Not My God

(Via Sarah Trachtenberg)

My own atheism developed not so much out of enlightenment or disillusionment, but out of annoyance. The novelty of Hebrew school wore off after the first year (Hebrew School is where well-meaning Jewish parents send their malleable Jewish offspring, just as Christians send their children to Sunday School). Contrary to what many non-Jews think, Hebrew school's purpose is to teach about Judaism; learning Hebrew itself is further down the list of priorities. I was required to go Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays for two and a half hours each day, in addition to services many weekends and holidays (holidays accumulated a lot over four thousand years or so). Since I didn't want to be there, I began to ask questions to express my irritation at being forced into this particular after-school activity.

“How do we know these Bible stories really happened? Did archaeologists dig up video tapes or something? If God is everywhere, is He in the toilet? Why does God care if we pray if He can read minds? What did Noah do about all the sea animals?”

I was nine years old. These are the kind of questions any smart-ass, red-blooded American kid might have felt compelled to ask her religious and spiritual instructors, except that I came to think about them seriously. My teachers were kind and patient and explained to me that the point was to have faith, to be close to God, and that the stories themselves were not important so much as the spirit of the message. I remember a lesson we read about how tellings of events, such as the ones in the Bible, changed over time, even though the kernel of truth remained. Or did it?

Religious activities had some pretty bad associations for me, anyway. My mom reprimanded me for yawning during Saturday morning services. We had a couple of pretty bad fights after synagogue, and one time at home she ordered me to recite a prayer I was learning in Hebrew school. I just stood there, cowardly, unable to recite-- I suppose I did not want to be ordered around that way and was worn down after years of “shut up and pray.” After a few endless minutes of me standing there, speechless, she prodded, “Well?” I felt berated and humiliated. If all this stuff was supposed to endear me to God, it did not; it drove me further and further away...

My mother, the religious parent who made me go to Hebrew school in the first place (my dad had a laissez faire attitude about the whole thing and my parents were getting divorced around this time, anyway), wasn't well-pleased when I told her that I didn't think God or the Torah were true. I started to think that scientists did not believe in God. She argued with me on that point, saying that Albert Einstein believed in God, and the more he learned about the universe, the more he believed. As an adult, I learned that that was not true, or at least it was hotly debated.

Time went on; I still resented Hebrew school. For what it was worth, many of the kids did. Kids who quit to make time for other extra-curricular activities like gymnastics were held up to us as bad examples. We were warned not to quit after our bar/bat mitzvahs, as did so many other kids, counting their money once the party was over, feeling that they had done their time. One particularly resistant kid, a year older than me, started Hebrew school and they let him start in my year, ketah dalet (fourth year), to be among his age-mates. That was not fair; if he could skip years like that, why couldn't I? But the worst was yet to come.

The irrelevance of god

(Via ArchangelChuck)

Okay, I'll bite. My story isn't as interesting as most people's. The realization of -- and reconciliation with -- my nonbelief was nothing special. There was no epiphany, there was no grim realization that everything I believed and had been told most of my life was a lie. There was no great divide in my family, no in-fighting between relatives, no friends turning their backs on me, no girlfriends leaving because they couldn't stand the thought of my burning in hell... On the bright side, there were no more church services, no more preachers, no more readings from that insane, apparently divine, book...

There was just inner peace. That's all any of us really want, isn't it?

From early childhood, I was raised in a Christian family; well, as Christian as we could make ourselves appear, anyway. We hosted church groups in our home, we attended church every Sunday, and in general we have always been good, decent people. Hell! I even attended a Christian school for as long as we could afford it. There was a problem, though. My mom was divorced two or three times by around the time I was born, and I've been raised by a single mother for most of my childhood. (Oh, and she had a Buddha in the house, which was apparently why our family fell on so many hard times. Digressing.) Though I never realized it in my young naïvité, we were always looked at as freaks. In the world of religion, the pinnacle of naïvité is the thought that being a good and decent person is enough. The sad, pathetic reality of religion is that everybody around you has to pry into your personal life and judge you -- from what little they know about the "wisdom" of the Bible -- based on what little they know about your situation. Everybody is a spy, a snitch, and a gossip, and nobody will hesitate to turn on you the moment they find some dirt. Nobody will ever stop to listen to your side of the story, because the verdict is already in. When you're presumed guilty, everything you say is a lie. Where is the peace, the happiness, that common decency toward one's fellow man?

There are no friends in religion.

When I was still being compelled to attend church, I spent most of the time ignoring the preacher and the people around me who were babbling in "tongues" and pretending they were all one step closer to heaven than I was. They would read the bible out loud, and after every sentence or two, "PRAISE THE LORD! HALLELUJAH!" Then stop every five minutes to pray, as if their god really wants them to keep interrupting. Have you had someone tap you on the shoulder every five minutes to tell you something you already know? Isn't it annoying?! Bored as I was, I drew. I studied the bible on a depth that nobody in that room could ever comprehend, and realized how bonkers it was. I even started reading evil secular books during church. It was scandalous, but everyone else was too preoccupied with their delusions to notice.

Was my faith being challenged, or was I incapable of it in the first place?

The fact of the matter is, I've always been an atheist, and simply was never aware of that fact. I never really believed -- even though I said I did -- and I never really cared. It was convenient to say I believed, because nobody thought they had to proselytize to me. In reality, I was more interested in video games than I was in pondering about mythical space daddies in the sky. I was more interested in having fun with friends than being manipulated through guilt and fear with people I neither knew nor cared about. Having a choice between attending a youth bible study with people I knew and tolerated and playing Quake 2 online with people I knew better and actually liked, guess which one I chose without a second thought?

It took no thought; God was just never relevant in my life, and that's just the way it was.