When I was younger, I was enrolled in a CCD class through “our” church at the time. I was excited because other kids in my class also went to CCD and I was happy to be one of the “cool” kids. It was like happy hour for 10 year olds. For one of the art projects we had to choose an object and paint a word on it that reflected our faith. I painted in bright blue letters, “GOD” on a smooth, oval rock.
How remarkably telling that looking back, I couldn’t come up with a word that described my faith (tolerance, love, forgiveness, humility, acceptance); I just went with “God”… because that’s who we all answered to.
If I carried around my rock, I felt better. In my pocket was a rock full of morals. I didn’t really take time to define them, I just knew I had them because I had a religion. Surely, anyone who saw it would know that I believed in God, and therefore by default, was a morally awesome person. Go me!
When I realized, for myself, that God is not real, I was much older. I cried for days because the full impact of the finality of death hit me, hard. As humans, I don’t really believe we’re truly capable of really embracing concepts like “forever.” I was often overwhelmed by the idea of existing in the after-life for eternity. Now, the overwhelming idea of non-existence is perhaps more of a daunting mind-fuck. I would upset myself often, thinking too hard and too long on the fact that some day, when that day comes, people I love will close their eyes for the last time and I’ll never see them again, at least in a physical sense. Perhaps that’s why man created religion. I can’t blame them. I wish daily I could believe that death isn’t the end because I don’t want to say permanent good byes.
But a really powerful thing happened when I accepted that I didn’t have a belief in a God: self-accountability. Growing up, any time I made a mistake, or didn’t see eye to eye with someone about various topics, I had a built in default defense mechanism: God. As long as I believed in God, I was right. As long as I asked for forgiveness, what I did didn't really matter, as long as I sought God’s approval. Before all others, I only had to answer to one being: God. So it didn’t matter if I didn’t really “hear” other people or if they didn’t agree with me. What mattered was that I had God in my pocket. When I had to answer to myself and make myself responsible when it came to my interactions with others, I put a lot more care into the person I wanted to be.
Oftentimes I find myself losing faith in humanity. And there’s a very real reason why society has helped breed this hopelessness- we don’t put faith in people. When people do good deeds, society thanks God. When people save lives, society thanks God. When people find scientific cures, people thank God. When people win football games, society thanks God, for christ’s sake! But, when people make mistakes, people don’t blame God. They blame people. Talk about setting people up to fail. We don’t credit people for being good people, but we sure are quick to blame them when they make mistakes.
Probably one of the biggest detriments, in my opinion, to how people behave and react to things is a phrase I’ve heard uttered all too often. “Everything happens for a reason.” I mean, technically yes. The reason I stubbed my toe was that I jammed my foot into the corner of the bedpost. So you got me there. But I have a bone to pick with this “go-to” phrase of the century. It eliminates accountability on all fronts and it has also prevented people from learning how to communicate with others in a beneficial way that promotes people being able to put their faith in people. For example, let me name a few scenarios: A parent dies, a friend gets fired or laid off, a car accident happens, a relative gets diagnosed with cancer. Insert a person saying in response to any of the above scenarios, “everything happens for a reason.” Thanks for legitimately offering a comment of no value and comfort. It’s not exactly your fault- I know you mean well and this phrase is meant to offer all the comforts of the world and it's been drilled in you for years. You’ve just been taught that no matter what you do or what happens, there’s a bigger plan that you’re part of that you have absolutely no control over.
I prefer to subscribe to the belief that we’re capable of anything. That our paths aren’t pre-determined. That at any time, I can choose to do better and be better. I have the power and responsibility of how I treat others around me and what I offer to others. If I help someone, it’s not because of some promise of salvation from a big man up in sky. It’s just because I’m human and I have a responsibility to take care of other humans. Sure, there’s a selfish element involved with being a good person- it makes you feel good. And if I mess up, that’s on me too. When that happens, I ask forgiveness from the person who matters most-the one that deserves the apology. And when you realize that aside from the offended, the most important person you seek forgiveness from is your self, you start to really examine a lot of your actions more closely, I’ve found.
It can be challenging living in a world when you don’t conform to believing in God. I mean, if someone doesn’t believe in God, doesn’t that mean they could just kill anyone at any time without remorse?? If someone doesn’t believe in God, then basically isn’t their whole life meaningless since they’re not looking to be rewarded in heaven? And if someone doesn’t believe in God, doesn’t that mean they have no ability to be a morally good person?
I don’t know. I was raised from an early age to know the difference between right and wrong, good and bad. No promise of pearly gates is going to make me be any less of a murderer than I already am. And, if the idea of a God is the only thing preventing someone from losing their shit, that’s not exactly something to boast about.
I’m a believer. At least I want to be. I want to be a believer of people and that humanity has the ability to be decent simply because people are capable of being good people without reward. I’m a believer that people come in all shapes, colors, and sizes and that in this one life we got, you deserve to be whoever the fuck you want to be and get to love whoever you want, without the judgment of others presiding and enacting laws demanding you be like them. Because what's the point? Is your life that much better if you get to determine how someone else lives theirs? If so, it's probably time to sit down and take a good hard look at yourself.
Let’s bring our faith in humanity back. Let’s give people the opportunity to be awesome and good and tolerant and loving. Let’s give people a little bit more credit that they’re capable of all of these qualities regardless of the prize at the end of the tunnel. Let’s embrace that people can be good people and embody these qualities no matter what beliefs they do or don’t subscribe to.
Let’s root for people.