While driving around the other day, my brother commented in passing that he could not understand how atheists could live their lives without the hope of something greater afterwards.
I’m an atheist. Although, I chose to not get into that topic of discussion with my Christian brother at that moment, I have had other Christian friends and acquaintances state similar queries to me in the past. What they fail to realize, and what may be the widest unbridgeable divide between believers and non-believers, is the fact that atheists and agnostics often wonder how intelligent, educated individuals could actually believe in the fairytale stories on which most of their religious beliefs are based.
I don’t usually discuss religion. It’s a poisonous subject almost guaranteed to alienate someone in the crowd. Better to avoid it altogether to maintain a peaceful environment. Rather than talk negatively about the beliefs of others, I prefer to explain my own… or lack thereof. Helping others to understand why I think the way I do may be a better way to span the divide between us. A little auto-biographical background is in order here, I s’pose.
I did not grow up in what you would consider a very religious household. My father was a baptized Catholic, but was only seen inside churches for weddings or funerals. I believe he probably didn’t think too much about the afterlife or his place in it. From things my mother told me after he was dead, I believe he was leaning toward atheism himself, without really knowing the technical term for it. What small faith he may have had he lost when his mother died, I believe.
My own mother wasn’t very religious either when I was a child. She did get more involved in religion and church around the same time my brother and his family were born again. She was never Mother Teresa in her devotion, but I do believe she loved her god and was somewhat confident that there was something after this life to look forward to. As for me, when my mother died in ’99, I lost what tiny little spark of any kind of faith I may have ever had at that time.
I spent 11 years in Catholic schools during my youth and early teens. That experience did more to turn me against religion than anything else could have, I believe. I felt as though I was being inculcated, brainwashed, indoctrinated, etc. It didn’t take too well with me. It did lead me to an era of serious study and learning in my early adulthood in the subjects of religion and philosophy. After an intense few years of study, I came to the conclusion that I could not buy into any religions or faiths of this world.
If I were forced to choose one, though, I’d probably go with Buddhism. It’s more of a philosophy and framework for living than a religion, in my opinion. But that’s neither here nor there. I don’t plan on becoming a monk any time soon. What I believe is this….
Man is just another animal; a fluke of nature and environment, a confluence of one-in-a-million conditions and raw materials. Life, in all its amazing diversity on this little planet, is just a sequence of fortuitous events. When my heart stops beating and my blood stops flowing to my brain, that amazing blob of cells, my life ends. I won’t see a bright light in the tunnel. I won’t hear my mother’s voice calling for me. I won’t see old friends who’ve gone on ahead of me. It will just be lights out. The individual components that made up my body will return to that from which they came… stardust.
I’m am a child of the stars, and happy to be so. I don’t need to spend my days here on this earth worrying about how I’m going to get to that joyful afterlife. I prefer to spend my days enjoying this life. The only one I’ll ever live. It doesn’t depress me to think that way. It actually inspires me and encourages me to live this life as best I can; to be happy, joyous, helpful, productive, loving, caring, and passionate, while knowing all along that I’m also fallible and imperfect.
It is what it is, folks.
Oh, and in case you never realized this… you don’t need religion to be moral. You need loving parents (or guardians) who raise you to know right from wrong, respect for others, love of life, etc. An atheist may be godless, but not necessarily evil.
Thanks to Wikipedia and Dictionary.com for the supplemental links in this article.
Wow, I actually did a report in school on Buddhism and was actually pretty impressed with it on the whole.
To me, religion is a waste of time. It’s man’s creation and like everything else (religion, politics, economics – massive systems that strive to control people one way or another), is flawed.
I prefer being in a relationship. To me that is what ‘religion’ should be. A relationship between you and your God. Relationships are living breathing things … not dead things like religion, politics and economics).
Buddhism is interesting. I’ve drifted around its periphery over the years, but I focus on the philosophical aspect of it, not the religious baloney that it has morphed into in some incarnations. Buddha himself would be disappointed were he to see what actually became of his teachings, but that’s just my opinion. I don’t believe Jesus ever existed (not as he’s portrayed in Christianity, anyway), but if he did, I’d bet he’d be a bit disappointed in some of his professed followers, too.
Many of us play our atheist cards close to our chests. Sometimes it’s kinda’ surprising to run across fellow godless infidels. 😉
Hello Eric. Interesting post. I consider myself a reflective Christian. I appreciate you not attacking other people’s faith, but explaining your own. I was also raised in a Catholic environment, my mother being the devoted church goer, and my father a drunk, womanizer, and abuser. Anyways, I also grew disillusioned with the Catholic church and became a Pentecostal, just to be discouraged again and become a moderate Christian. My spiritual journey has not finished yet. But my life took a different turn than yours. Instead of drifting away from God, I actually feel closer to Him through my experience with suffering, compassion, doubt, and service. It is hard to explain, but my belief in God is based on the service of others, not just what church officials say. I have understood Jesus’ message better now that I have contemplated more on the meaning of this life: to serve others. I am glad that you believe in being loving, caring, and passionate about life. Ironically, I believe these qualities are from God, but people don’t realize it. Anyways, I hope that one day we can meet in the afterlife simply for obeying our passion in this life. Take care and have a blessed rest of life. Peace.
