I admit it. I skipped. I wasn’t in the mood for listing off all those silly things Christians do to try to put one over on atheists, so I’m moving ahead to another new chapter: Reaching Each Other. It was in part inspired by the concert tonight, and in part by my best friend.
It’s basic premise comes from what my friend said last night: that after reading my excerpts, he’d thought to himself, “I can never talk to Dana about Christianity again!” He told me he hadn’t realized just how different our beliefs are until now – then caught himself, and we both had a good laugh over the fact that that’s true, since I don’t believe at all, but definition. This chapter is meant to show that since we’re humans, yes, we do share common experiences. It’s just that Christians interpret those experiences as coming from God while we don’t.
I’ll spare you some of the detail, since I already gushed about the spiritual feelings I have at Peacemakers concerts, and just give you this bit:
That long anecdote is to show you that yes, atheists have deeply spiritual experiences. Things can be sacred and still be secular, strangely enough.
The feeling of awe, almost euphoria, that you might experience witnessing a particularly gorgeous sunset: we feel it, too. We just don’t see anything supernatural.
The absence of any supernatural explanation doesn’t make the world any less wonderful for us. If anything, it’s more wonderful. I’m amazed by physics and cosmology. I’m humbled by our tiny place in this enormous universe. I’m grateful that I live in an age that knows just how vast it all is, how complex, and yet has a remarkable understanding of it. The thrill you feel at the words, “Let there be light,” I feel when I see the equation e=mc2.
These feelings of awe, wonder, and ecstasy aren’t limited to the religious alone. All humans can experience them. And that means yes, I can understand you when you tell me about your spiritual feelings. The only thing difficult for me to comprehend is why you can’t feel them without God. That part, I just have to take your word for.
Since I once shared your faith, I do try to remember what it was like when I saw God all around me, but those memories are fading, and that feeling was never so pervasive as the delight I take in science and humanism. We’ll just have to be satisfied with the fact that we can both have spiritual experiences, which means we can stand side-by-side at sunset reduced to awe-stricken grins.
This may all sound pollyannaish, but considering I’ll have just spent upwards of three chapters being rather merciless about God, religion, the irritating things Christians do, and why it would be best if they just gave the whole proselytizing thing a miss, we’re ready at this point for Pollyanna. I’m hoping to bring them to a point where they can accept that our lack of belief in the supernatural doesn’t make us impoverished Vulcans who don’t have a single human thing in common with them. And I’d really like to take away the monopoly religion has on all things numinous.
I don’t know about you, but it’s really irritating for me to have to explain, ad nauseum, that I can feel all that awe and wonder and no it still doesn’t make me believe in one single supernatural thing.
I think we’ll hit on that old chestnut of “but explaining it takes away the mystery!” too. Anyone else here think things are just as amazing even when we know exactly how they work? Think Dawkins’s “Unweaving the Rainbow.”
And with that, time for me to collapse. Sunday Science is coming up….