atheism & agnosticism & religion.

There's a version of atheism and its brothers nihilism and humanism that is beautiful and hopeful, a call to see our entire existence as absurd and to hold hands as our conscience observation of an indifferent universe flickers out individually and to search for meaning in each other in the mean time. Then there's a disgusting version marked by New Atheists desiring to proselytize and, dare I say, evangelize to non-believers, picking fights on Facebook and Reddit. And there's a gross certainty that comes from atheists, especially, in my experience, those who go from believing really hard in their "one true way" into believing "no true way", as is the tendency for a cynic when burned by faith and hope.

I dislike apologetics, arguments, wagers and all manner of things that involve trying to prove your core beliefs and experiences, to coerce someone into agreeing with you. To me, it's as nerdy as debating whether or not a druid can use a bow weapon for melee damage while shapeshifted; it's a way to have fun, picking something apart, trying to figure out the rules, but to me it's just a way to avoid playing the game, to evade actually describing your feelings and your personal connection to or disconnection from the universe. The way you've experienced church, the ministry, your parents' version of religion, your partner's faith or non-faith and all kinds of social factors weigh in on whether you'll carry your religion along for a long or short time. People have been burned by false shepherds and those who carry the flag of Jesus but don't contain the righteousness of their cause, and that makes my stomach turn. Then there's those who wield religion like a weapon, as a political tool to incite jingoism and loyalty to a party and to men who have little to do with a 2015-year old carpenter. As well as people attaching their God to ideologies religion has no place in, such as economics, history, physics, sports, business, government and war, failing to recognize their own biases and proclivities toward certain ways of thinking. Modern American Christianity is a string of words meaning oral histories transcribed centuries of years later, propagated by governments and elitist clergy until this very day, passing through translation and interpretation of many millions of men, each trying to ascertain universal truths in what can feel at times like a cold, hard, chaotic plane of existence.

In my experience, there's an underlying falsehood that comes with believing in a perfect deity that wants you to be perfect all the time; you either fall before the thing prostrate and ashamed daily begging forgiveness for having genitals and unclean thoughts and illicit relationships and greed and pride and jealousy and for being born cursed into a cursed world or you can think of yourself as a good person, as the most civil, democratic, compassionate animal that exists on the Earth. Emphasizing sin too deeply and crippling fear of being ostracized prevent us from coming together as a singular body and confessing and washing our hands in the presence of a community of like-minds, because we feel alone in the dark, in our own personal dark, as though we're dry bushes waiting to be burnt up in the presence of holiness. God hates us, or loves us, depending who you ask, which chapter of which book you read. The religion I've known at its worst feeds on misanthropic reviling at humanity and hatred of the self and "Us vs. Them" thinking against the "world" (other people just like you and me who have a different relationship to the universe, or to God, or whatever you prefer to call the unsolvable mystery). Praying for apocalypse and hell and divine retribution on a galactic scale does not a good man make. The best response, I earnestly believe, one can have in the face of such things is to see God as love and to try desperately and purposefully to see the face of God in every person you meet.

So I wholeheartedly believe the best approach to the ineffable spirituality that seems to persist in even the most staunchly-opposed cold-hearted Richard Dawkins-esque sons of bitches is a laissez-faire one, shrugging your shoulders and saying "I don't know" when you don't. You don't need a pastor, a priest, a rabbi, a yogi to pray, meditate, celebrate ritual and have a personal connection to the people around you and the universe at large. And you should let people have hope in what they have hope in. Anger pushes people away, not toward your cause. To go around destroying Heaven for people who will rightfully label you a demon is uncouth. To call someone an antichrist for not understanding the world as you do is equally unfair. Be as good a person as you can to as many people as you can and otherwise keep your head down and don't be a dick.

Adam Papes