April 23, 2009
As I have mentioned many times before, I am not a religious man. Though I have yet to really define (or constrain) myself, atheism has been the best fit for my view on all things divine.
In anticipation of one of this summers sure blockbusters, I am reading “Angels & Demons” by Dan Brown. This is the prequel to “The DaVinci Code”. It was written before that highly acclaimed and widely read novel. But it deals with many of the same questions and conundrums. This particular tale chooses the age-old debate of creationism vs “The Big Bang”. It presents both theories and attempts to give credence to each. I am only 1/4 of the way through, but I like the angle (or angles as it would be). It was at this point where I put down the book and picked up my computer. Right there in front of me, in black and white, was nearly word-for-word how I have felt about religion for the better part of my life! I had always found it hard to explain. It didn’t even make sense in my own mind sometimes. But Dan Brown has laid it out for me. It is not terribly profound, but it had just sort of eluded me for so long. I guess I am just relieved to hear someone else say what was in my own thoughts.
To quote the character Robert Langdon, “he respected the power of faith, the benevolence of churches, the strength religion gave so many people…and yet, for him, the intellectual suspension of disbelief that was imperative if one were truly going to ‘believe’ had always proved too big an obstacle for his academic mind. ‘I want to believe,’ he heard himself say. Having faith requires leaps of faith, cerebral acceptance of miracles–immaculate conceptions and divine interventions. And then there are the codes of conduct. The Bible, the Koran, Buddhist scripture…they all carry similar requirements–and similar penalties. They claim that if I don’t live by a specific code I will go to Hell. I can’t imagine a god who would rule that way.”
Wow! There it is. Almost exactly how I feel in a work of fiction about to be a big-budget summer movie. What a relief I felt as I read that. Although my own ideas go even further, very few times has a book truly taken the words right out of my mouth. I did not consciously choose to be a nonbeliever. I grew up going to church. I heard the preaching and spent plenty of time in sunday school and vacation bible school. It just never rang true to me. iI never felt the spirit. But many times I have wanted to believe. I want to believe in god just as I want to believe in life on other planets and big foot. I want to believe that there are things beyond what we can see and feel everyday. I want to think that we serve some grand purpose even in death. I would like to feel that someone or something is watching out for us. I just can’t. We are alone in the universe, big foot is a hoax and God…well, God (whichever version you believe in) has been an excellent source of strength and inspiration. Even if he is just a book of stories.