I guess this could be considered my first official conversion story and interfaith ramble. I do need one to match the description I’ve given myself, after all.
Part of what prompted the start of this blog was a conversation I was having on a friend’s wall about abortion. It’s not hard to guess that I’m pro-choice. However that doesn’t mean I’m pro-abortion or anti-life. I value life a lot, which is why I think that such a heavy decision as to whether to bring life into the world shouldn’t be made lightly, especially when bringing new life into the world will have such a huge impact on an already existing life.
I’m really not here to talk about abortion, and for this blog post, at least, I won’t approve comments trying to delve into the topic. This is the backstory.
Now, back to the story.
As I said, the topic was abortion. I was having a relatively great discussion with people from multiple perspectives about whether abortion should be legal. It ranged from discussing the place of religious conviction in legal matters to scientific perspectives to philosophical questions about the beginning of life. It was an all-around good, respectful discussion.
Suddenly, this woman jumped on, throwing around the God card. I’m not opposed to God or someone holding a religiously backed belief. I’m just opposed to it being imposed on me. I responded by listing other religious traditions and religiously backed beliefs about abortion that differ from conservative Christianity (yes, there are actually others out there).
The woman then dropped the conversation completely and asked, “Do you know where you’re going to go when you die?”
In my experience, there are only two reasons why someone would ask that question. Actually one, but two approaches. The reason is to establish a sense of superiority. If I say I’m a Christian, she assumes a version of appeal to authority where she steps in as a parent with the “you should know better” attitude of correction. If I say I’m not a Christian, the actual topic at hand is conveniently forgotten in the new interest of trying to convince me to escape hell.
Well, I precluded both options.
I replied, “I don’t care.”
Actually it was longer than that and a little more derisive, but the gist of it was that I really don’t care. And here’s why: you can never know.
Seriously, you can never know whether your belief in the afterlife or in god/s is accurate or true.
“But what about the Bible?”
What about it? It’s a self-validating book of writings by men who claimed to have encountered God and recorded what they think God wanted. There are a lot of those types of self-validating books. There are even multiple versions of the Bible with different writings in them. Just because it claims to be true and you believe it doesn’t mean that your belief is assured. That’s basic common sense. It’s a secondary source at best, more likely tertiary or worse. Try using those kinds of sources in an academic paper and see if the teacher calls it good research.
I’m not an atheist. I have my rituals and beliefs too. I dance in the light of the full moon, chant, meditate, will work a binding spell on someone trying to harm me, pray sometimes, and even read the Bible. But the way I look at it, you either believe what you do out of fear or you believe it because you want to.
I spent a quarter of my life believing out of fear. I overlooked mistreatment of myself and others, shut my eyes to science, ignored history, drove myself crazy trying to create logic from illogic, bent over backwards to justify things that weren’t just hypocritical but felt downright wrong, and basically denied what I felt and experienced as truth in order to believe what I was taught because I was too afraid of the big, angry God in the sky who would send me to hell if I dared to question too much.
And I’m done with that!
I really don’t care where I go when I die because a god who violates his own principles of morality and acts like the quintessential abuser isn’t worth my time, and an afterlife that can only be gained by living a miserable, hateful, ignorant life on earth isn’t worth pursuing.
After you’ve all released gasps that surely came with my blasphemous declaration, now ask why I do what I do? Why do I meditate, burn incense, or attempt to commune with a Divine being?
Because it doesn’t hurt. In fact, it makes me happy. Those things help me appreciate life. I’m not using them to beat another into submission. I don’t need some religious book to determine my morality. And whether when I pray I actually tap into something bigger than myself or merely tap into myself, it helps me deal with life. I’ve discovered that there is a beautiful form of spirituality that comes when belief isn’t a means of distracting from reality but rather a means of enhancing it.
Imagine that! I can enjoy the discoveries of science without finding my spiritual path threatened, and I can follow a spiritual path without needing to block out the discoveries made in the world around me!
I’ve stopped believing out of fear and started believing because it enriches my life and helps order my universe in a way that I can understand. And others are free to do the same for themselves because the beauty of my faith isn’t determined by a need to prove myself right on a subject that is impossible to prove. Later, I’ll delve a bit into the process of becoming comfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity, but for now, I just want to leave you with this.
I don’t care where I go when I die because my life is so beautiful and worthwhile now that I wouldn’t do anything different even if I knew what would happen when I die. This life, right here, right now, is enough. If there’s more to come later, it shouldn’t detract from the one I’m currently living. The things that make it a “good life” shouldn’t change. I may not live only once, but I only live this life once. And I’m much more concerned with actually living it than enduring it until I reach the next.
I LOVED this post… it made me tear up by the end… my favorite:
“I’ve stopped believing out of fear and started believing because it enriches my life and helps order my universe in a way that I can understand.”
This was beautifully written and full of beautiful ideas. I do believe in God and salvation through Jesus and I still thought this was applicable to my life and faith. Thank you for your perspective. And I’m sorry, so sorry, that your experiences with religion have been so painful in the past. I’m glad that you have found a place of peace.
I really loved this whole post, but especially this: “I really don’t care where I go when I die because a god who violates his own principles of morality and acts like the quintessential abuser isn’t worth my time, and an afterlife that can only be gained by living a miserable, hateful, ignorant life on earth isn’t worth pursuing.” This is basically what I told my parents when they asked why I left Christianity.