On God

~ my {meandering, repetitive} riffs on religion, faith, God. {Wrote years ago, over time, by a younger me / edited now, by an older me.}

Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adamdetail of the ceiling fresco by Michelangelo, 1508–12; in the Sistine Chapel, Vatican City.

On God

Is there a God?

I do not know.

I am not sure it is knowable, and isn’t that the point?

To have real faith is to believe without knowledge. It is a choice. To trust in an absolute and omnipotent God in one’s heart wholeheartedly, without worldly evidence of their presence or power or motivation — that is the way of the believer.

It takes conviction. Faith. To have it is to separate yourself from reality. But also, it seems to me, to step yourself toward a manner of self-actualization.

Faith. Is it requisite? To live? To be a human being? To actualize?

Again, I do not know.

But after nearly three decades of life and much learning upon the subject, I do have some ideas about God. Let me share them.

~

I respect it. Belief. Faith. In human beings and their beliefs, what they put their faith in. I think it can be a beautiful thing. In a way, I envy those believers that have taken their saviors, their Truth, their God, into their hearts. For whatever reason or justification, they have cultivated something I simply do not have, something I am not sure I am capable of having. An invincible foundation to their lives; something they can always reliably fall back onto, something to catch their soul as it falls.

Said faith or belief can enrich and provide the ultimate meaning to their lives, enhancing their every breath, and the relationships they have with other people. I can see it in their faces, read it in their words on the page, feel it in their voices, in the inflections they speak of their God with. When these true believers in God read ‘the word of God’, when they discuss their faith, they do it like nothing else in their lives. It’s a profound experiential feeling that is conveyed, if not transferred in some ways, to the listener. They are saved, and they want you to know it. Generally, they want you to be saved too. Like I said, there’s beauty in such a phenomenon. I respect religious faith and the profoundly good effects it can have upon people. Truly, religion and the idea of an all-seeing, benevolent, just God are uniquely capable of enriching the human experience, the human psyche. I believe that.

Despite logical flaws, some necessary hypocrisies, the ever corruptible doctrines, the inflexibilities of dogma, and every other potentially toxic or violent factor spawning from out of any man-made system or style of thinking around something as mysteriously transcendent as God, the afterlife, divine morality — and aside all the institutions historically using it for control, power, profit, expedient political gain — spiritual faith, at its core, is inherently good. And also inevitable within humanity, within a civilization of beings carrying consciousness within them. I believe that, too.

However, I think that sharing the true meaning — and feeling — of that faith with another can be almost impossible. Like the difference between a knowledge and a wisdom, there’s a threshold here we can’t really cross in our interactions with each other, as individuals. As far as religious faith goes, individually, it is limited in the context of this understanding. I think true faith, or belief, or spirituality, is probably the most personal experience a human being can have; a truly private and secret heart relationship within the core fibers of being. Despite its social practices and the shared traditions comprising many individuals, when it comes down to it, I don’t think true faith can even really be explained, not through words or through a system of rote religious practice or via the lectured pages of something like the Bible (even if people try). As much as someone, even a close friend or relative or spouse, can believe in something, they can never truly make another believe in it as they do, not in the exact same way. Knowledge can be transferred, taught and learned from teacher to learner; things like language and math. Wisdom, on the other hand, is inborn through experience, achieved through patient observation and self-reflection, and is felt primarily within the heart. Wisdom cannot be taught, it must be brought forth and discovered within the self.

Faith is like wisdom, I think. That leap of faith, toward God, requires absolute volition, a conviction that is personalized and based in singular, first-person experience. It is, at heart, a personal choice. This {in addition to the violation of personal rights & freedoms} is what makes religious-based societal interventions and oppressions and persecutions so heinous. Faith simply cannot be forced. True faith, that is. {though I think it can be slowly and steadily indoctrinated, starting from childhood and then to be reckoned with later in life…}.

No matter how beautiful I may think your faith, your belief in this awesome being — your God — you speak of being so powerful for your condition, it does not change my own heart. Truly, it should not, for your personalized, long-term building of your relationship with your God took time and effort and prayer, and that is part and parcel of what makes it so special to you. My own heart has to change itself, like yours did, if it has the inclination to do so. The words of another may influence, providing all-important exposure to your God or belief system and thus put one somewhere near the beginning of the path, and eventually work towards affecting such a change — but the ultimate decision, the enlightenment, the culminating experiential moment lies within the individual, within their own heart. This is nothing new and isn’t something I think most religious people would disagree with. It doesn’t necessarily mean that I think Christians and Muslims should stop *peacefully* preaching to non-believers or trying to “save” their fellow man from the prospective damnation borne of their non-belief. It’s part of their belief system, part of their calling, part of their religious doctrine, etc. I get that and accept that. Those things are important parts of a religious and spiritual experience, too: a commune with other people outside of your religious sphere, sharing your own experience with these people, closing the gaps between you as human beings. Perhaps this is all a bit paradoxical given my own worldview, but I think all of this is true and alright.

My comments are made with all of the preceding thoughts in mind.

{Another, more abstract, disclaimer: though my writing/speaking style may not indicate it at times — I certainly did not arrive at any of these thoughts / beliefs / ‘conclusions’ / philosophies easily. It may be easy to me now, and thus sound like it — but it tooks years of painstaking questioning and restlessness and existential crisis-class considerations upon the topics of spiritualism and God to arrive where I now have. And I am learning still. I could yet believe in God tomorrow! {It wouldn’t take much, big guy 🙄} Perhaps this goes without saying on subjects like this. But I will say it anyway.}

~

Raised in a moderately religious environment {Catholicism}, I’ve always had a lot of questions regarding the faith, Christianity, God — but one singular question in particular always came back to mind:

If a God were to exist, and he were omnipotently capable doing so, why would he send a “good” person – or any person – to Hell, to eternal damnation?

Why?

Because he’s a sinner and doesn’t deserve entry into the kingdom of God? Maybe.

Because he has committed great atrocities in his precious, transient life, mortal sins against Him, he destroyed other life, he is evil? Sure.

Because he does not believe in Him, in “God”, and thus fails to worship Him as such during his life, the only way to earn him his passage away from damnation and into paradise?

I’m not sure. Despite my compulsion to do so, who am I to judge what people ultimately deserve? And who am I to judge the judger? {especially, when he is God, the infinite creator of the Universe…}

~

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.

Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.

Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?

Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?”

~ Epicurus on the ‘Problem of Evil

If an omniscient, just God exists, who witnesses perfectly the past, present and future of each living, conscious person on Earth and casts his brand of divine judgment upon each person’s immortal soul as it passes into the afterlife, the spiritual, ‘infinite’ realm beyond this finite, material one, and he 1) cares deeply about whether people have faith in/worship him as God, and 2) casts his judgment upon them one way {Heaven/paradise} or another {Hell/damnation} based solely upon this criteria — then this, in my mind… has incredible consequences for all life, for all time.

If something like the Devil exists, and he is the root cause of all sin in human thoughts and actions, relentlessly influencing the world onto darker paths, breeding greed, hatred and prejudice in the shadows of each man’s heart — who still ultimately, beyond the reach of the Devil’s *absolute* enchanting upon their souls, choose sin and the path of darkness of their own free will, and are thus damned to join the Devil in Hell after they die — this also, obviously, has incredible consequences.

