12/01/2014 | Share this article: View CommentsBy Ben Love ~
Life Without God" post, I'd write a similar article about life without faith.
As a preliminary, however, there is a distinction we need to make regarding the two kinds of faith that exist. First, what exactly is faith? The Bible defines faith as "confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." Put in simple, straightforward terms, faith is therefore a dogmatic belief in something for which there is either no evidence or very little (inadequate) evidence. Strictly speaking, though, this is not always the case. Faith can actually be divided into two types: 1) faith based on observable data and 2) faith based on no data whatsoever.
For instance, if I say that I believe a planet called Zortak exists in the constellation of Orion, and the inhabitants of this planet (the Zortakans, of course) have two heads instead of one, I may believe this with all my heart (for whatever crazy reason), but this is faith based on absolutely no data whatsoever. If, on the other hand, I drive through a green light, having faith that the cars coming the other way have actually stopped at their red light, my faith is based on observable data. What is this observable data? Just this: observation has shown me that 9,999 times out of 10,000 I can safely drive through a green light. Yes, I am using faith when I drive through the green light (and when I do any number of such activities in the course of a day), but my faith in this instance is still based on data obtained in the observable world.
Thus, we have two types of faith:
- Zortak faith = Faith without evidence
- Green Light faith = Faith based on evidence
For the remainder of this post, I shall use these terms (indulge me, please) to distinguish between the two types of faith (Zortak faith vs. Green Light faith).
Now, one other thing must be addressed before I get personal about my life without faith, and it is this (and I've spoken about this before): Christians often say to me that it takes just as much faith to be an atheist as it does to be a believer. On the one hand, one can somewhat see where they're coming from. They're implying that since no one really knows (and in so doing, even the Christian admits he's an agnostic), one conclusion requires just as much faith as the other. To some extent, they have a valid point; but on the whole, they have forgotten a crucial aspect of faith as defined in their Bible. Remember that the Bible describes faith as believing in something one does not see. Based on this definition (and this definition is straight from the Bible), faith (Zortak faith, in this instance) can only exist when one is believing in what one cannot see. If one neither believes nor disbelieves in what he cannot see (an unobservable realm) but rather neutrally examines and limits himself to what he can see (the observable world), this is an individual who is in no way employing Zortak faith. He may be using Green Light Faith, but all this means is that he has limited himself to the observable data. The atheist does not believe in what he cannot see (Zortak faith), he has faith only in that which the data (evidence) has shown to be true (Green Light faith).
So, with all that out of the way, let me tell you a little about my life without faith...
When you live a life of (Zortak) faith, your thoughts and perspectives, actions and reactions, priorities and agendas, emotions and sensibilities all revolve around that faith. Faith, specifically Christian faith, demands by its very nature to be the most important thing in your life (Christians will say, "No, Jesus is the most important thing in our lives," but without their faith in Jesus, this could not be the case). What this amounts to, since Christian faith is by definition Zortak faith, is that every single aspect of your life is ordered around a belief in something that is by no means certain, verified, or even remotely known. In other words, the Christian has a life (assuming that this Christian is a genuine Christian) that is totally and fully based on unknowns! To bring this into perspective, imagine taking that belief in the planet Zortak and then assembling all the pieces of your life (what you do, how you live, who you befriend, why you make certain choices, what you say "yes" to, what you say "no" to, what you value, why you value it, etc.) around that belief. Regardless of how good or bad your life ended up being, the very foundations of your life are based on...nothing! This is not to say faith isn't noble, or that faith doesn't yield a positive life experience (sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't). The point here is that a life based on faith is a life based on pure speculation, and speculation is, by it's very definition, unsound.
I speak from personal experience. When I was a Christian, I would often "come to God" about this question or that, or some particularly distressing issue that needed resolution, and I would then examine the Bible (Christians call it "searching God's word") for the answer. Now, first of all, from a purely scientific standpoint, it must be observed that whatever my problem or question was, there was a very high likelihood that somewhere within the vast pages of the Bible I was going to find a suitable answer. Being the believer I was, I would of course interpret this as "God speaking to me," thus answering my question or resolving my problem. (I could write an entirely new article about whether or not this was really God or just my mind finding an answer that was already there in the pages, but this article is about faith and so I must stay on topic.) The problem here, though, is that whatever my question was or whatever my problem might have been, I didn't actually solve it. I didn't actually do any thinking. I used my faith in this "thing" that I believe is there (call it "God" or call it the planet "Zortak," take your pick) to "find" an answer or solution, but this assumes that the object of my faith really is there when I don't actually know that this is the case! My solution, then, whatever it was, is only as good as my mind believes it to be. I ask you: how healthy is this?
