Not many people convert to nonbeliever.

Hero4thought wrote a very interesting post about the differences between believers and nonbelievers.  And it got me thinking about why rejecting the idea of a deity is so hard, despite there being no real concrete reason to accept that one exists.

Having been a born again christian and finally wandering my way to nonbeliever, I think people choose religion because it’s comfort.

Its the comfort of feeling like something large and important is somehow going to make it all work out in the end. There’s a plan, life is not just pointless.

Its the comfort that you can reach out in fear to something stronger than you. This feels very important when your life is spiraling out of control.

Its the comfort that you at least pray to the deity in charge when there is nothing you can do. This beats the crap out of sitting helpless next to a hospital bed.

Its the comfort of simple answers and directions instead of complex variable and vague options. Its easy to understand the directions in religious text – do this, don’t do that, this is how things work… Compare that to philosophy, physics and evolution.

Its the comfort of being part of a defined group that shares your values and ideas. Very few groups provide the cohesive structure and support that religions offer. Its nice to belong.

Its the comfort of not having to think about a thing because the answer has already been provided for you and you are not encouraged to think, just reference the answer. And to be honest, our entire school system is supporting this habit.

Its the comfort of having your existence continue even after death. It took me a while to get used to the idea that I would no longer exist. Even the knowledge that I wouldn’t be aware of my nonexistence didn’t stop me from feeling uncomfortable about it.

Humans prefer comfort and simplicity. Nonbelief is not a big fluffy mental comforter, it will occasionally makes me feel like I am naked and alone and confused.  ea1e3a3d5af24ed64b409c82a9f78f82

It also makes me feel like I have discovered new lands, seen new wonders, stood up in maelstrom of uncontrollable forces and not just survived it, but learned its nature and rode it to new places.  Being a nonbeliever mostly makes me feel stronger than the believer.

f11171f86b64d1e220c3ad9d78c3fbde

 

My 35 Year Trip to Non Believer

I call myself a non-believer, but I suppose technically I’m agnostic.  I don’t deny the utter possibility of some universe creator, but have concluded that if one exists its beyond my capacity to understand or interact with it on any meaningful level.  And its interest in me would likely amount to my interest in Amoeba.  So for daily life, I don’t think there is any god.

I wasn’t always in this place.  I was not taught about God by my parents.  My grandma took me to church when I visited her and when she visited us, but beyond that my parents left me to explore the question on my own.

When I was 16 I became a born again Christian.  I accepted Christ because it was such a beautiful idea.  A God who loves me just as I am, who doesn’t care about the fact that I’m messed up.  I read the bible through and through.  I went to bible study and bible camps and joined Campus Crusade when I went to college.

In college my path was a bit erratic.  I was easily enticed to the sinful life of drinking and wild parties and sex.  But ultimately I settled back into a spiritual life, kept the belief and in my senior year I wanted to be a missionary to Russia. (back then Russia was considered Godless because of communism.) I was turned down for a mission trip to Russia with Campus Crusade because I was fat.  Its a silly story, but suffice to say it was a blow that caused me to reconsider.

At that point I looked more closely at organized churches and was sickened by the hypocrisy.  There is an undercurrent of competition to be “holier than thou” in spirit filled churches.  How many people did you bring to Christ?  How many bible studies do you participate in?  How many do  you lead?  What sorts of mission work have you done?  The prayers in church are not for the benefit of god, they are for the benefit of the congregation or the gathered group – to show everyone how pious the person praying out loud is.  I could go on, but it was nauseating for me.

I still believed in God.  I just did not think the church was the best way to have a relationship with him.  I continued to read the bible and pray.  But once away from the church, my mind was free to look more closely at the bible and at what I thought of God. And I found that I really didn’t think the bible was literal.  It really wasn’t possible.  It must be more metaphorical.

Then I met a man who practiced Hinduism.  He explained karma and dharma.  And while reincarnation seemed somewhat odd to me, I couldn’t help but see that at least the concepts of karma were reflective of real world physical laws.  Cause and Effect.  As opposed the eternal life insurance policy sold by Christian churches. I started reading about Buddhism and Taoism.  I was quite enchanted with Taoism, but I never embraced any of them as a practical philosophy or religion.

As time went on, I left behind the bible.  It wasn’t a sudden epiphany.  It was a slow wandering of ideas and thoughts about what we know about God.  It seemed wholly unlikely that God was described by any book created by man.

It seemed more likely that God was reflected in his creation.  And if that was so, it was pretty clear that God was very fond of action leads to consequence.  After all, it was already built into the world we lived in.  So – it was very unlikely that the Christ Insurance Policy was God.

Nor did I think Hell existed.  To what purpose?  I couldn’t find one in anything I saw, so no Hell.  Heaven?  Unlikely for the same reasons.  If anything, reincarnation might be possible, but there certainly wasn’t much reason for that either.

After more thought wandering it became clear that what I believed was of no relevance at all.  Any being who created the universe was a much more complex being than I could possibly fathom on any level.  Such a being would have no interest in whether or not I knew of its existence, much less whether I worshiped it.  No, my belief would be irrelevant.

Since, my belief would be irrelevant, I was able to let go of all the fragile threads that held me to the idea of God.  He either exists or he doesn’t.  There is no evidence that he does.  Since I have already established that its irrelevant whether I believe, I live my life as though God doesn’t exist.

So, now I don’t believe.  In fact I try not to believe anything, which is why I usually identify as a non-believer.  Belief is a thing we have to defend.  Ideas are things we develop and change when new more compelling information is brought forward.  I try to keep myself to ideas.

What of my purpose?  What of my morality?  I think who I am is defined by me.  I think living a life based on critical thinking and on creativity is my path. Knowledge is one of the most worthwhile goals of my life.  Its my thing.  Its not yours.  What you think is how you define you.

My morality is based on my own internal compass.  Its not nearly as strict as religion or government.

  • I don’t think any sexual action that is consensual and non-detrimental to either party is bad.
  • I think hurting anyone, whether physically, emotionally, mentally, or financially is bad.
  • I think all people have the right to freedom, happiness and the best health that science can offer.
  • I think people have a right to choose their own death.
  • I think all of the above is oversimplified and should be weighed in the complexity of the individual situation.

Well, I guess I won’t go on, but you will note that while I am sinful as defined by most religions, I am not amoral.  I don’t consider anarchy and murder and hate to be acceptable.  I think compassion and kindness are the most noble things a human can be.

I am not evangelical in my thoughts.  I share them if someone wants to have an open learning discussion, but not if someone wants to try and convert my viewpoint to theirs.  I really don’t care what anyone else thinks or believes.

If you are a religious person, that is fine with me.  I used to be and I remember how much it helped me at that point in my life, how much solace I got from it.

I do, however, have a problem when anyone tries to make their religion into laws, or tries to make it part of public school curriculum, or tries to limit the rights and freedoms of any person.  That I will fight.