April 13, 2011

Atheism and Cynicism: Personal Reflections

bibleI don't know exactly when I became so cynical. I suppose it was a process and not a discrete event. My early love of science certainly fostered a tendency to question everything. I used to love reading about various mysteries and paranormal phenomena. Depictions of the scientific method as a way to investigate and ultimately debunk these myths was intriguing.

As I grew a bit older, I remember sitting in church and marveling at the hypocrisy I saw everywhere. These people who looked so pious with their hands clasped in prayer were anything but. I knew what they did outside of church. At least, I knew some of it. It gradually dawned on me that they might be here in church going through the motions for reasons other than belief.

But it wasn't until later, after I stopped going to church, that I begin to question political and governmental authority. Through the study of history, I realized that the official explanations countries offered for their actions were often deceptive and sometimes entirely fabricated. I was initially reluctant to question whether my own country might do this as well, but that did not last long.

I had been politically minded for some time, but I wasn't what I'd call politically active until shortly before the first Gulf War. By this point, it was no longer a matter of wondering if my government might not be honest 100% of the time but of assuming that we were probably receiving half-truths most of the time. I recognized that propaganda was being used against my fellow Americans in the run up to this war, and I found it inexcusable. In a way, this was another loss of innocence.

Atheism was intertwined with my cynicism and political views from the beginning. I moved from questioning the existence of Bigfoot to that of gods. And around the same time I realized that there were no gods, I begin to question why so many people seemed so invested in maintaining the myth. Realizing that people were propagating lies to make money or maintain power brought my views on religion and politics very much in line. I had no more reason to believe my President than my minister.

And yet, my cynicism has never become absolute - it has never turned into nihilism. I do trust some people. I do believe some of what I am told. I do maintain hope in some things. Despite having fairly negative views on human nature, I have not given up.

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