Atheism and Adolescent Rebellion

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Dennis Garvin
Dennis Garvin

Until the age of 38, I was an atheist.  Then, the proper application of modern science persuaded me that my atheism was a nonintellectual exercise in self-deception.  I recall however, that, as an atheist, I was always irritated by Christians.  I never felt that way about Jews or Muslims.

Initially, I thought that was because the God of these nonchristians faiths was distant and impersonal; the Christian God appearing involved, immediate, and sufficiently meddlesome to actually put on a human skin and personally show humans how to conduct their lives.

I understood that it was a stipulation of their religion that prompted Christians to share with nonbelievers their ‘good news.’  A true Christian couldn’t not share their gospel.  But, also, I didn’t have to like it.

Still, looking back at my previous atheistic irritation and seeing it replicated in modern atheists, I realize that the above explanation is insufficient.  No other subject can match the speed with which a Christian/Atheist discussion deteriorates into argument and insult, usually on the part of the atheist.

That is what used to happen to me.  Why?  As with many things, the epiphany was provided by one of my children.

When my daughter was 13 years old, we took a trip to New York City.  At the time, a popular fashion among the City girls was a floral-pattern hat with a floppy brim.  I bought one and my daughter put it on.  Then, she promptly took off walking, distancing me by 15 feet and never looking back.

I understood.  With her au courant hat, my daughter felt transformed.  In her delightful fantasy, she had become a savvy, streetwise, no-nonsense City girl, walking alone on her familiar City streets, no adult supervision needed.  I had felt the same way when, as a child, my father had attached a toy dashboard on my side of the car, sufficiently realistic to convince me that I was truly in control of our car.  I stayed back from her and let her walk alone.

I regretted having to intrude, but we needed to turn right and she was just booking right on across the street.  In a loud stage whisper, I said “Honey, turn to the right.”  Instead of merely turning to the right, she turned all the way around and favored me with a look of pure venom.  I had deprived her of the illusion of autonomy she had been enjoying, and I had done it in front of other people!  The loving smile on my face and my verbal softness was no compensation for my trespass into her alternate reality.

I think my atheism was a highly intellectualized form of adolescent rebellion.  While a transition must occur as a child comes away from parental authority, rebellion is merely the parent saying ‘too much, too soon,’ while the child says ‘not enough, not soon enough.’

Like adolescent rebellion, my atheism was more about privileges than responsibilities. When the discussion turned to Jesus Christ, my autonomy and freedom from oversight was being challenged.

A modern politician, when asked about the slippery ethics of his campaign fundraising, justified it by claiming that there was no ‘controlling legal authority.’  In my former atheism, the reality of an extant, controlling moral authority was unacceptable.  The idea that this authority would exist throughout my entire life was reprehensible.  Therefore, I would demand proof, all the time ignoring the scientific proof that was manifestly present. The extent to which my atheism drove me to deny the existence of a concerned creator was as laughable as it was tragic:

  1. I began, like Carl Sagan (of ‘Cosmos’ fame) with the idea that the universe had always existed and its orderliness was self-created.  Unlike Sagan, I hopped onto the ‘Big Bang Theory’ bandwagon, conveniently ignoring its remarkable resemblance to Genesis 1:3 (‘…Let there be light…’)
  2. I rejected Intelligent Design.  Of course, I had to ignore the Divine Proportion (also known as the ‘Golden Section’); an omnipresent structural imperative found in the entire Universe and in all its life forms.  It is as unique a signature of a Creator as is a brushstroke in a Rembrandt painting.
  3. I conveniently ignored the reality that Darwinism’s emphasis on ‘survival of the fittest’ directly contradicts the caretaker philosophy of the American government.  A true doctrinaire Darwinist would object to money being spent on people too sick or too elderly to be suitable contributors to a superior gene pool.

If I could script the world differently for other atheists, it would be that they not spend as much time as I did in self-deception.  I allowed myself to indulge in adolescent rebellion for far too long.  The first fantasy that one must reject is that science disproves God and His Bible.  Sorry.  It just ain’t so – and screaming about it doesn’t change it.

– Dennis Garvin