Sent in by Daniel P
We all define our gods through our own beliefs. Usually we are given our spiritual identity by our parents based upon there belief system or religion. This is how I received mine, and for a long time, I defined my god with these teachings. My view of life and the supernatural were shaped by an early indoctrination into my parent’s system of religion. As time passed and my experiences with the world grew, I began to question some of those teachings. The questions that arose surfaced in different forms, but the underlying basis for these questions rested on a conflict that stemmed from the increasing disparity between what was my experienced reality and those early religious teachings.
Why do people believe in a god? What evidence is there that a god even exists? These questions and more have plagued my mind through most of my adult life. The lines of demarcation between two foes, Religion and Reality, were drawn years ago. A conflict slowly arose between my experience in reality and my studies of religion. War was the only resolution, as there seemed to be no reconciliation between these two adversaries.
I‘m sad to say, but the conflict is now over, there is a winner. Reality, more specifically, my reality is the sum of my experiences. Experiences bend and shape our view of the world. They help us learn what to expect in situations, and how to deal with and react to instances that occur in our lives. My experience with life produced a stack of insurmountable evidence for the case of a godless universe, while religion produced little proof.
My revelation did not come on a whim, plucked at random with no effort or forethought. I didn’t simply sneeze and open my eyes to the thought of a universe void of the presence of a god. I put my mind to the problem. I devoted considerable time and effort into finding the right path to god and salvation. I sought information from people who knew about such things as religion and god. I tried to be a True Believer and was even baptized a second time just in case it hadn’t been done right the first time.
No matter what I did, I always came back to the question of why my experiences in life failed to mesh with the religious stories I’d been told. Perhaps it was those very stories which began to relax religions carefully assembled grasp on my mind. Stories of great feats of barbaric slaughter of men, women, and children, all performed in the name of God. The bible is full of tales of murder and destruction delivered at the hand of such a god. I was told of the marvelous love of god for me. The kind of love that caused an incredible act of self sacrifice by God for me, and yet he has prepared eternal torment for my soul, the one he loves so much. It doesn’t make sense.
So I sought out stories told in other religions besides the one so liberally applied to me since birth. I read narratives from Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, and others. I waded through tales of magic and miracles, repeatedly finding the assertions from each that their god was the only real god. In my search I discovered something. Each time I looked deeper into a belief system, I found the same claims of miraculous deeds and astonishing power wielded by an active and vengeful deity or deities. This contention of an active god directly conflicted with my experiences with life where, it seemed, there was no manifestation of direct interaction between god and man. I began to understand that at one time Greek Mythology was, in fact, a religion. I took hold of the idea that many gods have come and gone, to only survive as fables and pages in history books.
Upon these rebellious thoughts, the supernatural fell apart before my eyes. The foundational truths I’d been taught in Sunday school exploded in a thousand directions. The egg shell of indoctrination received a crack as my curious beak explored life outside of dogma’s protection. The moment of realization was profoundly clear. I took a breath, and the air was clean. I decided. I put my hands to the hard membrane encasing my forced belief, and after a final look around, I broke the shell. There is no god.
It’s a terrifying feeling, really, not having an all powerful protector keeping an eye out for me. There is a sense of loss in not having the Big Guy around for those times of trouble. There is a blank spot in my psyche now that was once occupied by the idea of god. That idea is gone, replaced by the reality of my situation on this planet among billions of other people. Reality is setting in and I am suddenly quite aware of my own finite existence. Soon, another birthday will roll around, and then another. One day I will pass that birthday where I am closer to death than I am to birth, as I may unknowingly already have. Eventually, I will use my time up and cease to exist. As a normal human, I am afraid.
In as much as it is terrifying, the absence of a god brings freedom. I alone dictate my life. No one invisible is floating around the room. No demons, ghosts, or dead relatives hanging out with nothing better to do. They are all gone, or better to say, were never here to begin with. Each day is a new challenge into the absurdities and pleasures of this life. Every day I live is a day that I have to work with, to shape and bend in the direction I decide to go.
From an early age I was told about a god who could see and hear all. He would write down all that I said and did and thought at every moment in a book that I would later be judged against. Suddenly, my mind was private. The thoughts inside were firmly mine. There were no longer scribes scribbling down every flash of minutia that traversed my brain. No more did I live under the fear of a forgotten un-confessed sin, leading to an eternal barbecue.
Although it took a long time for me to reach the conclusion that religion is a fairytale, the rejection of the god idea was relatively quick. The expression of that conclusion has been more calculated and cautious. The very admittance of this heretical belief would often get a person imprisoned or even executed not to long ago. My thoughts are transcribed in secret to preserve stability in my family.
But at last, I chose to write this down. I controlled the pencil and I held the paper on which it is written. What’s after this life will be answered to me one day, whether or not there is a consciousness left awake and intact to hear the answer. All I know is that life is for living. Since I only get to live once, I choose to live it in reality.
Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)