AM I AN ATHEIST?
By Guillermo Quijano
For a while now I find myself constantly being put on the spot about whether I “believe in God” or not, mostly from people with such superficial understanding of what they are asking and trying to place my beliefs into words, I am growing kind of tired of the hidden question that people are proposing which is:
“Why don’t you believe in [my] God?”
God – religion – spirituality – scripture – the Bible code – the Pope – Mohammed – all of these concepts out there that are so loosely [or so strictly] enforced by people, all of them based on theory, stories, “faith”, upbringing, hypothesis, hearsay but none of them on pure fact, because if someone, if anyone had “the facts” we would all believe in that.
So we are left either with believing in what we were told to believe, believing in what one day we told ourselves was easier to believe or more “convenient” for us and seldom does anyone make a calculated choice to voice what they “FEEL” inside – to express the core belief that lays inside each one of us.
I was raised in Colombia – a country that was (remember that later on in this story) 100% Catholic. I was taught to have guilt about the feelings and thoughts that “a god” must have placed in me and to feel dirty and ashamed of my own thoughts or drives or feelings and pretty much every action. I was taught that “you have to be good” period – that “God Said: “This is how it is and you will do My Will or else” and that if you veered from those laws, hell will rain down on you – yet the God that was saying this to me was supposedly an “all giving and all-forgiving” God. A bit of a contradiction especially for a child or an adolescent. Very confusing. If I looked at a girl and felt my “innate” attraction to her kick in, I was a sinner. If I lied to protect myself from being punished or embarrassed, I was a terrible person. If I felt hate (an emotion programmed into me by said god) towards someone that wronged me, I was somehow ungodly. So why were these emotions and feelings built-in? I was delivered to this world with this software package, programmed GENETICALLY to feel them and given intelligence to shape them or curve them or enhance them at will!
Then Catholics realized they were losing “membership” at massive rates and they became more lenient – all of a sudden you could go to mass on Saturday night and it would count as Sunday, they allowed “lower infractions” to not be confessed to another man who would absolve us of our sins – we could self-absolve. Mind you, we would be “forgiven” by a man who almost simultaneously was committing sins which would appall any religion. I was confessing that I stole a pack of cookies from my mom, while that morning this “man” had molested a child and likely destroyed his or her life.
When I was 11 years old, my friend’s parents got divorced (in Colombia) – when it became legal in the part of the government – the very next day, our Catholic school expelled him in the middle of the school year. My aunt was one of the richest women in Colombia – “The Richest” Colombian coffee money. In her death bed, the archbishop of Bogota walked into her room with a legal document that would relinquish all her possessions to the Church in exchange for eternal life in heaven. She signed it all away to them and her family was left in financial devastation.
At age 13, someone older at my school bought me a bag of chips and a soda and then proceeded to invite me to “his quarters” during recess – there he tried to have sex with me and I had to literally get away from him and never told anyone because of what would happen to me if I said anything at all.
So, even then I was pretty much done with organized religion and for sure with the Catholic church.
But I still felt a force in me from a very young age, without ever reading about Darwin or understanding plate tectonics, I felt a kind of frequency that made me often wonder how everything around us could be attributed so easily to “evolution” and I struggled between the obviousness of it just by looking around, and the strong signs that pointed at “Creation” meaning, that some of these things were not mere accidents.
Why are there thousands of types of flowers and plants and animals? Why aren’t all flowers the same? And even further – why are there flowers at all? Why are there pines and rivers? Well – the answer is of course that they all exist as part of an echo system that help us all stay alive. Flowers pollinate, trees create oxygen, rivers provide water that we can’t live without and so on.
How could we explain love, or rage or sadness? We couldn’t – how could these emotions be so strategically placed in us for no reason?
Who or what made that plan? What was the purpose? Why are we here? Seriously, these were the questions I asked myself as far back as I can remember. Why are we born, live a life and die and most of us seem to pass through the world without even leaving a foot print?
Evolution made a lot of sense – but I knew something created evolution.
Catholics told me it was “God” – he did it in seven days! Damn – that’s rich. And when I questioned the impossibility of that, they then presented Jesus. An easier to understand concept – some guy that you would have a beer with any day and yet they labeled him “the son of god” – now I don’t want to have a beer! Imagine the pressure! And Jesus was not born from intercourse between a man and a woman (because that is a sin according to them) but born without sin – “conceived without sin” to quote the official press release. As if something as beautiful as touching a woman was a sin. And then we killed this man the story goes and he became a martyr and a hero who then came back to life and lived for eternity – and we were ordered to “give our lives to him” and if we didn’t, if we didn’t adhere to his every word and thought we would not pass go, nor collect $200. How does that make any sense?
If a child dies before baptism – through no fault of his own, he goes to “Limbo” and remains there until “Judgement Day” Why!? And Judgement day keeps being postponed – because it will never happen.
Then the 90’s came – A whole bunch of Catholics all of a sudden became “Christians” – oh boy… watch out. A group of people that began to rule everything and guilt you into going to church, praise god but mostly into “being born again”. “God” already sent you to the world – now these people wanted to officially sign you up again – and not through a friendly process, through shunning if you did otherwise. The verbal agreement wasn’t good enough for them – they wanted that shit in writing.
