Saturday, January 22, 2011

Me and Rob in the Foxhole

There are no atheists in foxholes.  

This aphorism arose on Wednesday night as I wandered toward the cafeteria a little too early to get anything.  It was nearly 11pm and I had a few minutes to fill, so I wandered over to the chapel.  I stood outside the door a moment and realized something.

I hadn’t prayed even once during the whole time.

For over a year now, I have been pondering what it is I believe and gradually coming to terms with a simple fact:  I am atheist.  I didn’t know this for certain because I knew what I believed can and often does change.  And what’s more, I knew that what I thought I believed had not yet been tested.

But if ever there was a time to reach out to God, the past few days surely would have been the time to do it.  And yet, I didn’t.  In fact, I distinctly recall thinking there was no point in praying to God when whatever healing Rob needed was here already.

I never prayed to God for a miracle.

So, I can say with some assurance that I am an atheist.  I may change my mind.  After all, I claimed to be one back before I became a born again Christian so there’s no saying where I will turn next.  Or it could be that like so many spiritual seekers, I am coming full circle.  How many Christians proclaim to no longer believe only to return to the fold–albeit usually in a different denomination?  From Catholic to Unitarian or Baptist to Episcopalian?

Do I believe in an after-life? I don’t know.  I can’t say.  I was still trying to come to terms with my atheism and was not yet ready to think beyond that single frame of reference.  But now that I have God out of the picture, I do have some more thinking to do.  A lot more.


  1. I can identify with you. I grew up in a Christian family, but I've recently begun the uncomfortable process of re-thinking everything through.

  2. Having grown up in an atheist environment, my becoming a Christian was a bit of a scandal.

    Even now it all feels a bit delicate because I know a lot of people see me as a person who believes in God (although I doubt anyone would identify me as a Christian).

    I could share a slew of stories about coworkers who were surprised by my knowing anything about the Bible. If only they knew how appalled I was by how little they knew when they had grown up in a Christian environment while I had only started when I was in my 20s.

    Anywhere, here I am coming full circle with more thinking and feeling to do. That's okay. I don't expect life to be anything else.

  3. It's actually very comforting to know that religion and spirituality is something that is okay to question as I get older.

    Honestly, part of me thought that once I reached a certain point in my life that it'd just all fit together perfectly. But in fact, things just get more confusing.

  4. I can't think of many things that have gotten easier as I've gotten older.

    Forgetting things.
    Forgiving people.

    Other than that, the rest just stays complicated. Truth is, I am uncomfortable with people who have an easy faith. Few spiritual examples from history through the present have an easy faith but that is the point. Faith is something that you choose and it is in the struggle to choose that we measure our beliefs.

    Oh dear. Doesn't that sound profound? I copied it from a book. There's no way I could say something that deep at this time of day.

  5. non-theist quaker-affiliated agnostic.

    ...and i'm okay with that! :-) i love thinking and talking about religion as a human construct. i'm fascinated by how people manage the relationship between their religion and their lives. i swear freely and celebrate christmas. i hope to raise my children to be religiously literate secular people.

    and i hate that atheists-in-foxholes saying.

  6. Well, the saying was apropos under the circumstances. I think that if I were a theist, I would be agnostic because I fully believe that if there were a God the impossibility of knowing this higher being would be so overwhelming that how could one be anything but agnostic? (I love that in Hebrew, even the name is so sacred there are rituals surrounding the speaking and writing of the name to reveal the pure reverence.)

    And I still plan on celebrating Christmas mostly because I like giving gifts and eating food. I am not thrilled with the history of Thanksgiving but I cook a meal every year. Seems I'm just a hypocrite all around.

    Before this past week, I thought I was bordering on spiritual humanist, at best, with a possible inclination towards a henoistic bent towards either Hinduism or Buddhism.

    And I'm vaguely amused by the sigh of relief I feel now being able to say "Aha! This is it!" and also knowing that this one "aha" answer actually creates so many more questions. Isn't that how it always is?

  7. One of the things that tripped me up about Marriage is that so many people see it as a religious ceremony and commitment. Hence the extremely low key wedding Joe and I had.

    I hate judging holidays too. I just think of them as traditions. My family is Methodist and I was raised Christian but we didn't have any religious traditions in relation to Christmas or Thanksgiving. We prayed before dinner on those days but it was more of a way to honor our Dad. I understood Christmas was the celebration of the birth of God and I may have been part of a few live nativities when I was super young but that dropped off the older that I got.

    Now there is just no way I could exclude Christmas and Thanksgiving. I see them as reasons to celebrate and spoil our loved ones. I prefer to leave out any mainstream details or back stories associate with them. With the exception of Santa, I think I'm going to let Brianna make up her mind about that one.

  8. Interesting post and interesting comments. As for the question if there is an afterlife: I personally find it highly unlikely (and illogical) that there's "eternal heaven or hell". If there's something like rebirth or not, I do not know. But I don't need to. Actually, I couldn't care less. If there is - fun! Another go! If there's not - I won't be there to be disappointed, bored (as a child my biggest fear regarding death was that I tried to picture myself dead, being afraid it'd be incredibly boring - for myself *lol*) or anything else anyway. ;D
    I don't know why so many seem to be afraid of death. I thought about this a lot (I tend to think about things a lot in general) and I guess my own biggest fear isn't death but the possibility that when I (unexpectedly) die, some people wouldn't know how much I love(d) them because somehow I failed to make it clear enough. (If that makes sense outside my head.)

  9. E*phi, Thanks and I agree that the comments are interesting. It is so funny you say what you do about not caring about a life after death because after I put up the post I honestly thought to myself, “Okay, are you really going to waste any of your time on something you know in your heart of hearts you can’t prove one way or the other anyway? Nope. So bugger the after life; what’re you going to do with the rest of this one?”

    There is a wonderful quote from Goethe: Let everyone sweep in front of his own door, and the whole world will be clean.

    If everyone spent more time in their own relationships, there would be less concern with everyone else. My relationship with God should have no effect on anyone else’s and the people who seem most concerned about convincing others to their own way of thinking most of are those who are least secure in the their own. And those who need the assurance of an afterlife–whether as a place of being or a state of being or even a way-station until the next time of being–are no stronger nor weaker in what they believe than those who simply shrug it all off.

    Perhaps I am too busy living this life to care about the rest . . .

    And Erin, God could smack me upside my head for my blasphemy tomorrow or all the Hindu deities could move into my home and demand recognition and I would still celebrate Christmas as I do, a wonderful time to share with my loved ones.