Over at The Journey Out I responded to a post by Mysteryofiniquity in which she tries to relate the mental anguish involved in leaving her religion behind. She seems to be having a hard time giving up what she felt was the “comfort” of God in times of crisis, what she calls her “heavenly pacifier”. I responded that I actually found more comfort in knowing, as best as I can know, that there is no god acting like a safety net in a trapeze act at the circus. To expand on that particular metaphor, knowing that I have no net to catch me when I fall is much easier to deal with, and far more comforting, than believing there is a net down there that, for all intents and purposes, I can not see. There are many things I can do, that I wouldn’t do if I thought there was a net. I can make sure my training is more rigorous. I can place the trapeze at a more reasonable distance from the ground. I can have spotters there to break my fall. I can find another occupation.
When I finally decided that religion was bunk, afterI tabulated all the evidence for God, and compared it to all the evidence that there was no God, after I examined all the arguments for God and found them wanting, it felt like a huge rock had been lifted from my shoulders. The sense of freedom was palpably uplifting. I no longer felt the uncertainly of not knowing how God would react to the events of my life, no matter how innocuous they were. I stopped feeling like someone was looking over my shoulder every minute of every day.
I felt independent. I finally realized that I was going through life on my own steam, not on someone else’s. I was my own man, responsible for my own self. Have you ever seen that (in)famous picture of the two sets of footprints in the sand, with the cutesy little story about how God always walks with you, but in times of real human stress, he actually carries you, and that’s when you only see one set of footprints? I always found that perplexing, not to mention somewhat nauseating, because I had quite a few times of stress, and I never felt like God was there then. He always seemed to be around when the collection plate was being passed, but where was he during my mother’s fight with ALS? When my daughter was born with congenital heart problems. During her subsequent surgeries?
No. The most satisfying periods of my life, I realized, were those times when I dealt with problems and solved them on my own. The self satisfaction of knowing that it was me, and only me, responsible for getting myself and my family through a crisis, was more than comforting. It was freedom incarnate.
“Life’s a bitch and then you die.” Sure, that’s a moribund, cynical way of looking at things, but it’s true only if you are cynical and moribund.
The first part is not true if you take responsibility for your life, and live it to it’s fullest. If you maximize your assets, and use your talents. If you enjoy each day, and not expect some superhero mythical sky person to pull you out of every hole you find yourself in. The moment you accept that fact, that only you are responsible for you, is the moment you begin to really live.
The second part is true whether you like it or not.