They too – started to make convenient rules to improve membership into the club. All of a sudden they came up with new words like “abundance” – god wants you to be rich, there is no shame or guilt or anything wrong with you being rich – so now, those that ask questions can’t send you down the path of you being greedy or not compassionate. But conveniently they started to “demand” 10% of your earnings so god wouldn’t get mad at you – on the contrary, god would help you do even better thanks to your donation and “generosity” – Can I give it directly to the poor? Some wondered – NO! They said – we’ll take care of it. [Look up Jim Baker and many others.]
Christians have overtaken the world. In Colombia – not only do they require a large portion of your earnings every month, they have bill collectors that call every month to get “the church’s money”. True story: If you get divorced in Colombia, THE CHURCH provides a team of lawyers usually to the wife to squeeze every last penny from their husband, collecting a 50% fee of any judgement.
And that is where I place Christians in my head.
Several of my dearest cousins, many of my friends and even people I don’t know have asked me over and over: “You got Jesus in you?” and I feel inadequate for a second wondering what that is.
Now – don’t take me totally wrong – I am in awe of “devotion” of the people that truly believe and are devoted to Christ, or their Savior whomever that may be. I am so thankful when someone tells me they will “pray for me” and I am grateful for those few that do good because of their beliefs. Those VERY FEW that truly practice the message of their doctrine.
Muslims are heavily devoted to their religion. More than any Christian, Catholic, Baptist or Lutheran I have ever seen – (don’t even get me started with Lutherans) Muslims pray every day devotedly to Mohammed and drop anything they are doing to get that done. Their clothing is based on religion, their food is based on religion – yet, they have no problem beating a woman to death for adultery, whipping her for going to a movie and forcing her to wear black clothing head to toe in 110 degree weather, while men in their culture can do whatever the fuck they want. They strap bombs to little children in the “name of Allah” and send them to their death [also killing innocent by standards] and nothing ever comes out of it. That is not god.
“Religious people” won’t eat pork (mmm… mmm… yum!) due to religion, they won’t give their own children medicine in the name of religion, they will have sex with 12 year old girls in the name of religion, they will stone a homosexual to death in the name of religion – and they will glorify an adulterer, thug, immoral man to be our president – again, bending the rules to seek a religious agenda.
But they will ignore all of the “basic” rules of their religion.
To me, the message of religion is a simple one – Jesus’, Mohammed’s, Buddha’s and it is this:
“Don’t be an asshole” – that is it. Be compassionate, generous, unselfish, tolerant, forgiving and understanding. But bottom line: “Don’t be an asshole” There – I just summarized the Bible and the Quran in four words – people need the rest of the words and they need to “study” and even “decipher” (their word not mine) these books to draw from them any excuse for their behavior. And in that process, they have taken their God’s authority into their own hands.
But it is all bullshit – so I ask: Am I an Atheist? Not in the most remote meaning of the word.
Then what am I? And how can I stop people from looking at me like they feel sorry for me when I can’t answer their question clearly? I believe I am an ignorant because “understanding” what I am when it comes to “who I am” is truly an impossibility.
Understanding “God” the name we have given to something we can’t possibly figure out is not possible. We have minimized it to a level that we at least can pretend to have some answers. Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, Shiva, Jesus, Mohammed, Allah, God, Jehovah, Yahweh, Akal Murat, The Merciful, The Granter of Security – who can keep it straight? And I believe all of them have a purpose and importance yet none is more powerful than the other – simply a list of let’s say “regional emissaries” named according to the interpretation of history in that part of the world.
But god – what it really means, what it really IS – is the same to all of us. And it boils down to this:
We all know there is absolute magic of what we feel when we touch a baby or when we look into a child’s eyes. We all share the exact feeling when the ocean waves overwhelm our feet and the sand melts under our heals. We all feel sadness to see someone suffer. We all fear death and rejoice from life. We all look at the night sky with wonder and CAN NOT explain it but, hope deeply as we stare at a constellation. We all feel the healing power of a loving dog and the happiness of laughter with friends. We feel hate and anger to a degree that enrages us beyond control and the emotion depletes us. We long for our mother’s embrace and our siblings’ approval. We stand in awe at the border of a roaring river and almost can’t understand the warmth of the sun and its perfect position and angle to maintain our species from perishing. We fear and despise war and conflict and human suffering. We fall in love and can’t understand what is happening to us. Our heart breaks and we ask for an answer from “anyone” that will help us and if our child was sick, or hungry, or in danger – we would accept help from anyone, from anywhere, with any beliefs.
THAT – all of it and so much more to me is “god”. The feeling of how small I am, the feeling of my power, the feeling of my weakness, the feeling of total and complete submission to something so large I can not understand nor will I ever pretend to understand much less let someone else “explain it” to me or “sermon me up” about it.
So – if what people are asking that I believe in, if what people are asking that I am close to, if what people are asking that it is in my life, if what people are asking that I believe in are the emotions and wonder and pure raw spiritual fulfillment I feel with the few examples above, is “me having god in me” then YES – I believe in god.
But – if what they are asking me to subscribe to is that God is a punisher, a judgmental and unforgiving creature, a being that is concerned with “abundance” or granting power to some but not others, or a god that will randomly answer prayer for an outcome we so badly want when that is not true, or will make me feel ashamed of my thoughts, or he is an egotistical god that needs praise and money to be my god – or if he will ask me to take sides – then yes, I guess I am an atheist.
So the next time you ask me such question – think twice because A. It is none of your damn business and B. No matter what I answer your opinion is yours and mine is mine. Just remember – I will NEVER try to impose my beliefs or ways on you, so please – keep yours to yourself.
Let’s just be friends and fellow humans and care for each other – no questions asked.