What does our free will mean in the context of these eternal fates? In the grand scheme, then does anything really matter outside of God? {To the devoutly religious, the final answer is simple: “No.”}

So then, we exist only to please God, worship and serve this entity we can never see or experience or identify for certain? {For this lack of certainty gives life to the very concept of faith.} When it comes down to it, we then exist — and are gifted this consciousness and free will, this precious, transient, mortal life full of practically infinite possibilities, possible hopes and despairs, joys and tragedies, and all other everything’s that could ever be — ultimately, all ONLY to believe in God, ONLY to try to get into Heaven? For what is ~75 years vs. eternity? We cannot even fathom eternity, but we know it goes on and on and on, for forever and ever and ever… And to be anywhere but paradise for such an infinitude would, of course, be unbearable, the ultimate form of suffering… that, again, we could not even begin to fathom.

This material world, full of only transient objects, mortal suffering, all those infinite possibilities, those pleasures and terrors — is truly meaningless in such a context. Not unlike the nihilist’s conclusion {life is meaningless, because we are finite players within an infinite stream, only a drop in the bucket, the endless, entropic void of the universe around us will always exceed us, just as it preceded us…}, except, unlike the nihilist — there is the spirit. There is God. And there is Heaven. An immaterial, infinite realm wherein God’s ‘paradise’ exists, and lays ahead of us beyond this life, immortalized and designed *for us* by God, forever shining in perfection and just awaiting our eventual arrival. *THAT* is the real world; this world is false, and is only here to give us time to understand just how false it is and how true the next world is, to gift us with the opportunity to find God, to find our faith in Him and His after-world. And avoid being tempted by the Devil along the way in this mortal realm; tempted by “evil” forces into believing that this world might be all there is, doubting God’s existence or benevolence, or his ability to deliver souls to something like ‘Heaven’; not knowing — or rejecting — God for long enough to die without having accepted Him into the heart, and thusly being damned for eternity for exactly that failure. Cast into hellfire for the failure to make the leap of faith, in this time that you were gifted with in order to do just that…

So… mortal, be good {‘be good’ = find your faith in God, and nothing else need be required (because, ultimately ANY and ALL sins can be forgiven)}, and you will live forever😉!

~

The above train of thought {as far as I believe I have boiled down most popular religious belief down to its base truths} is difficult for me to accept. In fact, it is unconscionable to me. For a number of reasons. But there is one that is prime — any omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent God that blesses or damns souls based *entirely* on their level of devotion to Him — that is, based on whether or not they believed in their hearts Him to be “almighty God the Father, who art in Heaven, creator of all”, etc. — and nothing else, is simply not a God worthy of the name. That is really the long and short of my thoughts on God. At least, how he is conceived by most modern religious faiths and adherents to belief systems with a singular, omni-level, authoritarian, end-all/be-all, worship-demanding God at their heart.

The imperfecting sin of *demanding to be worshipped* — whether it is tied to producing his power or not as God {it obviously isn’t in most religious beliefs, God is the absolute, prime mover, Beginning and End} being utterly irrelevant — is one damning layer to the equation of God; how can a benevolent God also be a prideful, vengeful, totalitarian God?

The next major, related, problem is obviously the lack of interest in how people *actually live their lives* with regard to his divine judgments…

That is, whether people are moral/ethical or not, whether or not they decrease or increase human suffering and human flourishing in their short time alive. What was the content and context of their lived experience upon Earth? What were their choices and circumstances, their afflictions and limitations, physically, biologically, psychologically? What was the full course of their life, from stem to stern, perfectly comprehended, with every single ‘why?’ question perfectly resolved without fail? For this all-important decision upon this stream of souls passing between worlds, building a divine judgment from this ineffable, omni-view of ALL and EVERYTHING that God may perfectly investigate from within their heart’s moment-to-moment intentions and then perfectly contextualized alongside their worldly consequences, good, bad, or ugly — in the best possible faith that can be had from such a spiritualizing judge x jury x executioner, as only a God could originate in his infinite power and wisdom and understanding… To immortalize the complete mass of human souls into the afterlife, into one of two realms {so easy and simple!} — a Good Place {Heaven, paradise, infinite flourishing, pleasure, bliss} and a Bad Place {Hell, torment, infinite pain & suffering} — and use none of the above criteria of how people really lived their lives — across time and space and culture, through the complexities of history and human interaction and interdependence, onward past the absurd contradictions of ‘faith’ and the flaws of consciousness and our apparent free will to think, do and believe whatever it is we want, and all the rest … to boil eternal bliss versus damnation down to: “Did they believe in me as God?” is, I say again — unconscionable.

The third layer to this and the one arrived at last {which now may appear to contradict my previous points}, only later, with more life experience, with more of an understanding of life, of human history, human consciousness, human choice — or lack thereof — is simply this:

No one deserves eternal damnation.

Even if God truly judged human souls for *how they lived their lives*, and not just whether they had faith in him — while this would be a better arrangement — I would still believe this to be wrong. For a God to damn souls to eternity for sins committed during mortal life, would be a gross injustice. For any individual human soul to be damned {or blessed!} forever, with no recourse to ever change one’s condition from thereon, to come to realize with clarity their own position within the Universe, among the souls of their other human brethren, finally made cognizant of All — before God, unto Heaven or Hell, after their transient blink of time upon Earth has expired… it is simply unjust.

For me, that’s all there is to it.

Aside from the relative impossibility of something like God *physically* existing — as our innate human hubris and aeons of culture has now dreamt up — my contention with the religious God thus goes beyond whether or not he exists, to whether or not he *should.* If one is to only partially base their life around the purported existence or non-existence of a God {I don’t wanna go to Hell! / Who cares, there is no afterlife, we can do whatever we want!} then this kind of entertainment of the idea seems necessary to me. No matter what kind of life you lead, we must all eventually answer our God questions for ourselves.

That resounding answer, for me, is that the existence or non-existence of God simply will not change how I live my life at all. There is no part of my moral compass based on something like God; I do not believe the ‘right’ things should be done because I am thinking of paradise vs. damnation, or the collective amount of good deeds vs. sins upon my soul at any given moment. That is just not how I think about ethics and morality and what my duty is in a given situation. Truly, I do not think true ethics and morality can be based upon such afterlife-based calculus, lest you corrupt human life into ‘means’ instead of ‘ends’; I am certain that human life should always be an end in of itself, and never a means — whether some purported eternal life is in the balance for you or not.

Do I believe ‘evil’ people do exist? And do they deserve to be punished? Yes, I think so. I think ‘evil’ people, though extremely rare, do exist, for a number of reasons — all of which may not really be their fault, e.g. chemical imbalances in their brain or body {well, are they still *evil*, then?} But I also think that no amount of finite evil deserves infinite suffering. As in, there should be *almost* nothing {never say never, right?} we could do in this mortal, finite life and realm that would warrant the immortal pain and suffering and, yes, *evil* that something like Hell, as it is conceived in Christian theology, inflicts upon souls.

