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Born Again Non-theist

By Marianne D.

I was always very religious, or perhaps spiritual is a better word. From a very young age, I had a mystical bent, tended to daydream, and thought deeply about life and love and people and the natural world I loved so much. It is no understatement to say that I have spent a life in conversation with God, thanking God and appreciating God's world, on a daily -- even hourly -- basis.

That is why it feels so very strange, unbelievable even, to finally feel so grounded and whole, finally at peace due to the fact that, for the first time ever, I am considering the possibility of ... no God.

No personal, creator God. No invisible friend. The daily talks, the hourly thoughts of the divine, suddenly...gone. It is so new to me that I have to remind myself: "Oh yeah, you let that go." After which I tend to smile and look around myself and feel a sense of awe and peace.

I had tried to consider it several times before. I was very drawn to Zen Buddhism, and other Buddhist thought, and immediately recognized the logic and truth in every written offering by this non-theistic philosophy of life. But then the idea of “no God’ would get too scary, I'd feel something along the lines of a panic attack, and discontinue that line of thinking.

I know now that that was simply running from truth out of fear. I ran for so long!

Let me go back to my youth for a minute.

My parents were fallen-away Catholics due to the excesses and injustice of 1950s Catholicism, but they still shared intense belief in the Judeo-Christian version of God. Nonetheless, they encouraged us children to seek our own path.

Now, every day I wake up with a sense of wonder, like a little child, enjoying things anew, living in the moment. Seek I did -- and still do! I became an expert on world religions, even writing about them professionally. At some point, I practiced most of the major faiths. I was Hindu, Islamic, Fundamentalist Christian, Liberal Christian, and Catholic. But try as I might, I never could settle on one. I enjoyed them all to some extent and found some wisdom in each. I cursed the fact that I could not advance due to my inability to choose one path and follow it. But I would necessarily move on to the next faith experiment when my strong tendency to be very pragmatic and rational simply would not allow me to actually believe that faith’s particular set of fairytales.

For the past two years, I returned to the faith of my youth, Catholicism. I found a more intellectual and open-minded group than I had among evangelical and other fundamentalist Christians. I also found good fellowship, and kind, less judgemental people. I really had no reason to suddenly wake up from it, actually.

But I did.

The Bible is what started it. I have always had my doubts about the importance and trustworthiness of this book, so contradictory, so obviously full of myth, misogyny, and the victor’s version of history. But in the desire to keep my world organized and my life meaningful, I tried to convince myself that the book contained "mystical truths," although it could not be taken literally.

Anyway, on this particular day a few weeks ago, I heard something horrible and disturbing involving misogyny and harming children on the news. As always, it made me cry. ( I don’t watch TV, so I tend not to be as desensitized as most Americans). So I reached for the Bible, prayed, and randomly opened it. As OFTEN happens, I got a reading from the old testament about how God is going to kill and torture people. But this reading was worse. The prophet/writer was praying to be saved from his enemies, and then that they would be tortured; that even their children would go hungry and that no one would have compassion on them.

I closed the book, and out loud said “What the f*** was that? That’s bullshit!”

In my blasphemous outburst, I felt somehow empowered to think clearly. I spent that evening listening to podcasts of Zen thought. No creator God.

NO God. I had the panic feeling, but I felt compelled to persist in my thoughts and research. The yucky feeling of uncertainty and fear lasted a few days. This was very instructive in helping me to understand why Christians of every ilk panic when faced with facts. They are afraid of the whole world turning upsidedown, and losing all meaning.

I understand and have compassion for these people because I felt very scared for several days. But then something amazing happened. I did not fall apart. The world did not crumble. I did not become a bad person. I still felt my marriage was valuable, sacred, and that adultery was wrong. I had no desire to become money hungry, but still felt compelled to do good and live simply.

Then something MORE amazing happened.

I saw that I was responsible. I saw more beauty than ever. I was nicer to my family. I was more compassionate. Most importantly, I was far less neurotic. No scary God, no punishments, no guilt, no trying to wrap my head logical around the illogical, cannibalistic last supper recreation I attended every week, or the idea of how one man died to save us all, or the idea that this perfect, merciful God killed his son, or the notion that God punishes us for all eternity because a woman was charmed by a creature he created to be charming, and because she wanted to seek knowledge!

Now, every day I wake up with a sense of wonder, like a little child, enjoying things anew, living in the moment. I always thought that all of my issues, or worries, or whatever problems that we all have, would be – or should be—solved by God. In fact, I am beginning to think that neurotic problems have their root in my strong reliance on this concept of the Judeo-Christian God!

I’m not exactly sure what comes next. I don’t know if I find the real mystical essence of the universe now, or none at all. But I know for sure that now that I know the truth, there is no return to willful ignorance.

Is my search over? I do not know, but I know I had to kill this perverse God I have been brainwashed to believe in order to discover the truth.

Whatever happens, I, quite ironically, feel reborn. Life feels amazing! All praise life, and people, and this whole world in all of its amazing glory!