Sunday, July 08, 2007

thank god I don't believe in him

These rough two weeks after being fired have made me grateful for one thing: that I don't believe in a god. Growing up I believed in a Catholic god, but had no clear idea of what that god was like. At the age of 19, as I put it in one of my songs, I gave Catholicism up for Lent. For several years I believed in nothing and didn't care.

In my 30's I joined a New Age spiritual community called Unity in Chicago. During that time I developed a very specific belief system. Now I'm not saying this is what anyone else believed or that this is what Unity in Chicago was teaching in any way. It's just what I got out of my spiritual experience at that time in my life.

What I believed was this: there's no heaven or hell, and "God" isn't an external patriarch with human qualities (like jealousy or pleasure) that judges us or moves us around like chess pieces. There is a god force that exists in everyone and everything. We are all participants in the dance of the Universe and the only "sins" are the errors we make. If we remain open at all times to divine guidance, we will naturally move in the direction of our highest good. Everything happens for a reason. We can find "the good" in any experience.

That's all crap to me now. It turns out I'm unable to believe in any kind of divine mechanism without suspecting its motivations. I guess this is a trust issue. I don't tend to trust anyone or anything, including "God." While I was an active member of Unity in Chicago I tried to trust this benevolent divine force. When good things happened, I felt grateful to divine guidance. When bad things happened, I suspended my anger and bitterness because I wanted to look for the life lesson, "the good," the ultimately positive reason that this bad thing happened.

Then I had a personal family crisis. Then my boyfriend and I realized we didn't want the same things and broke up (very bad when you're 35 and never-married). Then I had another personal family crisis. Then 9/11 happened. Then the job I loved so much disappeared after Arthur Andersen was indicted for obstruction of justice. This all happened in one year. I spent that time holding on to my faith, suspending anger and bitterness, and looking for the good. Oh, I wanted to believe the good stuff was going to come clear at any minute. I wanted to believe this would all make sense. Then I fell in love with a man who didn't tell me he was married. And finally the anger and bitterness took over and I pitched everything I believed (or had been trying to believe) out the window.

I've been doing much better since I re-embraced atheism. I feel much freer and less fearful now that I believe it's just us here: no god, no divine energy, no angels, no spirit guides, no saints, no highest good. It's a godless, random universe and that means that sometimes there's a reason for stuff happening and sometimes there isn't. And sometimes really incomprehensibly horrible things happen and there's no "good" to be found in the experience. It's just the worst of how life goes.

I find much more peace in this understanding of how the world works. I'm too willing to believe that if there's a god and bad shit is happening to me, it's because the god doesn't care about me, or it wants to do me wrong. It's not good to believe in a god that's screwing you over, so I'd rather believe in no god at all.

I guess this makes me weak in faith, but people whose faith is strong, even in the face of extreme loss and unimaginable pain (I think of those who still believe in "God" even after 9/11, the 2006 tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, etc.) are people I will never understand.

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