And obviously, I do not believe this to absolve evil people — no, I believe this because I think the vast majority of *sin* in the world {certainly, the vast majority of unbelief in God} is simply NOT mired in anything close to evil at all. This should be obvious. It is instead an innate part of the collective human condition, as circumstantial, flawed, imperfect, and constantly in a flux of amplifying and mitigating suffering and flourishing unto all life around it as it ultimately is. As we ultimately are as conscious, forever flawed, free-willed beings, our sins are an inherent part of the experience.

I believe the vast majority of people that have ever lived deserved neither paradise nor damnation for their worldly lives. If “paradise” really just means peace, then yeah sure. But eternal damnation? For stealing food to survive, for killing your brothers as a conscript into your nation’s war, for following the dominant culture map of your time and choosing the self over the community, for getting ahead at the expense of every life below you, justifying every vice into a virtue along the way, for taking your revenge upon an ‘unjust’ world, for bearing out the drama of toxic traditions and wayward mores that are all you ever knew and practically had no choice but to live out… for never acknowledging an invisible Man in the sky? … Nah. Hell nah.

{As a side note, how many of these individuals endured their own private, internal “Hell”’s throughout their wretched lives?}

All the compulsory responses to this string of thought aside — the classic “God works in mysterious ways” > who are you, in your hubris!, to know what is moral and good as an admittedly consciously flawed being yourself? > what a terribly unjust world this would be if the evil sinners never got punished in the end…, etc.

I get all that. It’s fine. Aside from the fact that we already exist day by day in an insanely unjust world where bad things happen to good people and bad people never get held accountable or see the consequences of their actions ever get close to falling onto them, and so on. And also, even accounting for God’s *mysterious ways* — demanding worship from his creations {who he expressly gifted with the freedom of will to do otherwise}, as a kind of sadistic test or eternity-class ultimatum or otherwise upon humanity — while simultaneously ignoring all the serious moral choices and consequences within their lives beyond such belief, faith, worship, {loyalty} to him and him alone — is the worst, most damning, kind of contradiction unto his own existence as a benevolent God that “loves all his children.” Mysterious all-seeing ways to the beginning and end of time aside, there are some things that God might do — ^like all this^ — that cannot be reconciled! {Call me human!!}

And yeah, God may be forever unfathomable and it doesn’t really matter at all what I think about how he *should* exist and what his actions and blessings/damnations *should* be… but I believe you have to work with what you are given. You have to start with something. Your conscious reason. Your always-developing moral compass. Your own faith in what is right and just and good in the end. Using your own heart, mind, and soul to try to fathom one’s existential position here in this Universe…

Using all this to try to figure God — insofar that you may decide to potentially believe in him, worship him, devote your life to him. After all, what is more consequential in this mortal life, relatively meaningless vs. eternity, than to spend it as a servant of this Absolute Being?

Every human faculty must be devoted to investigating God in these ways, and coming up with your own perspective upon him. Inevitably, there has to be some kind of foundation to one’s thinking toward the possibility of God. And ^ALL^ this is something like mine.

An even deeper analysis for me is that — as much as I doubt this God’s existence, given the lack of compelling evidence, the moral contradictions — I also would not want this God to exist. And if he did — and the Christians are right — then I would not want to go to his Heaven. Because, living my life as I plan to — doing right by my fellow man, working to mitigate suffering and aid flourishing wherever I can, sinning as any Man might but working to atone, redeem, self-improve at every step of the way — I would trust a true, omnipotent x omniscient x omnibenevolent God — that gives a damn about us in any shape, form or fashion — to deliver me to wherever it is I deserve to be.

Beyond our measly little human theories and dogmas {remember, utterly meaningless before such an ultimate being! even if they are coming out of the mouth of someone we call “Pope”!}, if such after-realms do truly exist, and something like a God exists as our world thus far has been cultured toward believing *might* exist, then I say let that unfathomable being judge me for my life in its fullness, delivering me to one peace or another after my time is done.

That is the bottom line. It is really as simple as that.

I am going to live my life, I am going to always do my best to do the right thing. And after I shed this mortal coil, whatever “dreams may come”, I have faith that my soul will end up where it belongs.

I suppose that all this *is* my own leap of faith. I make it with confidence, rather easily now. ~

~

On the ethical necessity of religion

Do we need the idealism of a just, humanely attentive God, and the promise of divine reward, to NOT engage in our baser instincts and be “good” people? What are the implications of a judging God on human psychology? Biologically and conscientiously, do we need a God, this fear and revelry and spiritual motivation — to be good to each other? What does history tell us? And aside from that, have we even been around on this planet long enough to have that question settled?

A difficult and far-ranging sociological question. Obviously, people can be moral / ethical without having a spiritual element to their lives. I speak mainly from the standpoint of systemic and historical reasoning — what does ethical philosophy and general societal morality look like without religion and spirituality? This may be an impossible question to crack, given that such things as thoughts of a spirit realm {from that first moment we looked up to the stars} are inextricably tied with the dawn of our consciousness {when we started to consider our ethical duties to one another within tribes, communities}.

Perhaps some *absolutely* need religion to guide their moral foundation. Without God, I think a portion of humanity would fall hard into the worst spheres of nihilism, and to selfish pathology. {There is no God! ∴ WE CAN DO WHATEVER WE WANT!!} But that also is not to say that culture and social bonds and new ways of learning and thinking about life couldn’t rectify such religious-based despairing.

Of course, I do not want to believe such a thing to be true. I am a humanist, and therefore, an optimist. I think people, at heart, are good. Cooperation is just as innate as competition; selfishness may come easily, out of biological necessity and more so cultural imprinting, but xenophobia and prejudice and hate are taught and do not always come naturally to us as human beings {especially in our more comfortable modern times}.

But who can say how many turn one way or another, morally speaking, because of God — OR — because of some intrinsic motivation beyond the spirit {i.e. humanism, legalism, existentialism, their own moral code, etc.}? There are no reliable polls for a metric like this. It is true that our world has become more secular in recent eras. Over the course of history, there has been a general progression of increased human conscientiousness alongside decreased human savagery {this is a debatable point, given you could say that in the modern day we’ve just become more ‘efficient’ in our death-dealing, and now have the power to destroy the species with our various advanced weapons and industries, which we never had before in our long history. / But I guess the point is that humanity has become more self-aware about morality, rights and freedoms, global liberties and well-being, and more concerned about our savagery/prejudice/bloodlust toward one another in modern ages}.

You could also debate whether it is religious or secular regimes that have more blood on their hands historically {I would say religious ones, but I am not certain on this and would accept it if someone tried to math this and I happened to be wrong}, as well as whether or not Mankind’s progression toward more globalized moral conscientiousness is due to decreased religious fervor or increased secularization within the populations, or something else {like say, economic interests}. I think everyone could agree that there are many examples in all 4 quadrants {religion x good, religion x evil, secular x good, secular x evil}.

The bottom line: Since the dawn of religious faith, as well as before its widespread organization into institutions, and after its dominance within culture into modern ages — people have found their own reasons to help, to be selfless, to be moral, ethical, “good.” Alongside, or completely bereft, of any kind of religious belief, humanity has long been full of moral choices. And insofar that moral, cooperative, benevolent choices won out over self-destructive ones, we have evolved as thus under their continuous development, to the point we are now at as a species.

