It's hard to know when the earliest inklings of Atheism began; really I suppose, it depends on which gods are being rejected. The idea of a person, frustrated with his or her life, getting ill, screwed over, even frustrated with the simple hardships that living consists of, makes me believe it's perhaps earlier in history than we think. Those bitter few were probably less likely to carve it in stone somewhere, so their doubts are lost to the annals of history.
One of my earliest memories of skepticism happened while I was in a private Christian school. Our class was going to adopt a whale named South Paw. South Paw got her name because she had a little paw print shape on her left fluke.
Holy shit. I'm a south paw! I am going to be co-owner of a whale that's just like me!
Pretty big news to little kids, right? What better way to get us pumped up about the most bad ass class pet that we're not actually ever going to meet than to show us a video about humpback whales? It was exciting. It was movie day, and it was only borderline educational. We got to watch movies and eat lunch in a different room (because extension cords were a real luxury in the mid 90s,) and we were going to watch a video about South Paw the humpback whale.
On the grainy curved screen of a boxy, donation TV, we watched humpback whales breaching all afternoon. It blew our tiny little minds. As any excited little kid with pizza-greased fingers pressed over my mouth, I gasped, "Holy Cow!"
Some lady, who to this day I can't remember why she was there, some TA, a volunteer parent, who knows, leaned over and said sternly, "You shouldn't call anything holy but the lord. It's as bad as cursing!"
We thought she was joking. Lady, we're in Christian School, we don't curse. "Holy Cow" is on the list of words Christian kids *get*, right up there with crud, or fart (when we were old enough, of course). As a class, we batted it off, and when another whale sprouted from the waves, its body arching backwards like an Olympic gymnast, we said it again.
And she stopped the video.
"If you say that one more time," she announced, "We aren't going to watch this video. It's very important that you understand what it means to be holy, and you can't use that word about everything."
We settled back down after that, apparently no longer allowed to show enthusiasm. All I remember thinking was whatever my second grade equivalent was to, "Fucking really? What is wrong with you?"
Even if I thought that woman was an idiot, I never doubted God. I did, however, from then on, decide that there were people who were morons, that took God too seriously. Even now, the things that I resent about being raised religious have nothing to do with God, they were the actions of people who used God, religion, as their indefensible argument. God was the "times-infinity-plus-one" of grown up logic.
God was sort of a consultant in my head for a lot of my early years, and when I felt distanced from Christianity, and it's almost as though he retired. It never occurred to me that while I was asking him if he thought my feet made good camel shadow puppets, he was whispering into the ears of other people that you can just go ahead and hate people for whatever.
Religion, whether or not the deity it's based on is real, and that religion is God. A god exists in the actions, beliefs and words of its followers, and it has movements. It is capable of genocide and charity. The acts of the religious are the acts of their God. Arguing for or against a pillar of someone's beliefs is as genuinely ridiculous as arguing against a literal pillar of the Parthenon. It is simply too big and inflexible to respond to vocabulary.
When I think of the far right, of racists, of anyone who believes that their god should have control over someone else's behavior or more importantly, their beliefs and thoughts, I think of that lady in second grade, who was ostensibly protecting God from being compared to a cow.
Institutions, religions, these things are faceless. They are suits of armor that any one can slip into, whether or not they intend to save lives or end them. There is no point in arguing. Challenge their actions, challenge their syntax, but most importantly, we have to challenge them. These arguments cannot be "us versus them." It has to be "You and me."
I have never wanted in my life to be political. I started writing this before having a few days ago, and I feel a bit defeated. Over and over again, I see a lack of certainty. We have red flags waving from every corner of our eye, and whatever political matador is waving it has successfully kept our attention bouncing around, one alluring threat to another. We are afraid of fundamentalism, and it is difficult not to see that as a vine that hangs on the branches of religion. We are running in circles protesting each other instead of finding ways to keep ourselves intact.
I see potential damage to very basic things, mostly, another human's life.The position of president is a fractional god, at this point. We can't simply attack him or the idea of his goblinesque administration.
We need to focus, but I can't figure out on what. We can't watch things erode the value of another person's life simply because they don't apply to us yet. The question is, what the fuck does that entail?