Is my disbelief a blessing?
Sometimes yes, and sometimes no.
It depends on what is stressing
Me, and how my struggles go.
I have no need for confessing,
“Asking God” is much too slow
Since it’s just the same as guessing
While I bow my head just so
I am glad no god is messing
With my actions just for show
And I think it’s worth expressing
When the time is apropos.
Sorry, that was just a quick little nothing, in order to talk about this opinion piece by Susan Jacoby at the New York Times, “The Blessings of Atheism”. It’s a very pro-atheism piece (as well it should be, with Jacoby a proudly “out” atheist), prompted by the Newtown shootings (or, more precisely, prompted by a conversation that was prompted by the shootings), and the observation that consolation in times of grief is seen as wholly the jurisdiction of those with faith.
I, of course, disagree (and have written about it elsewhere), but agree with Jacoby that this view appears ubiquitous in the media. We are called to renew our faith, perhaps precisely because such events (as they should) shake the belief in a loving god to its very foundation.
IT is primarily in the face of suffering, whether the tragedy is individual or collective, that I am forcefully reminded of what atheism has to offer. When I try to help a loved one losing his mind to Alzheimer’s, when I see homeless people shivering in the wake of a deadly storm, when the news media bring me almost obscenely close to the raw grief of bereft parents, I do not have to ask, as all people of faith must, why an all-powerful, all-good God allows such things to happen.
It is a positive blessing, not a negation of belief, to be free of what is known as the theodicy problem. Human “free will” is Western monotheism’s answer to the question of why God does not use his power to prevent the slaughter of innocents, and many people throughout history (some murdered as heretics) have not been able to let God off the hook in that fashion.
Mind you, I wouldn’t have written the same piece Jacoby does (for one thing, hers is shockingly lacking in doggerel rhyme, and for another, our personal journeys are of course different), but it is well worth the read, and it is a breath of fresh air to see in the mainstream media (although, of course, it will be dismissed by a great many precisely because it is in that liberal bastion, the NY Times).