There seems to be a lot of disagreement about what the word atheism is allowed mean, among atheists as well as among theists. Almost as though it is difficult to understand an large group designation being erroneously simplified, or even vilified. Which is laughable since all belief systems/religions have had that experience throughout their history, no matter how universal many of their core values may be.
So when I use the term atheism, what do I mean? Not for all who claim the word, but for me personally?
I mean I have considered (and am involved in ongoing reassessment of) the idea of a god or gods existing, both in the forms depicted by major religions as well as in a variety of creative and more scientifically plausible forms, and have concluded that it just doesn’t resonate as truth for me.
Here’s the closest I come to a version of god: I can imagine the possibility of a sort of universe-sized organism, but since I would be less than the tiniest atom and since there has been no word from a central processing unit, I suspect it is more likely jellyfish than human. Regardless, when it comes to living out my own brief life I look elsewhere for strength and inspiration.
[I don’t mind if you believe, of course. Provided you are being a halfway decent sort of person most of the time, have as many gods as suits you. Of course I take issue with things like genocide and oppression (whether they are done in the name of religion or not) but I am not one to lump all believers into the same inferno just because a handful who operate under the same group name are acting out of line with common decency.]
I do believe there are many more connections in this experience we call life than we have yet begun to feel the outlines of scientifically. Things we call spiritual because we do not understand how they work but know them to be true nonetheless. The power of meditation, the possibility of past lives, the ever evolving consciousness of our species, of our planet, of the universe. These and so many more, all stretching like spiderwebs across time and space, unseen but felt. Threads of magic clinging to us, streaming along behind us as we go about our small routines, fundamentally no different from a lark or a slug.
One particle knows but cannot know but does know that another exists and has been changed. To my mind the greatest mysteries do not fear the unraveling of their secrets, and remain beautiful even if full understanding is achieved.
Physical touch. Music. The right words. A moment of quiet. “Good physics,” as my high school teacher called the never ending quest to understand how things work. And always the churning, shifting rhythms of our surroundings, of our world, of the universe. That is where I go for solace, for rejuvenation, for celebration.
Sometimes it is in a church. Sometimes a yoga class. Sometimes a concert hall. Sometimes a rainstorm or an intoxicating whiff of jasmine and citrus or a gently curving smile.
Always I can find it amongst my very favorite trees, the scraggly, wise, humorous oaks that cling to our grassy hills, that appear flimsy as tumbleweeds but have evolved to withstand all but the fiercest of wildfires.
Always when outside under the moon.
Always in the soft breath and fluttering eyelashes of a beloved at rest.
That’s my atheism.
As David Whyte says, “It doesn’t interest me if there is one God or many gods… I want to know if you know how to melt into that fierce heat of living, falling toward the center of your longing.”