The movement of lent is from penance to penitence to repentance. In Atheism for Lent we take seriously the religious critiques of Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Slavoj Žižek, confronting ourselves with the images and idols we have made of God, exposing them for what they are and consequently exposing our belief for what it truly is. In what ways is our desire blinding us to ideological structures? How do our hoped for promises come to be mistaken as guarantees?
We must remember that giving up God, in the narrow sense, does not mean giving up the possibility of God (which is something religion is rarely content with). We desire certainty and absolutes; in short, we desire to be tapped into something powerful enough to guarantee the satisfaction of our desire. And when this desire becomes synonymous with “God,” we have done nothing more than fall into the rut of idolatry, worshiping the object of our desire and declaring it to be divine.
What is it within us that isn’t satisfied short of that certitude? Why does God often plug the hole of desire? Can this be done authentically?
What is important is for each individual to take stock of their beliefs about God and religion and ask why they are important to them, aside from the facile desire for “truth.” What is at stake in the existence of God, or the knowledge of God’s existence? Do we find that we feel empty if all we have are our fellow human beings and relationships? If so, what then is blocking our ability to realize the meaning of relationships apart from an eternal reference point? The underlying current in all of these questions might be, “why aren’t we enough for one another?”
The healthiest person to find love and relationship with a significant other is precisely not the person who is looking for it. It is the person who has accepted who they are, their life, the risk of not meeting someone, who, often, is in the best position to meet someone that changes their life. The former person is looking for someone, anyone, an X to fulfill need Y. This person needs their desired satisfied at any cost. Crassly put, they have a hole and they want it filled.
The truly meaningful relationship occurs when desire can be opened up like a wound, when it takes you rather than you take it, and retroactively, you can never imagine being without it. That is love, that is the difference berween desire and love If we are to get around to Augustine’s question of “What do I love when I love my God,” we must first ask what we desire when we desire God, what is the X that we need filled, what is the hole that we fit God into.
When we identify the need to always satisfy our desire–something that is impossible–and learn that desire is valuable precisely because it is desire, we might cease in our never-ending attempt to extinguish that which makes us truly human, a desire for the impossible. Otherwise all we have is a God of our own making, the object of desire, an idol declared divine.
Our belief in an innate God-shaped hole perpetuates our desire for a hole-shaped God.
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