Confusion of a Probably Atheist

An experiment in rambling conversational monologue.

I wrote weak drafts of this post four times in weeks past and again today; a fifth attempt to stay on topic while my pen meanders off target like an over-eager hunting dog chasing stale idea-scent that when written, like dreams chronicled before coffee, bore writer and reader alike.

And here I go again, pen fluttering like milkweed seed wafting in Morning’s siren song breezes. Unless I rein this stream of semi-consciousness in, I shall find myself, tomorrow, scribbling draft number six.

Awhile ago a man approached, introduced himself and within five short minutes of inquiring small talk asked me if I was an atheist. I hesitated for a nano and responded, calmly, “Probably.” As I heard my answer, my jaw dropped. I take pride in knowing myself. I take pride in candid honesty. “Probably?” did not sound like either.

Why I responded “Probably.” put a seed of disconcert in my head.

I like to know why I think and say what I think and say. When I do not, I look in to turn mystery out. I think about what I think to discover why I think what I think and how I came to think what. It’s like getting high. Inhaling iterative introspection safe behind the covered windows in my room; achieving altered consciousness; blocking tire on pavement hissing din of reality; ignoring time and stacking material concerns on a corner shelf to collect dust.

Within me dissolves without me.

Eventually, I grow hungry, re-emerge, grab a snack and review things about me I know after but did not before my trip through pensive shadows.

I employ two vehicles to traverse the Inside: writing and contemplation. or writing and meditation for those of you less Nordic and more Zen. In this case I employed, for the most part, the soothing act of writing with fine-nibbed pen on foolscap. Results below.

I admit I felt unprepared to respond to a request to label myself and enter undesired theological discourse but to ignore the question was not an alternative. Although any answer threatened to open doors I preferred left locked, he did ask and deserved an answer. Conscious Thought, flat-footed and caught in the beam of approaching headlights, froze. Grabbing the controls, Sub-conscious Mind flipped a coin to decide between fight or flight.



The softish answer to the question “Are you an Atheist?” emerged in less time than it takes to read this. Foregoing delays required to include Conscious Thought, Mind chaired a panel of inner stakeholders to discuss possibilities, omit obviously unimportant elements and shelf minor influences. The executive action took less time than it took for Conscious Thought to register one gold-finch flight from feeder to tree.

Mind and enpaneled experts devised a plan; sought safety in non-committment, prepared an appropriately evasive response and simultaneously suppressed emotion chemically evoked by glandular reaction to an ever-so-slight whiff of resentment that a stranger would be so bold as to request self-labeling of atheist or non-atheist.

During the blink of wordless panic in the real-time world the expert panel and Sub-conscious Mind set aside chocolate eclairs and double-double lattes long enough to decide that anyone who could ask, “Are you an atheist?”, would label me Atheist, but in an act of selfish, cowardly consensus deemed it best not to answer “Yes.” The distinguished panel of experts produced and delivered to Mouth and conscious Mind, in that order, four opinions and a decision to blurt, “Probably.”

I shy from labels as a rule.

People live complex lives. We can know little of people’s Minds and how they work. Labeling someone, or ourselves, we substitute label for unseen complexity. If we mistake the map for the territory, begin substituting labels for reality, we eliminate motivation to explore the character of people. Sociologists say we stereotype. I think we build barriers to knowledge.

Yet, we are people and people label things. Labeling seems as much our nature as hunting seems the nature of felines.

The labels, Atheist and Theist, occupy a sphere of subjectification I do not. Atheist and Theist fail to interest me because, to dredge up a Groucho Marxism, “I never wanted to belong to a club that would have me as a member.”

I suspect both labels limit. Atheists limit themselves from the awe, wonder and mystery of God. Theists limit themselves from the awe, wonder and mysteries of Nature and Universe.

Each of us develop unique realities molded from cognitive potential and personal history. We create versions of the universe from intersections of singular sapience and sui generis experience.

In my little world, Gods, Nature, and Universe require direct, personal contact; contact achieved though cautiously fashioned Weltanschuung incongruous with prevailing authorized editions and involving rites and rituals that, unlike mainstream institutions, I keep private.

I assumed, likely my first mistake, that the-man-who-asked would inquire to my choice of sect if I answered, “No.”

I feared he would evangelize, likely my second mistake, if I answered “Yes.”

I also did not want to respond “Yes, I am an atheist.” because it was Thursday and on Thursdays “Yes. I am an Atheist.” tells a lie.

I do not like to lie.

This mess of messiness messing up conscious reason left no option except to answer as directed by Sub-conscious Mind and stakeholders, “Probably.”

There you have it. The babbling innerlogue of a Probably Atheist.

Or not.

© 2008-2012 Chromia Poetics