Sage Miller: That magic moment I found my irreligion
By Sage Miller
For most of my wretched life, I’d wandered in a fog, yearning for a guiding light that never dawned. Paleness, wanness, grayness — that was my life. Never any “there” there, at the core of me. I was a spiritual vacuum.
Was something missing? Yes, and it was something crucial. Something at the core of my life. I lacked purpose. What, really, was I living for? There was an emptiness in my heart and soul that couldn’t be filled by things associated with conventional success.
Did I crave wealth and fame? Who doesn’t? In a way, there’s nothing wrong with those. In fact, I’ll take all I can get. But they couldn’t fill the emptiness inside.
Sex, gambling, drink, drugs? Fun for a while, I suppose. Fun for kids. But once you’re out of college, they’re just so immature. I’m ashamed to admit, though, that I wandered into three of those swamps, and, surprise, surprise, none was the Answer, the One True Light. None got me even close to the Answer. And I was nearing the end.
It’s crazy what can trigger U-turns in lives. My awakening came like a bolt of lightning on the 18th green (and I was lifted to even more bliss as I reflected on it at the 19th hole in the clubhouse). This time, I flung my putter into the lake out of exultation instead of rage.
I was hearing a voice — I swear — that I recognized as that of Bertrand Russell. He thundered:
“There is something feeble, and a little contemptible, about a man who cannot face the perils of life without the help of comforting myths. Almost inevitably, some part of him is aware that they are myths and that he believes them only because they are comforting. But he dares not face this thought, and he therefore cannot carry his thought to any logical conclusion.”
And then came another voice that I recognized as that of H.L. Mencken:
To sum up: (1) The cosmos is a gigantic fly-wheel making 10,000 revolutions a minute. (2) Man is a sick fly taking a dizzy ride on it. (3) Religion is the theory that the wheel was designed and set spinning to give him the ride.
And don’t get me started with Nietzsche.
There it was! My Answer! And I wasn’t stopping there. Agnosticism? Not for me! Atheism? Not for me! I was blasting beyond even Russell and Mencken to anti-theism!
I realized not only that religion was ludicrous, but that belief in it, even apart from its preposterous virgin-birth, water-into-wine absurdities, did immense damage by destroying belief in science and independent thinking and instilling the mindset of sheepish obedience. At that magic moment, I became no longer a mere nonbeliever but a warrior for reason, decency and justice, dedicated forevermore to fighting religion’s curses. Turn me loose! With stunning clarity, I realized that religion was not only evil in itself, but the cause of so much more evil.
Of course, I realize loathsome politicians will never stop pandering to theocrats by attacking reproductive freedom and education, trying to use public power and spaces for religious indoctrination, curbing and corrupting scientific research, and maintaining religion’s unconscionable tax exemptions and subsidies (“faith-based initiatives”).
But, at least, I would never let religion warp and oppress me. I could free myself from its chains, indoctrinations, dogmas and delusions forevermore. And maybe I could help the world recover from its curses and become a better place. Maybe you, too, can break its chains, even if you’ve long been pummeled into sheepishness. (“The Lord is my shepherd . . .”). Maybe you, too, now or in the fullness of time, can get yourself free!
FFRF Member Sage Miller, a former columnist for the Dallas Morning News, writes humor and general-interest essays from Manhattan, Kan.