from a logical assessment rather than just from a sense of injustice. I’m not afraid, I’m not hurt, I’m not in pain (though I certainly was at the beginning of this journey). In fact, I feel much freer, more whole, and infinitely more present now than during my missionary days.
A religious neighbor of mine asked me, “What would it take for you to believe in God again?” That question alone indicates a chasm of a lack of understanding about my perspective. It’s like asking a passerby, “What would it take for you to believe in a giant teacup orbiting Jupiter?” First of all, which god? And what IS god, for that matter?? His question was actually, “What would it take for you to believe that the Judeo-Christian God as manipulated and prophesied by Joseph Smith to create Mormonism exists how the LDS church practices in 2015?” So much. SO MUCH.
Not only would the existence of the spiritual realm need to make logical sense to me, but the existence of a divine being, that being as a personal one, that personal being as loving, Creator, and father figure, that being as revealing himself to specific peoples in specific ways, that being having a son named Jesus who died as a sacrifice for the wrongdoings of humanity, etc. etc. etc. (list other specific attributes of thus god). So each and every one of those things would need to make sense to me in order for me to “believe in god” again. And what would that take? So much. SO MUCH.
What would it take for you to believe in a giant invisible teacup that orbits Jupiter that was put there 6.5 million years ago by aliens who once walked upon earth and harvested the dinosaurs for their bones with which they made the teacup as a representation of their power over earth? SO MUCH.