When someone asks me why I’m an atheist, I usually tell them, “Because Peter Gabriel won’t shag me.” They laugh and life goes on.
But there is a serious answer. It’s just that usually no one wants to hear it and when I start explaining, the listener’s eye glaze over. If you’re reading this, them I’m going to assume that you are actually interested in the serious explanation. Perhaps that’s a huge assumption on my part.
Long Time Coming
I wish I could say that there was one big, dramatic event that made me decide then and there that God did not exist. That would make a far more interesting article. But that’s not how it happened. I began having my doubts about God as young as eight years old, when I began to really pay attention to how people treated animals, the environment and themselves.
It took me almost another 30 years before I let go of the God hypothesis entirely. Now, I wasn’t thinking about the existence or non-existence of God the entire time. I had other things to do. I also went to a very strict Protestant Born-Again school, so if I voiced any questions that seemed in the slightest way atheistic, I would’ve been in deep trouble. As soon as I graduated, I went to a normal community college and university, where I could finally relax and ask questions.
Hanging On By My Fingernails
Life got bad for me in 1999. I’ll spare you the details, but the main gist is that I had a mental breakdown as a result of endogenous recurring depression. Even though I had a full-time job, I could not afford therapy. I traveled to the UK in a last ditch attempt to try and seduce Peter Gabriel, which failed utterly – so utterly that he didn’t even look in my direction – and what was left of logic and reason went “ping.”
I met a homeless man that looked like Peter. He asked me to run away with him. I did. I had transferred all of my feelings for Peter to the homeless Peter-substitute. He was a Pagan, so I became a Pagan. I believed in every God you could think of, because they were all facets of the Goddess, Who was the Prime Mover. To be honest, I really liked it. Paganism seemed to answer a lot of questions and cloaked my screwed-up life in a blanket of certainty.
But there is one important tenant of Wiccan and Pagan beliefs. It’s a poem written by Doreen Valiente called “The Charge of the Star Goddess.” In it are the words, “For if that which you seek you find not within yourself, you will never find it without.” I ignored the implications and thought that if I propitiated the right Deities, I’d have anything I wanted after the correct sacrifices had been made.
The Peter-substitute turned out to be a career alcoholic and psychotic. He wound up putting me in the hospital. He tried to kill me more times than I care to admit and he jolly well near succeeded. But God would make things all right in the end, wouldn’t He? Love conquers all and all that.
He then beat my four month old puppy, Pony. She is the one pictured for this article. I then realized he was a nothing but a monster. I gathered up my puppy, some dog food and candles and left him. He had a flat in Bath then while I lived in a bender in the woods just outside of Bathwick within view every day of Solsbury Hill, which Peter Gabriel sang about.
I left this monster on Boxing Day, 2004. My puppy and I lived off of other people’s garbage and whatever I could beg or barter for. In all this time, I worked on a book about my Pagan faith called “Walk Straight Down the Middle”, after a Kate Bush song. It was over 800 pages long. I illustrated it myself.
On the evening of 6 August, 2005, I needed water. It was a mile round trip to the fresh water spring at the Avon canal. I took Pony with me to burn off some of her limitless energy.
I came back and my home was on fire. I was later told that my screams could be heard for about a mile away. I never found out who called the fire brigade. They put the fire out but the damage had been done. The book, and almost everything else, was ash. Some 500 pages of it was salvaged – the page centers surrounded by black ash.
The fire brigade workers told me bluntly that they suspected arson. I did, too, but I was illegal alien in the UK and could not press charges on who I suspected. I later found out my suspicions were correct, but I had to keep my mouth shut. If the arsonist could casually set my home on fire then what would he do if I pointed the finger at him?
Julian House in Bath contacted my family back in America. My mother agreed to take me and Pony in. I went to her with not much except the remnants of a burnt book.
When I returned to America, I had a lot more on my mind than whether or not God existed. I had to go through reverse culture shock, find employment and admit that my leaving America in the first place had been a dreadful mistake. Eventually, I became a freelance writer in 2006.
I looked at the burnt book many times. It stinks of burned plastic tarpaulin and flame retardant chemicals. I transcribed about 100 pages to the computer and then stopped. I realized I didn’t believe how stupid I was to fall for that nonsense.
The Universe is a place of chaos, not order. It behaves in exactly the same way as one would expect a godless universe to behave. Evil often triumphs over good. Good often suffers at the whims of the evil. I’ve been told that evildoers finally get their punishment in the afterlife, but that does not help me now.
I’ve been told that trials and tribulations are given to us by God in order to test us and make us better people. That’s nonsense. If God existed, then there certainly was a way that could have avoided me writing a book and then having it turn to ash and grit. If God was kind, I never would have run away to England in the first place. I would have been able to get help for my mental illness.
And I look at my dog. She knows nothing of God, nor does she need to. She’s just about the happiest creature I know. If my dog doesn’t need God, why do I? So I became an atheist.
Life, as it is, is more wonderful and more amazing than God. And Peter Gabriel makes a nice backing soundtrack to it all.