There is No Babysitter
I am wearing a beanie today because I’m feeling tough. What I’m about to say isn’t going to be popular with some people, but I’m feeling up to the task of being disliked for my opinions.
First, a bit of context. Through the power of Facebook, I have reconnected with many of my friends from childhood. Up until my early twenties, I was a born-again Christian. I lost my faith in God when I was excommunicated from the church for having pre-marital sex. Almost all of the people I know from those days are still practicing Christians. I see their requests for prayer, photos from church services and Biblical quotes in my feed all the time. I let these religious posts slide by — aware that by saying how I really feel will bring unnecessary conflict and disagreement.
But it makes me wonder why there is no one from my past who has given up their faith. Is it possible that I am the only one, or are other people tip-toeing around the issue the same way as I have?
One of my friends, George, has bucked the trend. He is an atheist and actively challenges the fairytales he used to believe in. Recently he contacted me to help him write an article for a major atheist website. Talking to him has inspired me to be transparent about my own position on God, the Bible and the institution of the church.
Then the other day, I read about a young Christian woman, barely out of her teens, who was dying from complications following a lung transplant. Although I didn’t know her, my friends did, and they were begging God for a miracle. I have no doubt that if anyone had the ear of God, it was these people. Strong, committed, faithful, righteous, dedicated and sincere. And yet their God sat on his hands, did nothing, and the young woman died. Don’t tell me He wanted her in heaven more than her young husband wanted to watch her grow old with him. That kind of God is a bastard, and I want nothing to do with Him.
I am here to declare that I don’t believe in God, that the Bible is nothing more than a historical narrative, and that the Christian church does more damage than good.
What might be confusing is that in my ‘about me’ speech, I speak about angels. Surely if I believe in angels, then I must believe in God? No, I don’t — for me the two things are completely unrelated. Angels aren’t all-powerful gods who demand worship or else they will punish me (in hell for eternity). There isn’t any old man with a beard in the sky. I feel the swirling eddies of our connected souls and I choose to imagine that mysterious energy as angels. They’re a metaphor, rather than a literal interpretation.
I can’t call myself an atheist because of my belief in this mystical force — but perhaps that force is simply a thing we have yet to find an explanation for, the same way that thunder and lightning once used to be seen as supernatural. I guess I don’t really have it all figured out. But that’s okay. I might not know what is real, but I do know what isn’t.
Pema Chödrön sums it up best ~
Theism is a deep-seated conviction that there’s some hand to hold: if we just do the right things, someone will appreciate us and take care of us.
Nontheism is relaxing with the ambiguity and uncertainty of the present moment without reaching for anything to protect ourselves. Nontheism is finally realizing there is no babysitter you can count on.
― Pema Chödrön
There is no babysitter, my friends. We all have to take care of ourselves, and each other.
18 thoughts on “Self Portrait 365|92 • There is No Babysitter”
I am so there with you! I was raised in a fundamentalist Christian faith. By my mid-twenties, I too walked away … while my newly ex-husband remained. He even tried to enforce control over the religious education of our then 1.5 year old son in our separation agreement — just to give you an idea of what I dealt with back then. I refused.
Fast forward eighteen years. My ex passed away unexpectedly at the young age of 46. In a flurry of shock and grief, the Facebook re-connections started. As a result, for the last 6 years, I’ve watched their messages of faith, judgement, and impending apocalypse float by on my news feed. It got to the point where I had to change the settings so that I wouldn’t see some of the worst. Their message offended me, riled me, made me want to speak up.
But I don’t. It’s like you say, I don’t want to be the cause of unnecessary conflict and disagreement. My brand new and awesome husband has made a valid point on more than one occasion: why is it okay for them to proclaim their beliefs from the rooftops, and say what ever they want with the thin veil of faith wrapped around their words, and yet I feel I must remain silent?
It’s a strange thing to feel silenced – a reluctance to cause offense to others while putting up with it ourselves. I think it’s because religious people see their words as encouraging and supportive and don’t imagine they could be upsetting.
Also, I tend to feel as though all I have to say is argumentative rather than positive. Perhaps we need a new language that says what we do want rather than what we don’t…?
You’re right … I do think they really believe they’re spreading ‘the good news’. You also make a valid point, about being argumentative, but then are we caught in the inbetween, where speaking and silence are both inadequate?
