Tuesday, May 30, 2006

God/dess/less Part One

I am an agnostic. For those unfamiliar with that term, it means that I think "god" is unknowable, and therefore, not important. I'm not saying that a supreme being CANNOT exist, just that I feel it unlikely. I'm also unwilling to say that the scientific method will tell us everything (even though it does tell us a lot). I believe in the general goodness of mankind: we have evolved over time, and we will continue to evolve if we stay vigilant. People will do the right thing if given a real opportunity to do so. There's more to it, but that's the nitty-gritty of it.

Along the same vein, I do not believe in the Christian god: all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good. It is logically impossible to be all three in this world.

If you had known me when I was a child, you would be shocked that I am not a Christian. I was raised the first child of a middle-class, Christian Conservative family in the heart of North Dakota. I used to be a whole-hearted Christian: my allowance went to Africa every week; I would walk to church the days my mom couldn't drive me, in my white tights and pretty shoes, crunching over the white snow because I wanted to feel loved. The music would fill me; I sang my little heart out.

I knew I didn't have much to offer the church; I was small and didn't have a lot of money. But I tried my best: I made sure to learn my Sunday school lessons perfectly (to my Sunday school teacher's consternation: I asked too many questions and talked too much). I handed out drinks and cookies, serving myself last because that's what god wanted me to do, right? Every week, I would draw a picture for Jesus, which I put into the offering plate, until one of the adults in church (cruelly and publicly) informed me that the plate didn't go to god, it went to the church. And the church didn't need bad drawings.

There were a lot of things that gradually lead me away from the faith. First, there was how horrible people at church treated each other. My mom would come away from church snappish and unhappy. People told me things at church, like "Balloons don't belong at church" and "girls MUST wear skirts" and "Eve is responsible for original sin, so all little girls must be extra good to make up for it". These people were not anything like my friend Jesus.

The next few things were a result of that evil public education. Even though all of my teachers were Christian, and most actually went to my church, they still were teaching us critical thinking. I remember quite vividly my first grade teacher, Mrs. Gilge going "You should not just blindly follow the crowd. Think for yourself, don't be a mindless sheep." Then, that very Sunday, the pastor was telling us how Jesus was our Sheppard, and we should be willing sheep.

Then, we learned about our namesakes. This was partly my parents fault, and partly my school's fault, but mostly my "fault". My sisters, and most of my classmates, got good Christian names. I got "Cassandra": a Trojan princess who was also a priestess of Athena. When we learned about our names in school, I started to be fascinated with Greek mythology. I learned how different myths were translated differently. I learned about mythical evolution and how it corresponded to which tribes won which battles.

One day, I was reading about Perseus. Mainly, how he was the result of a god impregnating the virgin mother, Danae. "Hehe" thought I, in my 10 year-old self- righteousness. "Who would believe such silly stuff? A child being born of a virgin because "god" did it....wait..." I experienced a heavy moment of cognitive dissonance.

By the time I was hitting my teen years, I was having a full-blown crisis of faith. I couldn't talk to this to my parents: my mom by this time was a full-of-zeal born-again, and my dad was a don't-question Easter/Christmas Christian. I went to the pastor.

The pastor, Pastor Arlen, will forever have my respect. I was a confused, smart-aleck teen looking to someone to justify the universe. The pastor did this in the weirdest way possible: every two weeks, we would play chess. The loser had to pay the winner a dozen cookies. During these matches, he tried to explain his wisdom to me.

He tried his best with me, and I think he's one of two pastors I've ever had, (and I've had a lot) that ever gave a damn. And what ended up happening? He got fired from the church.


At 9:45 AM, Anonymous Blaine said...

I was a full blown atheist for years. Finally I worked to a 'we can't know so why should we care' kind of agnostic. Now I am a confused believer, I understand that I am a creature and have a creator. I also understand that what I think and do is important -- I have free will, and mercy and love from my creator but also the ability to exchange that mercy and love for slavery to sin (call it wrong doing if you want). I used to think that right/wrong was personal, that wrong doing only happened when you hurt other people. Then I read Plato's "republic", and "the ring" and other secular works regarding morals and ethics. Truth is a real thing outside of us. To think other wise is childish.

I really enjoy your pages because I think you are kind of traveling similar roads of thought that I used to travel. Please do yourself a favor and read "Mere Christianity" by C.S. Lewis. Also, try praying -- I was told by a friend to simply talk to the wide open space above my head and say "If you exist, if you care about me and what I do, show me". Then wait and listen for an answer.

At 6:02 PM, Blogger Goddess Cassandra said...

I'm not going to be a believer, barring some impressive evidence. The Christian god is evil, and there is no way that I'm following him, even if he did exist.

"The Ring" is hardly secular.

I'll think about reading "mere Christianity", but I haven't liked Lewis's other writing, so I doubt I'll get anything out of this.

There is an objective truth: but is not valuable to us unless we can discover it. If it is outside of our knowledge, we might as well come up with our own relative truthes: truth is only useful to humans if we can use it.

Everyone tells me to "pray". I used to pray, and it did nothing. I'm very introspective, so I think it is unnecessary for me to direct the thought.

So, thanks for the generic post with the common western imagery, but I doubt that I'm going to see the light unless I get hit on a pressure point.

At 2:49 PM, Anonymous blain said...

Objective truths are knowable -- there are truths like 1+1 = 2 etc..., there are objective truths from observation like sunrises in the east, people need air etc... the exisitance of god is also an objective truth -- every event has a cause --> causes have a causes --> the prime cause that caused all other causes is god (and there are other proofs).

Now, I don't think you disagree with this -- it is the devinely revealed truths (regarding the nature of god) that you take exception to. I don't blame you on this -- for one, how do we sort out a divinely revealed truth from a scam-in-god's-name? But just because there are scams doesn't mean there arn't also devinely revealed truths.

I decided that the correct interpretation of the nature of God would have to "make sense". If parts of it were going to be mystereous, fine, but overall it had to be logical.

Your statement "The Christian god is evil, and there is no way that I'm following him, even if he did exist." highly commendable! no body should follow an evil god -- but permit a few questions: How do you know he is evil?

How do know anything is evil? do you know it is evil becasue you know what "good" looks like? if so How do you know what good looks like?

I believe we are able to know moral truths because there are first principles that allow us to tell good from evil. I think the reason we know good from evil is more than some product of evolution. What do you think about this?

You had a run of bad luck with the people you were exposed to growing up (the crazies telling you that Eve was responsible for original sin therfore girls needed to behave etc...). Heck, that kind of guilt trip is abusive. I am sorry that happened to you.

Good talking to you!


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