Changing one’s thought patterns takes a ton of work.
Anyone who’s ever meditated knows this.
Fortunately for me, I had an agnostic father who taught me to question everything. But agnosticism isn’t good enough.
When I lived in California, I was trying to piece together my broken ideals about my past experiences. I was studying religion in the redwoods and getting my mind blown practically daily.
My very first inkling that I was still sucking on the God lollipop was during a weekend immersion course with Evangelical Christians.
The morning before their big presentation, I was meditating really hard and chanting my usual mantra, Om Nama Sivaya. I realized that I didn’t believe in Siva and that I’d just annexed another culture’s gods in an effort to comfort myself and guard against the Christian god.
Very weird. And ridiculous.
It took a long time and the mental journey isn’t over (because it never is), but my willingness to engage my adviser’s teachings allowed me to open even more to the likelihood—which I now know is pretty freaking certain—that there is no god. Not a Hindu one. Not a Christian one. Not a pygmy one, either.
All gods fit into the Santa Claus and Tooth Fairy category: not real.
My instincts at age 15 told me that if there was a god he was one sick fuck. Those instincts, combined with many years of acquired reasoning skills, have proven to be true.
We are animals. When I teach kids and draw an Venn diagram to illustrate where we are in the “kingdom,” we are still, first and foremost, animals. We have caveman logic (see Hank Davis’ book) which often paralyzes us with a fear that we no longer need and a childlike propensity to invent fantastic stories to provide us with comfort that we no longer need, either.
We are still eating, drinking, screwing and killing each other just like all the other animals—unless we exercise a little reason.
We would be better suited if we discarded our God lollipops and grew up a lot.
Why, if there is a god, would he be one sick fuck? Read the news. Life is really random and can be very cruel even to those who don’t deserve the cruelty.
I have come to terms with the fact that I have a lot less control over my life than I thought. If I want to change anything, it requires action and determination on my part—and a whole lot of luck.
What I’ve come to realize is that the food experience doesn’t end at my pie-hole. Anything I eat lasts in my body a lot longer than whatever the initial taste experience was. Which means that if I eat a lollipop, the corn syrup and red #6 dye has repercussions.
Just like if I believe in a god, the starry-eyed propensity for delusion has repercussions. Sure, I can live my whole life with my head in the sand, but why waste a perfectly good reasoning mind?
All I need to do is look around at all the pain and suffering that believing in god has the potential to cause. It easily rivals tsunamis, famine, earthquakes and other cruelties of nature. But at least natural disasters are dispassionate, unlike many believers who have butchered in the name of a make-believe entity.
It’s taken many years to remove the lollipop coating from my innards and there are still residuals without a doubt. Now the smile on my face comes from a place of compassion, not ignorance. Ignorance might be blissful, but only on the inside. No thanks. I choose the kind of bliss that’s grounded in reality. Team Sam Harris.
Want something to believe in? Try Spiderman. At least it’s obvious he’s a cartoon. And friendly.
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Assist Ed: Michelle Margaret/Ed: Sara Crolick