This is probably a good point for me to acknowledge the huge role that the fiction of Terry Pratchett has played in shaping my views about the world. For those who aren’t familiar, most of Pratchett’s novels center around his fantasy setting of the Discworld – a magical, late medieval/early renaissance setting in which the fantastic is everyday yet the characters are remarkably similar to us. I followed his works from the beginning, and watched them develop from a sort of fantasy parody to books that were penetrating skewers of human nature that were humanized by their warmth and sympathy. I know a lot of people who don’t like them, and still more who have never read them, but for me, they occupy a place at the center of both my morality and my world view.
In Pratchett’s universe, the gods exist, but they are jealous and petty and rather given to sending short, sharp, and quite electric messages to people who question their existence. They are to be acknowledged – if you don’t want to end up as a pair of smoking boots – but they are certainly nothing to be revered. They may operate on a higher scale of power, and possibly even knowledge, but in terms of their psychological makeup they are rather disappointingly just like us.
However, that’s not all there is. What matters far more than the gods is…well…everything. which is not the same thing as putting your faith in humanity. Ha! Pratchett would be the first to tell you that you’ll get your wallet nicked before you can even finish the sentence. But, nevertheless, that it is possible to live your life as if everything is a miracle. That putting your faith in anything might be sort of a fool’s errand, but that paradoxically enough it is still possible to live faithfully.
And so it was that the works of someone widely considered to be an atheist brought me out of atheism. It simply wasn’t good enough. There is something divine, something miraculous, about the world, about the universe, and there must be a way of living that could bring me closer in harmony with this.
Oh, NO! Was I spiritual but not religious?!?