Note for new readers: I lost my Dad, Dan Farris, a few months back. I’ve been thinking a lot about that, and what it’s doing to me. I keep a digital recorder with me all the time, and I record thoughts and impressions about the process and the milestones.
Here is one such thought. I relate it for the same reason I wrote my book, Red Neck, Blue Collar, Atheist — we have plenty of books and speakers to tell us about the WHY of atheism, but very few to tell us about the HOW. Yes, getting free of religion is about understanding the emptiness of religion, why it doesn’t work, why we shouldn’t accept it. But staying free of it, living your life day to day in the real world, is about figuring out the minute-to-minute HOW of thinking and living outside religion.
From the Bible to Dragon Ball Z, we’re all primed from childhood with stories to make us think we live in a universe of heroes and great gifts, of cosmic beings taking notice of us. Earthshaking, dramatic events focus on ME. The universe rotates around ME. God has a plan for ME.
The real world seems always something lesser. It disappoints you with its mundane realness, pushing you back to the more pleasing dramas of holiness and grand adventure.
But after a few years of watching things like Dragon Ball Z, you begin to realize the characters are not doing anything but fighting, having these narrow, contrived adventures that center around mere violence.
Fortunately, Dragon Ball Z, and all similar entertainments, are presented as fiction, light diversions from daily life. We have no problem weening ourselves away from it.
Unfortunately, the Bible is presented as ultimate truth.
But if you take the time to sit down and think about this supposed holy book, you realize it’s nothing at all about you, that it is a cold and impersonal attempt to rule you as if you were just one nameless sheep in a vast, anonymous herd. Your name is nowhere on its pages, and nothing in its dead, two-thousand-year-old stories relates to the real world you live in. It’s just another form of fiction, pumped up by hush-voiced reverence — like a bad play reviewed by the author’s banker.
By contrast, in a way that can never come across in books and movies and temples, we have real adventures — adventures of discovery and learning and growth, but also adventures of love.
Real love, not holy book love. The way people touch us and hug us, the way they care for us in the mundane moments of everyday life, can’t be related in a book. We have real feelings, wonderful epiphanies of love and affection, of skin-to-skin and heart-to-heart touching and being touched, that fiction can never give us.
Beyond mere fighting or holy dramas, these are the adventures life holds for us. They are greater and grander than anything we can find in fiction, or religion.
If you hold yourself back from some of this stuff, as I’ve known people to do, and for religious reasons … If you hold yourself back from the passion of love, the depth of feeling for your fellow man or woman, attempting to substitute the supposed depth of your feeling for your “savior,” you are cheating yourself and them. And oh, my, it is an ugly cheat.
This love you can feel for another warm, welcoming human being, someone who holds you in the embrace of their affection — for years! — nothing in religion can match that.
Religious people talk about eternity all the time, but that’s a pale shadow when compared to the reality of ephemerality. I had Dan, my Dad, in my life for 35 years. And I loved him, and it was a lot of love. But it was when I lost him that I woke up to understand that what I had for him, what I have for him, is an immense love. In realizing that, I saw that this same immense love is all around me. There are people in my life right now with love like that. People that care that much about me, and that I care that much about.
Recognizing and returning that love, that’s something that can’t wait for eternity. But this is a lesson you can’t always get in church.
My love for this man, and the loss of him through death, focuses me back on the people around me. I’m not distracted by this fiction of holy love. I understand that the real thing is what other people have for you, and what you have for them.
And the time to express it is NOW.