Monday, December 5, 2011

I Did It (For Definition of 'It' Read Last Post)

I did it. I came out of the a-religious closet and into a bright, glorious future of no longer having to try to be non-religious without actually denying or accepting religion (a bizarre and unpleasant tightrope to try to balance on, for those of you with no personal experience). I didn't receive quite as much flack as I thought I would (yet). In fact, mostly I received pity, sympathy, and lots of "we're praying for you." Ugh. If I wanted your prayers, if I thought I was just 'doubting' christianity, I would have asked for them and said that, respectively.

The toughest part, though, are the people closer to me who are genuinely worried that I might be giving up on god entirely. While, as a person who strongly, genuinely, and emotionally pursued the christian god for many years, I can understand that, it has led me to the question, what reason is there for me to believe in a god, any god? And, of course, its sister question; what reasons are there for me not to? So far, I'll be honest, the answers I'm coming up with aren't impressive. But I'll share them anyway.

First, and honestly, the hardest one to get past, is the past, tradition, familiarity, whatever you want to call it. One time I put it to my friend like this; "When you are raised with religion, no matter how much you reject it later in life, it kinda feels like you're married to god, and you know how god feels about divorce." While I was mostly jesting in this statement, in many ways it's true. I spent most of my life being afraid of god's disapproval, god's wrath, god's judgment, hell, the afterlife, and 'losing fellowship with god.' Even when I deliberately remove myself from christianity, these fears and concerns still haunt me, no matter how much I argue with myself that they are a load of bullshit. And I find myself struggling to believe in god, ultimately, because of the fear I was raised with (which is a shitty reason to believe in anyone or anything).

Which brings me to my second point; I was indoctrinated to believe that if your god doesn't match up to the god of the bible then you are delusional at best, blaspheming at worst. This means that I often end up feeling like believing in god is an either/or proposition; either you subscribe to all of christianity, or you are an agnostic/atheist. I don't really see a lot of middle ground. As someone raised as a christian, anyone who believed in god without christianity was probably in a 'cult.' Well, hell, I don't want to be in a cult. So I find myself see-sawing back away from religion and even god.

Then, of course, there is the double-edged sword of my 'religious experiences with god' that I have had in the past. Arguably, these could either have been genuine experiences of god, or products of the emotional environment that encouraged these kinds of responses to god (i.e., moving music, religious services, the fervor of others, the beauty of the natural world, etc.). I honestly couldn't give you a good reason to definitely label them one way or another, so for right now these 'experiences' are weighing in pretty much as a neutral. Yes, there were times that I cried for god and praised god and thanked god and loved god and felt close to god. But those were always the 'good times' that probably would have felt good to me with or without a firm faith in a god. And the other times, the times when I cried out with an aching heart for a god that didn't seem to hear me, the times I couldn't reconcile myself with the god that was supposed to be and the god that made sense to me, the times that I thought my heart was going to explode (not in a good way) those could be seen as being evidence for my firm belief in god or evidence that god doesn't exist. The problem with the question of god is that no matter what you belief everything comes down to confirmation bias. We pick our position and then pretty much everything defends it.

And, of course, closely related to the emotional experiences is the whole "creation echoes god's majesty" argument, which is said about people, nature, music, art, math; hell, even science sometimes. Quite frankly the argument is so non-compelling to me that I don't even have much of a rebuttal for it. I will point back to my confirmation bias above, and move on.

A large part of me wants to believe in god; I am familiar with the concept of god, it is a comfortable one. The idea of leaving something behind that has been so integral to my life for such a long time is, quite frankly, a terrifying one. But, surprisingly enough, the idea of there not being an afterlife does not scare me. To me, if there is an afterlife it will be so very different from this life that it would be an entirely different life and existence, and consequently the me I am now and the life I have now would cease to exist anyway. So it really makes little difference to my life now if there is or isn't an afterlife. Everything dies, everything ends, we just make the most of this beautiful, crazy, random life that we have now.

Mostly I want to believe in god, I want a reason to believe in god, because I can't imagine my life without it. I have been reared since my infancy to attribute supernatural meaning and significance to my life, to believe that there is never a moment that I am alone, to feel that I always matter and I am always infinitely loved. While I feel that I can actually satisfactorily achieve most of these things without a god (who, quite frankly, feels just as absent from my life as any human most of the time), I still feel like I need god or I'm supposed to have god. Which is weird, because I don't know if I actually believe it; I just feel it.

I'll be brutally honest here though; my other big reason for wanting to be able to continue to believe in god is that I honestly don't know what it would do to my spouse and my marriage if it didn't. Oh, I have no doubt that he would still love me, and I really don't think it will lead to a divorce or even a lessening of intimacy, but I know that it would tear him up inside. Now, I would never lie about who I am for the sake of someone else's peace of mind (at least not someone I want to have the deepest intimacy with) but at the same time, I really wish I could just believe the things that would make him happy. Fortunately, though, I don't think he wants me to give up who I am for him any more than I want to. It's just hard to realize that your path can really shake the foundations of someone else's life.

But right now, I just can see no reason, no evidence, no argument, no statement that makes me believe in god. I don't actively disbelieve in god (i.e., I am not convinced that we can be certain of the non-existence of a deity). But I see no reason to believe that god is actively pursuing a relationship to me, especially when the only 'evidence' for it that I can see are self-manufactured emotion experiences and biased opinions on science and art. No one who believes in god can give me an unbiased opinion on why I should, and no one who disbelieves in god can give me an unbiased opinion on why I shouldn't. It's all really quite frustrating. In this age of science, reason, logic, and information it's really annoying to just have to arbitrarily pick your position and defend it, with nothing but your own convictions to defend you.

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