Time for an essay again. It has been a while since I really had a good think. My current life is so demanding that a good think is a luxury after getting some sleep. Today I feel like writing though. A day of rest is quite pleasant.
Why do I write about this? Well a dear friend recently sent me this book called “12 Rules For Life” and in it the author addresses the risks of cultural relativity. He also emphasises that people from religious cultures tend to be more culturally absolute because they believe in wrong and right. This observation made me think.
This topic is something that will always be a part of me. Until I was 15 I went to church every week and I read the Bible. Praying was a serious activity, not mumbling for show. Yet as I became older and started thinking for myself I could not find peace in Christianity. I was an evangelical Christian.
After about my 17th birthday I gave up on the Church and the Bible. There was no way I could take it seriously like before. The transition from religious to non-religious is one that is very intense. Gradually your world view changes and every aspect of your life loses meaning until you can find some new meaning. Finding new meaning is one of the hardest things to do.
You start by not showing the outward signs of your religion. No more praying for your food and wearable symbols disappear. If you are the kind of person to bring a Bible or other religious book, well you no longer bring it with you. Even if people used to know you as religious, you no longer show it. There is no “declaring your faith” any more. People ask, you state “you no longer go to church.”
After doing away with visible symbols and old habits you start doubting everything. All your old assumptions and beliefs are no longer valid. Sometimes you find yourself in a state of not knowing anything, not having an answer for something. This can tear you up from the inside. My doubts made me curious and I read about everything I wanted to know about. Philosophy and history had my special interest. Even things like “what is a soul?” were things that I had to redefine somehow.
Values as a religious person tend to be fixed. What is wrong and what is right are defined and moral issues are solved by following your commandments and other rules. As a Christian I was principally against gay marriage but as a non-religious person I let it be: people make their own decisions.
I felt I was becoming more a humanist. Humanism is less about absolute rules and more about humane approaches to issues people encounter. You tend to ask more questions instead of stating how things should be. It makes life different because you listen and learn more.
No More God
What is a world without “God” like? Once you stop believing in that figure what is left is the world as you experience it. There is no being in the skies to turn to or rely on. You are on your own. A lonely feeling makes you aware that it is you and the people you trust. In the beginning that was hard.
Especially since the comfort of believing to never be alone is very pleasant. Then the cold shower of atheist reality hits you. You are a human on a planet in a small solar system and evolution and human culture shaped you. Science has no definite answers. When you do not know what to do you improvise and learn.
Deprogrammed Discovering the World Again
Sobered up you look at the world with fresh eyes. Everything you thought you knew, you discover again.
Music sounds different, art requires a second look and each book you read you analyse from a new perspective. Situations you once approached in one way now take you by surprise. Where you once said “no” you now say “possibly” or even “yes.” One thing I noticed is that I started breaking old rules. Things I would never do before I now considered possible or just went with it.
Finding new meaning is an adventure. While you discover the world again what was once beautiful might now seem plain and the other way around. For example Christmas is no longer something I enjoy. I prefer to skip it entirely because it is a mid-Winter celebration, nothing more. The old pagan ritual of making big fires sounds more fun than hearing that same old story again.
The concept of heaven and hell holds less significance. Sure Dante’s “Divine Comedy” is interesting but I cannot take it literally. Virtue is no longer about living to get to heaven. You can have fun or strive for a healthy blue planet for the next generations, that is it. You make your own choices and face their consequences. “God’s plan” is not applied to you, you do not believe in such a thing.
Losing your religion is a painful process. It took me a some years but I preferred making my own decisions. Religion is good for some people. It probably helps them to cope with life and all its hardships.
For me, religion did not bring me the peace of mind I have today. As a small kid I observed how religious people could be very kind and generous but also mean and egotistical in “the name of their lord.” Add to that the divisions in the current Church and the history behind it, not my cup of tea. Preaching all day but not practicing, yeah I am out.
We live in a world where Jews, Christians and Muslims basically share the same holy book and the same holy city and there are still disagreements about who is entitled to what. It does not make sense. The more you think about and ask questions the more you will have doubts.
In the end everybody in life suffers. Some people cling to their “God.” I prefer a life without…