As a young girl in a Jewish day school, I was comforted by the fact that my religious beliefs seemed to solve any and all moral dilemmas. The Ten Commandments governed my sense of right and wrong, instructing me to honor my parents and not to covet the possessions of others. The Bible narrated the history of the universe in simple terms that were easily understood by my juvenile mind. My religious teachers assured me that there was a God listening to my prayers, and that there was a heaven waiting for me after I left this world.
It was a comforting world that I lived in, where the problems of the world could be solved as easily as a scraped knee and the rules for living an honorable life were as clear-cut as the ones posted on my classroom wall. And for a while, it was satisfying.
But as I grew older and the outside world became much more of a reality, certain age-old questions began to arise in my mind, questions that even religion was unable to answer. Why would a just and merciful god allow so much senseless violence, sickness, hunger, and prejudice in the world that he created? Why would there be so many other religions with beliefs as strong as mine if their ideologies were “incorrect?” Where was the physical proof of God’s presence, aside from a book written by one of his followers?
These thoughts confused and frightened me – after all, it is hardly easy to ignore ten or so years of religious indoctrination and thousands of years of tradition and strike out a philosophy of one’s own. Suddenly, I was forced to find my own answers to the questions religion had previously answered. Using science, literature, and philosophy as my guide, I attempted to craft my own personal set of beliefs. At times it was extremely difficult. It is not easy to accept the fact that your own life is quite meaningless in the grand scheme of the universe, or that your mind will not continue to live long after your body’s demise.
And yet, now that I have come to terms with my beliefs, I don’t think that I could possibly ever return to religion. It may offer much more in terms of traditions and stability, but it lacks the essential proof and modern day relevance of atheism. I may never again be religious, but I will always have my own, self-created principles to believe in.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.