So, where was I? Ah yes, I remember, I was 15 years old, then leaving High School, and I was as almost all teenagers are, completely sure of myself. But not only was I your typical arrogant teen, I was equally an under-achiever who consistently got fairly good grades without really trying (not a flex, I was very lazy), and on top of this, I was beginning to utilize my new-found Atheistic faith as a means to bolster my own certainty about myself and the world around me, all the while completely ignorant of the fact I was sinking deeper and deeper into a pit of complete self-deceit. What this part really details is my journey from a-theism to Atheism. My journey from someone within whom religion played no sincere part (your average person), to someone who was staunchly Atheist. Someone who made a point of their atheism, someone for whom their atheism was of them as a religion is of religious person. I wasn't just a-theist by happenstance, I was atheist, which quickly declines into becoming an anti-theist.
Perhaps I'll understand, in the process of writing this, why exactly it was I got such a chip on my shoulder about being an (active) atheist? If I was to take a guess this early on, I would put forth the theory that even at a young age (14 onwards) I'd always questioned things, been a bit of a contrarian, and often found ways to intelligently rebel (read: avoid getting in severe trouble). And so once - as I have shown in part one - theism became understood as various rules without root, seemingly enforced for the sake of control, as opposed to betterment, atheism - for the youthful rebel - begins to have a vital appeal. This appeal arises for a few reasons. Firstly, it's a great feeling, especially when you're a teenager, to feel like you have-one-over everyone else, to feel like you've got it, like you've got the answer. Secondly, there's the aforementioned rebellious aspect, whereby in aligning oneself with atheism, one equally aligns themselves with all the possibilities and 'freedoms' it allows, in short, all and every sin imaginable, without real consequence. Third and finally, atheism is, and always has been, positioned as the underdog, and it's great to feel like you're internally fighting for the losing side. Quite dangerously, however, such a feeling allows for the development of a form of quasi-virtue into one's atheistic position, whereby one feels they are a good person for the mere fact they are atheist in distinction to the evil they perceive as being inherent within their 'enemy', religion.
One thing I feel I should make clear at this point, it was around this age - if not before - that I started drinking, quite heavily for someone my age to be quite honest, and this didn't cease until around the age of 22, 7-8 years later. But this I have written of in detail here. I only feel the compulsion to add in this little factoid, because as my drinking got worse, so did my continual descent into the inherent nihilism of atheism. There was a correlation.
And so as I arrived at college (UK college, age 16) my atheism was becoming virulent. It was my scapegoat. It was, for me, the perfect rationalization that religion is the cause of all ill in the world, and when one began to perceive the world via the lens of 'radical atheism', it became increasingly easy to blame all of the world's problems on the great phantom that was 'religion'. Of course, it should go without saying, as per part one, that at this point in my life I had no real clue what religion, belief and faith actually were, no one had taught me what they were; no one had taught me that you need to be taught what they are - for they are taught in the postmodern a-theistic manner, that is, as loose, free-floating abstractions which are primarily intuited. Hell, even my 'Religious Education' teacher in high school rarely taught the basics of various religion's dogma, and for the life of me I couldn't tell you one thing I learnt in that class - that is, outside of the underlying imposition that God was some 'big man in the sky', hell-bent on domination and control for the sake of it.
So there I was, armed with a topsy-turvy understanding of religion, an underachiever mentality, and a precocious rebellious attitude. What, you ask, could make a teenager more insufferable than this? Well, the year was 2010, Dawkin's The God Delusion had been published 4 years prior, Hitchen's God is Not Great 3 years prior, and Harris' book The Moral Landscape had just been released, this was the New Atheist summer - at least as I remember it - and Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennett were at the peak of their quick-witted, alluring and highly-rational fame. They were my saints, and pure-nothingness my god; all could be reasoned, understood and rationalized via that great free-floating signifier 'science'. Of course, no one really knew what they meant when they said 'science', it was simply a buzzword utilized to represent the idea that progress isn't a myth, and because we're the latest humans to be born, we must likewise be the smartest. The term 'science' was used without context to disregard debate.
My college days passed me by in a haze of rolled-up cigarettes, cheap beer, the occasional spliff, and a general malaise. As far as I can recall, in fact, it was around this time that my depression began to take hold. Framing itself as a world-weariness, as something which is brought about because one sees the real filth and lies of the world for what they are. And what better way to legitimize negative emotions than this? That you are the only sane person amidst a global insanity. Of course, I was a precocious reader during my college days, and read anything I could get my hands on which was in someway related to Atheism, especially of the 'Hitchensian' variety.
