Muke asks, “How can a thinking, rational adult be an atheist?” And robwicks says, “If they are sincere in their search for the truth, God will not abandon them.” When I read that, I just had to respond. My apologies in advance to robwicks, Muke, Aelien or any other person out there who believes in the Hebrew/Christian/Islamic god. More power to you, I say. It is not my desire to put you down or convince you that you are wrong to believe or try to change you to my belief. But the question was asked: How can a thinking, rational adult be an atheist, and I intend to give you my answer.
My family are Mormons. We went to church every Sunday. And what do they teach you in Sunday School? God loves you. God answers prayers. Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. (Luke 11:9)
Well, when I was eleven years old and my stepfather started molesting me, I tested out that precept. I tested it long, hard, and passionately. And guess what?
It didn’t work.
Robwicks says one must be sincere. Let me tell you, when you are down on your knees, begging God to make him stop, stop, stop. You can’t get much more sincere than that.
A few months ago, the leader of the Mormon church was on Larry King, and Mr. King asked him, “Does God always answer prayers?”
And the good old man said, “Yes. He always answers prayers, but sometimes he says no.”
Well, I’m sorry but I consider someone who would say no to an eleven-year-old girl’s prayer that she not be molested anymore to be a monster. Let me raise my hand here and say, “Hey you! God with the long white beard. If you exist, and if you looked down from your perfect Heaven and watched me being molested and then turned your back on my prayers, then I reject you. Utterly.”
And it’s not like mine is an isolated case. The world is filled with monstrous deeds against the helpless. Sexual abuse of children is not uncommon at all. It may seem rare to those who haven’t looked for it, for most of us survivors don’t talk about it casually (or at all) so most of our acquaintances (or even intimates) may be unaware of our history in this regard. But one learns to recognize one’s peers, and a personal story can draw a similar story from another. I have met many other women who were molested as children.
And here’s something else. Most of us can’t get over it. Ever. I’m 56 years old now and my life has been strongly shaped by those things which happened to me all those years ago. And this is also true of my friends who have had similar experiences. Some of these women became super-religious because of their experiences; others moved in the opposite direction. But it makes no difference. Whether we believe in and pray to God or not, we still don’t get over the effects of the abuse.
My experience didn’t turn me into an atheist over night. I attended the church-run seminary for four years. I went to a church-owned university and took religion classes like crazy. I read the scriptures, and other books on religion. I prayed longer, more often, more fervently. I truly searched for answers for a long time. I think if I’d been a Catholic I’d have become a nun.
But within the Christian dogma, I never found an adequate answer to the question of why there is so much evil in the world and why God doesn’t help.
For a while, I denied the existence of any god, what Robwicks calls strong atheism. But now I’m not sure. I’ve had some experiences which don’t seem to fit into a purely atheistic framework. And all those years of praying and religious observance are as hard to get over as the sexual abuse. It’s part of me, and there’s no way to let go of it. I play at goddess worship or paganism, but it’s only play. I don’t really believe in the goddess any more than I believe in the god with the long white beard.
I think there is probably something more to the universe than meets the eye. I hope there is. And perhaps that is what one might call God. But I doubt that when I die that my personality, my Susan-ness, my memories will continue. I wish they would. Like you Christians and Muslims, I would like to be immortal. But wishful thinking don’t make it so.