The Story of an Arkansas Atheist Pt. 5

This final chapter of my story I will handle a bit differently.  I have decided to slow things down considering we covered 33 years in four short parts, yet Pt. 5 will only cover less than two.  The main reasons lie in the fact that my confirmation of Atheism didn’t come about until this portion of my life.  I felt like God was against me, but I have since come to realize why that instinct seized me.  So, without further procrastinations let me begin.

As I mentioned before the backyard debates under Tiki torches and whiskey nights ensued.  Criticisms from the neighbor’s family, the Catholics, came first when during one conversation I mentioned that The Bible was like any other book of mythology, full of great stories attempting to curb morality in a civilized direction for those in power.  This type of comment is usually balked at when uttered aloud, and this instant was no different.  I believe the reply was “Did we just call The Bible mythology?”  This led me to expand upon my independent work.  The beginning was reading Daniel Dennett’s Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon.  I had heard of Dan Dennett via The Atheist Tapes, a BBC television series I caught on Netflix.  If you enjoy my work on Facebook, you will enjoy the show immensely, and I suggest that you find it as soon as you can.  This book acted as my intellectual Pandora’s Box.  I started to search out lectures on YouTube.  I would save them and then bump them down to MP3 files installed on my portable music player for classes.  I soaked in Dennett’s work on consciousness and the evolution of religion, but there was much I needed to learn.  That is what began my discovery of disbelief, but it would take one more year to sharpen my skills to the point of knowing what I was talking about.

The following summer, last summer, I made a vow to read.  Not just to read some, but to read some of the most difficult work around the subjects of theology and disbelief.  I started with The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin, and would continue down that line with some of the most amazing works.  Max Weber’s The Protestant Faith and the “Spirit” of Capitalism was one of the most difficult.  It was written 50 years after Darwin’s revealing book, but it was written in a hand so complex that I was forced to read the same passages over and over again to sort out the particulars.  Not to mention, the original essay was composed in German, English, and Latin making the pure English translation (which is oozing with the remnants of the other two languages) real work to understand.  Yet once understood, I realized why it was such a powerful work, and is considered one of the West’s most important social observations.  I didn’t just stick to things that supported my new line of thinking.  I read Michael Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box, a wonderful title that argues design with everything that a biologist might have to offer to the design theory.  Yet, his math exposes more evidence for the likelihood of evolutionary causation than any other text I have encountered thus far.  With so much information last summer it may seem a little overwhelming, but I haven’t had difficulty keeping my facts straight because of an emotional change that I will get to a little later.  Also, there are more titles that would reveal my journey, but I haven’t the room to continue them here.  I am working on a bibliography of my research and if anyone would like more of the titles that I have researched feel free to hit me up and I can make sure that you get a copy of that bibliography.  Some people might have become tired of absorbing so much, but I seemed to only gain steam.

I must take a moment to mention that early in the summer about June 5th or so, the largest separation that my relationship had suffered to that point occurred.  Maddie took Ivy to Springdale and a real separation between spousal partners began.  I wouldn’t see Ivy for long stretches of time as Maddie and I fought like idiots.  This separation and time by myself may have been the major catalyst behind the personal advancements in my field, but regardless of the reason by the time the fall semester was upon me I had secured a work study position at the library opening even more doors.  I began to listen to debates while I worked away at data entry and filing tasks.  This would expose me to the complete circle of the four horsemen of the New Atheists movement, and their commentary over secular humanism.  Dan Dennett was a part of this group as well as, Sam Harris, Dawkins, and another one of my heroes Christopher Hitchens.  I, once again, don’t have time to get into the particulars of each one of these distinguished writers and educators, but let it be said, if you do half of the research I have done concerning the world of cognitive neuro-sciences’ role in evolutionary theory and objective morality a new way of thinking will become available to you.  A mouthful, right?  Armed with all of this new information I began the Northwest Arkansas Atheists Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/nwaaeithests.  This was an outlet for me to start self publishing some of the research that I had worked so hard to accumulate.  This was also a place for me to cut some teeth with a new identity I have since adopted, a writer.

One of the events I attended was a theology lecture over Christian Universalism, a term that was new to me at the time.  This was conducted on the University of Arkansas campus.  I took my digital dictation machine, and recorded the entire lecture with the series of questions that came at the end of the colloquium.  I listened and took notes from the recording.  The research gave me the ability to compose my first article. This article I titled “Christian Universalism Can’t Cover Everything” was published on the 16th of December, 2012, and is still available for viewing at this address: https://www.facebook.com/nwaaeithests/posts/183684175104154.  There was no overwhelming success, but it was the most pride I had felt from a written piece.  Not because it was so well written (but it is *giggle*), and not because the subject was extraordinarily fascinating.  The reason it was such a win for my confidence was because it was true.  Not in a metaphorical sense of the word, but it is the true account and my true feelings about the event considering how deep into my research I was at the time.  With a few nudges from you, my diligent readers, I wouldn’t mind republishing on this site; it would be easier to read that is for certain.  This was also the time that Maddie and I tried to reconnect our relationship and make the family strong.  It was fantastic, from the make-up sex to the fact that I could once again wake up to my daughter’s voice every morning fired me up for life.  I felt like we had overcome a major hurdle in the lifespan of any relationship, and that Maddie and I would grow strong.  In this I would be wrong, but in my devotion to my family and the emotions that I spoke of earlier this change would curb my work to its current trajectory.

