Hello and good day!
I slept fitfully last night. My hands are shaking, and my heart is fluttering as I type this.
I've known since yesterday that I was going to write something about God and atheism today. They are tough topics to discuss. They are controversial and elicit very strong feelings.
But they are important. Belief or non-belief in a higher power is one of the most important decisions most of us will ever make.
And I feel strongly that I have a unique viewpoint on the topic of atheism.
You may be asking yourself why the owner of a chocolate company would be sending out thoughts about this topic on company letterhead.
It is a very fair thing to wonder about. That's part of the reason I've been anxious. I mean, am I crazy or something? Who would talk about this as a part of their business messaging?
The answer is that here at Fortunato Chocolate, we are committed to what we call the Mayberry principle.
You might remember the town of Mayberry from the Andy Griffith show. It is one of my all-time favorite shows.
As we define it, the Mayberry principle means that even though we are an online business, we should still treat our friends and customers as if we all live in a small town together. If you go shopping at the pharmacy in Mayberry, you don't just get a soda at the soda counter and then take off.
You stay and catch up with Ellie May. You find out what she thinks about the coming mayoral election. You ask her why she wasn't in church on Sunday. You know that Barney Fife is taking Thelma Lou to the dance on Saturday. You know that Floyd the barber has a flat tire on his car.
Likewise, we want our friends and customers to know who we really are. Being some nameless, faceless, company just doesn't do it for us.Hence, discussions like the one that is about to follow.
Here is what kicked off this idea.
Yesterday, as usual, I was walking around promoting our chocolate shop. As usual, I came across somebody I knew. She was a lovely customer, who has the cheeriest, most upbeat personality. She was out taking her little grey dog for a walk. I always get excited when I see her, because I know she will have something positive and uplifting to say.
She didn't disappoint.
"Hi Adam!" she said. "Hello!" said I. "You know something Adam? I've been praying for you," she said. "Have you?" I asked. "I have. And I want to tell you something. I know that God has big blessings lined up for you. They are going to be very, very big," she said.
"You think so? What makes you think that?" I asked.
"Let me tell you something Adam. I know. Ok. I know. I've been around longer than you. I know how the Lord works. When I pray, I can feel it. And when I feel a blessing coming, it always happens. Thats why I think that," she said.
I don't know this woman's age. I know you're not supposed to guess a woman's age, but I'd put her in her early sixties.She looks great. She's always smiling. She strikes me as a blessed person.
"Thanks for praying for us. I'm going to pray for you too," I said.
"I bet you won't pray for me more than I pray for you Adam. I pray a lot. You don't realize it, but you've been a blessing to me. I love your shop, Adam. I love going in there and I love seeing you out here walking around. I pray for you a lot," she said.
We took a few moments to look at each other.We both stood there, looking at one another, each considering the other.
"You always know when a blessing is coming?" I asked.
"Let me tell you something Adam. I've been a widow for 25 years. When my husband passed, he left me as a single mother with two kids, ages 6 and 3. I didn't know how I was going to raise those kids on my own. I didn't know what to do about all the bills piling up. But every time it looked like I wasn't going to make it, God came through with a miracle. I needed so many miracles over the years, that I got used to knowing when they were coming," she said.
I'd never heard it put like that before. I liked it. It made sense. "And you feel something good coming for us?" I asked.
"You have no idea how strongly I feel it," she said.
I let that sink in.
"How are your kids now?" I asked. "All grown up and doing wonderful," she said. ''Thanks again for the prayers and the kind words. Sincerely, thank you. I will pray for you too," I said.
"Bye bye," she sung out. Then she waved and walked away with her dog.
She always sings out "bye bye" like that before walking away. Its charming.
For whatever reason, as soon as I was alone, I started pondering the word atheism. I broke it into parts. Sometimes if you put "a" at the beginning of a word, it means without. Apolitical means you abstain from political endeavors. Asexual is to be without gender, or celibate.
The "the" in atheism, comes from "theos", the Greek word for God. Finally, we have "ism" which references a certain way of doing things. In painting, impressionism means painting in a certain way.
Same with pointillism. When you put those three things together, you come up with something like the following:
A way of doing things that is without God.
This is different from the mainstream definition of atheism, which tends simply to mean that a person doesn't believe in God.
I like my definition better. Here's why. There are a wide range of activities that are clearly atheistic. They don't require bringing God into the formula for a successful outcome.
The process of creating delicious chocolate requires knowledge of logistics and chemical reactions and how certain compounds affect your taste buds. These things can be learned and executed atheistically.
Same with learning to drive a car or doing theoretical physics. Actually, when you get right down to it, most human activity is atheistic in nature.The outcome does not require involving God in the process.
Now let us think about human happiness. Almost all long-term studies show that human happiness is determined primarily by three factors: health, relationships, and meaningful work.
If you are successful in those three fields during your lifetime, or during any specific period of your life, you will likely find yourself with a feeling of contentment and satisfaction.
The mechanisms for maintaining good health, and good relationships, and finding meaningful work are also essentially atheistic in nature.
If you eat well and exercise and sleep enough, your health is likely to be good. Obviously, there are exceptions, such as genetic defects, but on the whole, the formula seems to work fairly well.
If you stay in touch with your friends and do your best to be kind and thoughtful in your romantic relationships, you can make those work too without having to bring God into the mix. Same with finding meaningful work. This all makes sense theoretically and I have empirical cases of extremely happy atheists who I count among my friends.
They are just as satisfied and contented with life and have every bit the same material prosperity that believers in God have.
All that being said, I believe in God.
here are two things that I just can't square with atheism. I can't make them fit in with my definition of atheism, which is a way of doing things without God.
First, physical reality is governed by a fixed set of rules.
You can learn the rules and operate within them without reference to God, but I don't think you can establish how rules came to exist in the first place without eventually bumping up against the necessity of a creator.
You can play chess without knowing who invented it. You can enjoy it just as much as somebody who knows all about the history of chess, maybe even more. You can even be better at chess than the person who knows how it came into existence. But if you honestly ponder how a game like chess must necessarily come to exist, you are going to have to accept a creator somewhere down the line.
Second, what to make of my friend who has lived through miracles?
And what to make of the miracles that I myself have lived through?
There have been many times in my life when things looked impossibly bleak. I couldn't fathom a solution and so I prayed. I prayed with all my heart. I supplicated, and begged, and promised.
Then, at the last moment, a solution materialized that wasn't the result of my own efforts. It appeared out of nowhere and saved me.
It hasn't happened a million times. I haven't always been bailed out. But it has happened. I can't figure how to explain that set of events atheistically either.
Anyhow, this has been a longer than normal message today.If you've made it all the way to the bottom, I thank you for your patience, consideration, and time.
I hope that you have a truly blessed day!