Friday, December 7, 2007

Looking for That A-Ha Moment

The Chaplain over at An Apostate’s Chapel wrote an excellent blessay (to steal the phrase from Stephen Fry) over her Stages of Grief over the loss of her faith. The Exterminator then commented

I’m always struck with the fact that there must have been an aha! moment, an unexpected insight, a sudden flash, that undermines their entire worldview

I was going to just comment, but decided I had enough content to fill my own blessay about a-ha moments. And, for me, I don’t think there was just one. Each was a nudge in a direction that led the next nudge to have greater weight. I’m sure I don’t remember them all, maybe not even the most significant ones, but there are three that do stand out:

1) An NPR interview with an amateur EVP “ghost hunter” who when asked if he was afraid, when hunting graveyards at night for voices, of what he would find replied, “I’m more afraid of what I’m not finding.” He was apparently a very honest, ethical ghost hunter who was disturbed not to be finding any voices from the other side.

2) My husband, who has a phobia about shaking hands with strangers, wouldn’t go to church with me because of this (or so he claims). I wanted to have a more “spiritual marriage” and, because I felt he wasn’t enough of a believer, went looking for things that would convince him to become one. This led to some very stimulating discussions that didn’t have the effect either of us were looking for.

3) A Discovery Channel (or similar) program regarding Jesus or the History of the Bible made on off-hand comment that there was controversy over the historicity of Jesus. It wasn’t the main topic of the show, it was one comment, an aside, one sentence – but to me it stood out like neon. I could say that it was the sudden flash The Exterminator was talking about, but if it hadn’t been for the earlier nudges, I probably wouldn’t have even noticed it.

I looked through my journal. 2005 seemed to be the year that I tried harder to be more religious but I notice certain things now that may have been nudging me towards atheism. 2006 was the final slide.

George W. Bush and the “Moral Majority”. Looking through my journal I have many, many rants about him and them and Christianity and how their Jesus isn’t my Jesus.

January 2005 – took Introduction to Contemplative Prayer, my attempt to increase my relationship with god. I didn’t work very hard at it, but was non-the-less disappointed at my lack of having an immediate Teresa of Avila experience.

The Fresco by Sheri Tepper, in which an Alien species’ moral-ethical religion is centered upon a sacred fresco that is covered in soot (so no-one can actually see the fresco, but they have stories of what it depicts). Tradition dictates the events and symbols that lie hidden beneath the grime, and it is taboo to ever clean the Fresco (Publishers Weekly). And then someone accidentally does clean part of it and finds it to be contradictory to the traditional teaching.

Read Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey. An alternate world where the French, a country known as Terre D'Ange, are descended from divine beings, beings that loosely mirror Jesus and his apostles. The main character is a masochistic courtesan, which in this alternate world is a sacred calling, and a spy.

June 2005 – Attended one meeting with a Charismatic Catholic prayer group. I tried very hard not to get the heebie-geebies from them and left feeling that I couldn’t delude myself enough to get whatever they were getting.

July 2005 – My uncle found Our Lady of Souplantation

He tried to get it on the news and create our own hysteria, but I guess there was too much real news going on that week. It’s the Souplantation on Mission Gorge Road in San Diego if you wish to make a pilgrimage.

March 2006 – Went to a neighbor’s baby shower. Most of the people there were from her Lutheran Church. They handed out blank bookmarks and while the girl was opening her presents, we were supposed to come up with words of wisdom for the new parents and put them on the bookmark. The only thing I could come up with is my favorite "quote", and completely inappropriate for the situation…so I wrote it down.
Don’t mess with Dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with catsup.

April 2006 – is when I first start to really question god existence in a journal entry. There’s nothing in the entry that specifies exactly what brought this about though.

From here I think it takes another year for me to transition completely from belief to un-belief to fully embracing my Atheism. There was no ONE moment though. No one died. I didn't experience any significant loss or illness. I didn't want to start attending orgys or cheating on my husband. My impression has been that slowly over time, little by little, I lost the ability or desire to continue deluding myself with an answer that didn't satisfy the question.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this.

The Exterminator said...

Don't feel too bad that you can't recall a trigger for that journal entry in April 2006; maybe there wasn't one. Perhaps all the little aha moments had been stewing together slowly, and finally bubbled up -- while you weren't watching the pot.

It sounds to me as if you'd already subconsciously freed yourself from religion, but had not yet confronted that fact directly.

John Evo said...

I enjoy reading things like this and Chaplain's simply because I honestly have no recollection of either an "ah ha" moment or the various little breaks in the chain.

I was 19 when I recall telling people that I thought the religion I grew up in and all others were bullshit made up by humans. Other than having recently read a book on evolution (that I can't remember the title of) I can think of nothing that would have led me to this.

Obviously it was a number of things, but it just didn't seem like a momentous decision or epiphany. As the years have rolled by, it is now just a distant memory. I really wish I could remember.