Born Naked

I was born naked, without belief in gods or God. I believed only in what I could touch and hear and see: the breasts I suckled on, my mother’s cooing voice, the funny faces my father made, the lullabies my grandmother sang. I believed in what was palpable and real.

Almost from my birth adults attacked both my nakedness and my atheism. They wrapped me in clothing. They filled me with talk of imaginary beings—Easter bunnies, tooth fairies, Santa and his tiny reindeer (who never seemed tiny in my imagination—or Santa either). King of all these imaginary being was the one even my parents believed in: the God who, they cooed, created and loved us all. With God came angels who were (so they told me) thoughts from God, But try as I might, I could never imagine angels as “thoughts.” I had to imagine them with wings and bodies and faces. God too, had to have a body and a bearded face—or he couldn’t be imagined either.

It seems that to be imagined—much less be visualized doing things—even imaginary beings must have bodies of some sort or another. Though we are told that God is pure spirit, bodiless and eternal, the truth is we can’t imagine spirit without imagining body. Thus even adult Christians must imagine their God transformed into bodily Jesus in order for their deity to seem real. It is a truth every baby is born knowing: real things have substance. Soul requires body for its expression: otherwise it is static and absent. Official definitions notwithstanding, bodies are necessary for existence.

The established definition of God says he is bodiless—yet no one can imagine him without imagining something. Him, did I say? God cannot be him. Embodied in human form, imagined as Jesus walking the earth or hanging on the cross, God can have a penis even if he never uses it. But take away the body and you take away God’s penis, his maleness, his masculinity, all. Nor can God be feminine, since the disembodied cannot have a vulva either. God must be sexless and genderless, forever “it”.

Note that if a theist insists on masculinizing God, turning it into he, they are not taking their theism seriously. Any pronoun other than “it” is just the infant’s intuition that real beings must have a body reappearing in the grownup. The infant is right. No matter how much intellectual brainwashing the adult theist has undergone, they can never quite escape the infant’s truth.

Let me repeat that: whenever anyone refers to God as “he”, they are failing to take the concept of God seriously. If your God is bodiless nonetheless very real, then you will readily concede that the God you believe in must be an it. On the other hand if your God is merely an imaginary fancy of yours—like Santa and his tiny reindeer or like the tooth fairy—then impossibilities don’t bother you, and you will have no hesitation in insisting on God’s bodiless masculinity.

If God is merely a fantasy, incoherent details don’t matter. Pretend doesn’t have to make sense. But if your God is not pretend, then it can be neither masculine nor feminine.

As for me, I was born a naked atheist and I will die atheist and—God willing! (that was a joke)—I will die naked. If nothing else, when I die it will be me, my body not my clothing, which does the dying. Only naked me can die. I was born naked and I will die naked and my profound wish while alive is to be allowed to be naked me. It is the most profound wish any of us can have: to be fortunate enough while we breathe and live to be our naked selves. Me and you, meeting as we are despite the cultural smokescreens of clothing and religion. Naked me and naked you in naked life—from beginning to end and everything between.

[This was previously published at – used with permission]

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