I struggled with my faith for a long time, but it was a religious program that ultimately shattered it. It was a Sunday in the early afternoon, and these guys were talking about the story of Samson, and how he was God’s avenging fist against the Philistines. The story never sat well with me, because Samson really comes off like a prick to me. Sure, he’s killing the enemies of God, but they weren’t his enemies until he gave them his ridiculous and impossible riddle to solve. He then, to continue his tantrum, burns the crops of the innocent people who didn’t actually have anything to do with threats to his wife, then murders 3000 more people, and that’s just the start of the story. He didn’t seem to me to be motivated by God so much as an incurable and disgusting rage that just happened to work out good for the Jews.
That got me thinking about all of the stories, and none of them really makes any sense. I don’t mean in the “it seems nonsensical to have a talking snake tempting Adam and Eve” sort of logistical sense, I mean that almost all of the stories can be explained easiliy away as the stories of an uneducated people who were largely living in slavery and dreaming of the time when their God was going to fix everything for them. And I get that. They are the stories you tell at the end of the day when your life feels like crap, and you just want to have something to believe in that keeps you going and offers some hope. The Lovely Lady and I talk at night about our future, how we’re going to take over the world and make everything better. Some of it is legitimate planning (not to take over the world, but how to get to where we want to be) and some of it is pipe dreaming.
That afternoon, watching that show, I recognized the Bible for what it is. It’s a collection of pipe dreams from a broken people wishing for something better. In a sense, that’s very beautiful, so long as you avoid the angel rapists, the instructions on slavery, the murder of homosexuals, the wrath of God, the ridiculous fables of floods, the horrifying letters to early Christians admonishing them for every last mistake they made, the brutality of the crucifiction, and pricks like Samson. Oh, and you need a pretty big stomach for swallowing all the suspension of disbelief you need to employ to accept a resurrection, miraculous healings, manna from heaven, talking snakes, guys murdering armies with no better weapon than a donkey’s face bits, repopulating the entire world from a small stock of animals and people, people surviving a lion’s den, and a loving God murdering the first born of Egypt.
Suddenly, I felt very, very foolish. I accepted my atheism that day, and I became a loudmouthed atheist at the same moment. I wanted the people I loved to see how foolish they were being, buying into all of this rubbish. I couldn’t help it, and still can’t. I’m proud to be an atheist and I want to unshackle the minds of everyone I know. It’s just who I am.
“Big Ugly” Jim Martin