Note: I need to reiterate what is stated in my about me page: the views expressed in this article are solely mine and do not represent the views of any else, most notably my employer. Many people who read this will disagree with what will be discussed. If you are someone who gets easily offended by differing ideologies, this may not be the best article for you.
I’ve delayed writing this post because I believed I needed research to support every idea I’m about to express. To give you an idea, I initially decided to write this post nearly four months ago, and it’s taken me this long to realize that there is no amount of unbiased research that can make this article a persuasive article. So, rather than using this as an opportunity to persuade anyone, this is going to be me expressing my beliefs. I’m sure I will get comments of people refuting or supporting me, and I’m sure for every point I make someone can find research supporting and refuting it. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that if anyone was capable of indisputably resolving these issues, they would no longer be issues. As such, what follow are my thoughts, my feelings, and my musings, nothing more and nothing less. There will be some research included, but mostly just my opinion. Here we go…
From Here to Someplace Completely Unfathomable
I am writing this from the perspective of being a former Christian. Let’s get that out of the way. Moving forward. I believe that the greatest human fear is the fear of the unknown. Take a second to think of how much of our existence consists of finding answers (or at the very least some degree of comfort) to all the things we don’t know. Before going forward, I should explain that I am under the belief that we can know nothing more than what we’ve experienced. Anything we know, we either experienced it firsthand or experienced it by learning it. Furthermore, anything we learn that we don’t learn from personal experience we learn because someone or something told us: a book, a teacher, a friend, a parent, whatever. A lot of things that we learned from someone or something else are debatable. Also, anything that cannot be PHYSICALLY proven is debatable as well (though I would suppose some might argue against those as well). I guess what I’m trying to say is Self-Contained Reality. That’s my term for this philosophy: there is no ultimate truth or reality. Everything that we believe to be true or real exists solely within our own perception of this world, and the people and things that comprise it. As no two individuals share the same identical history and series of experiences, no two realities in this world are identical. Predominately agreed upon? Yes. Identical? No.
That said, and going back to what I started this section with, the whole concept of Christianity revolves around the belief in an eternal God and an eternal soul. This is the basis for heaven and hell, for the mission of Jesus Christ, everything. Now, before you even think about whether there is a god or a soul or a heaven or a hell, stop for a minute to think of the concept of “eternity.” That means literally forever. Meaning literally never-ending. Meaning an amount of time that is not quantifiable and therefore completely incomprehensible. I mean, of course fear of an eternal hell is terrifying. The concept of eternity itself is terrifying. How terrifying is it to think of being conscious of your singular existence literally forever? It’s hard enough to comprehend the history of humanity much less comprehending the idea of a literal eternity. And Christianity (most religion in general) uses this fear to sell us. “Hey, you’re going to exist forever, so might as well believe in something that will put you in an amazing place forever!” Even if they don’t try to sell it positively, they sell it negatively: “So you want to bet that it’s not true? Okay. Sure, there’s a chance it’s not true. But if it is true and you don’t believe, you’ll spend eternity in hell.” (Coincidentally enough, the total word count on this blog prior to me writing that last sentence was 666). I’ve heard both of these arguments to get people to believe. And what do they both have in common? They both use fear. Fear of the unfathomable. Fear of the unknown (they claim to have an answer to something unknown). Never in the history of mankind has there been a more persuasive tool than fear.
I imagine that to this there will be the following argument: Just choosing to not believe in something doesn’t make it not true. To that argument, I’d say that’s a valid argument if you make one minor adjustment: Just choosing to not believe in something doesn’t destroy the possibility that it might be true. I’ll admit right now: it’s possible that there is eternal life in some form. It is possible that there is a God and an eternal soul. Me choosing not to believe that doesn’t make those things not possibilities (that was a deliberate triple-negative). On the flip-side, one choosing to believe those ideals doesn’t eliminate the possibility that they are not true (and I deliberately used a double negative there). And to this, I’ve heard the above argument stated this way: “Okay, so according to you, there’s a 50/50 shot that it’s true. Wouldn’t it be better to believe, that way you’re in a good place either way? Cause if you don’t believe and it is true, you’re stuck in eternal hell.” Again, there’s that fear. But I personally refuse to believe something for the sole reason of fearing the alternative. I refuse to believe in A just because I’m afraid of B. If I believe in A, it will be because I firmly choose to believe in A.
