And this is the forth in my series on my beliefs. Please take a peek at Part 1 about what I’m doing, Part 2 for a bit of background, and Part 3 for the first half of my de-conversion from Christianity. On with part 4:
Mom’s death was not a huge game-changer for my thinking about faith and belief in God. Emotionally, watching my siblings care for her as she died, seeing her become less and less responsive over time, and finally hugging her as she died, I was beaten up, but I wasn’t angry. I didn’t get mad at God for taking her. intellectually, I knew that people just sometimes die from cancer, being a good person or a bad one made no difference. I love her and missed her, but I accepted her death for what is was. She was now gone, and I’d never get to see her again.
It’s not directly related to the whole This I Believe topic, but I want to mention one more thing here about my Mom’s death. I think I came across as a bit emotionally distant during this time. I didn’t do much crying or anything those last few weeks. I don’t have a real good explanation for why that is, as I can be a real crybaby sometimes. Maybe I was trying to be strong for my family members, as that was the only way I felt I could help. I don’t know. I’ll still ball my eyes out hearing Can’t Help Falling in Love With You though.
I do think that perhaps with Mom’s death I gave myself permission to continue my line of reasoning to the end. I had already thrown out almost all of the Catholic dogma I had been raised on. I didn’t believe in a heaven or hell anymore, and I didn’t think the bible was anything more than badly written history. And now I started asking myself why I really believed there was a god anymore anyway.
I think the thing holding me back was the whole origin of the universe thing. Why is there something rather than nothing? But then I started taking classes on physics for school. And it turned out,that under conditions very different from our everyday world there are some events that occur , as far as we can tell, without causes, like the radioactive decay of atoms. This is due to quantum effects that only affect matter on the very tiniest of scales, far below anything any human encounters in the world around us. But these things happening on tiny scales do directly affect us. From the radiation from the atoms decaying that mutates our DNA, to the quantum tunneling used in some very high precision microscopes, to the interaction between all atoms of all matter everywhere, the quantum world is the foundation of the world we see and experience.
Our best evidence at this time points to a Big Bang 14.7 billion years ago, when all the energy that would ever exist in our universe was created. The kicker was, the Big Bang started out from an infinitesimally small region, so small that those weird quantum effects were in control. I’m no high-energy physicist, but it appears that the possibility exists that under these quantum conditions, the universe could have popped into existence with no external cause.
I’m not sure why there is a universe, or where it came from. But, I suspect that those questions also may not have an answer. One thing I’ve learned is that at extreme scales and energies, our human intuition is a lousy guide to how reality actually behaves. We’re trained from childhood to ask Who, What, Where, When, Why and How. But I suspect that those questions may be useless here. I think of it like asking “What is south of the south pole?”. It’s a meaningless question.
And so my journey was pretty much complete, but I couldn’t let anyone other than Chey know about it. One didn’t talk about religion (or the lack thereof) in polite company. And everyone knows those atheists are all mean, hedonistic, immoral louts. Where did I go from here? Well, like I tend to do, I started reading.
Right about this time a book came out that was to have a transformational effect on me. It’s titled The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins. Here was someone saying what I had been thinking. Being an atheist did not make one immoral. An atheist draws his morality from the world around us, from our evolutionary history just like believers do, but are unwilling to admit. Morality existed long before any of our modern religious texts (like the Code of Hammurabi), and even chimps exhibit altruism and familial love.
But my biggest takeaway from that book was the strength to stand up and be counted. There are other people out there like me who aren’t afraid to say it in public. We make up a significant portion of the US population, 1.6 percent. Jews make up only 1.7 percent. We fight for our country, we make scientific discoveries, we’ve done and do all sorts of things.
And so I’ve come to believe that there are no gods, and I’m willing and proud to say that in public. I invite others, who may be afraid of alienating friends or family, to stand up as well. Don’t be ashamed of who you are. It may be rough for a bit, but those who love you will still love you, and those that abandon you aren’t worth the effort anyway. Thanks for sticking with me so far, and I’ll finish up this series with what I believe in a later post.
EDIT: And here is Part 5