This curb is represented by my focus on objective morality and the pathologies of blind faith.  Much of my near future publications will be composed of those subjects almost entirely.  Getting to the bottom of objective morality concerns me greatly because my daughter must be taught to navigate this world safely, and my future students will also benefit from my understanding the piles of data that are rolling in daily.  I believe understanding the pathological nature of blind faith falls under this morality dome too, but is a smaller part of the grand picture.  This gave me urgency.  The outlet for that feeling came in the most unsuspecting way: fiction.  I am in the Creative Writing program at the university and have been called upon to compose fiction for school.  This, obviously, was for no class.  I wrote this because I was inspired by the explosion of my newly acquired focus and knowledge.  I couldn’t help myself.  I was driven to finish it, and it turned into a 30 double spaced page short story.  I am also very proud of it.  In case details of time have slipped past you because of my odd chronology, we are now only six months in the past.  My story is nearing its end, but there are a few more details that need to be told for this to truly be my complete story.

I will now take you into the spring of 2013.  I exited 2012 sick as hell.  One of the worst colds I have had in years seemed to linger for months into the new year.  It was tragic really, we had all survived the predicted Mayan end times, well all of us that actually survived it which I imagine was most of the human race considering the number of us that seem to still be about, and here I was with a never-ending cold.  Maddie was fully moved back in and we were planning for the future.  Getting her some treatment for anxiety and depression, as well as, gearing me up to have a great semester.  I had begun a new fiction story, also based around the morality and pathology line. Maddie was trying to secure her divorce from an old lingering marriage.  Ivy was growing and learning at her regular accelerated rate.  I was reading Grimm tales and some other short fiction that I didn’t enjoy, but I didn’t really suffer because, if you haven’t guessed it—I love reading.  I enjoy reading for research mostly, but fiction is a part of my art as well.    Things in my relationship started to change again, thus the middle of April would change my life forever.

Maddie had grown very distant.  We were not having the usual amount of sex, and when we did it wasn’t the passionate amazing thing that had always seemed to be one of our hallmarks.  I would wake up to her on the couch at 6 in the morning, and when asked about it she blamed my snoring.  It was just previous to these changes that I started the blog that you now read.  I did what I always do and threw myself into the fray.  I also got to participate in a new music venture, which I am happy to report you all can hear at this web address: https://www.facebook.com/amanda.rey1/posts/4947419769973.  This track is quite a change from the hard rocking Cover of Darkness that occupied so much of my life just a few years ago.  The weirdness in the relationship seemed to be a phase thing as Maddie still wanted to participate in my life and I hers.  I caught her naked in the neighbors garage the evening I recorded the drums for the song I gave the link to.  I will spare the particulars of that event for the sake of boring the shit out of all my good readers.  Until past weekend I hadn’t seen or heard my daughter’s voice in 2 and-a-half weeks.  For those that doubt that there is need for understanding of objective morality I challenge you to go through what I have been through recently and come out the other side with no questions.  Family being one of my chief concerns, I struggled mightily with myself in that time. 

I observed myself going to those basic instincts of agent finding.  Seeking someone to blame for the events that robbed me of my family.  Seeking someone to thank when things went my way over those weeks despite my suffering.  A would catch myself in old habits of looking to the sky with emotions flying out of me at an uncontrollable rate, and wondering if this was a punishment; dually wondering if my successes were some kind of reward.  The shock passed.  The lawyer helped me organize what I needed to focus on, and the strategy I would need to employ.  Salvaging what I can of my family is currently my only concern.  I cannot trust Maddie with myself any longer.  The bigger issue at hand is that this is the home Ivy has known since she was 3 months old, and she was torn away and kept from everything she knows.  You don’t need to be a cognitive neuroscientists or a morality scold to know that it is not a healthy event in a child’s life.  She was here this weekend so I feel much more normal again.  That brings us to right now.

What does it take to become an Arkansas Atheist?  I have no idea.  We all reach these kinds of changes while walking our own paths.  It has meant for me turning from my entire childhood theological training, announcing to the world that I don’t believe, learning at a rapid rate from scholars the world over, arguing for what I see is a truth in objective morality, damning the harm that religion does, trying to convince others that the good deeds religion takes credit for are already in us as one human to another, knowing that to do right by other people possesses intrinsic worth, and that my love for my family and work is a truly noble path.  Just as my father described my grandfather at his funeral.  I am proud of who I have become, and of my potential to do more.  More for my daughter and for all of you, my supporters and audience, my family abroad.  Thank you for following these posts, I have had great response and learned that I touched some lives already.  A new song from the band Clutch states, “If you’re gonna do it/ you better take it to the stage/ or don’t do it at all,” and that is what I have always believed.  So here I am again, on a different type of stage.  The planetary stage, giving my audience everything I have—vulnerable and true.

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