Saturday, July 11, 2009

A Meaningless Life without God

A Meaningless Life without God

I hear this alot; that without God life is meaningless. I remember holding such a position before I discovered its flaws. I often see others confused by this statement. Allow me to explain my previous position.

You may have to read more about me to understand how involved with religion my childhood was. Suffice to say, I was inundated with religion. As I began to move away, this point struck major chords with me. If there is no God, how can my life have meaning? If God does not exist, what is my purpose in life? I felt baffled by these questions. I felt terrified that there seemed to be no answer to them. Looking back, I had every reason to be frightened.

Since I could remember, people would tell me things like this, “You are here to serve and love God.” “Your purpose is to fulfill God’s plan for you.” When you are little, say 5 or 6 or so, these seem like solid, intelligent answers, and why shouldn’t they? These answers come from some of the most trustworthy sources I had at my disposal. Combine these simple answers with the routine of Catholic prayer, and it is easy to think you have defined your life, when you have not. And thus, the fear.

I was moving away from religious answers. But how would my life retain meaning? How can I make meaning for my life without God? It seemed impossible. Imagine you are bird, living in a cage. You’ve lived in a cage forever. Now you want out of the cage, but where do you go? How will you eat? Do you really want to leave the only life you know behind for a chance at freedom that comes with great peril? Some birds would choose to stay. I did not.

There I was, left with a meaningless life. I had almost resigned myself to stop looking when it dawned on me. THIS IS THE CHALLENGE! The problem with religion is that it gives you answers that you are supposed to work to get. The meaning in your life is what you make it. It is not what God makes it; it is not what your religion makes it; it is what YOU make it. Each of us has to find our own way through life. Religion offers what seems to be a good roadmap, but it’s more like a tour. Imagine you are a new immigrant to a foreign land. You came to this country looking to begin anew and leave the past in the past. Would you first go on a commercial tour of the country to discover its opportunities? Wouldn’t you rather begin to make connections with people and discover the opportunities that they presented? I see religion as a tour. Only look here, here and here. Don’t look there and please don’t look over there. This is where our great monument to the past is located. Isn’t it pretty?

Religion is seductive. It offers quick, easy answers to life’s hard questions. It seems to be the solution, but it’s not. Even if you but into it, even if you give your life to God or Jesus, even if you do this with all your ability, you fond yourself further from the answers, not closer. Now you must pray, go to church, sing and worship. These things seem designed to distract you from ever realizing the answers you think you have are all lies.

After dropping God, I had to find a way to re-ask the questions I thought I had answered in childhood. More than that, I needed new answers. Without the benefit of religion, I had to turn inward to find these. I started a journal. I kept a record of my thoughts and reflections. I wrote in the journal for five days, read them on the sixth, and reflected on the seventh. This pattern made me feel like I still connected with my old self. Regardless, I found it extremely helpful. As I begin down my newly discovered atheist identity, I fond myself doing the same again. This time I have the internet and myspace, and while I may not be able to write five days a week, I find myself with more then ever to record.

More than ever, I find purpose in life. Now that I am forced to determine my own meaning, I find greater responsibility to DO what inspires me. Without God to spoon-feed me answers and comfort, I must find my own. This means I have to do my best to get it right the first time; I may not have another. Instead of finding life meaningless without God, I find it has more meaning.

Yes, life without God can have meaning, but only if you put it there. Really, isn’t that what would have happened if your prayers to God had been answered? Is God necessary to find inspiration? No, he’s not. I’m glad I found my motivation and inspiration. I’m thrilled I didn’t need to look into superstition to do so. Perhaps now I can be an inspiration to those close to me. That seems to be a fine purpose: to be an inspiration, because God isn’t here, we are.

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