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What Atheism Means to Me: Part 3

Submitted by Ken Watts on Tue, 03/17/2009 - 19:28

IN PARTS ONE AND TWO , I described some experiences which caused me to refine my idea of atheism, and some of the problems with claims to exterior, objective, knowledge about God.

"I began to think that perhaps it was a little dishonest to use the word in a way in which almost no one else used it."

But I came at all this from the other side: the interior, experiential side.

I began my journey as a believer. I've left the "b" in lower-case, because I really did believe in all I was taught, not as a cultural stance, but as a basic world-view. That, I think, is what saved me. (pun, I'm sorry to say, intended)

Since I always assumed that "God" was a term that designated something real in the world, and not just the accepted mumbo-jumbo of my tribe, I was always open to the possibility that the ideas handed down to me, Orthodoxy itself, might be flawed.

And so I struggled mightily, to reconcile what I was taught about God with what I knew about the real world and also with my own, internal, experience.

The result, which was over thirty years in the making, was an understanding of God as the totality of existence, which included myself, and person I was talking to, the person I had never met, supernovae, my dog, Hitler, Jesus, the quantum field, the mosquito biting your arm (hey, it's my list), the anthrax virus, and even George W. Bush.

I used to say, jokingly, to my friends that I was God, but that they shouldn't be alarmed, because they were, too. This didn't, of course, mean that I expected to perform miracles, or raise the dead, or claim to know what was right or wrong for others.

I arrived at this view precisely because I was so dedicated a theist, and because I wanted nothing more than to understand God as well as I could, and to interact with God as a reality, and not a mere cultural fiction.

I'm only talking about my own journey here. I can't claim that everybody who takes that stance would end up in that place, or where I ended up later.

Because it didn't stop there.

The bigger God got for me, the more inclusive the idea became, the less power Orthodoxy had. God was real, both in my experience and in an objective sense. Everything physics or chemistry or any of the sciences proved was more information about God.

And that was when god lost the capital "G". The idea of god had become completely real for me, and in doing so had lost all connection to tradition and authority.

There was no longer a distinction between god and anything else. By this time I no longer had a connection to religion. I was living a completely spiritual, and completely secular, life.

And then Dawkins had to spoil it all. He started the out campaign, and made me think about things a little more clearly.

What, exactly, did the word "God" mean?

I had to admit, that for most people, "God" did not equal the sum total of a secular universe. And I began to think that perhaps it was a little dishonest to use the word in a way in which almost no one else used it.

So I put a scarlet A on my site, and wrote a post, explaining my position.

But I think I'm a little clearer about that position, now.

To be concluded...