When I thought about the idea of god waking me (or not) I became afraid. There was a German lullaby by Brahms that my then ancient great-grandmother used to sing to me when I was really very little which ended with the words: “Tomorrow morning, if God wants so, you will wake once again.…” Our family life was altogether politically non-theistic, except for the great-grandmother who passed away when I was about four, but the idea of god deciding about my waking in the morning was still disconcerting. What if he did not want to? On a whim? Would I just sleep forever? Would I die? What if he plain forgot about me?
When I had asked my mother about the song she had explained to me that the lyrics dated to a time when it was understood that everything – everything – happened only with god’s consent and that these lines, by their content, did not deal primarily with the idea of god remembering to wake people or not.
I don’t know whether that explanation did much to put my anxiety to rest, I think probably not. But it certainly was with relief that one day I realized that I actively did not believe in god. That was an easy attitude to acquire in my family, by the way, and an easy attitude in that decade following the sixties, a decade ending with the brief and delirious ruling of acid freaks, post feminists and de-constructors of language which left a lasting impression on western societies and which was my intellectual parents’ undeniable contribution to a new cultural value system, a system that allowed for people like them to unfold their wings and discover entirely new horizons and ideas. I don’t remember that we had ever attended any church service. Even wedding ceremonies in my parents’ circle of friends and family were civil ceremonies. No baptisms. Still, God remained a quaint distant relation who, after a history of misfortunes, had found asylum in old nursery rhymes and lyrics. All but forgotten and without charitable visitors, but hanging on.
My parents’ were avidly confessing atheists for many years until older age and the dawning sense of their own mortality softened their rhetoric. And yet, my childish sense of superstition, during the phase of their most decided and articulated stand on the topic, detected an ominous quality to the concept “god” and it took some years and my awakening intellect to overcome the threatening taste the fear of that forgotten but lingering god left in my mind. Maybe god explained and explored would have been easier to understand but I was pretty much left to my own devices to figure out what the idea of god stood for. I vaguely feared god until I shed that fear pretty much like I had shed the fear of the nightly intruder eventually. Only much later did it occur to me that the elimination of god did not erase the randomness and with it the terror of the unpredictable nature of death.