On Losing Faith
Disclaimer: I have tried to keep it respectful but it might be best to skip this one if your religious sentiments are prone to easily getting hurt.
What is religion?
Some rituals, tales and a rationale.
An answer to a question
That does not have any answer. Ghani Khan
It all began with a question in the summer of 2018. Just one simple, harmless question became the seed to undoing years of my religious indoctrination. I don’t exactly recall how I came upon it but it started as “Why does God care?“. It defied any attempts at answering it and the more I thought about it, the more it grew and evolved.
Why does the creator of such an unfathomably vast cosmos need me, an ape on a small planet circling a yellow dwarf, to perform a ritual that involves facing in the direction of a black room on the other side of the planet, making intricate body movements, and uttering some magic words in a language that I do not understand, five times every day?
Since God is an infinitely higher being than humans, what reason could he possibly have for asking these pointless gestures of us? I’m a (finitely) higher being than an ant but would I ever want the ants to worship me? Would I be interested in appointing an ant as my prophet and asking it to go tell the other ants to either submit to my will, or to prepare themselves for the wrath of my magnifying glass? Would I ask them to mutilate the peepees of little baby ants? Or to always wear their trousers above their ankles? Do ants even have ankles?
Problem of Evil
While searching for answers, I encountered more questions. The Epicurean Paradox, for instance.
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Epicurus (3rd century BCE)
Here’s an expanded version.
Before one gets to the question of whether God exists or not, there’s another more fundamental problem that people seem to miss entirely and that problem is the nature of worship.
Nature of Worship
The entire notion of worship is inherently absurd if you really think about it. Why would a being of unimaginable knowledge and power need daily reminders and acknowledgements of his superiority from lesser beings? The very act of worshipping is absolutely pointless and serves no purpose. Could it be that this act of submission was all our ancestors could come up with to please a (non-existent) supreme being that they thought could bring them a good harvest or save them from disease and hunger?
As these questions whirled in my mind, I must admit that I felt a little afraid. Afraid because these thoughts had the potential to land me in hell. Yet, the obligation I felt towards myself to discover the truth far outweighed the fear. “If a truly intelligent God exists, would he care for my faith if it’s solely out of the fear of divine punishment?”, I rationalized to myself.
I suppose you can probably deduce the conclusions that I reached from the title of this post. They went against everything that I had spent the first 19 years of my life believing to be true. The first few weeks were tough and filled with self-doubt. “What if I’m wrong?“. “What if God does exist?“. “What if I end up in hell?“. But with time, the doubt receded as my logical convictions took hold. Being emancipated from religion meant that I could now spend more of my time and energy to focus on the things in life that really mattered, instead of trying to appease an imaginary, authoritarian father figure with outdated morals.
In the years that followed, I invested quite a bit of time learning about theistic and antitheistic arguments. I immersed myself in the works of thinkers like Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. I gained a deeper sense of appreciation for life and my fellow creatures. I lost some people I used to call friends and found some new ones. In the end, after considering everything, I believe that losing my faith was one of the best things that ever happened to me and it left me a better human being. Now, I leave you with this compilation of George Carlin’s brilliant stand-up about religion.