Friday, April 13, 2012

atheists' convention

Today, a friend sent along a news story about a Global Atheism Convention in Australia. "Within two generations, religion in Australia will be a non event," David Nicholls said. But, he also conceded, religion will always be present in Australia because some people "need fairy stories to survive."

I don't have enough energy to get my titties in a somber twist about who thinks what about religion or the gods, but since I have habituated myself to spiritual jimcrack, I am vaguely interested in both the hallelujahs of a Louisiana tent revival and the proud and precise dissections of atheist surgeons. I do hope that neither will visit too much harm on others, but I don't imagine that is possible. That's what the gods are in business for ... harm.

I agree with Mr. Nicholls, but would go further: It's not just some people who need fairy tales to survive. Everyone needs them ... or at least cleaves to them with the desperation and delight of a man at sea who has found a life preserver.

What I don't agree with is the notion that living life according to "fairy tales" and the implication that fairy tales are somehow lesser tales, is appropriate or accurate. My guess is that everyone lives according to his or her tale -- "fairy" or otherwise -- and the attempt to supplant one tale with a better or more delicious or more sensible story is, to borrow from the Zen Buddhists, heading East when you want to get to the West.

My fairy tale is that everyone's got his or her fairy tales and, in the end, "comparisons are odious." True, some tales are less harmful than others (or at least they are put forward that way), but tales are tales and the endless comparison or contrast, while human and sometimes a lot of fun, cannot unravel the knot.

My fairy tale suggests that rather than supplanting one tale with another, more rosy, one is not especially useful. What is useful is the willingness and courage to examine my own fairy tale, whatever it may be. First of all, this fairy tale is the only fairy tale anyone could have adequate knowledge of. This god is my god and it is my god that gets me through the day. It is my god that ties shoes, changes diapers, is brilliant or dim at work, goes clubbing, visits faraway lands, noodles about the nature of fairy tales and gods, lays claim to atheism or profound belief ... the list is endless.

My fairy tale, my god, is on hand 24/7, through and through. I may say that I understand this format is the same for you, but I don't, in truth, know. My god does not honestly extend to knowing your god, however much I may speak of "empathy" or "understanding" or "revulsion" or "love." We may play in the same sandbox and build magnificent castles together ... that's nice and kind and fun. But who built that castle that is clearly not a fairy tale at all?

Oh well. Have a god, have a fairy tale. Don't pretend you don't. Be honest. Snoop the terrain.

Creating gods and fairy tales is hard work ... maybe it's time for a break.

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