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Jakarta post

by Jennie S. Bev

Whether or not you are an atheist, it is likely that you were born with a certain proclivity toward faith. Just like being born with a certain color of eyes and hair, or sexual orientation, you may have a predisposition to a heightened level of spiritual consciousness. 

According to neuropsychologist Brick Johnstone of Missouri University’s School of Health Professions, those with an injury to the right parietal lobe are likely to feel closer to God. Due to this correlation, Johnstone describes this portion of the brain as the “God spot."

Thus, being an atheist or a believer may very well have something to do with how active one’s “God spot” is, even though Johnstone also points out that spirituality is a complex matter and cannot be simplistically reduced to the level of activity of certain parts of the brain. And I cannot agree more.

As a person who believe in science and scientific endeavors rather than dogmas, the logical consequence for me is to become an atheist. For a humanist, being an atheist should come as a natural complement of beliefs. Many famous atheists are humanists and vice versa, such as Jeremy Bentham, Noam Chomsky, Karl Marx, Hellen Keller, Ayn Rand, Hannah Arendt, Pablo Neruda, Mark Twain, Virginia Woolf, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and Julian Assange. 

However, for some reason, I have failed as an atheist. Now, I have accepted that I am a believer in God, or an agnostic, if we want to label it with a name. It is possible that my right parietal lobe of the brain is not that active, or there is a list of complex and intertwined reasons on why I still believe in God.

In my search to accepting atheism, I came across “wounded theists," in addition to atheists who believe more in evolution, natural selection or intellectual design. Richard Dawkins, for instance, a new atheist who is actually a wounded theist — someone who is greatly disappointed with God. 

In his book The God Delusion, Dawkins wrote, “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” What an angry statement from a hurtful individual.

Such angry statement is natural coming from an atheist. From time to time, I also arrive at such conclusions after bad experiences and reading about numerous calamities worldwide. Where is God? Why did He allow little children to suffer from starvation? Why did He allow the trafficking of little girls? Where is He when we need Him the most? In a tumultuous period in my life, the question of God dominated my days.

However, I quickly noticed that the notion of God has been much too anthropomorphic as portrayed in holy books, such as the Bible and the Koran. And I will not let my thinking become entrapped in what is obviously manmade. Despite the dogmatic teachings claiming that the Koran was sent directly by God to the Prophet Muhammad, it was a book written by men. So was the Bible.

Put it this way. As a published author, writing books, including holy ones doesn’t seem so hard. And for me to ruminate on the anthropomorphism in such books reduces my reasoning skills to the level of children’s faith, as my good friend Jesuit priest Patrisius Mutiara Andalas once called it by its Indonesian translation, iman kanak-kanak. 

Let us read above –or beyond– the lines, not in between the lines or literally like Richard Dawkins did. And for me, “reading” means much more than reading holy and religious books. I “read” humanity as a whole. 

While there are many parts of the Bible and the Koran that have made God sound like a vindictive character, wounded atheists often forget the beautiful and amazing things surrounding us. While it is true there are wars and armed conflicts everywhere, there are also kind-hearted activists and philanthropists everywhere. 

While it is true that there are many natural disasters and unjustness worldwide, we can also see how caring individuals and organizations have been working diligently to bring the world back in balance, to bring this chaotic place back to a state of tranquility. 

Some atheists are pure atheists, meaning they do not believe in a divine power that created the universe. However, wounded atheists only see the “bad” part of the notion of God. And I underscore “the notion” of God here, rather than the real true God Himself or Herself or Itself.

I am not an atheist not only because the right parietal lobe is not active. I am not an atheist because I was not trapped in the anthropomorphism of the notion of God in holy and religious books. I am not an atheist because I can still see many great and good things surrounding me. I am not an atheist because I breathe and live with hope. And the one word that describes God perfectly is “hope”.

The Jakarta Post, June 28, 2012

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