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Atheism and authenticity

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  • louise
    What have I learnt, over the years, about loving my neighbour? That, no matter how hard the strife and the passion, of coming to know myself, and trying to
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 4, 2009
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      What have I learnt, over the years, about loving my neighbour? That, no matter how hard the strife and the passion, of coming to know myself, and trying to understand the world around me, in order not to cause wanton damage nor indulge in heedless sloth, the vastness of my ignorance always brings new errors to bear, and every fear is fulfilled, exceeded, and then transformed. I am all in wonder again, at the mystery of it all.

      When, in the most recent years, I have felt to be under pursuit and under judgment, I assumed it was a most personal matter, and could not fathom why so many people not known to me appeared to be so vitally interested, and what was the source of their power, so to intimidate me and provoke reactions of angry feeling from myself I could not have imagined possible. The personal matter, to be plain, was a marital infidelity, committed many moons ago, and duly confessed to my husband at the close of the affair. That, many years later, in another location altogether, I should feel overwhelmed by this memory and unable to escape the scrutiny of others into every aspect of my own system of beliefs, which includes, in the widest sense, my political commitments, was like a recurrent physical assault. Really, the essence of my political beliefs is not at all about power or rights, but about freedom of the instincts and freedom of thought. As I grew up in an ordinary socialised manner, there is quite a vital link between freedom of thought and freedom of speech. I enjoyed the former because I enjoyed the latter - firstly within my own family, and secondly with my husband. Once, however, I felt trapped within a culture quite unknown to me, from which there seemed - and seems - no escape, I knew the reality of what it means to be denied freedom of speech.

      The reasons seem fairly obvious in retrospect. Only hard experience could teach me just how alien are philosophical concerns to those who confronted me on the streets. Just what, then, does the rule of the streets involve? I have gradually come to recognise the subtle ways of interdependence, the silent understandings that prevail, alike among the poor and the more prosperous, in this part of Northern England. In my ignorance I spoke carelessly and affronted sensitive feelings. What about speech in the other direction? What of the ordinary people and their attitudes of indifference or hostility to the philosophical, to the peculiar and hidden requirements of such a life? To the need for a certain kind of privacy or even secrecy, in order for life to be viable. It is only at the level of instinct that there is a meeting. My anger comes in at the way healthy instinct is corrupted by mob intimidation and superstition. The newspapers provide one focus and justification for this kind of intolerance. This is why I frequently feel a hatred for certain newspapers, whose cultures I do not understand. It is natural to hate what seeks to destroy that which is loved. This is a truth I learnt in my adulthood. My hatred is philosophically rooted, and on the face of it contrasts with the old Christian traditions to which I am also devoted. I wish to explain this apparent contradiction.

      When Christ was crucified, He called out to His Father, to "forgive them, for they know not what they do". As one who always understood human motivation, He identified the salient factor - ignorance. When I think of my own experience of being repeatedly harassed and assaulted on the streets, it was not because of ignorance, but because of pride. This pride people learn from one another, in humanistic self-satisfaction. The newspapers reinforce the lesson and make a copious mix of slander with hostility (in the case of people in the public eye, that is). Again, healthy instinct, and the corrupt pride of the mob in full cry. I know that the only way through to love of my neighbour is actually to demonstrate by my living, that I will not let the bastards drive me into terrified submission. That it is really all right to believe in gentleness and not in correctness, that it is all right to be racially aware, and committed to exploring what it means to be English, that it is legitimate to resist the threats of the righteous many if one believes that truth emerges from the individual life, and is tested by peaceable discussion, not by scorn, force of numbers, and disregard for fact and feeling. In other words, I wish to return, in a sense, to (existlist) beginnings, to how I felt on first arrival here. If I may indeed find the confidence to experience again the sacredness of life, the uniqueness of human freedom, then insanity may fall away, and reason return to its rightful place, warning me from the insatiate desire to please, appease, or evade. All the aggression is incubated at that point, I believe.

      What I seek is subjective rejection of social theocracy, a rejection that constitutes an atheism which returns me to the New Testament. That way lies freedom, and freedom is far more important than pleasure.

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