Let's see, there was of course The God Delusion, God is Not Great, The Moral Landscape, The Blind Watchmaker, The Selfish Gene, Mortality, Lying, Letters to a Young Contrarian, The God Argument, you know what? I haven't the energy to even list them, because for the life of me I can't remember a single iota of good advice I retained from any single one of these texts, let alone an actual argument against the existence of God. Alas, I don't seek here to prove such existence, for if one wishes to believe God doesn't exist - as I once did - they needn't even read these books, but only utilize them as proof of their own sunk cost and inability to be sincere and honest with themselves. What I will say is this? New Atheists sincerely act as if their arguments are new, and that for 2000 years not one theologian has thought to ask 'If God real, why bad thing happen?' Likewise, not one of the New Atheists ever, at least as far as I can recall, dealt with the theology of say Duns Scotus, Aquinas, Maritain, Girard, Origen etc. - they created their own hermeneutic, and disregarded anyone who didn't begin from their perspective; the attitude of fools.
However, something strange also happened around this time which I equally consider as in correlation to my newfound Atheist faith, and that is, I found 'alternative spiritualities', primarily Buddhism. Of course, most wouldn't consider Buddhism an alt-spirituality, but in retrospect I will consider it one, because the 'Buddhism' I practiced at that time wasn't even close to the reality of actual Buddhism, but some faux-Western-Buddhism which is basically just mindfulness and vegetarianism. A status signal, basically.
But this is all quite meandering. It's quite sad, I think back now, and truly, I have little to write. The old me would have had tons to write. Nights out, parties, drunken escapades, reckless behaviour and the like; it doesn't interest me, and hasn't for a long time. I thought by writing these pieces now I might be able to use a little more of that 'old stuff', tucked away at the cringe-teenage sections of my mind, but it seems already too much time has passed, and I've simply forgotten that which I no longer find interesting in the slightest. And so that's that for my college days. It's quite the gut-punch to write of two entire years of my life in but a few paragraphs, yet in terms of personal emotional evolution, it appears there was next-to-none.
So what's next? University of course. It was an inevitability for me. Not because I was smart, or talented, or a valuable student, but simply because that's how things go for the average person in Western countries. You study until you can no longer afford to, and then get a job to pay it all back. Usually it's only by that time you realize the entire thing is a pyramid scheme, the former half of which also acts as a baby-sitting service. Alas, the youth can't be blamed, neither can the parents, the whole thing is built atop a system designed to avoid responsibility; if no one is to blame, a scapegoat never forms, and all is well in the land of the perpetually despondent.
University was much alike college, except I didn't live at home, had far more autonomy, and thus could drink more and party more. The studies were of about the same difficulty. Nothing mattered. I was still an Atheist, it was a foregone conclusion. By about the second year of university, I no longer vehemently read Atheist texts or write-ups, because there was no need, it was a priori that God did not exist. And so, I carried on with my life. I slowly got more and more depressed. Slowly drank more and more. Took up smoking full time.
As these pieces are really about my spiritual journey, I am finding this mid-section - 17-23 - far harder to write than I anticipated. This is possibly due to the inherent relativism of an Atheist outlook. For if there are no cornerstones of value to one's life, then what do they have to evolve against or for? Nothing. Atheism is inherently nihilism. One could argue that Atheists are free to create their own values, their own meaning; but likewise, they are equally as free to disregard these self-created values and meanings with little-to-no repercussions, and thus, they are useless. Between-the-lines, atheism is just nihilism, but of a distinctly rationally arrogant flavour. Nothing of substance happened during these years, because I had no structure with which to qualify such value. If, during this duration, the Lord himself had thrown sign after sign in front of my face, on an even hourly basis, I wouldn't have had the eyes with which to see them. To look back now, and struggle to clutch some modicum of worth from the events of those years is difficult for the simple fact that I neither valued or devalued, regarded or disregarded, treasured or cast-aside that time; it was what it was, duration to be filled with various material entertainments; a fleeting nothingness, a pity to be emphasized.
So what happened next is thus both unsurprising and uneventful. I left university, got a retail job, and continued to drink regularly. The run-of-the-mill existence for your average young Western man. Just getting by working, topped-off with unalloyed hedonism in your free time. It could have continued that way for a long time, and it did continue that was for almost two years. Something broke, and even now I'm not sure what it was. The quote from David Foster Wallace - "Submission is more a matter of fatigue than anything else." - fits extremely well. I remember not being bored, or feeling tired, exhausted, lost etc., but simply empty. And so my submission was quite the reverse than the common one, whereby those in mundane, boring lives eventually crack and go on some booze-filled rampage, or drug binge, or gambling spree etc. No, I was consistently getting drunk and partying and enjoying the fruits of the modern world to a degree enviable by the Kings of Rome, and I reached such a degree of emptiness, that almost all once - relatively speaking, over a matter of a month or so (quick, in the grand scheme of things) - it dawned on me that which was causing my misery, and an almost lifelong acceptance was quashed by an unpalpable boredom. I quit drinking, chose working hours which made it impossible to do so, hit the gym, ate better and got on with a boring life.
