It is common for religious people to be skeptical about whether achieving meaning in life is possible without God. Because they look to God in every aspect of their lives and find consistent emotional fulfillment in doing so, life often seems empty and purposeless without his presence. This post is dedicated to explaining how I attain meaning without any regard for the divine.
First of all, I think it is important to note that we can learn something about what generally satisfies human life by examining how humans have constructed God as a figure of such immense purpose. Aside from being a moral judge, he serves as a figure of hope and love in an existence thats mysteries are unsolvable. God is humankind’s way of filling in the gaps in which we are susceptible to feeling helpless and hopeless. He fills the void of the unknown by serving as a permanent, concrete answer to life’s deepest questions – questions, which I believe are essential for one to leave unanswered if attempting seek the most subtle truths of existence.
See, the absolute mysteriousness of the unknown is what truly induces an encompassing sense of awe into the human spirit. For religious people, God is their way of doing this – but I believe that when we identify the answers to questions that we cannot possibly know, we learn to settle with this answer and cease progression in spiritual growth. Of course, religious people will argue that their relationship with God grows every day and the fulfillment is infinite. However, when we construct a definitive entity as the goal of all spiritual journeys, we limit ourselves by devising an answer to a question that we have not yet sought out to solve.
I am not saying that religious people do not search for truth and meaning – but I am saying that God presents an immediate obstacle to finding such truth by deliberately directing one’s path and implanting a subliminal fear of punishment, that if one does not find him in such a spiritual journey, he/she will suffer consequences. However, if one allows his/her own sense of reason and self-guidance to shape his/her perception of truth, one will likely find him/herself with a greater sense of self, a firmer grip on one’s passions, and a moral compass that is shaped by the values that prove most survivable and beneficial for one’s own happiness and the happiness of others. And all of this comes with the liberation of not living under constant fear and stress of pleasing an omnipotent force.
The argument I have just presented will almost certainly mean nothing to religious people who derive their strength and purpose from God. The power of spiritual connection is immense. However, I believe that if one opens him/herself to a broader objective in life rather than finding and pleasing God, life will burst open with new possibilities. The mere strain of believing – truly believing – that God sent a savior in Jesus Christ to be born of a virgin, die for our sins, and rise from the dead, severely hampers one’s outlook on life. Everything one experiences must not transcend the rigid bounds of the Bible. Judging Christianity from an outsider’s point of view can be a disturbing experience. If one believed in such events as Christians do in the Bible that are not supported by millions of followers, he/she would be outcasted as insane. We live in a society where proof and evidence are essential, and yet we have the most powerful people in our world believing that there was once a man 2000 years ago that literally walked on water, turned water into wine, healed the sick, and was, despite his appearance, only half-human. These are events that millions, if not billions, of people will attest to believing. And yet when cast upon the backdrop of modern reason, they seem wildly foolish and absurd.
So what is the effect of believing these things? Well, it provides an extremely narrow framework from which to experience the world. People are discouraged from thinking in ways that contradict their faiths and are essentially brainwashed into arriving at conclusions that correspond to their beliefs. Since they live under the umbrella of an all-knowing, all-powerful God, their capacity to explore intellectually and emotionally is molded to these limited viewpoints.
I may be repeating myself, but I was eager to get the point across that I think religion serves as a blindfold to the spiritually vulnerable. From my own experience, I feel that the deepest truths in life can be discovered through the arts and from nature itself. Arguably the most insightful truths we have have been derived from losing oneself in the in the connection to our natural surroundings. By human-produced means such as poetry and music, we can access a deeper sense of awe and satisfaction that is more beneficial to shaping our lives than is religious dogma, as it requires obedience to no entity and allows the self to be completely free in its search for gratification. The unknown, the sheer mystery of the universe’s origin, the awe of comprehending our mere existence and its development, the joy in realizing one’s smallness relative to the grandness of the universe and being able to lose oneself in such magnificent grandness – all of this can be reached with self-reflection, an appreciation of nature, and the connection to nature accessible through the mind-boggling capabilities of our brains. Furthermore, each of us possesses unique talents and passions that make us who we are. Fostering these passions with the greatest care possible, along with tending to our human relationships, are what make life meaningful, in my view. The God factor in these treasures only hinders their specialness, as we are unable to embrace them wholly for what they really are, and are forced to direct them towards an omnipotent ruler.
The final point I will make is the inherent lack of meaning for this life that Christianity and most all other religions demand. Essentially, the religious person’s perspective on this life is that it is merely a tryout – if we fail to meet the criteria of God, then we are sent to Hell. If we succeed, we are awarded paradise. This inherently decreases the value of this life, rendering religious people more likely to bypass the joys and sorrows that make life meaningful with eyes fixed on an imaginary future. The entire meaning for life is predicated on achieving the reward of paradise after death. Despite the fact that we have nothing to found these beliefs on besides imagination, people ardently center their lives around this purpose and sacrifice enjoyment in this life in hopes of bliss in the next. Subsequently, people are cheating themselves of meaning in the current life. Doesn’t it make sense to cherish the life we have for all it is worth rather than allow fear to bully us into obedience to a god we have never seen? Essentially, my point is that it is far more satisfying and fulfilling to engage with our surroundings for all they are worth and to acknowledge the unknown with an awe-struck contentment and acceptance for that which is beyond our power to understand.