No God, Know Peace

I remember the first time I saw this bumper sticker on a guitar case at church:

NOOOO

I was blown away at its simple and beautiful statement. With God, the God of Abraham of course, in our hearts, we as believers have a peace of mind that people without Him couldn’t possibly understand. It was a bold and profound statement that bolstered my faith and made me feel a strong sense of solidarity with my fellow believers.

Imagine my surprise when years later I found the opposite to be true. That holding no recognition of a god or gods was actually when true peace finally met me. I’d come to realize that much of my inner turmoil, frustration and stress was directly associated with belief in a god and trying to make my faith work. Working to find agreement with what my brain thought and my heart felt, had dead ended me to a intellectually dishonest place where I couldn’t stand to stay in anymore.

Being able to take the world as it is and accept my fellow man unconditionally was the first time my mind felt at ease in my adult life. Realizing that we’re not born broken by default and forced to accept a cure to a disease we don’t have was my ultimate awakening.

My name is Nathan Pratt and I’m exceptional for the mere fact of existing and you are, too. We’re not broken. We’re not incomplete. We’re not unworthy.

I didn’t feel fully alive until I was almost 30 years old. To have no gods is to be free. To have no gods is to know peace.

 

Thanking Satan

obedience

Back in college I read a book called “I, Lucifer” and it floored me. In it, God gives Lucifer a chance to live a mortal life and if he can go a month without committing a mortal sin, it’s a very Catholic take, then God will allow Lucifer a chance to become an angel again and gain entrance back into heaven.

I loved the book for numerous reasons, but mostly because it was challenging to me as a Christian. It’s not a book about apologetics for Satan nor is it a book glorifying him. It’s just a very well thought out book that threw logic in my face in ways I’d yet to experience as a believer. One section stuck with me in particular where Lucifer struggles immensely with not knowing whether he’s ever been in control of himself. Did God make him with the purpose to eventually become Satan? To be the bad guy. Was that always the plan? Or did he act of his own volition to become the Lucifer believers all love to hate?

Another very interesting section was where Lucifer and his demons tried to save Jesus from being crucified because he knew that if Jesus was crucified, he’d lose the overall war against God.

Head scratching stuff for me at the time.

It wasn’t until a few years later, while deep in a crisis of faith, that the thought occurred to me that we actually owe our ability to think critically to Satan. This was a thought I didn’t dare to raise to anyone. It boiled down to where I couldn’t decide who I blamed more for Adam and Eve eating from the tree. God for allowing it to happen or Satan for tricking them.

Maddening though, I couldn’t find a way out of that line of thinking. God kept Adam and Eve in a state of naivety and impaired thinking. Sure, they were “free” to do what they wanted, but with impaired decision making abilities due to withheld information, what chance did Adam and Eve stand against Satan? With virtually no knowledge of deceit or dishonesty, why would they have any reason to think the serpent was anything other than truthful?

If a parent kept a sippy cup full of Drano in the middle of their toddler’s playroom and told them not to drink from it because it’s icky, would any sane person hold the toddler responsible for eventually drinking it? Especially if done so under the duress of another person? I’m pretty sure any jury would find the guardian of the child to be responsible for neglect and endangerment. Yet God get’s a pass?

It reminds me of something I still kid my brother for. When we were young we were both heavily into baseball cards. We’d pour over them and study them and one time Jason asked to trade me cards. He’d give me 2 cards for my 1. I agreed and immediately upon ending the transaction he waved the card in my face and sang, “Blackjack no trade backs! This is a rookie card!” I was stunned. Not only had I been duped, but he’d pulled the sacred no trade backs line on me. I was maybe 5 years old at that time and I vividly remember the lesson he unknowingly taught me. Know your stuff and trust no one.

I feel like that’s how ill equipped Adam and Eve would’ve been, but probably even less so than I was. God had their backs, right? After all, he knew everything and would’ve created the serpent, so it couldn’t possibly be bad. Also, God would’ve known that the serpent was there and what it was up to. Instead of properly equipping his creation or not letting the serpent undertake it’s task, he let them flounder and fall and he’s still making us pay for it. Real classy.

So, the next time you’re in a hot debate with someone or are arguing for the moral relevance of your deity, take a moment and remember that it’s because of Satan that you can ironically hold that discussion in the first place. It was he that tricked Adam and Eve into eating from the tree and with that successful trickery came the full potential of thinking we currently possess.

Without Satan, in the worldview of Christianity, we’d all be mindless husks walking around with dopey grins on our faces and drool running out of our mouths. Or maybe we’d never have been born at all.

Remember that the next time your birthday rolls around and throw a thanks to the man downstairs. It’s hot as hell down there and he could use the encouragement.

The New Normal

phil 2

Tomorrow marks the 2 year anniversary of the worst day of my life. The death of my brother and best friend has had a larger impact on me than any other single event in my life. Even though the list of people more significant to me than Phil is limited to my immediate family of my wife and children, I don’t think any death will so vastly shape and change me again. I may be more devastated, but not so wholly changed.

Mother’s Day marks the last time I saw Phil alive. We went to the park where he was to be married and taught my son how to roll down a hill. We went back to my house and watched the sort of okay horror movie, Insidious. I remember not feeling well and when he, his fiance and my mom and dad got up to go home I didn’t hug him goodbye, something I always did. Instead I went to the medicine cabinet to get Tylenol. We discussed the Rammstein show we’d just seen and how awesome it was. We said goodbye and that we loved each other. I can still see how he stood and looked at me in front of my door just before he turned to leave. It’s all burned into my mind.

