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September 24th, 2015

Notes On Atheism

Despite his stance on same-sex marriage, and the sacredness and dignity of same-sex love and romance and sex, I’m finding myself just thoroughly touched and uplifted by this Pope. Today he had company with the homeless of Washington D.C., rather than dinned with the city power elite. And he told them that “The Son of God came into this world as a homeless person.” Whether or not you believe that Jesus of Nazareth was god incarnate is beside the point. Those people surely needed food for the soul as much as their bodies. For a moment they would have felt loved, and Valued.

I’ve written here often about a passage from the biography of Mary Renault, who gave me a vision when I was a teenager of that sacredness of same-sex love that I so badly needed. In it her biographer quotes her as saying that politics like sex was a reflection of the person within, and if you’re mean and selfish and cruel it will come out in your sex life and in your politics when what really matters is you aren’t the sort of person who behaves like that. To that I would only add religion. If you’re mean and selfish and cruel it will come out in your religious beliefs and your spirituality when what really matters is you aren’t the sort of person who behaves like that.

That includes atheism. The stereotype of atheists like myself is we’re arrogant, uncaring, selfish. But it’s the inner person that matters, not the clothing of their politics or religion. They say without religion there can be no morality. Atheists reply that religion has been responsible for some of the cruelest, bloodiest passages in the history books. But it’s the person. It is always the person. Everything else is detail. I am an atheist because belief simply stopped making sense to me. Love, kindness, trustworthiness, lending a helping hand when you can…these things have always made sense. I could sit here and type out rationalizations for why, and maybe you could type out some theology to prove my rationalizations are just empty hand waving, and then I could say the same about your theology. It’s all just reflex. What matters is the heart.

I could wish this pope could see the people for the homosexuals. But unlike Ratzinger, I can’t imaging him ever excusing violence toward us. Or anyone. His religion is his logical frame of reference. But the heart within is a noble one. When he made company with the homeless of the nation’s capital, he preached to both them, and to the high places. It was stunning.

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