In the sense that religion *is* responsible for the many’s moral actions for a large swath of time since we emerged from the primordial soup {out of love of God or fear of Hell is irrelevant}, it may not matter if God {in any institutional religious form} was truly manufactured by a cabal of Mankind from whole cloth. Even if primarily created by the ruling classes for reasons of profit and control {as some might theorize about religion in general}, one could say that such an institutional organization was for the better — because for some, it was necessary to keep them honest, cooperative, sane. I would go as far as to say the creation of institutional religion was inevitable. Whether the good outweighs that bad concerning religion {golden rule vs. crusades} then becomes an irrelevant point entirely. In the end, there is no way around God, believing or refuting him, for us conscious, mortal beings.

~

I will say that if the only thing keeping a person, a theoretical “believer,” being honest and good and from doing anything they want to do in this existence, is the prospect of divine reward for such discipline, then that person is not good at all. That person doesn’t deserve much of anything special for their efforts, divine or earthly. Their motivation is essentially greed, pathological self-interest. If they are only behaving because of what they believe they’ll get out of it after they die, in the afterlife, then what do they live for truly — their God or for themselves? Can they truly believe in a religious doctrine at all, with a focus in loving thy neighbor and lessening the suffering of your fellow man, if the transactional, self-serving endgame is always in mind as a ready-made ulterior motive?

I don’t know how many people are motivated to get into religious belief and spirituality in this way, or similarly out of a simple fear of punishment and hell {perhaps duking it out with Pascal’s wager}. But I think, in these ways, a belief in a greater power {in the context of the common religious belief of the carrot and the stick of afterlives, i.e. Heaven and Hell} can fail in its objective for enriching and beautifying the human experience. The “believers”, can then come to believe for all the wrong reasons {if they can be said to truly be believers at all, in their heart-of-hearts}: for their own immortality and not… because helping others is the right thing to do. Isn’t the world alone enough to deliver your goodness unto? Isn’t the recognition of human interdependence, of our common stature as all God’s ‘children’ enough to spur your benevolence?

I myself firmly believe WE are responsible for the good and the bad we commit ourselves to — here, in this reality. I don’t think there’s logical room for divine excuses (control from forces above or below), pre-determinism, or faith-based reveries of how Man should live amongst the world over their lifetime, after which is promised this spiritual eternity in a form of paradise. No matter how much faith you may have in your God, eternity is evermore uncertain; the current reality and the earth we now walk upon, live together upon, cooperate or die upon, is much more certain. In my opinion, this world should be the focal point, the journey (and not the destination, if there is one) should be the primary objective here. Even for those living a faith-based life — for what better way to conscientiously honor your God’s will than by doing His works as if He wasn’t watching / as if he did not exist!

We must be beholden to ourselves, in this world, if it is the only one we get. One must always ask themselves:

“What have I done here, with my time? Have I lessened the suffering of others, contributed to the fellowship of man, allowed for a future to build upon? Or have I increased suffering or stood by and let it stand? Have I been selfish, driven by pride and greed? Have I created anything, or only destroyed? Did I lend a hand in companionship and love? Did I do right by future generations? Who am I and what have I done here?”

Regardless of your beliefs, all of this must be asked and then answered with continuous action. And the reason why you did any of it, any good in your life, should not hinge upon a promised paradise or to avoid punishment from a faceless being in your sky. Truly, I do not believe one should live their life based on anything other than the requisite assignment of value, constant and ever-present, toward life, unto your fellow man’s intrinsic worth, and your own life’s role within its general enrichment. Simply, we should be good to each other. This is the state we are born into, regardless of the biological bounds of survival, and of the selfishness we are yet taught, we yearn for each other, to be in community with one another. There is this inborn feeling for social interaction, this great capacity for companionship, even and especially within increasingly diverse ethnic and sociological environs; evolutionarily speaking, there has always been this great need to live and work together, cooperating and progressing as one human tribe. I believe in that.

Each man is taught to hate, to create in and out-groups, to highlight the differences between him and others {world religions’ role here is not without blame}. Parents’ love for their children comes naturally; children curiously exploring and seeking to learn from, interact with and finally love their mates is intrinsic and essential to our long-term social survival. *insufferable utopian voice* We are all one people, capable of empowering one another, creating together, growing together, building this world together. We inhabit this world together, we should be together. Even if our natures inevitably devolve into tribalism and prejudice and competitive greed and bloody conflict from time to time, age to age, we can always make a mindful and concerted effort to be better, to be more cooperative, more sharing and open-minded, more loving. We should be good to each other because we are human beings and, one way or another, we all need, and deserve, one other. Across tribes, cultures, religions, eras, past grievances and vengeances and all manner of slights and sins. There must be this solidarity, lest we eventually dissolve our souls, fight our wars, go our way of extinction, everyone betting on their disparate spiritual endgame ideologies to the very end as an escape to all the horror.

We should be good to each other because is the right thing to do, AND because it is the only way we can live in the long run. {And to be clear, despite the utopian-sounding language, I am not talking ‘heaven-on-earth’, I am talking sustainable survival, I am talking the base continuity of the human community.}

If that makes any sense. I know I sound naive. But simply, this must be the first principle one works from. Moral foundations must be based upon these kinds of utopian visions: Equality of human life above all else. There is no other way to look at life. To embark from any other position in one’s personal moral philosophy {“well, that’s all and good but what about *that* country/culture/religion?”} is to begin the process utterly compromised. Faith-based or no, these are things all conscious beings must consider. And these are the things I try to consider every day in my thoughts and actions in this world.

I don’t think we needed to create God to reinforce any of this — to motivate the populace to be good to each other {the best possible reason for the creation of religion, in my honest opinion} — it was there within us from the beginning.

But I acknowledge that perhaps I am placing too much faith in humanity.

I hope not.

~

Journeying through Catholicism, questions in hand

During my Catholic youth education’s final year — our confirmation year — I asked one of my teachers a simple question {a common one I’d imagine}. It concerned a theoretical person living outside of current, civilized society, isolated in Africa or Asia or Australia somewhere amongst a small tribe of people living in relative anonymity to the rest of the world. With regard to the afterlife, what happens to one of these people? One who lives a good life, sins like anyone else but lives well and conscientiously among the other people around him; when he passes on, where does he go? To hell? Obviously, he is never exposed, in his mortal life, to a belief in Jesus Christ, our lord and savior, the son of God, or the belief system of Catholicism or Christianity — he’s never given a chance to believe in our God {the ‘right’ God}, so does he still go to heaven on a technicality, or does he get sent to hell like all the other non-believers when they die?

The teacher {a member of ‘The Knights of Columbus’, the Catholic church’s venerated fraternity, and respective volunteer experts on the faith, the ‘Catholic All-Stars’ that taught such confirmation classes} admitted it was a difficult question, perhaps unsettling to consider, but he had an answer. The teacher’s answer was purgatory, a kind of twilight zone of the afterlife in which those that don’t deserve hell but also didn’t have true faith in God would go, to basically “wait in line” for subsequent judgment from God. He said generally, those that are sent to purgatory are eventually sent to heaven, it just takes time {as I learned later, with most other Protestant beliefs, the answer to this inquiry is simply hell, as purgatory is not part of their dogma}.

