Chicagoans is a first-person account from off the beaten track, as told to Anne Ford. This week’s Chicagoan is Kelly Baron, 27, “agnostic atheist.”
My mother joined Scientology when she was 15 or 16. She was a really innocent young woman who was not part of the 1960s drugs-and-alcohol culture. I think part of her felt alienated because of that, and that attracted her to Scientology; it was a way to feel included.
When she was 29 or 30, she met my dad, who is very, very much a questioner and an atheist. She introduced him to a couple of Scientologists, and they labeled him an SP—a suppressive person, basically an enemy—and they told my mom, “You should not interact with this guy,” and she was like, “OK, peace, see you later,” and she left Scientology.
Since then, Scientologists have come to our house. They call my dad. They’ve called me. I think they’ve sent my mom four pieces of mail every single day I’ve been alive. I’m surprised environmental agencies don’t get on their ass about how much paper they’re wasting, let alone what they’re doing to people’s psyches.
Anyway, I grew up in a godless household. Once, when I was probably four, my cousin, who’s nine years older, took me in her arms and showed me a picture. She said, “This is a man named Jesus, and he lives way up in the sky. He sees everything we do, and he’s here to protect us, and he loves us no matter what.” I worshipped my cousin, so I was like, “Whoa!”
When my dad came to pick me up, I couldn’t wait to tell him this new thing I learned. His whole face changed. He was like, “OK, who told you that?,” and I pointed at my cousin and said, “She did.” Her face got beet red, and she said, “I did not say that!” My dad knew she was lying. He just shook his head and said to her, “I don’t want you telling her this stuff.”
If someone asked me now what I believed, I’d say that I believe in allowing yourself to feel bewildered. I like to say that I’m an agnostic atheist, because I believe that humans don’t know shit from shit in the grand scheme of things. This could be a giant alien video game that we’re in right now.
I really, truly believe that there’s a lot of mysterious stuff that goes on in the world that humans don’t know. And I’m excited by that. I’m excited by all the things I’m going to die not knowing. But I also am pretty sure that there isn’t a guy in the sky dictating things.
Rilke is one of my favorite poets, and he wrote these poems to his idea of God, saying, “You are the deep innerness of all things, the last word that can never be spoken.” That’s something I believe in—one giant mystery that sometimes, if you’re present, you just fucking feel.
I have a pretty strong feeling that not a whole lot happens after we die. I got into a conversation about it recently, and this guy was like, “Here’s what I think will happen: I’m going to die and then go to this place and then I will return as this, and I will remember these things about my life, but not these things.” He had a whole plan all mapped out.
And his wife said, “But is that really comforting to you? Sometimes the idea of just lying down one day and closing my eyes is very comforting to me.” I’d never heard anyone say that, but it was genuine. She was like, “I don’t know that I want to live in an infinite loop as a sentient being. I’m tired.” v