If there is a language, I wonder what it would be … you’ve got me thinking now. 🙂
I’m thinking too. I’ll let you know if I figure it out 😉
What a perfect summarization. Love this.
Thank you ♥
I was raised Catholic, but my family was never intensely churchgoing. I haven’t set foot in a church in years now. Even as a kid though, I was a skeptic. I’d seen too many bad things that my praying had done nothing to alleviate. Now I just feel sad for people who cling to religion, like they’re too afraid to face reality without that comforting ‘God’ and the promise of an afterlife. I do however, feel that I am spiritualist, and like to think there’s more to life and our existence than just these bodies and the thoughts in our heads.
I’d like to think there is more as well — but I’m still not sure. It’s a dilemma 🙁
I don’t identify as an atheist, although that is what I am. I don’t care what other people believe or don’t believe. I prefer to judge a person on their actions..not their beliefs.
That being said, the concept of a God just seems like a fairy tale to me. It makes no sense..I went to Catholic school and I know, even as a kid, I didn’t believe…I just didn’t admit that to myself until many years later.
Good point about judging people on what they do – in the end that’s all that matters. Unless, of course, they are recommending I pray as a solution to my problems, or that God will take care of everything, then I get a bit annoyed.
Hi Katie! I’ve missed you sweet girl! I wish I knew how to answer this but that has been my problem for the last year. I cannot figure out what I believe. I tend to believe more in karma and good gets good and yes that there are people in my life that have passed on that may be watching over me but with the big guy I just can’t get there. I grew up in a Christian household my dad was a preacher and was taught to believe in God but he became so disillusioned that he quit going to church period. I have had so many happy things in my life lately that I guess I just don’t want to push the fates so have kept my mouth shut and I thought I was trying to find my faith. I tried to pray but feel silly and like a fraud. I don’t know where I’m at actually and have been so confused. I don’t believe in Heaven and a Hell. I don’t think if I do something wrong, something so insanely ridiculous as premarital sex (even though I’ve been married for 23 years you reason for being kicked out these are the reasons I don’t believe in religion). I believe that if you put good, positive things out in the world that is what you will get back but I cannot honestly say I believe in God but I don’t really know what I believe it’s something I’ve been trying to figure out and put a “name” too I guess.
I do believe there is more good in the world than bad, which is why the concept of everyone having to battle their ‘sinful’ nature seems unhelpful.
I think we should call ourselves ‘verygoodpeoplewhotrytobekind-erians’
I’m an ex-mormon atheist. Your post rings true with me too. I don’t believe in any otherworldly force at all since these days science is my religion. There needs to be more room for this perspective. Folks seem to think that it’s just a jab at them. No. It’s a nonbelief system. Move along.
I totally agree.
Okay, so, I believe what my father used to say, when he was alive; and, the Pope recently said . . . hey, its not that complicataed . . . “Live and let Live.” <3
I guess we know where you got your story of the young girl who died. I must say that it was with disappointment that I read that paragraph in your post. Although I obviously believe that each person has the right to believe what they want to believe and to say what they want to say…I also believe that it is wrong to take information you read in someone else’s blog and use it to support your own opinion. Not once in my post did I ever say that I believed that God wanted our friend more than her husband did. As much as you don’t believe in God…I believe with the same depth IN Him. Above all though, your paragraph where you wrote about our precious friend caused hurt to me in a time when I and my family are already grieving. Maybe next time, use your own stories and experiences and leave mine alone. I feel that you dishonoured the memory of our friend and the faith that she had – a faith that sustained her through the most horrific of times.
I am sorry you feel I have added to your pain and disrespected the memory of your friend – that wasn’t my intention.
The story of your friend’s struggle didn’t come from you, I read about it in an online news article in October. The information I was reacting to came from that public story.
“Even those who never knew her were praying for a miracle,” but “God could have healed her but he had something better for her,” were the words I found difficult to process — it wasn’t anything you wrote.
This might not be my story, but I haven’t been able to stop thinking about what happened. I find comfort and clarity writing about my feeling here on my blog. I’m guessing you experience the same thing.
I am happy you can rely on your faith to get you through difficult times. Your certainty about what you believe is without question and I wish you nothing but good things and happiness in your life. But I am walking a different path which means I experience and react to the world differently from you.
Thank you for taking the time to share your perspective. Even though you might not believe me, my heart is breaking for you.
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