Sunday, July 26, 2009

Satan[-atan-atan-atan...]!?

My dear mommy found out that I'm an atheist about a month and a half ago when we were watching Hardball w/ Chris Matthews! They were talking about gay marriage, and my mom asked me what I thought about it. I said that I thought it was fine. I believed I had already explained to her why I thought that. You know, America isn't a theocrazy, we should have freedom of choice, blah, blah, blah... But then she asked me if I was still a Christian, as if that had anything to do with whether or not I thought gay marriage was ok. The two are completely unrelated1. But I didn't want to lie to my mother, so I hesitantly told her that I was no longer a Christian. Then she asked me if I was an atheist, and I hesitantly nodded my head. This is an extremely serious issue to my parents. They still believe in hell. My dad saw it with his own eyes! Well, not his literal, physical eyes... his spirit had separated from his body at the time... but you know... he could still, uh... "feel" things... um... anyway... [SHUT UP! I DON'T WANT TO HEAR ANY QUESTIONS FROM YOU! THIS IS FUCKING BULLSHIT!] She said that she was extremely disappointed in me and she thought that this was the one thing I would retain out of all the things I had been brought up [read: held down] to believe, and my mom is one of those people who seemingly does not distinguish belief in God from morality. I think I said that there wasn't any real evidence of God's existence. This is where things got "interesting." She said something like "You don't think Satan has anything to do with [your loss of faith]?" She was already crying by this point in the conversation. I was thinking two things: (1) I feel really bad that you're crying right now, and (2) I can't believe you brought up Satan! As if there's any more evidence for the existence of Satan than for the existence of God. Then, my mom told me I was going to hell. I'll remind you that she was crying at the time. She wasn't making a judgment against me, per se, just an "observation" based on what she had always believed; an observation of something she considered a tragedy. It has long been prophecized that in the last daze, even the very elect shall fall away, if that were possible, depending on whether or not you're a Calvinist or an Arminianist or a thousand other possibilities... "they follow the lies—the fables men devise"... anyway, I'm diverging wildly off-topic. At this point, the conversation abruptly ended because at that moment, my dad emerged from the bathroom. My mom has always been good about not ratting me out to my dad, who has a tendency to, let's say, "overreact," so, she just kind of hid her face and pretended to look for something in the chest of drawers or whatever. She had to go to work shortly thereafter, anyway. The next day, mom basically acted like nothing had happened, which I suppose is a good thing. I guess that's cool that she can tell me I'm going to hell one day, and the next, act like I'm still the same person to her... My dad still doesn't know. He's always been one of those "I brought you into this world; I can take you out" types.

Anyway, what I wanted to talk about is the idea of Satan in religion/culture. In Christianity, Satan slowly evolved over about 2 or 3 thousand years into the "Accuser of the Brethren" [and Sistren too, I suppose] and the "Father of Lies/Liars." He must be a busy guy. It's kind of hard for me to imagine the energy it would take. He must be some kind of sadist, taking such pleasure in constantly fucking with people. Especially 6 billion people. The "Church of Satan" sees "Satan" [more appropriately, in my opinion] as a symbol. They don't use the word "accuser;" they use the word "questioner," and he's not the questioner of the regular guy, but the questioner of authority. Looking at it from that perspective, the whole idea seems slightly less nefarious, doesn't it? I don't associate asking questions with the desire to deceive. In fact, what's wrong with asking questions if you're looking for "the truth"? But in religion the form of Christianity my parents practice, it is taken as axiomatic that the truth is already known, and any truth we need to know in the future, God will reveal to us, so there's no point to seeking new information. In fact, any new information that conflicts with this "truth" is casually [or sometimes violently] dismissed as a "Lie From The Pit Of Hell!" After all, what was the original sin? Wasn't it curiosity? Obviously, this is a very "good v. evil," "black and white" world view.

In reality, we all know, and my parents would readily admit, that "good" and "evil" aren't so black and white. It is even said that "Satan comes as an angel of light." This is another way of saying "the road to hell is paved with good intentions." There are probably a bunch of other cliches that mean the same thing.

My point is that my parents have it backwards: "truth" is discovered by asking questions, and blindly trusting in authority is an easy way for evil to be accomplished, even if that is not the intent. Christians have no more of a magical ability to discern between "good" and "evil" than any other type of person. Was the average German any less "Christian" than the average American in the 1930s and 1940s? Was the average Bush voter any less Christian than the average Gore, Kerry, or Nader voter? I highly doubt it. Christianity is correct about the idea that lies can and should be combated with truth. I like the metaphor of "shining a light rather than cursing the darkness." The problem is that their idea of "shining a light" is simply "proclaiming the truth of Christ." There's no concern for refining their ideas about anything through independent sources. The perspective is not that truth is something that we need to discover on our own, it is that we already know the truth and we need to spread it as far as we can. Let me make this perfectly clear: Nobody knows the final, ultimate, absolute truth about anything. All we can know are facts, and we can refine our knowledge of those facts through science and reasoned logic. If somebody has another way of increasing the size of the global knowledge pool, I'd really like to know. Thanks.



1The "problem" with gay marriage in this country is that marriage has two meanings: a legal meaning, and a religious meaning. I think these two aspects of marriage should be completely separated. But we have combined the two into one and we still call it marriage, and we've been doing this for hundreds if not thousands of years, so it's going to be difficult to undo.

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