This I Believe

Victoria - West Des Moines, Iowa
Entered on March 16, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50

This, I Believe

I believe no one really knows the answers to life’s basic questions: Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going? Is there a God? Is there an afterlife? What is the purpose and meaning of life?

I believe those who claim they know, only think or believe they know. I know—because I used to be one of them. But wishful thinking doesn’t make it true.

One might view religion as no more than a testament—passionate witness, granted, to man’s search for meaning. To many, it is this search for meaning that gives meaning to their lives—the source of religion’s appeal. Yet if the goodness of a tree is judged by its fruit, then religion fails the test. For the effect of some of the world’s major religions on the human condition has been to render life senseless with unnecessary pain and suffering, while desensitizing their followers with the pageantry of ritual and blind faith. I see now why Marx saw religion as the opium of the people.

In practice, organized religion has shown itself to be little more than a creature of its own devise, committed to its own self-preservation, while it creates God in the image of its leaders, in the guise of possessing absolute truth. Note how the Catholic Church handled its child molestation cases, or how Muslims, Jews and Christians have killed in the name of their faith. Seen in this light, religion might very well be the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that the writer of Genesis had warned us against. For does it not require absolute belief in what it dictates as good and evil, condemning and punishing those of us who believe otherwise? Consequently, it deprives us of what religion itself proclaims as our birthright: a God-given free will that God himself could not violate.

I believe that ultimately, it is only we who can and must create meaning and purpose for our lives. We need to reclaim that power and freedom from religion.

For me, life finds meaning in that which affirms joy and happiness over pain and suffering; upholds reason and science over superstition and speculation; celebrates wonder in mystery rather than absolute dogma; thrives on diversity rather than conformity; shows us how to live in peaceful co-existence, rather than mutual annihilation; and promotes freedom of conscience and self-determination, instead of totalitarian creed. I am at peace with the possibility I may never answer life’s nagging questions, content to treat my life not as a search for absolute knowledge, but as a wonderful, mysterious adventure the essence of which lies in journey, rather than destiny.

If only our political and religious leaders could envision parallel meaning, purpose and structure for our global human community.

Do I believe this possible? Yes, I believe—if only for the survival of our species. But then again, this could be wishful thinking on my part.