Tuesday, May 31, 2011

How and why I became an atheist, Part 6

In part 1 of this series, I look at my conservative Lutheran childhood, above all my conservative Lutheran minister father's influences.

Part 2 gets into my high school and college years.

And Part 3 gets to my trying to follow in dad's footsteps at a Lutheran seminary, or divinity school.

In Part 4, I look at my "conversion" or transition period of my last year of school there and the first year after

In Part 5, I look at further personal, philosophical, unreligious and antimetaphysical development in my life during three years of living with my dad.

It's now 1997 and I'm on my own, editing a weekly paper. Working 60-70 hours a week, moving it from the red and into the black. Getting burned out. Drinking on the job.

At the same time, I'm now exploring more in things like cognitive science/philosophy, recognizing the origins in human brain dysfunctions of visions and hallucinations, etc. In short, I'm becoming more and more of not just an atheist, but an antimetaphysician in general.

I was eventually fired, for whatever reason. I listened to someone, and some inner part of myself, and quit drinking. And looked for support.

Well, the only game I knew of at the time for that was the religious-based sobriety support program of Alcoholics Anonymous. (And, that's what it is; don't believe the canard that "it's a spiritual program.")

Well, I was in such a post-alcohol mental fog, I didn't totally recognize that at the time. And, when I did, I was in a group, surprising for a small town in Texas, with many New Agey types and little in the way of people even approaching orthodox Christians. Well, I'd had enough happen in the last few months that I actually tried some Matthew Fox reading, even A Course in Miracles.

And, some degree of New Agey "power"-ness, but not a personal deity, "stuck" for a year or so.

That said, as noted on the previous part of this installment atheists (usually the P.Z. Myers type of "Gnu Atheists" who talk about religion as a psychological crutch don't get the time of day from me. I understand the desire for its comforts, still today. I don't find that necessary for myself today, but I'm not going to mock the people who have, not for 2,000, or even 5,000, but going by things like French cave paintings and some burials, but who have for 20,000 years sought out some sort of metaphysical support to help face the vicissitudes of life.

Anyway, I eventually moved on in many ways. I found a "secular sobriety" support group; I found a great group therapy counselor, and group, for some "childhood issues," after I moved to Dallas.

And, I moved beyond "just atheism." I could call it "positive atheism," or I could use the good old phrase "secular humanism."

I continued reading in philosophy of mind, cognitive science/philosophy and related subjects.

I saw more and more of how many of the allegedly metaphysical "artifacts" of religious belief, such as various visual and auditory "visions," deja-vu type events and more, were all parts of the wonder — and the humility — of the evolutionary cobbling together of the human brain and the eventual rise of what we could call an epiphenomenon, almost — human consciousness.

I saw that that, as well as Yosemite National Park and its falls, Grand Canyon and its vistas, Beethoven and the C sharp minor quartet and more, could all be approached with wonder, even with gratitude without having to be grateful to anybody, divinities included.

As I said in an op-ed column, riffing on Shylock in Merchant of Venice: "I am an atheist. Prick us; do we not bleed?"

But, as I said, at this point in my life, whether the term I use is "atheist," "secular humanist," "philosophical naturalist," "skeptic" or something else, I feel reasonably comfortable about where I am.

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