When I was as young as three years old, I believed without question the existence of god. At four, I began wearing a towel on my head (don't go there with the jokes...), held down by a plastic mixing bowl, to pretend I was a nun. I also attended temple a couple of times with the Mother Unit. I got my first taste of wine there. Mogen David FTW!
At the age of five, in my first grade class, we were all required to recite psalm 23. Since my family was of mixed faith, and not excessively religious (I was probably the most "devout" at that time), I knew no bible verses by heart. I was the only one in my class not to get a silver star by her name. Looking back, this was my first experience with indoctrination in a setting that should have been more in line with the law of separation of church and state. It was mortifying, to say the least. I remember crying all the way home and staying up well past my bedtime to memorise the psalm, but was never called on in school to clear my name as a godless fiend. During this time, I also got it into my head that I wanted to be a preacher.
Aunt Tudi explained to me that I couldn't be nun, because I wasn't Catholic, and female preachers are few and far between, and usually weren't respected or listened to. So that was that.
A few months before my sixth birthday, my family exploded, when the Mother Unit requested a divorce. During this time, a pastor started frequenting the house. He'd take me for rides in the car on occasion, and we'd sing the BINGO song. While he was showing the face of a concerned man of god during this difficult time in the family's life, the family comprising of the Units, Granny, and Aunt Tudi, he was discreetly fleecing anything of worth from an already desperately poor family. I didn't find out that last part until years later, but I had always wondered why he suddenly stopped visiting, especially when I felt I needed him most, after the break-up was finalised and my Father Unit had a nervous breakdown. It turns out he got what he wanted, which was pretty much everything we had had as a family unit.
While I was being verbally terrorised by the Father Unit, as he instructed me to despise the Mother Unit for all she had done, and telling me she had never loved me, otherwise she wouldn't have left, I prayed fervently to a god that never seemed to hear me. I felt adrift. I never felt safe. When I got to see her, Granny would tell me the story of Job, and that all I needed was to hold on to my faith, and eventually everything would be okay.
But it wasn't. I had my home, my neighbourhood, my parents, and my favourite grandmother and aunt taken away from me, until the authorities decided on what to do with me. By the time I was seven, I was living with Aunt Tudi and Granny, in an A-frame chalet in Black Mountain, North Carolina. I still wanted to believe in the existence of a higher power, so I began reading the bible frequently. Aunt Tudi bought me a Rainbow Bible. I still have it...I think.
I remember reading about Gideon in Judges, how he wanted proof of the existence of god, and put the deity to a test. This verse, Judges 6:39, impacted me:
And Gideon said unto God, Let not thine anger be hot against me, and I will speak but this once: let me prove, I pray thee, but this once with the fleece; let it now be dry only upon the fleece, and upon all the ground let there be dew.
I figured if Gideon could do this, and be answered by god, surely I could too. It was in the bible, so it must be something that was true and could be repeated. I got a dry washcloth and, placing it in the very back of my closet, asked god to let me know he was with me, that he did listen to me, by making the cloth wet by morning.
Morning came, and I rushed to the closet with hope and expectation. The cloth was dry.
I could not bring myself to say there was no god. Atheism is still unthinkable in the Southeast United States, but back in the 70s, the very word itself was an abomination. I could not not believe in god. But I learned a new word - agnostic. From 1975 until 1988, I was an agnostic. That doesn't mean I didn't have spiritual experiences. I had a few throughout my life, like the revelation of Durga at the age of five, and the irrefutable holy feeling upon seeing the beginning of the movie Xanadu, featuring Jeff Lynne's music. Even Star Wars triggered a spiritual reaction in me, which I found out later was a very natural one, considering the use of archetypes and stories older than even our most ancient ancestors.
In 1988, I began studying Wicca. I felt like I'd come home. Here was a spiritual place that you carried within you, a way of life that held everyone (male, female, human, non-human - all life) in a kind of reverence. It renewed my belief in magick and the possibility of a life of wonderment. By 1990, I had become a New Age Fluffy Bunny. By 1992, I was a High Priestess in the Caledonii Tradition. Even though I eventually turned to solitary practice and dropped the Wiccan label, preferring the cognomen of Witch, my faith never faltered.
Until 2011. On August 25th, 2011, I was catapulted into the gravest spiritual crises I'd ever known. It was different this time. I didn't feel as though god/dess was not listening to my prayers; rather, I found I had nothing to say to any deity. If people would ask, I'd nonchalantly say that I was going through a spiritual crisis or that I was a Pagan-leaning agnostic.
Monday will mark the third anniversary of Aunt Tudi's death. When it happened, people wanted to pray for me, or pray with me. They tried to comfort me with praise of god/dess. I felt myself being offended and angry, not just with deity, but also with the people who seemed to crawl out of the woodwork to use my tragedy to turn me to god. On Christmas Eve, I called my Aunt Josephine to wish her a merry Christmas. I was only four months out from losing Aunt Tudi, so the wound was still raw (honestly, it still is). Instead of giving me any sort of comfort in her own way, instead of even wishing me a merry Christmas back, Josephine proceeded to tell me that I needed to get right with god; otherwise, I wouldn't see Aunt Tudi in the afterlife, as she was in heaven, and I was definitely headed for hell. That was the last time I ever talked to her.
Three years on, and where am I as far as my quest for a higher power or my need to commune with deity? In all honesty, I would have to say that I've crossed that line between agnosticism and atheism. With all the horror I see in the world now, I prefer the idea that there is no god as opposed to one that seems to revel in the continuous abject suffering of its creations. I have no patience for any of it, in whatever incarnation people claim it exists. I want no part of it.
Now some may say that this is simply my own version of the descent of the goddess, and they can believe that all they want to. If I've been descending, then this post is the end of my journey, because I don't plan on ascending. There is nothing up there for me.
So yeah, I think it is pretty safe to say that I am an atheist. Looking back on my experiences with the spiritual world, I can see now that it was an inevitability.