Confessions of an Ex-Atheist - The Problem of Reepicheep
When I was a child, thanks to my father, and a local library, (and to some extent a government program called Tesera) I filled my time with the reading of books. I didn't go to church. But many, many books found their way into my hands. Great books like the Chronicles of Narnia, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, Hatchet, and The Hobbit. I read The Lord of the Rings simply because I asked the Mullan Road Elementary School librarian for the biggest novel in the library.
In the sixth grade, because I had decided on astrophysics as my future occupation, I became an Atheist. My reasoning? That's what hardcore scientists did. From sixth grade until my Baptism into the Christian Church my Junior year in High school, I held just about every intellectual theory close to my bosom for some short period of time.
I was an evolutionist, an existentialist, a materialist, and even a Marxist. For a time Freudian psychology held sway, then biological determinism, then multiculturalism, but around the time I started High School, I realized that I had lost Reepicheep. He was no longer on my side.
Imagine Reepicheep in a confined space for any period of time with someone that says things like Karl Marx. “A prostitute is more valuable than a housewife.” He would run him through; he'd send him over the side. And the crew of the Dawn Treader is going to give a polite little round of applause before going back to their daily routine (but with a new found lightness in their step).
Or Freud “No little mouse, you are wound up because your Id desires conjugal relations with your mother.” Not only would no one stop him, everyone would cheer when Reepicheep sword spilled Freud’s blood all over the starboard deck.
This was disconcerting for my newly minted teenage self. I was losing my heroes so that I could say ridiculous things like, “Multiple partners is our animal instinct, I mean come on, it’s just mating.” (There goes Galadriel). And, "A good old fashioned revolution and economic collapse would do our society some good." (Goodbye Shire). "And besides, if it makes you happy, it can’t be that bad.” (Siding with Lancelot as he is ejected).
I knew that Arthur wasn’t saving a seat for me at the round table. This is one of the things that kept me wondering about Jesus; Reepicheep, Arthur, and Bilbo all seemed to need Him to make sense. I knew that I was half-hearted (at best) about everything that I did. I was slipping away from what I wanted to be, someone that Reepicheep would respect. I was calling myself a realist. But I knew that I had traded in the ideals of the stories I loved for hurdling turtles. Survival of the fittest had left me with a whole basket full of weasel-sucked eggs.
I turned to joke-punk at the time. I laughed as The Dead Milkmen sang about their Bitchin' Camaro and I filled my time with the satire of SNL. But here's the thing about the church lady, and Wayne's World and Shiny Happy People; sarcasm builds nothing. As Oscar Wilde once quipped, "Irony is wasted on the stupid." To make fun of people is a bit like hitting the ground throwing a dusty monkey. It doesn't take much. Tearing down takes very little effort. But once it's torn down, unless you have something to build or grow or pour into its place, you end up with nothing but existential crisis, and all of the punk-fueled laughter in the world can't make something that isn't there. And that was where I was when I first walked into a Bible Study with a friend from my soccer team.