When I was a young child, I was surrounded by people who loved me, as I am now. But back then, I was unaware what love was, unaware what trust was, unaware of nearly everything. I merely accepted everything that I was told as solid irrefutable fact. Among the many things that I didn’t understand, was most importantly God. I went to church every Sunday, I prayed, I’d put money in the collection plate that my grandmother would slip me before every service, and I felt good about myself and what was going on around me. Time passed, places changed, people changed, and I began to understand more and more about the things and people around me, but one thing remained a mystery. The man upstairs, the “big guy”, the big G-O-D. No catharsis was ever reached in my attempts to comprehend what he actually was. So, like many children, I asked questions. The answers received were as varied as the people who delivered them. Naturally I started with my peers, whose answers all had the same tone, simply, “I don’t know”. Being in the same boat as them, this answer simply didn’t suffice. Continuing on in my quest for truth, I was greeted with more and more vague answers. “God is love”, “God is truth”, “God is the alpha and the omega”, “God is everything”, the list goes on. Finally on my tenth birthday I received my first children’s bible and did my best to start reading it hoping I’d find solace to my questions in the words of the man himself. It was a pleasant enough read, but the end result was only more queries. So this guy made everything I see around me in just a few days? I asked myself, “then why does it take a plant weeks and weeks to finally start getting big? Why does it take so long to drive to my friend’s house?” In my ten-year-old mind I struggled further to come to grips with just what God actually was.
Six years later, I’m done asking questions, or at least done asking questions about travel time and plant growth. I’ve come to my personal conclusion that I do not, will not, and cannot believe in God. Two thousand years ago people decided to create an entity that is now God for some reason. But hey, didn’t people believe that the earth was flat 2,000 years ago? Does that mean if I go sailing down the Bitterroot I’ll eventually fall off the face of the earth?
Upon trying to share my new personal discovery with my family, I was met with mostly animosity. “You’re just a child, you don’t get it yet”, was my father’s favorite response; and yet I’m forced now to ask the question, “Isn’t it childish to believe in an invisible man?” Of course I didn’t say that to his face, but I ground my many possible responses fine in my mind over the years.
People from both sides of modern organized religion try tirelessly to prove their point. I try not to put forth as much effort as they do to try and validate my beliefs. I simply don’t believe in God. I won’t lecture you about what I believe in and all I ask for in return is the same courtesy from others. I love the ideas spawned from a religious base; love your neighbor, honor your parents, don’t steal, don’t kill, don’t cheat, etc. But why can’t we be this way without a consequence/reward system? Just be a good person, that’s all I try to do, and I most certainly could do a lot better, as we all could I’m sure. But I don’t need to be threatened with eternal torture in Hell as an emphasis for my good behavior, and I most certainly don’t need to be pining away for everlasting joy in Heaven to do acts of good. If people are just trying to avoid a place in favor of another more pleasant area won’t their actions all be empty and hollow?
All arguments aside, I’m not here to persuade you, just to offer my belief. I love my life, and the people in it and around it, and whether or not God plays a role in your life, I hope you can say the same.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.