It goes without saying, but this answer did not feel good. It did not feel right, like the kind of Godlike, divine — always Right — justice I was raised to {try to} believe in. Honestly speaking, my faith in all this never seemed right {I was skeptical of Catholicism, God, everything the church said from the very beginning; my cursory ‘faith’ through childhood was primarily founded from my fear of death}. In the class that day, I found my instincts crying out to defy this declaration. “Why would we not just go to heaven?” I remember saying, with a short debriefing following as the class hashed out the implications of his life and death, and his afterlife. “The man is no murderer, no thief, no adulterer, no great sinner… And still?” A simple man living a simple life, a good life — just without a certain set of images and words and beliefs within his heart and mind, from time to time — and he is not deserving of heaven? He is automatically enrolled in purgatory, this middle ground, or sent to the same place as all the ‘bad’ people?

It was not acceptable to me. It was nothing I could believe in. It was not something I had the conviction, or even the slightest inclination, to place my faith in, my own eternal soul upon. I backed off eventually in silence and let the class continue, or end, or whatever. I don’t remember. But I did not make a scene. I did not quit the church at that moment. I went on with the questions only remaining in my heart. I stopped asking the teacher such things, now knowing his likely answers. So certain was he; every bit the opposite of my own thoughts on every matter.

As I learned more about my faith as I grew older, and now about to be confirmed in the Catholic faith, there were never enough answers; questions, contradictions, paradoxes had always troubled me, but now, at the precipice of having to mark my faith as founded {“Confirmed”}, I considered it all the more intensely. Aside from all the rote divisiveness between the sects of Christianity, Catholics vs. Protestant infighting, et al. {which I could not stand}, there was always something missing from my full belief. Questions like these arose in my mind. The uncertainties. My skepticism endured. The gaps remained as long as I could not find the answers, or could not accept the ones given to me.

Concerning heaven and hell, it was a paradox: on one hand, I always knew the consequences for any non-believer — no matter what, they don’t deserve to go to heaven… based on God’s creation of the Universe and stewardship over us as his creation, and his general demand to be worshipped as such, to be taken into one’s heart in order for them to be saved. Yeah, I got that mostly. But on the other hand, it also felt pretty bad knowing so many people wouldn’t go to heaven. So many non-Christians obviously lead decent lives; people I knew, people I read about, people from the past, now dead, now in Hell? And so many more to come in the future… I was truly conflicted and the experience was taxing me, mentally and spiritually. In my heart, I knew what this man deserved, what many deserve, is peace. Paradise? Maybe. Eternal damnation? No.

When I thought about it further, the idea of Hell, it really was not a place I think the vast majority of people, and even killers and thieves and even what we may classify as ‘evil’ men, should ever go. To me, this “eternal damnation” was terrifying; but in Catholicism, damnation for non-believers is foundational {which is the point, the powerful Fear of God and his grand power to damn souls. / What I never fully understood was how so many believers took this information in and embraced it so easily… / The true belief in the faith and ALL its implications, what does this do to a person’s psychology, to walk amongst so many damned souls their entire life? I do not know.}

The prospect of hell, this infinite plane of pain and suffering, practically made me want to believe in God and heaven and Jesus Christ by itself, in a negative sense, a compulsion to avoid the worst fate — more so than the beautifying words of God and the wisdom from the Gospel and all the other positive and morally valuable things I had learned in church and in my readings from the Bible.

Hell — more than heaven, and more than Jesus’ infinite love or God’s immortal, omnipotent reign over the whole Universe — was dominant within my young mindspace on the faith. So every time I don’t listen to my parents or talk back, or lie to one of my friends, or think bad thoughts, or get angry or sad or wish something like God did not exist… I am inching myself closer and closer to…

Hell was something I could not really fathom, but it was definitely something to fear. Infinite pain and suffering…

But now older and wiser, there were too many contradictions in its existence, given everything else I knew about God and Jesus and what this faith told me to stand for. Redemption, benevolence, compassion, forgiveness. Love. “It’s never too late.” “God loves all his children absolutely.”

Hell, more than anything else, just didn’t seem like a place a loving God would ever create.

*Embrace me on faith or die painfully for eternity.*

But why?

~

I debated the concept with a friend in my same confirmation class, who also felt strongly about it and held similar reservations. We came to separate conclusions. I believed, regardless of religious doctrine or lack thereof, that the man {‘the outsider’} deserves the same paradise as Christians {or at least some form of non-Hell peace} after he died and passed on to the afterlife. Certainly, such a man would never deserve damnation for eternity; in no sense, even as more profound of a sinner than we conceived of in the specific example, could I ever conceive him deserving of that

The answer to the dilemma of the outsider and his afterlife that my friend theorized {better than our teacher’s answer!} was that this man, despite not having any person ever come to his village and show him the literal, word-for-word the doctrine of Jesus Christ, would have had the chance to experience the light of God in one way or another throughout his life. Whether it be from the natural world around him, through his relationship with his wife or his kids, or just within the silence of his own heart or mind’s beats, at some point along his path — he would’ve been presented with God in some fashion. And in his choice to live as he did, as a good, if yet imperfect man, then he would, in-effect, be a follower of Christ, a Christian, if in his general actions only, in his life course as a Man living as “Jesus would have wanted.” Or something like that. And thus, he would go to heaven. Not purgatory, and certainly not hell.

Obviously, this was a more compelling answer. Much better than our teacher’s, I must say. But it still did not resolve the growing tension within me; my conflict came with the existence of heaven and hell themselves. Everything felt wrong about such judgments, as arbitrary as I knew ‘good’ and ‘evil’ to be in most cases in this life — let alone the fact that ‘belief in God’ could trump any mix of them within a person concerning their final fate in the afterlife {that is, a good person — the super-scientist curer of cancer — an atheist who vehemently rejects God goes immediately to hell, and an unapologetically bad person — a serial killer, rapist, genocidal maniac, etc. — who accepted God in his final breath on his deathbed goes straight to heaven, no questions asked}. Such moral math made no sense to me, and I could not accept “God works in mysterious ways” as an out from such divinely unjust spiritual outcomes {for some, that might just be the end of it — “Who knows! God works in mysterious ways.” *sigh*}.

This is part of what makes faith and religious doctrine, and a Bible (“the word of God”, written by the hands of Man), so precarious to me, so potentially harmful — the idea of these extreme outcomes, this extremis of destinations. The only alternative to Heaven, is Hell? Why? It’s either Heaven or Hell (or purgatory, but all the same) — you are either:

1) saved and will live forever in the majesty of an eternal paradise, the kingdom of heaven, with all the other believers who ever lived seated alongside God himself,

or

2) you are damned to a fiery hellscape of suffering, with the devil himself cracking the whip against your back!

Or hell, in whatever form it takes, an endless punishment, a personalized judgment, for your actions in your conscious, finite life. Infinite suffering for a proverbial ‘drop in the bucket’ of mortal sinning. Or, just non-belief in God.