Thanks for stopping by and reading/commenting. Everyone’s journey is a personal thing, of course. I’ve always felt that faith is a VERY personal thing and should be kept to one’s self. I have many friends of many differing faiths and beliefs. I’ve always tried to be respectful of others’ choices in these matters. Having experienced it from different sides, I’ve learned to avoid discussing the nitty-gritty of my (non)beliefs with others who maintain their faiths. We tend to believe that which comforts us most, I’ve found from my psychology/behavior studies. I believe that if we were to keep our faiths and beliefs to ourselves, at least until humans learn to disagree in a civil fashion, the world would be a better place.
Thanks again for stopping by. 🙂
Well at least I am not the only godless heathen!!
I enjoyed your post a lot.
Thanks, J. We’ll be returning to less heavy topics soon, I’m sure. 🙂
Another godless heathen checking in, Eric. I agree with all you wrote–Buddhism certainly has interesting concepts, as does the Baha’i faith, but I find it impossible to really believe in any divinity ruling the cosmos, so to speak. Closest I could come would be the feeling that the entire universe may be part of something much larger, completely incomprehensible to us, and while we’re part of it, we’re as meaningless to that larger something as the atoms in our bodies are to us. I’m quite happy to let others believe whatever they wish–when I get really angry is when I’m faced with those who feel that everyone else MUST believe as they do.
So true, Elizabeth. So true.
I have a new blog to add to all the others LOL!
Haven’t done much with it yet. Been too busy getting ready for the show tonight on CNIRadio.com, but wanted to share it with you anyway. Love that line from William P. Young’s “The Shack” that I used on the header.
Yes, people’s faith is a very personal thing. Sad religion chews so many up though.
Sheeesh, Fran! You really oughta’ consolidate all your blogs into one. It would be so much easier to keep track of your stuff. 😉
Can’t wait to read some stuff on the new one. Bookmarked. 🙂
Whether one believes or not is irrelevant to the reality that formed the universe. The stars don’t shine because we see them, or consider them; they do not seem to care about our fate and certainly don’t guide it. Reality is not a matter of opinion, but a matter of fact. Reductionist thinking is the hammer that people are taught in school and use on everything; so every thing in life and in one’s “reality” from such intellectual formation becomes a nail (Latin). Being so hammered, people seek their own view of reality – but that view is false because its based not on a dispassionate view of what is but rather what one wants things to be.
Someone you might want to consider as a dispassionate observer of reality who had his reality shaken was Alexis Carrel:
There is a little book – suppressed – called “Voyage to Lourdes” where he describes the experiences he sees with his own eyes – and dispassionate scientific observation. He saw two miraculous healings at Lourdes he could not scientifically explain. He thought he was going mad as he observed a woman with very advance TB recover from the point of death. He could not shake those experiences, his clinical observations – and much to the detriment of his “scientific” career after 30 years, he became a Catholic.
A dispassionate examination of Psalm 22 (My God My God why has thou forsaken me) might not be a bad place to start either.
Truth or fallacy of someone’s personal beliefs/non-beliefs is no one’s place to judge. It’s a personal thing and should remain that way. I care not whether your view (or anyone else’s) on these things is right or wrong. I only care about my own view. In the end, it’s the only view that matters.
P.S. There will be no debating this subject here (or anywhere, as far as I’m concerned).
A note on Carrel – his conversion was at the end of his life, he was very much an atheist including in his Eugenics days.
Oh I believe in God; it’s the Church I have problems with. I believe that our consciousness (and the consciousness of every other living thing, and quite possibly that of non-living things too) springs from something outside the material contents of the universe. I believe that, when we leave this existence, that part of us merges back into the Universal Mind (for lack of a better term) and that God, right now, is experiencing the reality of an OldFart typing some philosophical missive into the aether. I’m not looking forward to death, but neither do I fear it. It’s just the next step on the Path.
But that’s just me. I generally don’t try to convince anyone that I’m right. But this viewpoint has brought me hope and comfort for many years and, in the end, that’s all anyone can hope for from any belief system, isn’t it? Sooner or later, we’ll all know for certain!
Would you operate a car without first learning how to drive? Would you operate an aircraft, or a nuclear reactor without training, practice and competent instruction? And even with all those things, wouldn’t it be prudent to seek help from many others?
I cannot convince you of anything nor do I try to – I simply point out that there are other points of view that arrived at those views not on vain examination of selfish opinion, but rather dispassionate study of external facts.
Early in my career I recall the lessons learned from Chernobyl – that opinionated managers with their own fixed belief system disregarded the output of a computer and a young reactor operator that told them they were about to embark on the largest nuclear disaster in history. They ignored the “stupid” “ignorant” “inexperienced” “young man” and spent the rest of their brief and miserable lives picking up nuclear fuel with shovels. It was a great lesson -beliefs don’t count, opinions don’t count, get facts and advice from others and live by carefully studying them, challenge opinions, and change them.
Opinions are transient place holders, crumbs left behind – not guideposts for a future.