I was talking to a fellow at work today, a very religious but very mellow fellow, about the age we live in. He believes, as do many people in this raggedy old world, that we are rapidly approaching the end of days. That nigh on a fortnight Christ himself will come blazing through the sky to stamp out unbelievers, like yours truly, and other assorted heathens (gays, evolutionists, liberals, the guy who filmed 2girls1cup).
Let's call it the new millenialism. Although, it's not really new. The year 1000 came and went. 1666, as frightening a year as that actually was, came and went. I'll wager a fine sum that December 2012 will come and go as well. But, we as a species have a few consistent hobbies. We love sex (even if we say it's evil), we love war (even if we say it's not needed) and we love to predict our own demise. We especially love predicting our own demise will occur while we are still here to see it.
I've been wondering why this is. Why are we so in love with the idea of seeing our own people, our children, our Toyotas and our Beagles flayed open by the end of all things? It's probably a little bit of arrogance. Despite the fact that we're a tiny little species in an out of the way solar system at the edge of a rather unspectacular galaxy, we are the most important things ever. We are the sum total of all creation and the proof of the perfection of creation. Well, aren't we?
Well, of course not, that's silly. Silly, silly, silly. That idea is like the seltzer flower on the lapel of whatever fairy tale overseer you believe in. It's Thor's fucking Whoopee Cushion.
But, I bring this story up in my very first ever blog post because thinking about the boners some folks must get listening to that REM song, no not Nightswimming, I began to think that maybe there's something more to this. Something I in fact can relate to.
Yes, I am an atheist. No one at my work knows. No one in my family knows, save my brother. But, more than that, much more than that, I'm a skeptical asshole. I demand proof. I demand evidence. I demand some goddamn logical coherence. I am an atheist because I do not believe there is any proof whatsoever for any God, spirit, tarot card reader, palm reader, vampire, werewolfs or ninth-level wereravens with a +10 night vision spell. I don't believe in Santa, the Easter bunny or the Geico Gecko. I believe that anything that is can be demonstrated. Anything that exists can be shown to exist. I believe in the freedom to form these opinions on my own. I believe in science. I believe that science illuminates the world around us. I believe the Bible darkens the world around us. It turns people into black and white caricatures of prehistoric middle eastern ideas of good and evil. I believe in nuance. I believe in thought.
Sigh...No ranting. Anyway, what I want to say here is that, gasp, I believe that I have something in common with people who not only expect the apocalypse to happen soon, but who pray for it. I believe that they, like me want proof. Only they can't admit it to themselves. They can't say to themselves, hey, I'm afraid that this stuff I've been saying and praying and singing for all these years is bullshit. They can't. So they put all their moral eggs (I do believe in stem-cell research) in this basket. I'm going to see Jesus come down from the sky. He will be on a white horse and his tongue will be a flaming sword. It's the proof and the validation that deep down they've always wanted but know they'll never get. It's Catholics (btw, I'm a reformed Catholic, so I get to make fun of my old church when I want to) who look at pancakes and see the Virgin Mary. People want proof that what they believe exists so they see it where they can, and they hope that they will see the final most dramatic proof in their lifetimes. Also, it'll be nice for them if they can see the heathens (Boy Band Members, the guy who invented silly putty, Gays) incinerated or trampled by God's galloping ghost horse.
I believe apocalyptic fervor is a sign of cowardice. I believe what I believe because the proof and evidence I have seen support certain conclusions about the natural world. Hell, I'm willing to say here and now that if Jesus Christ rides down from heaven on a flaming horse, I will have the evidence it would take to prove to me that atheism is an incorrect position. It is because I'm secure in what I believe. Not because I have faith in it, but because my beliefs are supported by facts, by truth, by reason and by science. There is no evolutionist apologetics. There's no need for it. Science by its nature embraces gaps as something to strive to be filled by more research and more evidence. Supposed gaps in any theory or fossil record aren't an embarrassment, they are an opportunity to learn and understand more. Where as the religious have to find a way to either fit the scientific evidence into their beliefs at the cost of parts of that belief or fit their beliefs into the science by ignoring the science, all I have to do is keep an open mind. That's it. It's so easy.
Give me proof and evidence. That's what I want. And, I think, deep down, each of you who prays for the rapture and the tribulation, the Mayan end of days or Ragnarok to come while you are alive secretly want as well. We all want evidence. I'm just willing to admit it.