In my 2005 column, A Profession of Faith I mused on my beliefs on religion and spirituality.
I do believe in a higher power. A “Great Architect”, if you will. This higher power is beyond our level of understanding. We can only hope to understand him by looking at what He created.
What He created was the world by setting rules and laws and allowed things to develop accordingly. When I sit outside on a starry night and look at the heavens, or see how everything in this world works so perectly, or how animals are born, or snow falls, I definitely see a higher consciousness.
I believe in creation and evolution. Why can’t you have both? Why couldn’t God have created a world where the rules of existence included animals and plants evolving into what they are today? Why couldn’t we have evolved from an early primate if that is what God wanted?
That article came from a very Deist mindset. Deism is, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, “is the belief that reason and observation of the natural world are sufficient to determine the existence of God, accompanied with the rejection of revelation and authority as a source of religious knowledge”.
Nearly eight years later I acknowledge the beliefs I held when I wrote that column were not the end of my journey away from faith, but merely a stopping point on the road toward accepting reason and rejecting religion and belief altogether.
Seth Andrews, who runs the website The Thinking Atheist, wrote in his 2012 book, Deconverted that his journey was much the same. It began with questioning, slowly waking up to reason, and then totally deconverting entirely.
An analogy I would use would be it is like waking from a deep sleep. You do not wake fully aware and alert; it is a process that light slowly begins to fill your world, followed by increased awareness of your surroundings. When you first wake up you are still connected to your sleep. You may still recall your dream and still have the emotions and thoughts that accompanied it. As you awaken you become more aware of your true surroundings and slowly you begin to live in the world of the awake.
That is very much how it happened to me. I was once very religious, but I slowly began to throw off the shroud of belief that had been with me for many years. But as with a vivid dream or any long held belief it did not go away all at once. It began with the premise that the religious and, especially the fundamentalist view of the Bible, could not be true. Logic and reason assured me that much. Religion and belief was still a comforting thought. I couldn’t throw it off entirely, so I tried to live in both worlds. I believed in God, but just not the god of the Bible. I read The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine, and adhered to the belief of rejecting revelation (ie. the Bible) but believed that you can view God through reason and logic.
That book did change my life, but I did not stop at those beliefs. I took it further, continued to question. Through this questioning and also by connecting to websites like The Thinking Atheist, The Friendly Atheist, and others I began to see that I was not only not alone in my beliefs, but also not alone in my journey to them. Countless people have taken the road I have to my beliefs.
I do not believe in God. I do not believe in any afterlife. This is it. Because of that I want to make every sunrise, every minute worth it. Why should I pine away for an afterlife when I have a wonderful life, wonderful wife, children, friends, and things to enjoy in this life? Because of that, I also want to make suffering for people in this life as minimal as possible. I will not simply pray for an end to famine, war, suffering, and other horrible things. Religion implies that they will be rewarded with paradise in the afterlife. Why not just try to make their life wonderful now?
I believe that you can have morality without religion. The natural state of any living being is to be alive. We all have free will and strive to be fed, clothed, housed, loved, reproduce, and also strive to improve ourselves. Anything that infringes on those things is wrong, and that is where morality comes from.
I want to be tolerant of other people’s beliefs as long as their beliefs do not infringe upon mine. You should be free to pray, or not pray, to tithe, or not tithe, and to serve your fellow Man as you best see fit without any harassment by me or anyone else.
These are my beliefs in a nutshell, and a brief explanation of my journey there. Is it the end of the road? I don’t know. I don’t think so, I think I will continually change my beliefs and viewpoints as new evidence is shown to me. I will learn from others and strive to teach others.
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