Do You Believe in God?
That was easy.
Little Julien: Mum, do you believe in creation in 7 days or in Charles Darwin?
Me: I believe in evolution like Darwin said. Adam and Eve is a myth.
Little Julien: Why do some people believe in Adam and Eve?
Me: Before we had science people made stories to explain things they didn’t understand.
Little Julien: So God is a myth people made to explain things?
What followed was a huge amount of tongue biting owing to a promise I made to Mr. Julien that I would not share my lack of belief in the Divine with our child. Clearly, logic and time will take care of it for me.
Growing up, we always droned grace before dinner:
Except that there are four children in our family, so, often, my mother would bellow LORD! to get our attention. On special occasions, we used a different grace and we sang it. The Dowager Julien went church shopping when I was about 8 and I got dragged along for the ride. She ended up with the Anglicans, that’s Episcopalian to you Americans, and I ended up in the junior choir and became quite religious. Then I got plunked in an Anglican girls’ school for eight years. There were daily Prayers, Christmas carol service, green knee socks, Anglophilia, the works! This documentary footage is old, but it affords valuable insight into the experience:
My strident “I don’t believe in fairy tale creatures” atheism is actually a fairly recent development. It was more of a process of separation than a sudden revelation. For a long time, I held on to “God” because I thought that without “Him” there could be no virtue. I had to disentangle ethics and morality from religion because they are so intertwined in our culture.
I believe in the miracle of science. We invented religion to explain things we didn’t understand and it turns out that the universe is even more beautiful and complicated than we ever could have imagined. “God” is too small for the universe as we understand it now, woefully inadequate. I find the notion of a participatory deity cruel because it rationalizes and justifies pain and suffering. I find the notion of a non-participatory deity pointless. What I find most interesting is that although I do not share a belief in a magical entity created in the Bronze Age, I am the one who has to be careful not to offend people by sharing that entirely rational and logical notion. Religion is so engrained that I participate in protecting the collective delusion; moreover, I’m part of it.. I was married in a church and I still celebrate the holidays as a “cultural Christian”. Easter is a weird enough concept to begin with, but it’s even stranger when the whole thing is reduced to chocolate from a magical rabbit.