My Journey to Spiritual Atheism
How I became an atheist with a Goddess streak
I have always been an atheist. When I say always, I mean as long as I can remember. I’m one of those weird people who has lucid memories from age two, even younger. In the case of my atheism, it was at my fifth birthday party that I declared to my parents and gathered guests: “there is no God, I am an atheist.” (I was precocious; at age five I used words like “atheist” and knew what these words meant.) I think this was the seminal moment that established me as the smart, weird, nerdy kid. I declared shortly afterward I was a communist. That sealed the deal. One of my dear uncles said I was queer, not as in “odd”, but as in “you’re queer like those queers in New York.” (Turns out, he was right). I also declared I’d become a physicist (I did become an engineer — kind of close.) I digress.
My father was a devout Catholic and was suitably horrified by my atheism. My mother’s eyes twinkled. She was Catholic too, as an insurance policy. She was a fan of Goddess in the guise of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Francis of Assisi, but otherwise she had nothing to do with the Church or its priests. She sat in the last pew at Mass. She immersed herself in nature. Still my father won the day and for four dreadful years I was sent to Catholic school. I lost the first grade spelling bee because I insisted “god” was spelt with a little “g”.
As a teenager I did what any good researcher would do, I read the bible all the way through, twice. I reasoned that like Karl Marx studying Capitalism, I ought to know what the competition was all about. Of course my worse suspicions were confirmed, the god-guy was horrific, mean, and utterly selfish. He hated women. He detested dissent. He didn’t even want you to be able to differentiate for yourself between good and evil! He demanded you obey. I admit, god pretended to get better in the New Testament, but that was just marketing, he was still the same patriarchal guy. One of the names of the god-guy in the Gnostic texts is “Samael”, “God of the Blind”. How spot on. The text goes on to say
“It is I who am God; there is none apart from me.” When he said this, he sinned against the entirety.
For years I tried to content myself with “traditional”, there-is-only-physicality atheism, but it felt empty. By the time my mother was in hospice care, she was as much the dyed-in-the-wool atheist as I, and she did not fear death in the least (in fact she looked forward to it). She loved unconditionally, she cared for everything and everyone, she knew her own mind, and she felt, deeply: I didn’t know to call it that at the time, but she was a spiritual atheist.
My devoutly Catholic father died six months after my mother, he was terrified of death right until the end. He did love, but his love had conditions, he cared for his family but was convinced that queers like me were bound for hell, his mind was more and more determined for him by Fox News, as he morphed from Kennedy Democrat to Bush Republican, and he came to think feelings were for sissies. Would you call him spiritual?
About a year after my parents’ deaths, I ran across a wonderful little book by the French philosopher André Comte-Sponville, it’s called The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality. I recommend it super highly, particularly Chapter 3. Comte-Sponville writes
Not believing in God does not prevent me from having a spirit, nor does it exempt me from having to use it.
I don’t think anyone’s expressed my own spiritual atheism better than this.
What about Goddess? The Gnostics believed that Goddess (sometimes known as Pistis Sophia) was the Mother of the Universe and that it was She who created everything. She also imbued her creatures with free will. It was She who (unfortunately) gave birth to the god-guy, who then used his free will to wrap himself up in a cloud and claim to be “the one and only true God”. Even though he was terrible, She kept loving him unconditionally anyway. What a good Mother.
So there you have it, a whirlwind synopsis of my journey to spiritual atheism. There is spirit. There is no God. But Goddess? Oh how I hope She is real.