The Atheist & The Foxhole

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“There are no atheists in a foxhole,” Noah Weinberg used to love to say, swiftly eradicating all actual atheists who undoubtedly have existed in foxholes. That statement further disregards all the individuals who became atheists in foxholes, like the blaspheming Rabbi in Elie Wiesel’s Night.

From the moment I lost my religion, and truthfully, even beforehand, I was jealous of the theists all around me. I too, wished I had a Father in Heaven Who Gave a Damn. I too wanted to pray the pain away. To have every little thing matter. To be part of a plan.

Alas. In moments of debate, I have conceded that the world is complex enough to imply the possibility of a higher intelligence that Created All The Things. However, this very argument makes the assumption that there is a humanly comprehensible Plan for Creation that much more absurd. More laughable still is the presumption that the plan revolves around us, that we could possibly know what it is, or that it involves the order in which we put on our shoes.

I watch as the world goes to shit, and all around me are promises of salvation. Pledge $18 to charity. Pray harder. Write a letter in scroll. Stop speaking in synagogue, fool. Download an app that practically prays for you. I have no such comforts at my disposal. Armed with just a Buddhist world view and meditation, I get to sit for an hour with immeasurable pain, over and over again. I get to stand daily at the edge of the universe and stare intently into the sheer pointlessness of it all. Inviting myself to feel it all as deeply as possibly.

Yay, even more pain.

This too shall pass. Not just a nice ring for seminary girls on the way to the Kotel. Everything you ever loved, your children, your parents, toilet paper, will disappear someday. We all die, at some point in our lives. Observing the transient nature of all things might be the antidote to suffering, but it comes by diving headfirst into the pain of existence.

I know that this too shall pass, but goddamit it feels like it will last forever.

I have been accused of becoming an atheist out of a place of comfort seeking. “You’re just doing it to get laid with a guilt-free conscience”. I assure you, with social distancing in place, I am getting laid even less than I usually don’t.

Theists get to revel in this being a sign of the End of Days, an indication that the Messiah is parking his donkey in the driveway as we speak (just as he has done during both Gulf wars and a thousand other times before). Theists bid loved ones farewell, knowing that they are going on to a better place, will be looking down at you from above while advocating to God on your behalf, and will very shortly resurrect again so that we can all eat more cholent by the pool.

Which takes more courage? Constructing meaning out of the meaningless, dismissing death itself as just an illusion? Or letting the pointlessness of all things wash over you and getting out of bed in the morning anyway?

The world is a beautiful place. It’s also downright fucking terrible. I believe no one misses pleasure they never experienced, but we all know what suffering feels like the moment we have to squeeze through a vagina that is a lot smaller than our head. And it’s all downhill from there.

To never exist is to miss out on something you don’t know you’re missing, alongside a boatload of pain. I think I could not-live with that. The logical, unpopular conclusion to this line of reasoning is, stop having kids. Once they are born, they will quickly get attached enough that they never want to leave this Godforsaken place. But if you asked your unborn child if they’d like to get dragged cruelly out of blissful non-existence, they’d probably reply with the ubiquitous sass that is so common of unborn children, the original generation X: “Nah bro, I’m cool.”

It takes great strength to resist our biological urge to perpetuate the pointless circle of life. A lot of self-control to not succumb to the selfish urge to see more little versions of yourself bumble around on this planet, or worse, take care of you when you’re old. I made that mistake twice. Then I put my dick where my mouth is and got a vasectomy.

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