I am a non-theist. I don’t happen to believe in a God. Not the Judeo-Christian Yahweh, not Allah, not Dionysus, Osiris, or Krishna. Not even a goddess like Isis or Athena. I’ve got no argument with those who do believe—that is, after all, the definition of ‘faith’. I even envy, sometimes, those for whom faith provides comfort, solace, and peace. But, alas, I myself have not found the rich historical texts that describe the breadth of human deities to be convincing as non-fiction.
What I am not is an agnostic. I do not “not know” if there is a God, any more than I do not “not know” if there is a Zeus, an Easter Bunny, or a Santa Claus. The latter three characters have, at various times and ages, populated the spiritual heart and center of many humans. Seeing the characters as imaginative fictional creations of other humans doesn’t make me wonder if, in their absence, another deity might be behind the throwing of lightning bolts, the delivering of Easter eggs, or the blocking of chimneys during the Winter Solstice. I occasionally enjoy fantasizing about the myths, but, when I’m seeking answers, I look for rational explanations based on our observations and supported by the scientific method.
(Yes, I had the philosophy class in college, too; the one where we wonder if each of us is the only one alive and all other people and things are in and from our imagination. For the purposes of this discourse, let’s accept we’re all here, to some extent or another.)
One of the things I have observed is that many who cite non-belief in “God”, do so with a passion that parallels religious commitment. They join “atheist” organizations, advocate for the restriction or abolition of other religions and their practices, and express behaviors not-un-typical of fundamentalism in any form--“The Passion of the Atheists”. While we certainly must safeguard our societies from violent and aggressive manifestations of a religious doctrine, I do not presume nor promote that we need to intrude into thoughts and beliefs of pious individuals who are not harming others, whether it be by faith in God, drugs, psychiatry, love, or chocolate.
I have not, fortunately, felt the drive to obsess about who really makes presents at the North Pole. As an adult, I know that the American Santa Claus myth provides joy to many, many children, and is a reason for their parents to circulate capital into a stagnating economy. I do not need to accept the thesis that someone (Dumbledore? The Abominable Snowman?) is behind Christmas cheer, and that I simply do not know if he or she is a Claus, Rockefeller, Rothschild, or a Soros. I’m happy to shrug and assume that if there is actually someone at the North Pole, he’ll make his 'presence' known and then I can spend time pondering his existence, wisdom, and beneficience. Meanwhile, I have bills to pay. And there ain’t no Santa Claus.
But there is a question theists and non-theists alike should be asking. Is today’s theism, in its myriad forms, an honest expression of human genetically- and/or psychologically-driven spirituality? Or is it a placebo, a panacea, an opiate for the proletariat from our wannabe Masters? When faith moves from the individual to the collective, from the personal to the political, opportunities for manipulation of adherents—by fellow humans--abound. Indoctrination and conditioning recruits through a “boot camp” to serve “God’s army” is a human action that impacts, affects, and influences human behavior, often for human political and economic ends. Such manipulation and brainwashing should be challenged by believers and non-believers in God alike—for sullying deeply personal choices with Machiavellian puppetry.
So, as a non-theist in these peri-holidays, I rarely think about God. But, I often think about the evil humans have done and are doing in the name of “God”. And I pray we get some wisdom—and stop.
Happy Winter Solstice. Peace on Earth and Goodwill to All!