1 or 2. Black and white. Simple. Two simple yet infinitely resounding and immortal fates. From one God.

Either way, it seemed to be that the dead don’t really get to rest in peace when they pass on…

*sigh*

We conscious beings, with our wonder, imagination and awe at the grandeur of life and our own singularity as the sole *conscious* species on our planet, in our near Universe, from out of our own existential dreaming beyond our lives… we simply cannot conceive that after we die maybe nothing special happens. {Like all that nothingness we conceived before we were born…}

Our fear of death, so profoundly natural for consciousness-wielding creatures such as we, must have a perfect answer, lest we let our restlessness over it consume us without end.

{Yeah. I guess that makes sense, actually…}

{Oh and one can see how this kind of religious-based moral math and extremity of eternal outcomes can necessarily breed the most ardent kinds of toxic fanaticism, violence, terrorism, war… But that is not the purpose of this writing.}

~

Regardless of the outsider’s earthly actions {which, of course, are ultimately deemed meaningless in terms of Man’s eternal soul}, the isolated man will not ascend into heaven and in many cases will burn {sans a Catholic purgatory}. No matter how this scenario is spun, strangely forgiving to him or not, allowing for his own mystical journey unto Jesus Christ or not, I simply could not abide it within my burgeoning worldview. Gaining experience, seeing more of the world and learning more about my beliefs and my self, I eventually became almost entirely disillusioned with the faith and my former beliefs during this time. I’m not sure I ever really believed in God or held the doctrine of Catholicism true within my heart. For a while I continued to pray, went to church, and shared in the experience with my family and peers. I was even confirmed later that year, for whatever that was worth now.

Those doubts {which some religious persons actually consider one of the most important concepts of religious experience — doubt and the constant revaluation to believe, which I respect and understand immensely} grew into rocksteady personal foundations, and I eventually entirely abandoned the faith.

I have since gained a different kind of respect and admiration for my peers of all religious followings; truly speaking, I never lost respect or ever viewed believers as lesser. This was just my personal choice, for my own reasons as I have outlined. In learning more about the world religions and witnessing the enriching qualities it has upon many people’s lives, I maintain admiration for what faith can do, for what the concept of a God can deliver to some people, regardless of the contradictions or the dogmas. But again, this observance and healthy respect is much different than a personal seeking of faith. I think each person, believer, atheist or agnostic, has their own way, their personal path to finding peace. I don’t think anyone is limited in this respect, based on their capacity to believe in a God or not. That’s my own humble belief. In most cases, I certainly would not try to talk someone *out* of their belief in their God.

~

On the potential origin of Heaven and Hell

“God works in mysterious ways… God works in mysterious ways… God works — “

OK. It’s beyond me. It can’t be considered because God is… G O D. He is beyond me…

However, let me try…

Our faces.

Our love.

our circulatory system,

the arrangement of atoms in our cells and in the matter of everything else around us in the universe,

the evolution of millions upon millions of different organisms to thrive in myriad complex environments, through the ages, through wild ecological phenomena,

the grand biological nests of birth, life, death, decay and rebirth of energy throughout the cycles of Earth’s natural world,

the infinitude of stars and solar systems in the far reaches of the galaxy, the Universe

etc. etc. etc….

ALL do seem, I admit, more like the grand design of some creator being or entity, rather than the work of random chaotic collections and collisions of matter and energy in the entropic void of space. Many things seem like the work of God, as opposed to just… chance. Yes. It is possible. Even hopeful. It would be nice, wouldn’t it?

But, returning to my original point, you know what DOES NOT seem like the grand, perfected design of a creator being, a God-like figure, for the resting place of mortal homo sapien souls? {insofar that that same systemic creator-being would have control over the realm of the spirit, too}: Heaven and Hell.

So simple; so effective. For what?

  • Moral motivation, mass appeal unto our most natural fear of death, a measure of esoteric originality and spiritual terror? Yeah.
  • Control over minds, bodies, souls via the institution of The Church? You bet.
  • To accept your worldly lord, the feudal, divinely-empowered king and his implicit enslavement over you? Oh yes.
  • To embrace your misery, your utter lack of material good {your poverty}, and to engender your belief in a world beyond this one, infinite and overabundant, wherein you and your family will be as rich as the King, no longer hungry or ever again in pain, if only you believe? Certainly.

The creation of heaven and hell certainly seems man-made to me. Perfectly artificial; perfectly useful to the powers-that-be of any given age {but especially the ages that it arose out of}.

God, why? Why either place, why would you care where our souls go when we die? Why do you care if we believe in you?? You are an omniscient creator God-being crafting the universe, designing life, and also work part-time to… damn human beings? Why???

To me at least, this does not make sense. Belief in a God is intrinsically linked with this afterlife concept, and I just can’t do it.

Bad or good. A spiritual realm, a kingdom where all the good people are, where the loving God is waiting with open arms for those that… thought about him more during their little lives — and a burning cave where all the bad people are…

(Ok maybe it’s not that simple, I am presenting a fictionalization of what your average religion believes to be their paradise, or their hell. That’s how children’s minds formulate it {certainly mine did}. The truth is, and I think many believers would admit, there’s no rational hypothesis to make about what exactly a heaven or hell would be like, for a mortal mind such as ours. However, my issue is that such a realm of light and warmth exists at all, in contrast to its opposite realm of darkness and fire… The proposition is horrifically troubling to me, more than spurious. Seemingly Man-made. But again, I’m trying to be rational, which isn’t the name of the game. My point is, me personally, I cannot abide this kind of simplistic duality of Good Place and Bad Place. Back to it…)

It’s too simple. Too easy. Man-made, Man-designed, Man, man, man…

Honestly, I don’t really care if Jesus was a person or not {no historical consensus obviously, but enough voices make me consider he could’ve been a real dude, a good man who went around helping people and then was crucified for challenging the status quo} — my primary concern has to do with Christian religious dogma as I learned it, and more generally what religious dogmas concerning the afterlife — and the carrot and the stick of Heaven and Hell — effectively mean for humanity. For our psyches, and for their communal effects and their consequences upon how we behave and organize ourselves, morally and politically and yes, spiritually.

How much better would religious belief be if it was just based on the teachings of the prime spiritual leaders, and organizing institutionalized social groups around that? And not a battle for one’s eternal soul? Or if so, only a Good place? {But how much less compelling, how much less moral force would religion have without Hell? again, unsure.}

The prospects of divine reward and punishment are far-ranging — and quite useful! — which obviously lends credence to the idea of religion — Jesus Christ being a good dude that really existed or not — originally being designed by a cabal of the ruling class, etc. for purposes of control and power, and thusly, for worldly obfuscation and “opiate of the masses”-type class-consciousness-destroying, counterrevolutionary spiritualizing to keep the underclasses, always with the collective power to radically alter their material conditions via armed revolution against their masters, wretchedly poor but also calm and happy and awaiting paradise in the *real* world after this one…

~

Heaven and Hell. Paradise and its opposite. This mythic dyad is the spiritual paradigm; it is the dominant religious meme.

