Friday, August 14, 2009

Wishing for the Truth

This entry was written while I was away from home on a Catholic mission trip and subsequently placed in its correct timeslot. Line breaks generally indicate some amount of time between the writing of the paragraphs, as I penned these thoughts over the course of the day. I have not changed the content of this entry, save for minor spelling and grammar corrections.

Back in the chapel again. I… I wish it was true. All of it. I’m scared. I don’t want to leave. I’ve been drifting away for over a year, and yet still I cling. Still I hope. But this mission is the last straw for me. I’ve seen now that even a strong desire to delude myself is not enough. I’ve chosen reason. I’ve chosen the truth. Harsh, biting truth, colder than the dark side of Mercury. No matter how I’ve tried this week, I know in my heart and mind that I can never go back. I’m out forever. I am an atheist through and through. And thus, here I sit. Alone. Quiet. Calm. Contemplating. Resting before the tabernacle, a relic I once believed holy and cosmically significant. I look up at it with pleading eyes, because for the first time since I became a non-believer, I want to have my knowledge wiped away. Alas, nothing. No final, shocking revelation from God. No whispered words of an angel. No loving embrace from Christ. I am alone in this chapel, and with a sickening lurch, I realize that I’ve always been alone here. Even in days gone by, when I would pray in places like this. Even at the heights of religious ecstasy. Even when among thousands of believers.

No matter how much I want it to be true, it is not. Christianity is false. I am alone here.

And I think I’m finally ok with that.

I think empathy is one of the most beautiful emotions in the human repertoire. The ability to feel the pain of others is unique to our species, and thus we carry a special type of burden that other creatures do not. I’ve seen lots of empathy this week, but nowhere is there more of it than during the closing ceremony for the mission. Everyone shares a story about something that touched them this week. Most of the stories are about events that cause others to feel happy. Many people cry during this ceremony. Myself, well, I guess my heart has been hardened. I used to be too empathetic (note the suffix). Now I’m not empathetic enough. But oh well.

I’m suddenly reminded of a line from a Regina Spektor song: “You laugh until you cry/you cry until you laugh/and everyone must breathe/until their dying breath”.

This is a beautiful ceremony. There is so much love in this room. So much compassion. I wish desperately that I could say a magic word and suddenly everyone would realize that God isn’t here right now; and more importantly, we’re fine without him. “People! Listen! You don’t need God to tell you to be here! You can just be here!”

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