Last week this card was posted on Postsecret auf Deutsch, the German Postsecret site. I find the original Postsecret to be kind of gimmicky and predictable, but Postsecret auf Deutsch is new enough and German enough that it is still fresh and interesting.
I made this card over three years ago, by adding the text to a photo I had taken of a sunrise. The verse is Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted,” which is also the opening text of Brahms’ German Requiem, one of my absolute favorite works of music. I like to translate the German verse literally: “blessed are those who carry sorrow”. I took it on as a sort of theme verse for my life. I have carried sorrow, and there was a time when the promise of this verse was the only thing I could hang on to. When I made that card I was in the thick of struggle and suffering, and I needed it as a tangible promise. I assumed that I would always carry that sorrow; I thought that my suffering and grieving would never end, and the most I could hope for was to be comforted in my sorrow. It seemed like the comfort that I wanted was so little and yet so unreachable.
For three years I looked at that card every day. Even after I became an atheist, even after I moved a couple of times and left my bibles and other religious items behind, I still kept that card framed in my apartment.
Then one day I decided that the card was moot and I no longer needed it. I was being comforted from the sorrow that I carried, but in a different way and on a completely different wavelength from what I had imagined when I made that card and took that verse as my mantra. It is still significant to me because of the hope it gave me at a time when religion was the wavelength of sustenance that I needed. I didn’t want to just discard it. So I sent it to Germany, because the German language has also been a source of sustenance for me.
I didn’t realize how far I’ve come until I was watching a movie recently where a woman was weeping, wounded, and mourning as if her soul depended on it. I recognized it deeply because I have wept and mourned like that– what seems like a long time ago. I have spent entire days and weeks lost in my own tears. Seeing an expression of despair that touched on the degree of despair that I had at one time, seeing it as an outsider and not being pulled down by it, I made a discovery: I have made it through to the other side.
That’s my favorite comic from xkcd. I think it’s hilarious. I just wanted to have something funny at the top of the page.
I was pretty into philosophy during my first couple years of college. At my secular college before I transferred to Wheaton, I found that many of the people in the philosophy department, both students and professors, were studying philosophy because they were atheists and wanted to disprove the existence of God. Many of them were very passionate and outspoken about it, but they were also bitter and cynical.
This made me more determined to study philosophy there, because as a strong Christian I felt God needed me in the philosophy department. At the same time, I found it incredibly sad that so many people would dedicate their academic career, and some their life’s work, to disproving something that they didn’t believe in, instead of working for something that they do believe in.
I now understand them a little better, and I understand that it is about working for reason and truth, not just working against God. But I still don’t want to be like that. I still find it a little sad. I want to always spend more time on things that I am passionate about, in a positive way, than on things that I don’t believe in. I want to focus positively on the person that I am and the things that I love. I want to work towards a positive vision of what I want in the world. I do think that it’s important to fight for reason and truth, and I know that working for something often means working against something else. But I don’t want to get mired in negativity, sarcasm, and cynicism. I don’t want bitterness to form the foundation of anything in my life. I want my foundation to be hope.
I don’t want to be just another atheist blog where people debate the existence of god, although that is the surest way of getting a lot of blog readers. I want to share who I am and what being an atheist means to me.
Hope is something that I don’t understand at all. There are so many aspects of being a person that I don’t understand, but the beauty is that humans are the only species who can know what they don’t know. For a short period of time, I get to inhabit one of these walking, waking bodies on this Earth. I get the privilege of inhabiting a brain that comprehends only a tiny fraction of itself. Out of so many collections of atoms in the universe, I am one of the few that have the privilege of hope. I get to see the birth and fulfillment of hope. And then conceive of more hope, and hold it in gestation until it bursts, and see what will be born from it.
I want to say, to anyone who thinks that God is your only hope for recovery, for justice, for redemption, that he is not. Whatever impossible thing you are facing or have faced, there is such a thing as healing apart from religion. There is such a thing as redemption from suffering and injustice. These things are possible, and you do not have to wait for heaven or for a miracle to see it.
I have suffered. I have survived something that really sucks. For a long time, I’ve taken Matthew 5:4 as the theme verse for my life. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
As a Christian, I was comforted with the thought that justice and healing would come one day, with the kingdom of heaven. But now, I have seen more than mere comfort. I have seen the beginning of healing. I have seen that nothing reasonable is hopeless, and we don’t have to depend on God for wrongs to be righted.