There is no doubt that words are powerful, powerful things and sometimes we come across something that really moves us. That was the case today when I came across this beautiful video by Shane Koyczan.
Having grown up in a very liberal, Roman Catholic home, I participated in all the Easter holiday ceremonies. I remember feeling the aching in my heart on Good Friday. I remember walking the Stations of the Cross in candlelight vigil, experiencing the darkness and pain as I learned about the suffering of Christ, year after year. Imagery of the torture and execution of Jesus Christ has haunted me since I was a small child, and it still pains me when I see it plastered all over my Facebook newsfeed during Holy Week. My babysitter had a painting in her living room of the crucifixion and I remember, even as a 3-year-old, the heaviness the imagery left in my heart, seeing the crown of thorns, the broken skin, and the nails penetrating the flesh.
I also remember the feelings of hope and love on Easter Sunday, knowing that “He Is Risen” and believing that I was being saved from an eternity of that kind of darkness and pain experienced on Good Friday. I remember the comfort in believing that this life wasn’t all there was to my existence.
I held on to those things well into adulthood. However, I soon realized that I never truly believed any of it – I wanted to believe it. I yearned for that comfort. But, it just didn’t work for me.
When I finally accepted my atheism, I had to also accept the fact that I was giving up my hope for an afterlife with my loved ones. At that moment, I was walking away from my grandmother, whom I loved dearly and still miss every day, even now, nearly 20 years after her death. Honestly, I grieved the idea of heaven and that in giving up this faith – I was giving up the hope of an “everlasting life” with my husband, and my children.
I believe my heaven is here on earth – with them – today. My everyday is heaven, and I am so very glad that I can appreciate it for all that it is worth – as it is worth everything, to me.
However, with that said, I feel there is a great responsibility in walking away from faith.
I struggled for a long time with feeling militant about the faithful. That aggravation often came in response to the judgment that is bestowed upon those of us that no longer subscribe to traditional religion. The thing is, religion really isn’t the enemy, nor are those of us who decide we need more fact than faith.
Atheists are disliked in the United States, as indicated by a Pew Research Study, where people ranked their “warmness” on the “cold” end of the spectrum. One study even concluded that atheists are trusted about as much as rapists, albeit the sample size was extremely small. Even with that disgust and the personal pain I experience from reading such statistics, I err on the side of caution when considering the new atheist movement or becoming an evangelical atheist.
Shane Koyczan illustrates those feelings perfectly in his lyrical poem “Heaven, or Whatever.”
In part he says:
You often asked me If I had a heaven, what would it be like?
And I told you that for such a small word, if, is just too big to wrap my belief around
I would not bend to the hypothetical
I wish now that I would’ve
Even if it was just to ease your mind in the belief
That I could be headed to that other place you believed in
I would tell you now how my heaven is here. . .
Listen to the entire, extremely moving, spoken word, “Heaven, or Whatever” by Shane Koyczan, in the video below:
I have no desire to destroy someone else’s heaven. Happy Easter.
Featured image via YouTube Video screen capture