When you read this I’ll be sitting, hopefully, comfortable in my chair, my dog, Rusty at my side or wandering with me in the hills around the lake outside Cody, Wyoming. WordPress has this feature of publishing based on time schedules that seem to act for you, so here is one of those types of post – a reflection on my own past kind that even I wonder why I keep peering into that abyss.
No, seriously, as I look back now on my earlier childhood, the Culture of West Texas I grew up in and the religious world-view of the fundamental Southern Methodist and Baptists, much less the austere Church of Christ and other sects and sectarian fundamentalisms, as well as the Holy Rollers – Assembly of God, Seventh Day Adventists and so many others, I wonder what changed my mind and diverted my life from a robot of the faith. Sometimes you just have to take stock of that world, really look at what shaped one’s views and what set one onto one path and not another. What was that Plato’s Socrates said just before they sentenced him to death for corrupting the youth of Athens? “An unexamined life is not worth living,” he said in the Apology, one of those works one should read every few years and ponder.
Those that don’t know me I grew up in a divided home. My father a non-believer, a man who grew up in a alcoholic’s home, where his mother became a prostitute to make ends meet, etc. Enough said. No sense belaboring the world of the down and out, one could read the pulp fiction of Jim Thompson to get a flavor of that world. Dad’s view or reality was the old “dog-eat-dog,” better “take them before they take you” variety. A man who grew up in a rough-and-tumble street urchin society of roughish boys of Oklahoma, City.
Yet, for all his rough talk and immense learning (he read everything he could get his hands on in sciences, math, philosophy, etc.), he would leave Mom alone with her religion, allow her to raise I and my Sister up as she saw fit. Going to Sunday school and services, etc. It was like living with polar opposites. Dad was a die hard naturalist and physicalist whose only faith was in the human mind to question everything, even its own questioning. A skeptic, yet not cynic, he entered the world of capitalism like a shark in its own element. Having grown up destitute he’d set one goal in his life, one that was a particular myth in America: to become rich and successful, famous and well-regarded. He became the mythic icon of the road: a Traveling Salesman. He was talker alright, a creature that had a quip or quote for every occasion, and yet knew just how to balance it and gauge the nuances of his clients. When to listen and when to speak: the art of the sale was simply put, how to allow the customer to desire the object of their dreams and then offer it to them on a silver platter. Giving people their dreams and wishes rather than selling them a product was the key to this world. And, he was good at it.
Mom on the other hand was both intelligent and circumspect, a moralist at heart and yet not overly authoritarian in her approach with us. She’d come from Quaker stock in Pennsylvania, our family going back to the pre-Revolutionary days, when southern Germans escaped religious persecution and moved to the promised land of America. My Grandfather and Great Grandfather were oilmen in the Standard Oil world. My Great Grandfather developed and invented the main drilling bits that brought in the first wells in northern Texas at Spindletop. In the late twenties the clan moved to northern Louisiana to work on the Texarkana oil boom with the old Mobile Oil Company, etc. During the depression era the clan or extended family of five brothers and three sisters on my Great Grandfather’s side bought a farm and built large home out of hewn timber and the old Quaker methods of building homes and barns. They lived meagre existences during this era, but working together they combined forces and were able to make due. This sense of belonging to a group, to the clannish ways was tremendous in our family up through the sixties until my Grandfather died. After that the clan and new bourns all dispersed from the fold.
But I get ahead of myself. Grandfather who was the head of the clan after my Great Grandmother passed on (and, yes, she was the authority and wise woman who kept the clan together, my Great Grandfather being both a fun loving and yet drunk oilman who was neither a business man nor a moralist). Great Grandmother was a force to be reckoned with and kept everyone in line. Sometimes we forget that women are actually mentally and spiritually more empowered and acute in the mind where it comes to group relations. She was what I suspect is that figure out of many of those sixties and seventies feminist studies of the ancient women figures of the old goddess worlds of the neo-lithic etc. A true Wise Woman incarnate. After her nothing would last, the brothers and sisters began to grumble, and quibble for power until my Grandfather put it to an end.
People forget what clans are in these singular and artificial times. Forget that for most of human existence men and women lived in communal enforced habitats of authority ruled by either Patriarchal or Matriarchal lineages of figures who balanced existence with justice and the iron coldness of intelligence and the warmth of affective power. Those figures who succeeded were both charismatic and respected among the clans many families. Yet, there was always the testing of authority from the outer tiers. The great figures of authority brought stability to a chaotic world of in-fighting bloods who would otherwise either disperse and leave the fold, or would bring only an endless world of fighting which would lead to both hate and victimized recipients of injustice. Without such leadership the world of such groups was an endless civil war.
