I am a possibilian. Grammatically, that should be an uppercase “P” but somehow the very idea of the capitalization brings back the memories of dogma and black-and-white of ideology. I am a possibilian with a lowercase “p”. Damn your eyes.
For some, I am a church-hater and God-basher, an atheist with a bent on ridding the world of church and religion and anything related to goodness. An abortion-loving, commie rising, baby eater, mayhaps. I am none of those things, mind you, but perception is a funny thing.
I am a Christian reject, a throw-away from grace; I am Satan’s cabana boy. I spent my life among the Christian faithful. I’ve prayed. I’ve volunteered. I’ve worked on mission trips. I’ve defended the gospel to heathens. I’ve read the Bible and studied. I did what I could as often as I could. Deep down inside I never believed. That’s not entirely true, actually. In my kid and early teen years I believed with my heart and soul. I prayed twice a day –– mostly for the salvation of my soul and to stop my sinning –– and was a good church boy. I really tried hard, especially in my youth until I hit my late teen years. My sin didn’t stop and my prayers were never answered. It wasn’t long until I stopped praying. It was so confusing. I felt, to use a religious analogy, like the lone, silent human in a crowd of people talking and dancing in tongues. Everyone else got it and felt it and knew it. It seemed there were all crying and shaking and understanding and the metaphorical speaking of tonuges never happened to me. Of course, I internalized all of that, thinking the issue was me. And so I tried harder.
It wasn’t until I was an adult that I let go of my fear. Fear, you see, is what kept me going. A good Dad, I took my family to church and we taught the kid to pray to a thing I didn’t believe in or pray to myself. I bowed my head, but I just thought about things and waited the silence out. But I kept it going because I was a good boy or at least I was damned-well going to try to be. After I released my fear I understood I could no longer fake it. I couldn’t go to church and pretend to believe in a myth. I was being a big fat fake and I could not abide it.
My first inkling was to lie to my kid and tell her I still believed. My reason for doing so was to save her soul … save it from a thing I didn’t believe in. The dogma and fear, you see, was deeply entrenched. I didn’t lie. I told her the truth, my truth anyway. We changed churches. I didn’t even want to go to church, but my wife felt a foundation in something was important. So we went to the Unitarian Universalist church on a whim and discovered all kinds of people who believe in all kinds of things. The unifying themes being: a rejection of dogma and a strong belief in the need for social justice for all.
I am a possibilian. That is to say, I don’t accept church dogma but neither do I accept the certainty of atheism. I believe there are many possibilities and things we do not understand or conceive. Is there a divine being or many divine beings? I don’t know; it’s possible. The evidence and my life experience tell me that the dogma of the churches are deeply flawed and misguided and false, but that does not mean there are not life-beings beyond our understanding. It also doesn’t mean there are. Aliens? Possibly. No alien life forms in the universe? Possibly. Great catfish under the earth creating earthquakes. Uh, no. Science tells me otherwise. Spirits or ghosts? Possibly. We can’t yet determine for sure, can we? I don’t believe in everything. I just believe in the possibility of things that have not otherwise been ruled out by science and experience.
Despite the fact that I don’t believe in the God of Abraham as described in the Christian bible, Islam or Judiasm, does not mean that I give up my right or interest in those entities. Religions, whether I believe in the ideology or not, drive our worldwide culture. Churches influence every aspect of our lives from politics to education to war, economics and health care. Religion permeates our daily lives. Furthermore, I find religion as interesting from a literary perspective as I find Greek mythology. It is something I spent years of my life exploring. Since the beginning of this blog, I have talked about religion –– Christianity specifically –– questioning dogma, criticizing policies and voicing a point of view that sought to make religion better.
I have criticized the public portrayals of good Christianship and pointed out how such public displays of overweening prayer, like Tim Tebow, is rebuked on the Bible. I was harshly attacked for that. I have questioned how the flagship AG church can spend thousands of dollars on a 4th of July fireworks display rather than using that money for those featured in the Beattitudes. I have questioned strongly how Christian churches can attack gays, making laws against them, while accepting people who have divorced and re-married openly in the church, even allowing those people to be leaders and governors of the church. Christ said nothing of homosexuals but he did specifically abominate divorce and remarriage as a sin. All of these things, and more, I openly discussed when I was a Christian and continue to do after I left the church.
When I was a Christian, these views were met with discussion. Most of the time, it was civil, sometimes heated, discussion and disagreement, but almost always civil. Once I left the church, the same discussions have been met with hostility, sarcasm, name-calling, absent friends, and questions about why I care. I care because I am human and I care about my world and my community. I care because I believe in good and right and justice and love. I care for the right reasons, but I should not have to defend why I care. My arguments, whether one agrees or not, are valid, are based on biblical scripture. It doesn’t matter if I believe in that scripture or not. I am no longer shackled to the precepts of the Bible. Christians are and so is the church. It serves us all to have our views, ideas, thoughts, beliefs, policies, procedures and philosophies challenged. After all, how are any of us supposed to change if someone does not challenge us? People would still be paying the church for absolution if it weren’t for Luther. Women would not be able to vote if it weren’t for questions. African Americans would still drink from colored water fountains if it weren’t for MLK, Jr.
Oh look. He thinks he’s Martin Luther. Don’t be an asshole. I think nothing of the kind. I am, myself, a tiny little man in a big body with no power. But I do have a big voice, passion, and a desire to good with my time and energy. I may make people mad by challenging their beliefs. Anyone who knows me, knows I’m an asshole and I question every goddamned thing in my life. I always have. I spend as much time inspecting my own soul as I do the dogma outside me. I constantly evaluate my beliefs, tear down preconceptions and bigotry and work toward being better. I’m still an asshole. I don’t look for that to change but I do try to make myself better as well as the world around me.
My first college class –– 8 am freshman creative writing –– the professor sat his things on the desk and wrote on the chalkboard: “Everything Matters!” Why do I care? Why do I question? Why do I challenge your beliefs as well as seek out those who intelligently question mine? Because. Everything Matters. Everything.