It’s Easter, the day when the world celebrates Christianity’s favorite zombie. However, despite my adamant distaste for religious fundamentalism, I’m actually okay with religion in general; it’s just never been a very important aspect of my personality. This tends to confuse people. For many, the very idea of religion means that it’s the supreme aspect of their lives. Either put faith front and center in your life, or adopt absolute atheism.
The thing is, I have functioning religious beliefs, but though they’re important to me, I’m able to recognize that they have zero value for anyone else. That’s the purpose of religion from my understanding of it: to serve solely as a personal, internalized means of spiritual support. Once you begin to press your beliefs on others, your values are no longer religious: they’re pathological.
So, following my own religious beliefs, I make it a point never to discuss them with anyone, unless a serious curiosity is expressed, and only then if I feel that whatever philosophy my views express could come to lend spiritual aid.
I’m not ashamed of my personal metaphysical beliefs. If direct evidence conflicts with what I believe, I will adjust my views accordingly. But I can’t stand total atheism; to paraphrase Carl Sagan and Michio Kaku, atheism is exactly as unscientific as religious faith, as they both rely on blind absolutism without a presentation of data. I love that explanation; I’ve noticed that the only scientists who are out to “disprove” religion and promote science as an “institution” (as opposed to the process that it actually is) are jerks with massive, childish chips on their shoulders. And as much as I insist on applying the materialism of the scientific method upon the examination of data, it’s no problem for me to justify the metaphysical beliefs that I hold.
Why? Easy: because I’m able to recognize that those beliefs are simply emotional metaphors for my personal life philosophy. Do I think that the mysticism inherent to my beliefs literally, practically exists? They might, but honestly, I doubt that they do. But if I based my beliefs on a system of power, that wouldn’t be faith; that would simply be subservience. What’s important to me, what makes any religion actually work, is the symbolism the mysticism suggests. That’s the entire purpose of religion. Religion, and I mean true religion, not the corrupt, fragmented mess that is organized religion, is only effective when one realizes that it is a crystallized set of emotions, designed to guide us through life in the most beneficial and spiritually satisfying way possible. There may or may not be an actual, intelligent presence with universal power, but the power isn’t what’s important: what’s important is the message, and then only if the message promotes inner and outer peace.
The lack of an arbitrary force – such as the might of God – should not weaken those convictions. In point of fact, focusing solely on the philosophy of one’s religion strengthens one’s faith, because you’re focusing on the faith itself. Incorporating a system of subservience to a force greater than yourself drives one’s attention away from actual religious beliefs, and forces one to focus simply on a system of unspiritual, arbitrary appeasement, devoid of spiritual meaning.
Fearful of going to Hell? Then just be a good person. Stop treating your beliefs like poker chips to cash out. Be a good person. Any rules beyond that basic ideal are meaningless.
One last thing: remember, religion was not originally designed as a focal point for one’s life, even though that is what it quickly evolved into. It was created as a means of supporting the lives we led, rough and savage as they were in those days. Religion is most effective when it is simply a suggestive voice in the background. When religion is one’s dominant lifestyle, your life becomes devoted to dogma, and religion begins to parasitically feed on the life it was originally intended to sustain.
– The Awful Writer