The words of God, the Bible, dictate this and it runs the religious doctrine of an entire segment of mankind. It is a spiritual certainty. Because of the book, the word of the Lord.

But I can’t believe in a book, I don’t understand how there be so much certainty in a book’s words. I can’t have faith in these words, even if they are from the purported hands and mind of God. I can believe in what I see, and more importantly, what I feel and what is within my heart. The natural world holds more water with me than any book, my own experiences hold more water.

And shouldn’t they?

“If God really exists, why doesn’t he show himself” … etc. all that jazz.

I don’t think Bible readers or Quran readers or self-help book readers or the followers of spiritual gurus are lost. But they are certainly living outside of themselves, at least for the moment. They are putting faith outside of themselves {isn’t that the point, chief?} As compulsory as it may be for all of us at some point or another {who does not wish to learn, to feel better about fate?}, I believe it is ultimately counterintuitive to our own natures. We should feel responsible for ourselves and our lives, intrinsically linked to the ground we walk on, the communities we interact in, and the natural world we inhabit in this reality.

And when we get a rush of air that fills up our being, when we feel good for no reason or see the love of our life or witness some grand force from the natural world — it doesn’t have to be linked to any spiritual meaning from a holy book’s passage you read a month ago or be symbolic of the love our God feels for this world and its creatures, or have any derived meaning at all, other than the natural joy and uplift you receive when you experience it within the moment. Because you are alive, because you were born into this strange, mysterious world full of possibilities and knowledges to be strived upon but perhaps never known.

I understand we are the ultimate pattern-seeking entities and such religious and spiritual connections to everyday life are inevitable.. But at the same time, maybe something is lost from the beauty of ourselves within nature when we are always hunting for transcendent meanings in this way…

I don’t know… {I keep saying that, huh?}

When one is constantly living for that afterlife, that kingdom, that promised castle in the sky, and only the spiritual soul is eternal and indestructible, and Real.. when the mortal coil is abandoned before its time, maybe just maybe we lose something in the now.

Maybe the journey is lost in seeking the destination.

~

So… again I must ask: does the mass-murdering psychopath who took pleasure in the suffering of other human beings belong in the same place as the atheist scientist who worked his entire life to better the human condition? Both are eternally damned by God, right? Unless the latter takes God into his heart on his deathbed, in which case he might spend his afterlife in paradise, while the scientist who cured a disease burns in an eternal hellscape. Such a concept will never sit right with me. This line, where the abyss lies beyond it, and an eternal, perfect light before it. Nothing matters concerning any one of us and our position on either side of it, except one thing: belief in God. “God does not keep score.” Thus, it does not matter how much good you do, or alternatively, how much bad… There is only belief. Everything is flattened down to belief. This is how one is judged, nothing else matters. Every single sin can be forgiven in the end; Every single good deed, every selfless act, every life saved or enriched — meaningless without belief.

Such thinking feels wayward; living with such beliefs feels eventually corrupting. “God works in mysterious ways” cannot wave all this way…

And what of the psychopath, anyway? The one born into a condition that disallows them from feeling emotions — that is, empathy — in the same way as others. Aren’t they a victim of their biology? Are they in control? Does not sin require free will? What of the thief that must steal to live, given their life conditions, the environment in which they are raised? What of the killers in war, men ordered to take life for their countries? Are they not all victims of circumstance? Are not most sinners? And in the faith, still every believer’s sin not consciously, sincerely forgiven before the altar of God is thus damning.

*sigh*

No one deserves eternal damnation. This is my firm belief. I do not believe any soul deserves, in death, to have their peace taken from them. I believe that is my bottom line.

Do I believe evil people exist? Sure. They are rare, but they probably exist. Do I wish for them to have peace as well? Not necessarily. But who are we to demand what happens to any person’s soul, even the most depraved and wicked among us? We must do our best to hold them accountable, bring them to justice, punish them, and if possible, make them atone or remedy their misdeeds in this life, as far as we can.

To believe otherwise, to rely on the uncertainty of divine justice alone, is just wishful thinking. It is motivated reasoning — {the world would be better if — evildoers received their karmic justice / God really existed…}

Perhaps my belief/faith in such a being, an omniscient creator of all life and matter in the universe {which I don’t actually think is impossible; for who am I, in an infinite hubris to declare such a thing impossible} should not hinge upon the acceptance that the outcomes from their divine justice be a True justice, from my own personal, quite limited sense of what is righteous. After all, God wouldn’t care what our own sense of justice looked like, even as far as we crafted it out of books in veneration of Him. He could do whatever he wanted.

And maybe that is my final problem: this God cannot be just.

Insofar that he, in his hubris/vanity/totalitarianism wants me to worship Him, else he damns me; insofar that he damns the vast majority of humanity, the sinners and unbelievers within conditions outside of their control, natured or nurtured in such ways to behave as they do; insofar that he binds a specific sect of humanity to His will — separating them from the remainder of humanity — forcing them through such dogmas and ideologies to see all others outside of their sphere as necessarily damned in the end, and unconsciously or consciously, as lesser; insofar that the just deserts of the conscious and cold-blooded murderer, the isolated tribesman, and the committed atheist are all simply alike, no questions asked…

Then, through all this, my course becomes quite clear. I do not want to believe in this God — I do not think he should exist at all. Such a being, as far as he judges and presides over the souls of his purported creation, does not deserve the title of God. This “God”, then does not deserve my consideration at all.

~

Religion vs. “Religious” experiences

I have always felt that I am capable of having a “religious” experience when I look up into the stars at night. I feel spiritually empowered when I walk through a forest and witness sunlight streaming through the branches of a tree, the sounds of nature basking me there in that moment for what feels like much longer than a moment. In silence, in meditation, in self-reflection, I find can find peace for a spell. God or no, these feelings are real. And they are important to me. They have no basis in any doctrine or traditional belief system, of course. They are just feelings. Moments. Transcendent ones, by way of how I take them in, how I pay attention to them in an unselfconscious way. They can remain in posterity; truly, they are simple in this way, and quite appreciated with an uninitiated eye, without a thought to God.

Almost like a child, no preconceived notions about the reality that someone else tells you about, I can believe in nature and in the stars. And in something like ‘love.’ You can experience it with your own heart. Spontaneously, like a laugh. Its beauty and its truth is just there. It’s part of the human experience. No one needs to tell you about those things; it truly does not matter if they were created or not, if they are just chance, or not.

If one cannot come to “believe in God” — whatever that may end up meaning for each individual person — through subjective experiences of nature or love or something else, within the private sanctuary of their own heart {without reading the page of a single text, without knowing a single name or title or tradition or dogma, etc.}, then an omniscient, omnipotent, universal and infinite, all-seeing, all-knowing God cannot really exist at all can he? At least, not one that actually matters.

I honestly believe that if there is some conscious, infinite force out there, such as a faceless, Universal *God* — such an entity would be so far beyond us, unfathomable, truly. Our stories, our language, our thoughts and feelings and dreams’ dreams of generations far onward to surpass our every knowledge today, could not touch him. Whether he cared about us or not. We, in our hubris, could not deign to know what it is that he wanted. For us, or for any other thing. To think otherwise is naive, wishful thinking, an afterimage from our forever-present unconscious fear of death — a built-in part of our arrogance as a species that has somehow captured consciousness and thereon captured fire and technology and everything else that we build our own case for god with…

We are special after all. We are us. It stands to reason that God would exist for us.

