Name: JD, James
Former Religious Affiliation: I was raised a Christian in the Methodist church and stayed there until the end of high school.
I don’t say “atheist” because I know. I say it because I want to understand things as they are, not as some soothsayer foretold they would be, or old bearded theologian reckoned they should be, or even how some god may will them to be. Billions of beings are expressing, through whatever means they’re given, their unique angles on this grand evolutionary experiment and I would rather hear their voices – the beautiful, terrible, cacophonous whole – than a single booming word from the heavens.
I use the word “atheist” not because I’m certain of everything that exists. It’s a placeholder, a raft on the sea, the seat that offers the clearest view. I’m not waiting for god or looking for god; I simply leave that space blank. Why? Because if you asked everyone on the planet what god is, you’d get (at current count) 6,958,894,288 different answers. In my experience, this is a pretty good indication that no one knows what they’re talking about.
Because of our obstinance on these matters, atheists are called many things. Unimaginative. Cynical. Hopeless. We’re told we worship nothing.
Do these people open their eyes in the morning? Are they blind to the world they’re trying so hard to save? What convinced them of god if not the glimpses of awe they witnessed here on this planet?
So why choose atheism, a blank slate, when there are libraries of wisdom on offer? I choose the blank page because it will always be more alive with possibility than a page filled with the scribblings of frightened philosophers, writing to fill the silence of the universe with something, anything. The universe isn’t just anything. Nor is it what we make it. The universe is what it is, and by some wonderful chance we have the privilege of making it better. For everything living, human and non-human. This should be sufficient.
The ink of the Bible is dry. Its future is spelled out, word by endlessly interpreted word. And I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time getting excited about an ending I’ve already read. Religions imagine that a final account of the truth can be had right now. They grow, yes, but within the confines of a belief, always bound like their books. This is why we parted company. The universe demands a more radically open position, one amenable to new evidence, ready to go where the spark leads, even if that means straight ahead into darkness.
Atheists could be wrong about god, granted, but they won’t have been wrong about one thing: it’s always better to begin the journey with an open heart and a free mind.
• high school