I couldn't tell you where this sudden impetus came from. I was the same person I had been for years. I still played video games, was still an atheist - though at this point I rarely thought about that aspect of things - I had just reached such a intense form of nihilism that there was only two foreseeable exits: suicide or submission. Luckily I chose to submit. But what exactly was it I submitted myself to? I believe, in retrospect, against years of believing the contrary, I submitted myself to a single idea - the idea that life had meaning, and my life had value.
I picked up the slack of the past years very quickly, as I've made clear. Gym, healthy eating, organizing myself etc. The usual. Contrary to the common understanding of such matters, take it from me - Turning your life around has very little to do with money, objects, relationships or tangible assets, and everything to do with values, discipline and self-observation. One can turn their life around in a few months if they truly desire to. Only they can know what's wrong, and only they can sort it out. I was lucky, months, years into my newfound freedom, away from the boredom of modern hedonism, I never relapsed, the appeal of that world, that life, never returned. What came next, and the route there, was, however, extremely unexpected...
So, my life wasn't exactly perfect, but it was good. It had value. I valued it. And so I took it upon myself to further my education. I applied for a Master's Degree in Continental Philosophy, and happened to be accepted. We were to study Foucault, Serres, Heidegger, Levinas, Nietzsche etc. I was still an atheist, but no way near as militant, and if my time in retail had shown me anything, it was that the people who came in on Sundays after church tended to be far kinder than anyone else I happened to meet, a memory which sticks with me to this day. Why is the fact I took this course important? Well, it wasn't the content of the course itself which was important, but where it lead me. This will come as no surprise to those who know my work, but the next step on my journey is my extended delve into the philosophy of Nick Land. A writer whose work I still cherish and read, but whose work - quite ironically, for those that know of it - also plays a key role in my return to God.
See, even though I no longer attended to the 'philosophy' of militant atheism, I did seek out an upgrade. Nick Land's work, especially his early work found within A Thirst for Annihilation and Fanged Noumena, is the bleakest of the bleak. At times it makes the aphorisms of Cioran seem quite jolly. I was upgrading from atheism to what can only be described as 'Lovecraft, Darwin, Marx, Nietzsche, Cioran, Bataille, Crowley and Deleuze' rolled into one single heap of dark philosophical tar; Land's work is a thick smear of pungent asphalt buttered across the idea of academic etiquette. The kind of shit that genuinely could push someone over the edge. But I revelled in it. Quite oddly, my new found soberness allowed me to take to it as a duck to water. In short: If there was no God and religion was pure idiocy (my a priori assumption at the time), then why not accelerate the conclusions of this; if we're to be nihilists, why not push that to its limit? To cut a long story short with regard to this 'limit', nothing happens, you're kidding yourself. Read Land's essay A Dirty Joke, that's the conclusion.
Why then, was Land's work of such paramount importance in terms of my own return to God? Well, it wasn't Land's work in-itself, which triggered some sudden realization of God's existence. It was those who influenced his work - Bataille, Grant and Crowley - which lead me to the realization of some form of transcendence; a Lovecraftian Outside which was creeping in, even if it was somehow doing so in only a material sense. I wont go into the details of such philosophy here, for it is a long dark road, which I went into in intense detail in my novella A Methodology of Possession - so if you want to see what Landian 'hell' is like, read that. And from Land I began to dabble in Thelema, Qabala, the (infamous) Numogram, Hermeticism, and likely some other nefarious occult pursuit I have since forgotten about. At this moment in time he screams internally, please, anything but Christianity! Fortunately for me, none of these paths really reverberated for me, - with the exception of Bardonian Hermeticism - needless to say, I didn't have the spiritual stomach for the Occult, at least in practice. But such adventures, however damning, taught me one of the most valuable lessons I shall ever learn - evil exists.
Here's the thing, evil isn't fun, it isn't quirky, it isn't liberating, nor is it smart in a creative way, or emancipative. Evil seeks to control and dominate in such a way that you believe you are free; evil seeks to have you believe misery is fun, and what is corrosive is quirky; pure evil turns the world upside-down, it makes reality topsy-turvy. What is bad becomes good, and good becomes bad. Vice becomes virtue, sin transformed into normality. Evil seeks not to destroy your life, but to have you destroy in its name, all the while believing you are doing the good, the right and the just thing. Evil doesn't arrive as a demon in your room, a dirty grimoire or a thunderous storm, evil arrives slowly and quietly, finding ways to seep into the most innocuous day-to-day places and situations. Evil is a spiritually-negative cancer, never settled; love turned lust turned competition; charity turned rivalry turned violence; kindness turned comparison turned anger. At first evil teaches you a simple lesson, that nothing will ever be enough, that there is always more to be had in every single one of life's avenues.
I shall end this part here, for from the realization of the existence of evil must come forth the realization of the existence of good. And so the next, and final part, shall document my return home.