To be an atheist is to maintain God. His existence or his nonexistence, it amounts to much the same, on the plane of proof.
This is a quote from The Left Hand of Darkness, a book by Ursula K. Le Guin. It is one of many profound statements in this book. We can rely on Le Guin to take us to a new and different place than most sci-fi writers. She has stated several times in introductions that she is an atheist but that she often speaks of God. Mostly god with a small g though, like when she said in the introduction to this book that artists feel “the god within them” using their hands, when they are inspired.
I like the idea of the god within us. I’ve always thought that atheists can still pray, they can pray to themselves. To some extent, that might even be what believers are doing when they pray.
“The god within us” is a metaphor for tapping into our higher selves, the power we have inside.
As an artist I have felt the “god” working through my hands. You could call it “flow”, or being in the zone, where your focus is handed over singularly to one project, or one goal. Time has little meaning, except to return you to your goal, your project. I remember thinking “I’m really onto something here” but it was more than that. When you’re in the zone, you don’t over think things, at least I didn’t, but you have a direction. Your hands know exactly what to do. All you want is to be allowed to continue in that direction. I will even go so far as to say that I had “faith” of some sort, in my ability, or that I was being true to myself, or in something else that cannot be described.
That flow will happen again for me, “god” willing.
To begin with, he explains his take on religion in regards to his new book Revival:
“My view is that organized religion is a very dangerous tool that’s been misused by a lot of people. I grew up in a Methodist church, and we went to services every Sunday and to Bible school in the summer. We didn’t have a choice. We just did it. So all that stuff about childhood religion in Revival is basically autobiographical. But as a kid, I had doubts. When I went to Methodist youth fellowship, we were taught that the Catholics were all going to go to hell because they worship idols. So right there, I’m saying to myself, “Catholics are going to go to hell, but my aunt Molly married a Catholic and she converted and she’s got 11 kids and they’re all pretty nice and one of them’s my good friend – they’re all going to go to hell?” I’m thinking to myself, “This is bullshit.” And if that’s bullshit, how much of the rest of it is bullshit?”
And then they get down to the nitty gritty:
“Yeah. I choose to believe in God because it makes things better. You have a meditation point, a source of strength. I don’t ask myself, “Well, does God exist or does God not exist?” I choose to believe that God exists, and therefore I can say, “God, I can’t do this by myself. Help me not to take a drink today. Help me not to take a drug today.” And that works fine for me.”
Now, I would never attack someone’s religious beliefs and that’s not what I’m doing at all when I say, how can you choose to believe in something if you don’t already believe in it? You either believe or you don’t believe.
This is a really big issue to me and I’ve given it a lot of thought over the last few years. I do not have that ability to convince myself that something is or isn’t true, I either do believe or not. Or I admit I don’t know which is the same as not knowing, or not believing, if you get my drift. To believe you actually have to believe right!?!?
A friend of mine told me once that she simply changed the ending to a story (movie, book, etc) to a different ending in her mind and she chooses to remember that new ending instead of the real one. She often will turn off a movie after the montage or during an upbeat moment, when things are still emotionally light and happy. In her mind that is the ending, before the bad things can happen to the happy couple, or before a beloved character dies. Even if that means missing crucial details of the story (yeah like the ending!).
So I have a problem with this. Not necessarily that someone else does it (although that does erk me if I know they are otherwise reasonable people) but doing it myself is out of the question, basically impossible. And I wouldn’t want to do it, even if I could. You have to take the bad with the good in fiction and in life (granted, I have had it better than most in the world since I’m a spoiled American, and I’ve never been in a foxhole).
But I don’t want to live in a world I have created in my head, I want to live in reality, even if we can’t always agree what that reality consists of.
I recognize that King had to kick his habit and this kind of belief helped him out of the addictive nightmare he was in, so I’m glad for it. And essentially, I just used his statement to spew about an issue that is important to me, so I am sorry for that. There is no problem with someone just choosing to believe and not wanting all the bullshit that goes with it.
But on choosing to believe, we’ll have to agree to disagree. 🙂