My life without faith, however, has seen this ambivalence removed. Now, if there is a question or a problem, I don't need to freak out, I don't need to go running to an unseen God, I don't need to flip open some book and hope that I somehow stumble upon the right answer (among the thousand other possible answers within those very same pages). The Zortak element has been taken out of the equation. I don't have to think about what may or may not be happening on the surface of some distant, unproved planet and how that may or may not pertain to my situation. Without faith, I am free to tackle the problem rationally, objectively, and in a mentally healthy way. If I find an answer, it is because I used a proven methodology (reason) to do so, and I can have confidence that the answer is as good as the method I used to obtain it. This makes for a much more efficient, reliable, and satisfying approach to life. At this point, my situation is not resting on some shaky "question mark", it is resting on a casually cool "period."
A friend of mine recently said this to me: "If you take faith away, you remove all the magic of life." Oh really? That's an interesting assertion given the fact that some of the world's best musicians and artists (Wolfgang Mozart, John Lennon, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh, among many, many others) were/are atheists. In other words, you don't need religious faith to have an amazing imagination. It's one thing to imagine a planet like Zortak, it's another to believe in it so implicitly that your entire life revolves around the validity of this unproven belief. I myself am an accomplished writer, musician, and visual artist, and I don't need faith to be any of those things. I just need a good imagination (and a shred of talent, of course). Besides, what does the statement "you remove all the magic of life" really mean? What is the "magic of life?" Isn't this a variable that can be determined by the individual? I can still feel awe. I can still experience something transcendent. If I'm sitting at my computer writing this article and my wife walks by, stops, kisses me on the forehead, then continues on her way, am I supposed to not feel the magic of her love simply because I'm an atheist? Statements like these from my friend are incoherent and do not reflect anything having to do with truth, reason, or even the practical living of life. Moreover, if there is any magic in life, it comes from humans being humans; it has nothing to do with whatever their religious faith might be.
Another interesting change in my life since jettisoning faith is this: my mind is quieter. This is, in many ways, a bit of an oxymoron for me, since my mind is almost constantly on the move, constantly chewing on this or that. But by "quieter" I actually mean what the word itself implies: less noise. There was a sort of background static in my mind while I possessed Christian faith, a sort of white noise underneath. I cannot say precisely what this background static was, but I do have a suspicion. I think that, on some strange, almost metaphysical level, this was the hum of the faith machinery. What do I mean by that? This: everything in my life was constantly being measured by my faith, filtered through my faith, questioned by my faith, judged by my faith, categorized by my faith, and organized by my faith. The machinery of such a perpetual mental process took its toll on me; this much I know. Whether or not this was the source of that nagging background static, I cannot say. I only know that even while my mind is still actively chugging its wheels along with all kinds of deep thoughts, the overall landscape since letting go of faith has been a much more serene one.
On an educative level, life without faith has also proven to be much more interesting and challenging than anything I ever experienced in the Christian realm. Reason leads one down so many fascinating roads! Science is an abyss of deep waters, some charted, some uncharted, but all richly rewarding to the explorer. Speaking of magic, it seems to me there is much more of that going on in the observable world than there is in the faith world. For instance, when I was watching Cosmos on television in 2014, I was so blown away and provocatively tantalized that I almost lost my fucking mind. It was incredible. It was absolutely beautiful. But I would have missed out on this if the show had aired during my trek through Christianity. As a Bible-believing Christian, I wouldn't have given Cosmos the time of day. As it was, the show opened my eyes to the stunning and liberating truth that whatever is going on out there in the far reaches of space is much more magical than anything some old religious book has to say on the matter.
I could go on but this is an article, not a book. The overall point is that my life withoutfaith is much better than my life with faith ever was. In many ways, faith was like shackles. Becoming an atheist was like having those shackles unlocked. There's almost a sense of: "Wow, I'm so not used to freedom that I don't even know what to do with it!"
Life without faith? Two thumbs up.