Nothing Special, Really

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

How I Got This Way

This is Part 3 in a series of posts. Part 1 is here, Part 2 is here.


Before I continue with the story, I think it might help to give some background on my religious beliefs. As you can probably guess, I am not a religious person. I grew up in a loosely religious family. For a while, we bounced around from church to church until we found one a Lutheran one that my dad felt comfortable in, but aside from the commercial holidays, religion never really found its way into our everyday lives. As a kid, I believed in God, and for a while said nightly prayers to myself, but I never fully embraced the church for two main reasons. One, it was booo-ring. Two, I was never fully convinced. I believed in a god for a while mostly because I wasn't sure what else to believe in.

When I was in college, I took some philosophy classes that really impacted my life. These classes never took the route of discouraging religious belief; instead, it was the discussion of rational thought & theological arguments for\against a god that piqued my interest. From being in these classes my religious views changed, and over time, I became less & less confident in my belief in a god. As it stands today, I don't believe in any god. I don't believe there is a heaven or a hell or an afterlife. I believe that the world we live in is the extent of our existence, and when we die, then that's that. End of story. Thanks for playing

I've followed down this belief path because it's what makes sense to me. Truthfully, I believe that I'm no different than even the most devout Christian or Muslim or Hindu in the sense that we are all believing something to be true when none of us will ever be able to validate those beliefs. I don't believe that we as humans will ever be able to prove or disprove the existence of a god or understand our own existence, nor will we ever really know what happens after we die.

The uncomfortable side effect of my belief is the conclusion that one draws from it. If it hasn't been clear so far, it can be very unsettling to believe that, when we die, that is the end. No afterlife, no heaven. In religion, one often finds comfort in their own death by viewing it as the beginning of a pathway towards a new, better afterlife or rebirth. My beliefs don't offer that kind of comfort. I've made the statement on a couple of occasions that I don't think people like me are given enough credit. What I mean by that is that the beliefs that we choose to live our lives by are sometimes difficult to keep. The fact that I believe that our death is the complete end of our existence on any level is sometimes downright frightening.

Instead, the comfort I derive comes from my view that the belief I hold is correct. That might sound egotistical, but we all believe our own view is correct. Beliefs are shallow without the confidence in one's own belief, right? So, essentially, I don't believe in God, I think I'm right, and I find comfort in believing that what I consider the truth to actually be the truth. I believe that the view that I've chosen is the correct one when all options are considered rationally. That might make me sound like a pompous asshole, and so might this next statement, but all things considered, I just can't place my faith in, using Christianity as an example, a thousand-plus year old book that tells stories that could rival any Spielberg\Bay production as the next Hollywood blockbuster. I don't mean that to sound as some kind of smug bastard, nor is it meant to put down anyone who is Christian. But, again, that's just how I feel.

I've felt this way for many years, and I've always felt that I was comfortable with these beliefs, but apparently I wasn't as comfortable as I thought. I'm not completely sure what triggered me to start having these panic attacks so frequently, but I do know that what it did was force me to fully confront my religious beliefs and truly understand the philosophical consequences of them. I can imagine that what I went through is probably similar to many others who become "born-again" Christians; there were a couple of moments during this time where I thought about the notion of becoming Christian again, but those moments were quick, fleeting, and never seriously considered. After finally breaking down after my last panic attack, I realized that the best way to get through all this was to come to terms with the consequences of my beliefs & find a way to reconcile them with the life that I want to live.


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