In our age of artificial families after two hundred years of supposed capitalist values, a world that has gone from strong patrilineal authority to an anarchy of homes that have no authority figure we’ve seen through the artificial cages and have now lost both authority and freedom of the old ways. We the rise of populism we’ve seen the reemergence within certain humans toward this old path of authority and figures of power to bring about stability in a world that has none. That they do not care who that person is so long as they meet the obligations of that promise is obvious to us all. That they will allow this personage to enforce almost tyrannical powers of exploitation in the name of stabilizing such a world is obvious as well. Fear and hatred drives this world. The world is an instable tissue of fictions that when they work people go back to sleep and forget about politics. Only in a world that seems to be teetering on the edge of both monetary and civil unrest and instability awakens the usual lethargic populace out of its stupor and forces them to action. This has happened in Europe and America. It happened in Russian and China with a return to certain stabilizing powers in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Nothing new here. We just took a little longer for this cycle to see it emerge in the supposed free democratic nations.
Stability and Instability are and have been the keys of political change for as long as humans (hominids) have existed. Nothing new here, only that many seem to want to find excuses and reasons elsewhere than in the simple truth that most human do not want to live in an instable world of war, disease, civil-strife, economic chaos, famine, etc.. So they will awaken in empower even the unlikeliest of beings to put things back into balance. This is the simplicity of what is taking shape in our moment in America. Nothing more. Once this proceeds it will set the warring parties to the tables, force them to confront their own animosities and bitter hatreds for what they are: the eventual destruction not of the other half they despise, but of the 100% of all involved leading to the eventual collapse of everything. So we install someone strong enough to arbitrate the hate. That’s the figure of power in our time, the most hated becomes the focal point of hate by all involved, the figure who can play the role of the ancient Sacrificial Kings of Old. Both master and victim.
Oh, we think we’ve escaped the old ways. That we’re dressed up in modern finery, that we drives fancy cars, have rockets that go to Mars or the Moon. That we are nothing like these ancient peoples. Bullshit. We’ve forgotten that our intellects are cold and calculating, yet our affective regions are just a daemonic and ancient cesspools has they’ve always been. We think we’ve overcome all this and yet underneath it all is the bloodlust of ancient death-drives seeking the apocalyptic blood-bath of our enemies. No we’re still the ape dressed up in hominization for five million years. We’ve still the old ape predation in our dark souls.
Enough. So why did I become an atheist? Why? Because I once thought of myself as a true believer, a man who believed he was born again, saved, a part of the Body of Christ, etc. That I’d found within myself a rebirthed creature, twice-born, a man made anew in the spirit, in the inner man, born of the light and Holy Spirit. Then I started the long road of examining both this and the theologies and Biblical exegesis surrounding these ancient scriptures. What I found was both disturbing and enlightening: the Bible was written not by God, it was not a Bible but rather a series of scrolls, parchments, transcriptions, translations, palimpsests, amalgams of hearsay, and innuendo, revisions, fabrications – to put it blunt, a work of fiction invented out of the cultural matrix of hundreds of years of Jewish cultural theory and praxis. And, not only that, but that the Greek New testament if studied in Green Quinine is recognized to be a veritable hodge-podge of revisions over a period of couple hundred to longer years.
Even after pondering this I still believed. I had certain visions, dreams, nightmares that revealed a world I thought was spiritual. I had experiences during my outlandish escapades into the drug culture of the Sixties dropping acid, mescaline, peyote, the vine, etc. that led me to believe in out of the body experiences among other worldly travels. And, then later I studied the brain on these chemicals, the effects of these drugs through scientific research in brain studies, etc. Realized that our spiritual insights and religious visions come from an area of our mind we have yet to understand, and have little knowledge of. And, yet, we know that this did not happen, it was not external, but rather a projection of the same processes that shape our dreams and nightmares when we are asleep. The ecstatic visions of shamans and sorcerers across the world from ancient times till now were waking visions from drugs, deprivation, or self-induced vision quests involving painful mental or physical struggles. In other words as Blake once said rightly the whole realm of spirits is not out there but resides in the “human breast”. This too is illusion and delusion. When realizing that those within the Church who are supposed to have answers could not answer my questions, and who would all with almost one voice remind me that one must just believe, that to question too much and long is absurd, that God is mysterious and a Mystery. That is what led me onto the road to atheism. A rocky road indeed. Because for one that has been a supposed Christian to accept the road away from God is to accept both eternal damnation and hell fire, etc. (at least according to those Churches I grew up in). So I went through years of horror and doubt in my quest for answers and stability, courage and conviction. It was not easy becoming an atheist. It was terrifying.
Even now I wonder and am amazed that I made it without going mad or committing suicide.