~

All I need

My old confirmation class friend and others I have since proposed some of these questions to over the years, see the justification in my thinking but generally return to the concept of faith and it’s all-powerful determination in the fate of Man.

“It’s all I need.”

In the end, regardless of everything else that may happen to one in life, whatever setbacks or tragedies or evils that may befall them — they always have their faith. A rock solid foundation to fall back upon, no matter what.

Who doesn’t yearn for this? Faith in something invincible? Something beyond us, something perfect and everlasting? Everyone wants this, to some degree or another. A sure thing. A sure, good thing. {Immortality!}

That has long been my struggle in life: having faith. Faith in my surroundings, my family, friends, myself. Faith that things will get better; that good things will happen to the world, to me. I could never grasp such faith. A faith I could trust and rely on absolutely. A secure existential foundation to my present and future. And upon facing up with the concept of death at a certain age — and the alternative nihilisms of a godless world — faith in God became the natural endgame of my conscious yearnings. Yearnings that I could never fully reconcile; yearnings I have now reasoned myself away from.

What is God if not an indestructible, existentially-empowering foundation to your entire life’s travails, from beginning to end?

What is God if not an instantaneous vanquisher of anxiety over death, over your legacy as an individual soul soon encountering the uncertainty of the afterlife?

Of course I envy one their true faith in whatever god or afterlife they have chosen to stake their soul upon. I want that same feeling, as everyone does.

I think what faith can end up doing is being a shortcut. {Which can be good or bad..} In religion, everything is already mapped out. The dogmas are there, you just have to adopt them. A fresh adherent arrives at their life’s philosophical foundation, without really doing the work of a complete existential investigation into the biggest questions of life’s origins and ways and motives and moralities, etc. on their own. To get to the root of things, one has to spend time and effort, while mired in uncertainty, willingly exploring alternative, even painful, sources and answers outside of a single text or culture. To arrive at the foundation to live one way or another, and then act it out with confidence, takes real conviction — faith-based conviction or not. I do not mean that these investigations have to be secular or purely philosophical, but they would certainly include some of that.

Of course, I am also not saying every person of religious faith has taken a shortcut, or that they didn’t seriously delve life’s big questions, or don’t still doubt their own faith from time to time, unto the ends of doing further soul-searching. I am just saying generally, for many people, religion can provide this shortcut. A way out. An easy answer to the complexities of life. Belief in the God of Abraham, in Christianity, certainly makes things easier for you. The big existential questions are hard, and insofar one even has time to seriously consider them or examine them to their ends {most people do not, either because they have to work, or they just have no interest}, there will not be any satisfying answers to be found in the end.

This is where nihilism can take hold, and its tendrils may not let one back up, toward faith or anything else. Well, God destroys nihilism; He is the opposite of meaninglessness. An eternity in heaven justifies all of life’s hardships and pains. An eternal punishment for evil-doers justifies the whole grand drama of the humanity’s play within the world. Everything about God and religious faith as humans practice it is rife with meaningfulness. Social cohesion. Transcendent thinking. Immortality. Moral values, long-standing traditions, shared worldviews with both family and community, and whole other swaths of the world that you may never see or speak with, but automatically have some kind of undying solidarity with no matter what.

Religion is powerful in these ways; faith becomes an instinctual yearning for us conscious beings in all these ways. Religious-based faith can tap humanity’s inner communal spirit perhaps better than any other way of organizing.

As I said at the start of all this, I admire and respect believers, the communities that they can form. It is just not something that I can harbor within my own soul — a belief in God, as most fathom him to be like, in our religions — for the reasons as I have discussed here.

My answer to the BIG, constantly-asked questions of life, to the unconscious yearning at the heart of this latest musing, is simply this:

I believe it is up to us to find our own meaning in life, to create it if we can, for ourselves and for each other, while we can.

Beyond this life, I simply do not know what awaits us.

And I am OK with that.

There is a quote by Voltaire:

“Doubt is an unpleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.”

Simply, I am fine not knowing. I am okay living with the uncertainty, existing within my restlessness about it ALL, all the way until the very end. I am not saying it is easy, but for me, it is necessary. And I have long ago reconciled my heart and mind to such doubt and uncertainty and restlessness concerning our existential position in the Universe as human beings; I reckon with it still! Such is the nature of uncertainty and restlessness and introspection.

Maybe life has no meaning; maybe *all this* isn’t FOR anything.

Maybe it just is. And it is up to us to find what meaning thou mayest.

~

I have come now to the end of these thoughts.

In my heart, I know who I am. I know what I’ve been, where I’ve been, whom I’ve shared experiences with; I know why I’m here {I think}, who I want to be, where I may want to go next, and what kind of life I wish to lead. My desired course, my path I am on, is taken in the name of Truth, love and peace. The meaning of life, so to speak, is probably to find something or someone in your life and give it meaning. To seek meaning in your own life as you see fit, as we conscious beings like to do, is as natural and necessary as breathing. I have my code, and despite my inevitable sins against myself and others, I intend to live by it and do well by myself and my fellow man. I want to give back and I want to love others; my empathy, my understanding, my communicating, my loving of my fellow man is the work I will never give up on and is something I will try to progress with until my last day. Art, creation, laughter, imagination, love, a sense of oneness with nature and our own responsibilities in this world, in every moment, this is what I want for others and for myself. Loving the peers of my heart, providing companionship to others, and caring for the Truth of my own existence are all parts of my path; intrinsically linked within every breath I take are these values I try to instill within my soul.

I know what really matters in life are the moments we have with each other, as fellow human beings. I live for these moments and will continuing seeking them. Things will change, I will change, I will learn, I will be led astray and I’ll forget my self and my love, and I might fall several times before I learn to walk this path; I must accept all of this. And I do. In the limited wisdom of my experiences thus far, I know that I have to. This is part of the struggle.

My life hasn’t really been that difficult, but neither has it been easy. I have not always been the person I should be, I don’t necessarily deserve everything I have and I still struggle to be at peace with my self. In fact, I struggle constantly with many things. But I will never give up, on myself or those I come to call companions in this life. I will always try to better myself and my understanding of my surroundings through self-reflection and honest dealings with friend and foe. This is my mission. As I learn more and things change, I hope I can stay the course.

In my own heart, I try to be good. I try to be True.

If a God exists and is watching us, He will witness me leading with my heart, building the narrative of my own life alongside companions in cooperation, bearing the Truth of my own spiritual experiences, and aspiring to ascertain and cultivate my {im}mortal soul throughout this journey we call life.

If I had to claim a religion, or sense of spiritualism or faith, it would have to be compassion, human interdependence, love.

And this is all I need. ~

Wanderer above the Sea of Fog ~ Caspar David Friedrich
The hiker stands as a back figure in the center of the composition. He looks down on an almost impenetrable sea of ​​fog in the midst of a rocky landscape – a metaphor for life as an ominous journey into the unknown.