This I Believe

Rick - Bishop, California
Entered on June 6, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65
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This I Believe

I believe that I’ve taken myself too seriously; and this attitude of egocentric significance has stifled my creativity and rational thought. I learned to abdicate critical reasoning to those who perpetuated the notion of my own importance. I suspended my critical thinking skills because I put my life in the hands of individuals who promised me something. What did they promise, and why did I believe them?

At some point in my life I understood that eventually I was going to die. It was a terrifying concept for someone who was so self-important. If I was truly significant, how could I simply end!? Certainly there must be more: a continuation beyond what I could see here on earth. There must be another life!

I believe that it was this notion that there must be more that lead me to affiliate with a religion, an organization that promised me something greater than the life I had. The religion emphasized my importance, promised to honor that importance with everlasting life, and provided a pathway to that promise. The passage to an afterlife only required two things: loyalty to the organization’s dogma and gratitude for it. I was encouraged to demonstrate my gratitude by contributions of time, effort, and money.

Once I’d been indoctrinated with my own importance, I was compelled to follow through on that importance. The more self-important I became, the more I feared nothingness; and the more dread I had with the notion that the very molecules that formed me would some day be recycled; perhaps even by creatures without souls! It was death anxiety that drove me to my dogma-oriented religion. Once I bought into the dogma, by definition I had to stop thinking. I believe it was the suspension of critical thinking that allowed me to cultivate bigotry, hegemony, and violence in the name of my beliefs.

I believe that I allowed myself to be manipulated by others because I was afraid of my own mortality. I believe that it was the attachment I had with my own importance that drove me to truly fear death. It was my fear of death and discomfort with the unknown that forced me to give up my natural inclination to enquire and question, and to show empathy and compassion. I so feared my own demise that I sacrificed reason. In so doing, I was at the mercy of fearful others who used me for their own purposes, power, and enrichment.

I believe now, without being controlled by fear-driven dogma, that I’m on a better path. I think that my sacrifice of reason for an imaginary afterlife was an egocentric and arrogant enterprise with serious consequences. I consider that such an abdication of critical thinking implied that the life I had was somehow not valuable in and of itself. I believe now that the one life I have is good enough for me.