My God vanished two years ago today at the Sandy Hook massacre.
He never returned.
Years ago, I visited hundreds of elementary schools when I was a traveling artist in the 1990’s. I taught, read books, drew pictures, sang songs for thousands of children and it was a great highlight of my life.
Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Ct. was such a school – no doubt full of the sweetest kids and most dedicated teachers. Exactly the kind of school where I would typically have once spent an entire day and left with happy memories for a lifetime.
On December 14, 2012 an entire class of 20 first graders ready to be sent home for Christmas break were slaughtered by a mad man with machine gun.
I have had no use for religion ever since.
OF ALL THE WORLD’S IMMORALITY, WHY WAS SANDY HOOK THE ONE WHICH BROKE MY FAITH?
I can only guess. Something about it hit me like no other horror. If God could watch this particular crime and not intervene it cannot be a good god, nor can it be a powerful god, nor a god worthy of the slightest worship.
So why THIS event? Had I never heard of the Holocaust? Or Vietnam? Or the Tsunamis which killed 500,000 people? Of course I had!
Look. If you are a believing Christian, as I was, you are conditioned to reflexively tell yourself no matter what, you don’t give up on God. We Christians are taught to keep seeking God even when you are at the point of complete doubt – and you are supposed to ‘find Him’ again.
I know the drill. You pray. It always worked before.
But when Sandy Hook happened, this prayer didn’t work. I wept uncontrollably as if these kids were all mine. Because I could see the world through those kid’s eyes. I knew the kids had prayed harder than anyone else, as hard as every other person in that building huddling under those desks down the halls listening to the gun shots and slaughter of the most loving children.
And God didn’t show up for those sweet, innocent kids. But it dawned on me like a light bulb in the darkness – I had no right. I had absolutely no right to expect God to show up for me. To comfort me as I wept, to assure me. No. I had no right at all !! But worse than that, it would be immoral if God DID HELP ME! How dare he come to me when he needed to help those children first?
And that was the shock. It would be wrong for god to help me when he ignored those children. And suddenly God was impossible. I wasn’t angry with God, I simply realized he was a delusion all along.
And I then understood that God probably didn’t exist.
God did not attend to the children’s needs, nor to the needs of those dear parents and heartbroken grandparents – yet he might respond to ME? This was jarringly impossible. Such a god would be beneath humanity. Completely useless to us all.
And then God disappeared. The God I had prayed to simply vanished.
Simple as that (Here is my whole story: “Oh My God! There is no God!”)
BUT WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR GOD TO VANISH?
Many people became Atheists (non-believers) after 9/11.
Others have seen the absurdity of religion in the Islamic beheadings and decided they cannot believe in a god who could allow himself to be used that way.
Despite all that, I had not allowed my faith to slip away.
But when I heard someone say after the massacre, “Jesus wanted these little angels to be with Him for Christmas” it hit me like ice water. I knew the faking had to stop.
It took Sandy Hook Elementary to finally show me that God simply does not intervene when it matters most. Rather than hate god for skipping out that day, I came to the more difficult awareness that he probably doesn’t exist – he isn’t real. At least, I cannot believe in it.
The word for Non-Belief in God is “Atheist”. I didn’t like that word.
But I had no choice. And I embrace it now.
The idea of pretending is just cruel to me after Sandy Hook.
If God exists, and intervenes, it must be a very worthless kind of intervention
if it leaves children slaughtered a week before Christmas.
“GOD LOVES YOU”
OH? AND WHAT GOOD IS IT?
I have given these matters a lot of thought.
I no longer donate to churches. I can’t even bring myself to go into a church. Not because I don’t like my church or my friends there. I did.
It is something else…I cannot support empty claims.
Instead, I donate to these non-religious organizations
which are effectively working for a better world:
-The Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence
-The National Institutes of Mental Health
-Doctors Without Borders
-The Red Cross
Some people say Atheists are sad, miserable and selfish. It is a lie.
I’m a very happy guy. I’ve met mostly wonderful Atheists since Sandy Hook. We all have similar stories of losing our religion and we discuss more freethinking philosophies of life.
I’m the same good person I always was before. I don’t say God is impossible. But I can’t believe in it. If you are going through something similar, I can tell you it is perfectly alright to be an Atheist. You will be fine.
I look forward to seeing my family and friends at Christmas and singing carols as usual. But for me, Jesus is just a myth. Like Cupid on Valentine’s day. And though I don’t believe in vampires or ghosts at Halloween, I still pass out the candy!
I wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah or just Happy Solstice.
It’s all good.