(Let’s keep in mind that the fundamental text for Christianity has forever been in a constant state of questionable historical accuracy).
I could go on with this for a quite a while, writing down the endless conversations I’ve had in my mind debating this. Continuing on with the last thought, I could go on with the argument that I can say what I said at the end of the last paragraph because I can’t comprehend or am drastically underestimating how utterly horrible B is. I could go into the whole “physical proof” argument (see the movie Contact for the general idea of this argument). Long story short, I’ll take the risk. But for the sake of covering everything I’d like to talk about, I’ll move on. Religion in general tends to deal in absolutes. If it’s not right, it’s wrong. It’s either true, or it’s not. And for any religion to serve its purpose (to provide comfort/answers for the unknown), it has to be absolute. If there is anything that a religion cannot answer, then it provides a fault in the logic of the religion. That’s why Christianity has developed the phrase “God’s will” to explain anything that has no other logical answer. It’s why there’s the phrase “Because there’s sin and the Devil in this world” to explain why bad things happen to good people. We are so afraid of the unknown that we feel the need for answers to EVERYTHING. And religion provides those answers. Absolutes are dangerous. Not allowing room for conversation and possibilities is dangerous. It’s what starts wars and promotes conflict. If it’s not A, it doesn’t have to be B. It can be C, D, E, or any other letter, numeral, or combination that you can come up with. Whatever you choose to believe will be your truth, and that’s why there is no universal truth. No matter what it is, from God to the Earth being flat, if you choose to believe it so much, it becomes your truth.
The Ending is the Best Part
Next, and going back to the idea of eternity, I’d like to talk about what is (to me) the second greatest fear of man: the fear of our own mortality. We’ve already discussed the fear of the unknown and it’s pretty obvious to see how the fear of the unknown and the fear of our own mortality are very directly linked. It’s pretty much impossible for us to avoid thinking about our own mortality. But here’s the thing: an eternal soul isn’t the only form of immortality. One of my favorite quotes says, “The key to immortality is first living a life worth remembering.” You wanna know what the purpose of life is? It’s to make that life meaningful. Whether it’s to one person or a billion, what remains immortal are memories and stories. Think about history and what we know of it. Even more basically, look at the majority of the word “hi-STORY.” See what I’m getting at? Our existence and what we know of who we are and who/what came before us, we know because someone told a story about it. So want to achieve immortality? Live a life that is worthy of having your story retold. Live immortally through the memory you’ve created. Make your life a story that your kids will tell their kids, and their kids, and endlessly through the ripples of time.
Live life that way, and then if you’re still afraid of your own mortality, think of this: what good is any story without an ending? If you believe in an eternal existence, then you believe that your story never ends. Now just trying to imagine attempting to read a book or watch a movie that literally never ends. No matter how good that movie or book is, it’s really hard to feel any sense of satisfaction in a story with no ending. It’s why Hollywood feels the need in many movies to answer every question and leave no loop-holes. We like to have a conclusion. The ending often gives the story that preceded it purpose. What is a story without an end? It’s incomplete. It’s unfulfilled. If there is such a thing as eternity, what story fills that endless epilogue? Or, does it become a series of books or movies that just begets sequel after sequel after sequel? Every story and story series must have an end. A finale. And I’m sorry, but to me the ending of “He lived eternally” isn’t really an ending. It’s an avoidance.
So, take this life and make it mean something. Make your life worth remembering. And when the story ends, let it be a story that worth retelling. Be remembered.
Living the Life (I Believe)
How do you live the life worth remembering? Well, that’s for us each to determine for ourselves. We are the authors of our own stories. So, here are my beliefs that will be the basis of what makes my life worth remembering.
