Two days ago Christopher Hitchens passed. This made me very sad on first seeing the headline. His face always looked to me so somber, full of a private sadness or resolve or something I could never quite identify. But his insistence on his own particular form of seeking had touched a chord inside me.
I, too, for many years would proudly claim my atheism. I thought of it as a badge that set me apart from the mob mentality, somehow. It got people’s attention even, the attention an insecure seventeen year old, raised in the church, and whose mother has just passed away after a long fight with cancer, craves more than anything, except of course that life would return “to normal.”
It would be years before that awful ache sitting on top of my chest would go away. But it was that kind of determination and resolve to just carry on somehow, with or without the God who took my Mom away, which I saw in Christopher Hitchen’s face. It’s not that I thought “oh, if only Hitchens could believe in God, it would all be fine." No, I quite admired his determination to stick to his guns. There is no such thing as God. These might have been the very words from my mouth all those many years ago.
A few days ago on reading something about atheism and whether or not it really should be a include in any discussion on religion, I wrote in notes to myself: What is agnosticism but a spiritual longing looking to justify itself under the guise of rational thought? That’s a pretty smart thought, if I do say so myself.
Because all these years after my so-called spiritual re-awakening, there are days or hours of the day when I am still torn here between choosing God or choosing atheism. This is because I like most people am of two minds: one is rational and materialistic and gets me through my day; the other is symbolic, metaphorical, poetic, and highly malleable. This, dear readers, is in my opinion exactly how it should be. We live split lives or lives that split along these two congruent axis. From the one mind we support our families, balance personal accounts, form opinions. From the other mind we offer prayers to the darkness of our worries, fears, anxieties, dreams and wishes. We write poetry, fall in love, create novels in our heads and read novels in our minds.
We are a society of two-mindedness and that’s all there is to it.
In this season of Advent, now in our fourth week of Advent, we wait for the opening that will allow us, our entire being: heart, mind, and soul, to enter into the holy of holies. We wait for some ease to return to our worn lives and fractured spirits. One of my favorite collects of this advent season goes thusly:
“Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Amen, Christopher Hitchens. Amen to your perfect integrity. Rest in peace.