"I'm an Atheist".
These are three words that cannot be said without invoking a heavy discussion. Religious folks get very upset when they encounter someone who doesn't revere the same deity, but the idea that someone doesn't believe in any God can inspire pity, tears, or outright rage. Often times someone will want to pray for your soul; offer their direct plea to their God for you to find salvation and revere the same angry space monster they do. I understand this conundrum; I too was a believer once, but not anymore. I am good without God.
I used to feel powerless; there were wars and famines and hurt, things that I could not control. I considered all of this part of some divine plan, that the ancestors of these people or those people must have really pissed off the Skydude and he was exacting his revenge. I too thought that I must be wrong, or at least praying wrong, for whenever I asked there was no reply. I heard my sister pray nightly for the monsters not to come and they still did- men sworn to protect who stole innocence without punishment. I saw famines on television and felt hunger myself and wondered why there was no manna for us as there had been for the men of the desert. And then I became angry with God.
I used to be irate with God when disaster came. I wondered what kind of sociopathic being could cause the mountains to crumble and masses to drown. I wondered why God would choose sick perverts as his chosen messengers yet cause innocents to suffer AIDS, cancers, and leprosy. What kind of supernatural terrorist would cause my aunt's body to crumble with her mind still aware and cause the same genetic effect to occur in subsequent generations? What had I done to deserve tremendous physical pain, let alone this characteristic that the bible prescribes death for being born with?
And on the subject of the Bible, I began to read it and what I read was shocking. Pages upon pages of misery and death. Instructions for how to sell your own daughter into sex slavery. Stoning of women. Babies murdered. Genocides. Ritual human sacrifice. And after all of this and more, contradiction after contradiction. I came to know that the good person that I am was absolutely inconsistent with any representative of this omnipotent ogre.
And then came a period of sadness, a mourning of sorts. A funeral for the afterlife that only exists in the microbes that consume the body after death. But then came what I feel today, which is tremendous peace. I am at ease knowing that my deeds do matter, that what I say and do can make a difference in the life of someone else because their hurt is the will of man and not predestined. Absolute serenity for me was found when I came to the realization that I do not need to do something to prevent a hell after death but to prevent my life or the life of someone else from becoming hell. And I'm kinder to myself now- instead of relying on divinity I actually go to the doctor. I now have a life worth living because I have taken ownership of my being away from the men who peddle fear. I'm also kinder to the planet I share with fellow animals because I do not have the myopic view that I am chosen to be superior to other creatures. I am a better human being without God than I ever was with one.
If you need a God in order to feel full in your life, I have no objection. The world can be a big, scary place if you focus on being alone. But please don't waste your breath praying for me; instead take that time to sign a petition to halt education cuts or feed the hungry at a soup kitchen. Instead of talking to the air and begging its response, be the example you wish others to follow. If you need a higher power, see the good in yourself as God and work toward being the best person you can be. Live your life as if the only afterlife will be in the memories of your kin and you may just be a more moral person than you were when you feared hellfire. And love yourself. Truly, madly, deeply love yourself and your fellow man.
Two hands working can do more than a thousand clasped in prayer.