So, what do you worship?

By Chucky Jesus

I'm both an ex-Christian and an atheist. I almost don't think of myself as ex-anything any more, because my deconversion was so long ago; I'm 53 now and I gave up on Christianity by the time I was 18. Since then there's been one thing about Christianity in the back of my mind -- this notion of "worship." I suppose if I thought about it at all, it was in reaction to a question which is often posed to freethinkers by theists, "So, what do you worship?"

My reaction has been, well we don't worship anybody, silly -- and why do you feel the need to worship someone? Are you all syncophants? Then again, perhaps many freethinkers do worship, in a sense. I think I've decided that I worship life -- all aspects of life, which, in a way includes the entire universe, as it's all tied together. After all, the stuff we're made from and the most distant galaxies were all part of the same "cosmic" egg "before" the big-bang. This matter and energy which makes up us and our cousins the plants and insects and our earth all obey the same natural laws as do these far away galaxies and everything between.

I'm reminded of a poem by Walt Whitman, "On the Beach At Night, Alone." This was used to great effect in the second movement of the first symphony by the English composer Ralph (pronounced Raeph) Vaughan-Williams. My sister, an actress, also read it at my wedding.
On the beach at night alone,
As the old mother sways her to and fro singing her husky song,
As I watch the bright stars shining, I think a thought of the clef
of the universes and of the future.

A vast similitude interlocks all,
All spheres, grown, ungrown, small, large, suns, moons, planets,
All distances of place however wide,
All distances of time, all inanimate forms,
All souls, all living bodies though they be ever so different, or in
different worlds,
All gaseous, watery, vegetable, mineral processes, the fishes, the brutes,
All nations, colors, barbarisms, civilizations, languages,
All identities that have existed or may exist on this globe, or any globe,
All lives and deaths, all of the past, present, future,
This vast similitude spans them, and always has spann'd,
And shall forever span them and compactly hold and enclose them.

It also occurs to me that we could just as easily replace the word "worship" with "celebrate." I celebrate beautiful sunrises, the taste of chocolate, a tone-poem by Liszt, a movie by Mike Judge which makes me laugh, the canopy of stars at night, a beautiful woman, learning each day about new discoveries of science, and on and on. All of this is life and I love it, I celebrate it...I worship it.

So, the next time a Christian asks what you worship, give that person your list.

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