A new normal is something I’ve been looking for. The world doesn’t stop turning for the death of anyone. You have to press on. Take your licks and keep moving. Focus on what you can manage and deal with the emotions as they come. Cry. Drink. Talk. Weep. Breathe deeply. Shake your head clear and get back to living.

Mentally I feel like I’ve never been better in my life. The sad days are few and far between anymore even though there’s barely an hour that passes that I don’t think about Phil. It’s a numbness that I’ve welcomed and cherish. Not that I don’t have strong feelings about it, but it’s good to compartmentalize it to some degree. There’s a healthy balance of letting it out and keeping it in. Life goes on. People live. People die. Sometimes it’s the ones we love.

Am I mad? No. Not in the least. In fact, there’s much I’m thankful for. Like the fact that Phil and I were so very close. We purposefully shared a room up until the day I got married. We always hugged and said, “I love you.” We hung out and always laughed a lot. I’m thankful that if Phil had to die it was over as quickly as it was. I’m thankful I got to see him the day of the accident and hold his hand while he still looked like Phil. I’m thankful for the outpouring of love from people I both do and don’t know.

The new normal feels like it’s slowly happening on its own and I welcome it, but also feel guilt for it. To not mourn for someone as much as you feel they deserve does bring about some feelings of guilt. You feel this way even though you know they’d not want one single tear shed. It’s just human nature. We want to honor the ones we love.

The new normal also feels like a mess because, well, it’s new. Phil’s personality was very mellow and he was a great glue for my family dynamic and without him, much has changed drastically and I mourn for that as well.

Sometimes I feel alone in this and sometimes I feel the lift from my brother, Jason, who walks this trail with me. Two where there are supposed to be three.

Most days are great, but days like Mother’s Day and tomorrow are not fun days. They’re a reminder of what was lost and the hole in my heart that I’m trying to not notice all the time.

In an animated movie I saw last year there was a point where the narrator talked about hearts breaking and the truth in the statement can’t be overstated. He said, “When your heart breaks, it can grow back crooked. It grows back twisted and gnarled and hard.” 

Sometimes I feel like the character he was speaking of. Still very much me, but increasingly numbed to many things I used to feel greatly about. It takes an astonishing amount of anything to get an emotional reaction from me anymore. It’s given me extreme tunnel vision. I worry about my kids and my wife. That’s it. That’s my world. So long as nothing happens to them I’m impervious to pain of any kind. I’ve actually grown to love this as it gives my life and tasking a laser focus. No distractions. There was recently another death in the family of someone I really cherished and I barely felt anything. Is my family okay? Good. I’m good.

All this thinking and reflecting about the living that I’ll never have with Phil, I’m always reminded of the great ending to the poem, Maud Muller, that states:

For all the sad words of tongue and pen,
The saddest are these: “It might have been!”

Another day. Another year. Another normal. I’m getting there.

 

 

The Ultimate Dick Move

When I went public with my unbelief I became very popular. Not because I was elevated in social status, but because people couldn’t wait to tell me how wrong I was.

Friends, loved ones and even people I barely knew as acquaintances were all looking for an opportunity to pick my brain and show me the fault in my reasoning. I’ll admit it was exciting for me. It wasn’t until I stated that I recognized no gods that I really found out the massive variations of belief. The lengths and stretches in thinking people take to rationalize the dogmas of belief with the realities of the world. Some found the bible to be completely and totally infallible, containing no errors. Others recognized errors and barbarism and instead focused on Jesus. And even others that identify as Christian, but really think that there’s no correct perception or idea of the actual real god due to the limitations of our minds.

In most all of my talks with believers there comes a point where they finally say something along the lines of, “God’s plan is higher than our understanding. We’re not capable of comprehending it so how could you ever hope to understand it?”

It’s usually at this point where I completely throw all tact out the window because this, if it were true, would be the greatest dick move a god could make.

Let me explain my thinking. So, a god makes a plan that includes an eternal life after death. This eternal life has two polar opposites: heaven and hell. One is a paradise and the other is eternal torment and damnation. Then he creates the creatures that will end up at either one of these places with minds too simple to understand him. Minds incapable of comprehending the complexity and perfectness of his grand plan. He also makes it so his existence is easily debatable and would rather us believe based on faith, which allows us to believe in any crazy thing, than in knowledge.

When his creation, that was purposefully designed by himself to be dumb in the ways of his complexity, fails to believe or recognize him, he then throws them in hell.

What psychopath does such a thing? Would any parent dream of treating their child in this way? Purposefully withhold information from them and then beat them mercilessly because they didn’t understand something you had hid from them. Something you didn’t equip them to know. They were just supposed to figure it out based on nothing.

Who does such a thing and, more importantly, why do people that rationalize god in this way not see the horror in their reasoning?

Someone once told me an analogy of hell. They told me that they swat their child’s hand if they reach for the hot stove. They don’t swat their hand because they enjoy it, but the exact opposite, to keep them from getting burned.

I was happy to relay how quickly this analogy falls apart. You see, the stove and the fire on it are very real. We can see the stove and the fire. We can feel the heat. We have no such certainty of heaven or hell or god. Just the fear based thinking that hell surely awaits those that don’t accept Jesus into their heart.

So, if there were a god and it made us incapable to understand it and then throws us into hell, the hell it created and established the rules by which to get there, then it’s truly more monstrous than I ever imagined.

Jokingly, I like to quip that I’m thankful god made me an atheist. I couldn’t possibly live a full and happy life under such a totalitarian and harsh ruler where thought crime is the ultimate evil and faith is revered more than knowledge.