has an really interesting post about her "first atheist" -- questions of faith and religion and meaning and the nature of the universe and JOY are not just "my favorite topic," these have been the obsession of my life.
I was, like Brian, a Jehovah's Witness as a child (total coincidence), but unlike him, I got out of it very young (because my parents did too). Nonetheless, that was my early world: I went door to door, had a doberman sicced on me when I was 4, went to more meetings than you would believe, was praised for quoting the Bible in public, and basically I "believed."
I was maybe five or six when I found a dying bird in the grass outside my home and sat with it until it was gone. A group of kids saw me, saw it, wanted to play with it, but I wouldn't let them. And then I remember getting into an argument with them about whether or not the bird was going to heaven. Despite growing up in a creed that doesn't believe in heaven, I said definitely yes. (They said definitely no - only people go to heaven.)
In hindsight, it's so logical: living forever in paradise on earth is a myth for a mature mind, a mind that, at some level at least, has already figured out that "heaven" is a little ridiculous. But for kids, of course the essence of the bird, that which twitters and flutters and flies and sings, that which fears and remembers and hungers, that cannot simply not be. Poof: heaven.
One of Brian's favorite stories about me: when I was about 8, I started my own religion. I recruited a flunky (a girl a year younger than me who would basically go along with anything), and we built a church out of banana plants, their trunks and leaves. I brought a Bible out from the house, and we stockpiled rocks. The Church of Amy stood for about three days before we found our first heretic - a neighborhood friend who became angry and screamed at us when we tried to convert him - apparently he thought WE were the ones offending God. We threw rocks at him until he ran under a (really quite beautiful but dangerous as hell) tree of thorns -- its brittle, sharp, thorn-studded branches lay hidden in the bermuda grass and he ran barefooted right into it. I laughed and taunted him, told him, "that's what you get!" -- and my father had to come outside with his shoes on to save the poor crying boy.
I did not "learn" anything from these experiences, exactly: rather, these experiences raised deep unflinching questions in me about religion, "God," different gods, what gets called "Truth" and what gets called "mythology" and why... and what it means to be "heretical," and what it means to be moral... If you ask yourself, what "must God be like," what do you base the answer on? A book? A feeling? If God showed up and said, "my children I command you: lie, cheat, steal, murder, and get all for yourself you can, and do it in my name to increase my glory!" -- WOULD you? Or would you refuse that God because he offends something deeper and more true within yourself?
That is what all of my artistic work (writing and everything else) has been about, my whole life. These questions have absolutely inspired me, and thinking about these questions creates most of the meaning in my tiny existence. (Love, I think, makes up the rest.) A religion, were I to embrace one, would stuff a big fat cork in the fount of all wonder and mystery and discovery and joy in my life. For me, that way of thinking belongs to that 8 year old monster in the backyard, who is still there to me, through space and time more than two decades ago, who still reads verse aloud to her weak-minded friend and plans a stoning.
But without eternity, everything is precious, you, me, this planet, every moment. And without Fate, we are responsible: the world is ours to destroy or make better. And without God...