Saturday, July 12, 2008

Open Letter to My Readers: My Search for the Truth

Dear Family, Friends, and Blog Reader(s),

This will be the 200th post on my Cycle Ninja blog, and I'd like to use it as a way of writing all of you to let you know about a few changes in my life. To wit: I'm no longer being shy or apologetic about the fact that I am not only no longer a Catholic; but am, instead, a professed atheist.

Growing up in such a devoutly Catholic family, this might be seen by many of you as the ultimate no-no. But as Martin Luther himself famously said, "Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise."

I've been blogging about this for the past few weeks, because I opened a discussion with an extended (and very dear) family member on this subject. To put it mildly, it came to her as quite a shock and was/is very disturbing. But as I have done my best to explain, my lack of belief in the supernatural doesn't really have anything to do with my feelings toward the Catholic Church. Or rather, let me say that no matter what religion contributed to my upbringing, the outcome probably would have been the same. The conclusions I have drawn have come about as a result of my rational mindset and my critical thinking skills.

Looking back over my life, I realize that I should have taken the road that my friend, Pete, took: I should have gotten into computer science rather than communications (yes, Mom, you were right about that). Because my mind is rational, logical, and skeptical, and well-suited to drawing up contingencies and testing situations. For this reason, my ability to look at the hard facts of the world as I see them, without any prior conceptions or belief systems, leads me to conclude that there is no God, or, as Pete (also a former Catholic) said, at least not the involved God we were taught to believe in when we were growing up. And while it took me a long time to come to this understanding, again, looking back over my life, I now realize the basic skepticism and lack of compatibility with a religious viewpoint were there all along, it just took me a while to recognize them.

Again, I don't know what kind of pre-conceived notions many of you might have about what atheism is, but I think comedian Julia Sweeney made a good point: the word atheism implies you are against religion, therefore most people feel you are rejecting religion or fighting against it out of a sense of rebellion or even vindictiveness. Or as Pete recently stated, the concept of atheism seems too dogmatic (grrr...Pete, we need to discuss that).

This isn't necessarily the case. Most atheists see themselves as outside the realm of the argument. They see the world as full of natural wonder that doesn't need a supernatural creator or a guiding hand. There is plenty of overwhelming evidence that not only could the universe have come into being without a creator, that's exactly what, in fact, happened.

Which is not to say that there aren't atheists out there who hold grudges against religion or work to counter their more nefarious effects. And I'm honest enough to admit I'm one of them. I have plenty of problems with the Catholic Church, and not because I was ever molested by a clergyman (I wasn't). The Church has much to answer for, and I am by no means the only person in the world who thinks it's high time all churches and denominations stop getting a free pass when someone commits a crime under the steeple.

But as I've also tried to point out, the atheism and the anger are two separate points. The one is a recognition that there is no need for a super-being in the universe. All the "evidence" for the existence of a god has a certain amount of "you'll have to trust me on this." Just because it's written down in a "holy" book, or just because billions of people believe it, or just because there's an oral tradition involving "witnesses," it still doesn't make it true.

And no, science can't explain everything. I can't think of a more dull universe as one in which there is nothing further to investigate. The searching for knowledge is the whole point of what makes science so wonderful--literally, filled with wonder.

As to the anger--in my personal case, it comes from a deep sense of loathing whenever I see injustice. And I see the Church as abusing its position of trust and moral authority to take advantage of its followers.

Not that I think the Catholic Church is the ultimate example of hypocrisy. There are plenty of religions out there with which I have a problem. Click on the link for "Operation Clambake" on the right side of this blog if you want the truth about the ultimate religious fraud. But the Church is not blameless by any means.

And what really, really gets me going more than anything is that not only do the religious leaders of the Church not get punished for their involvement in (or at least the blind eye turned to) the ongoing sex scandals, they get rewarded in spite of it. There's a new movie coming out soon called "Vows of Silence," which documents a known pedophile priest who never faced the music because of his close ties to not only Benedict XVI, but John Paul II. I haven't seen it yet, but will post what will be what I hope to be as unbiased of a review when I can. I think it'll be worth watching.

To their credit, certain church leaders are finally getting the message that they need to clean up their act. This is always the case: The rot at the core is always best dealt with from within. But it's still not enough to counter the flaws of the basic premise for the Church's existence:

There is no credible evidence that there is a god.

And again, I hope nobody here takes this as a personal rejection. You are still my family and friends, and you still mean a great deal to me. But I cannot pretend that we hold this common belief. My passion for the truth will not allow it.

The aforementioned family member asked me how being an atheist affected me emotionally--how I was able to find peace, how I was able to be happy with these convictions, how I was able to think that there is no higher purpose to life.

Again, don't confuse the issue. This is a search for the truth. I take great satisfaction in being right (if you knew my childhood, the intellect was really the only thing I had over the other boys, so of course, it's a bit of a psychological hang-up that I have to be right). This isn't about being happy, or at peace, or comfortable with such a chaotic world.

It's about facing the truth without flinching, and being able to deal with the consequences of those conclusions.

To fully answer the question, no, I am not at peace, nor am I happy or contented. I never have been, and I doubt I ever will be. Some people never are. But I am a creature of intellect, and what my mind tells me is that this is the truth.

Here I stand.

I cannot do otherwise.



(PS: If anyone wishes to contact me about this, by all means, feel free.)

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