Thursday, December 29, 2011

My father passed away two days ago. I posted, "It's over. R.I.P. Dad" as my Facebook status to let people know. It was comforting to receive comments and condolences from my friends. Of course, the people with whom I am the closest have been with me and in contact by phone throughout the past few days.

They all must know I'm an atheist. What they might not know is that my father was one too, and he never verbalized anything different during his two year battle with cancer. He faced it bravely and with more dignity than I thought possible, all the while facing what he perceived was impending oblivion. There will be no service, no burial, no headstone. He will be having a military burial at sea, as was his stated wish.

I was comforted by people's comments, all except one. This one was from a Christian coworker that maintains I am seeking Jesus and just don't know it and/or won't admit it. As soon as I saw her name, I knew she would not be able to resist, and I was right. She said her prayers are with me and my family. I appreciate the sentiment, but she had to have consciously said that instead of the more generic "thinking of you" type of statements made by others. I do realize that people might not know what to say to an atheist at times like these, but most people are obviously trying to say what they think will actually be comforting to me.

This feels petty, and I'm not going to say anything to her, but I felt like saying to her, "Don't pray for him. If you think I'm an atheist, you should have met my dad. Even though he was scared of dying and worried about those of us he was leaving behind, he never wavered in his belief that life happens on its terms, not ours. He would not have wanted your prayers."

I know people will say their prayers are with us and they mean well, but it irks me. I feel petty. My problem with it is the propensity some Christians, including my coworker, have for using times like this to attempt to insinuate their deity into the picture. A kinder thing would be to just say, "Diane, I'm sorry for your loss," and let it go at that.

I hope to express this here and not towards anybody else who will say their prayers are with us or that my dad is in Heaven now. Now is not the time for anger, but sadness and acceptance. Carl Sagan's comment about how we are all made of stardust is comforting me now. Everything is recycled, recreated, reforged into something new. My father's ashes may be part of a meteor shower watched by beings in another galaxy millions of years from now, igniting sparks of wonder in a small creature's mind.

I have been that small creature, afraid of the dark, holding onto my father's hand and watching in awe as the lights streaked across the sky. Thank you, dad, and goodbye.

Monday, December 5, 2011

A response to a friend, a follower of Christ

Have you ever read The Chronicles of Narnia? I think there are 7 books in all. They were written by C.S. Lewis, and they, along with The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, are some of the books I've read and re-read the most in my life. They are the closest things to a "Bible" I've got.

Narnia was created and presided over by Aslan. Wikipedia says this:  "Aslan is a talking lion, the King of Beasts, son of the Emperor-Over-the-Sea; a wise, compassionate, magical authority (both temporal and spiritual); mysterious and benevolent guide to the human children who visit as well as guardian and saviour of Narnia. C. S. Lewis described Aslan as an alternative version of Jesus that is: "as the form in which Christ might have appeared in a fantasy world".

I think that your relationship with Jesus must feel similar to Narnians' and the visiting children's relationship with him. The very name "Aslan" fills the characters' psyches with warmth, love, and comfort, or fear and shame, depending on the circumstances. He loves them unconditionally but allows them to have free will even if it means they choose courses of action that end in separation from him.

I would love to have an Aslan! How wonderful that would be! The characters long to be touched by his breath and to bury their faces in his mane. They call his name in times of need, knowing he will respond as he sees fit.

At the end of the last book, Narnia ends and all of the people and creatures that believed in Aslan, or believed in something else that wasn't presented as Aslan but ultimately was, went through a magical doorway to the real Narnia. They discovered that the Narnia they had known was but a shadow of the real Narnia. The further in and higher up they went, the larger and more real it became.
There was no more weakness, pain, or infirmity. All they felt was joy and love. They had died but not really lived until then.

If you haven't read the books, I highly recommend them. When I read that last book, called The Last Battle, I realize C.S. Lewis must have been trying to describe a personal relationship with Jesus and what Heaven must be like. I get that. It sounds wonderful.  My problem is that I know it is fictional. Aslan seems more real to me than Jesus does, in fact. I could just as easily convince myself that Aslan exists as does Jesus. I suppose if Aslan showed up at my doorstep, I'd have to believe in him. So far, though, no deities have come to the door, at least not in the way I need to have it presented to me for it to make sense. Any actual deity, or one with whom I would want to associate, would know this about me and present itself accordingly.

Why the game playing? Why would a deity demand faith without presenting obvious proof? It makes no sense to me! At least Aslan presented himself to people. I mean in a real sense. I would pay attention to a giant talking lion standing in front of me!

The thing about this is that a lot of people make the mistaken assumption that atheists are atheists because they are ignorant about a god or have never sought one. This is so not true!  I believe what you want for me is to have that comforting, loving, protective, guiding relationship with Jesus. I know I could allow myself to be convinced through prayer, reading, and communion with believers, but that is not the same as the actual being presenting itself. Without proof, it's just mind games. The mind is a very powerful thing.

Well I do ramble on, huh? Part of it is that I am finding out what I do believe, and refining it, as I have this type of discussion with people. I become ever more the atheist as I go.