I believe in equality of all individuals. I believe there is no person or group of people that is any better than or any more deserving of anything than anyone else. Man or woman, black or white, gay or straight, doesn’t matter. Every human deserves to be treated the same as any other human. And if you feel that for whatever reason you are more entitled to any right than anyone else, you believe in discrimination. I’m very briefly going to go into the gay marriage issue here. First of all, if you believe in “traditional marriage” in the sense of the way the institution of marriage was originally founded, then you believe that marriage should have nothing to do with love, should only be an arrangement for offspring, and is not a religious institution. As such, if you believe that one of those conditions DOES apply to marriage, then you believe in the progression of the institution of marriage, and therefore (literally) believe in progressive marriage. I believe that if you believe that progression should be stopped due to sin, then it should apply to ALL sinners, not just those guilty of a specific one. Therefore, if a gay couple should not be allowed to get married, then neither should a couple who had a child out of wedlock. Neither should a thief or convict. So really, I guess marriages should come with mandatory background checks, if you believe that. I mean, in terms of marriage, we’re only talking legal benefits, the likes of which can be found here. Now look at that and give me a real, non-sin related, legitimate reason why providing access to those benefits to same-sex couples is detrimental to our society. On a side note, it’s only within the last 700 years of the 4,000 year history of marriage that gay unions were deemed “unholy.”
Also, going on with this point, I believe that if you deny any person the right to take care of their own body (specifically talking about refusing to provide certain benefits, Hobby Lobby), then you also believe in discrimination. I believe every person deserves the right to take care of their own body and they should be allowed access to whatever source they need to do so. Furthermore, I believe that we each deserve the right to determine what we need to take care of our own body. If you deny me access to medication or services that I need for my own health, you are promoting my unhealthiness. Tell yourself all you want that you know what I need or don’t need and why I need or don’t need it, but I do not believe that you have the right to make that decision for me. In this instance, I’m talking specifically legally. I’ll address personally in a minute.
Legally, I believe in the separation of church and state. I believe religious beliefs have no right influencing policy. Furthermore, I believe that legality should apply to ALL individuals, and therefore each religion and religious institution should be subject to the same laws, without exception. I believe that religion is such a personal decision and means something different to every person, therefore there is an inherent flaw in creating any law based on religious belief. I believe that forcing religious beliefs legally upon the public is basically mass indoctrination.
I believe that we are responsible for our actions, meaning I believe that every action has a consequence, good or bad. I believe that if we really choose to do something, no matter what it is, nothing can stop us. However, the consequences of those decisions are unavoidable.
I believe that we all love the idea of “good samaritans” but too many of us are too afraid to actually be one. I believe that the world would be a better place if we stopped being passive observers of it. I believe we should fight for the rights of every individual and fight for every person to have their place in this world, and we fight for the right of every individual to have their story told.
I believe in very simple and basic meanings to right and wrong. I believe that we are capable of determining right and wrong without the need of religion. I personally believe that doing ANYTHING to harm the well-being of another individual is wrong. I believe that I am not alone in that belief.
I believe that our lives are connected by the endless combination of decisions we make each day. What some people call fate, I call the inevitable outcome of an endless series of decisions.
I believe that intentions only matter in so much as they are acted upon.
I believe “what ifs” are a waste of time.
I believe that “should” is one of the worst and most limiting words in language, unless you are using it personally to motivate yourself. The word “should” implies that there is someone or something else determining an acceptable standard for your life.
I believe that there can be just as much beauty in the unknown as there is fear. I believe the unpredictability of the future forces us to make every moment that much more beautiful. I believe the past is history, the future is a mystery, and the present is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.
I believe that the “real world” is whatever we each individually perceive it to be.
I believe that nothing in this world is more rewarding than positively influencing another individual’s life, even in the smallest way.
I believe that we each hold the power to change the world. I believe that in our own small ways, each of us already is changing the world.
And finally, I believe in the following lines from the film Cloud Atlas:
Sonmi-451: “Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb, we are bound to others. Past and present. And by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.”
Haskell Moore: “No matter what you do, it will never amount to anything more than just a single drop in a limitless ocean.”
Adam Ewing: “What is an ocean but a multitude of drops?”