How I Went from Being a Southern Baptist Preacher’s Daughter to an Open Atheist was interesting to read. Lately, I’ve been reading Facebook posts and watching videos by the Godless Engineer and Timothy Havener. I tend to relate a little better to Havener’s perspective; the Godless Engineer presents good logical arguments but he seems to be coming from a place of anger.
I didn’t have much in the way of religious indoctrination growing up other than Grandma Sophie dragging me to JW meetings and her frequent preaching. I have vague recollections of Vacation Bible School at the Baptist church downtown but nothing that sank in. Christian ideology was present in the culture; I was well aware it and, to a degree knowledgeable of it. For most of my life I was content with a Christian identity of “non-church goer.”
It’s probably only been in the last decade that I’ve given a lot of thought to spiritual ideas. Working with the assumption that I was, by default, Christian, I attempted to read the Bible. I think I got less than halfway through the Old Testament and read three of the four canonical gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). I found some some of the ideas attributed to Jesus interesting and inspiring but nothing that inspired belief and faith. Later investigations of Eastern spiritual ideas put many of those ideas into a different perspective but still nothing I could cling to.
I began to formulate my own ideas about the Divine, the spirit, and the soul, drawing on things I’d had casual exposure to when I was younger. I read some about the teachings of the Buddha and found that, at a basic level, Buddhism made much more sense to me than anything I’d heard or read in Christianity. My study of yoga philosophy and Buddhism supported many ideas I’d held for quite some time and further separated me from my Christian assumptions. Finally, I let go of the assumption of Christianity as the default and realized that I didn’t not need religion or a religious identity to be spiritual, to lead a holy life, or to be a good person. I have no need for salvation for there is nothing from which to be saved except my own ignorance and desires which are the cause of my suffering. My soul is Divine in its essence, unchanging, and immortal.
I shed the Christian identity and, to a point, only loosely identified as agnostic in that I admitted I don’t know, which is what agnostic means. I’ve drawn the line at calling myself an atheist because I have concepts of Divinity, not as a supreme being, but as a force, an ultimate source of energy in the Universe, or a Cosmic Consciousness. Lately, however, I’ve been pondering the thought that I may be an atheist in denial.
I’ve been reading and listening to Ram Dass lately and trying to come to grips with the concept of transcending the rational mind and go beyond what I can observe and know with my senses. Transcending the rational mind leads into the realm of faith and knowing things intuitively. My rational mind still has a desire to give name and form to what it intellectually knows is beyond name and form, creating a paradox that it can’t deal with at this stage of my spiritual evolution.
I’m certain that there is something beyond what we can detect and measure with our senses or our science, subtle forms of energy or even matter, subtle forces, planes of consciousness and existence that are, as yet, intangible to us. Because they are unknown and mysterious to us, it’s convenient to attribute them to God. There’s nothing wrong with that but we have to be careful of falling into the trap of allowing the mysteries become ideology and dogma that bind us to suffering, making us slaves to the belief, and veiling ourselves from our own Divinity.