Living a fulfilled life without God
I saw this photo tonight and it reminded me of some thoughts I had earlier in the week about religion. For those that have kept up with me over the past year, you know that while I lack a belief in God, I enjoy reading about Eastern religions and practice meditation. The Eastern religions are more about a way of life to me rather than about a deity and meditation is just something I find helpful. I love reading about mindfulness and trying to practice it more and more. It’s really just learning to “be”.
So this brought up a question this week. I was driving to work and listening to some Kirtan music and asked myself why I got into these things if I was not a religious person. I wondered why I had such a terrible taste in my mouth for Christianity, but could read the words of Lao Tzu (founder of Taoism) or Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) and be very inspired. I reminded myself that none of those things really spoke of a God to me. In fact, Buddhism is a Godless religion. I realized that what I disliked so much was the arrogance (my perception) involved in the Abrahamic religions that requires allegiance… and even worse… requires it on faith alone. It’s that choosing not to follow something you can’t see supposedly ends pretty badly for you. It’s not just an absence of eternal life in heaven, but rather the inheritance of an eternal life of torment in hell. I have a problem with the threatening tone. While Buddha specifically teaches that you shouldn’t just accept what you hear from him unless it makes sense to you, you have Jesus saying that he is the only way to heaven and we’re warned not to doubt him. It seems awfully insecure of him to demand allegiance and forbid doubting. This language is all over the bible. Even the Ten Commandments includes a warning that you should have no other gods… just the one… you know… the one you can’t see, touch, hear, or feel… or smell for that matter. That one.
So this is my major problem with religion. I don’t mind the teachings of some of the Eastern religions and the “take it or leave it” attitude of the teachers, but the others I just can’t get into. I sincerely think Jesus taught some pretty good things, but I could do without the threat, thank you very much. That love doesn’t sound so unconditional after all.
Just a quick follow-up note. After posting this I got some criticism for “cherry picking” because of my interest in Buddhism. I’m not a Buddhist, but enjoy some of Buddha’s teachings. The whole point of this post was to explain why I was okay cherry picking Buddhism and not the others. The others have the threat of hell for not having absolute allegiance to a God… Buddhism doesn’t. I had someone ignorantly ask me who said it was okay to cherry pick Buddhism… He said, “Certainly not Buddha.” That’s simply incorrect… Here’s a quote from Buddha that could easily have come from your favorite celebrity atheist: “Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.” I can feel absolutely free to enjoy reading about Eastern religions without believing things on no evidence, being unreasonable, or threatening people with hell. If you don’t like those things, I don’t really care. I’m not even advocating Buddhism, Taoism, or anything else… I just said I personally enjoy reading about them. This is seriously what has turned me off lately about the atheist community. The arrogance equals the arrogance of the religions they so adamantly hate. This is why I steer away from labels. I don’t want to be associated with the arrogance. I know it’s not fair to associate the entire community in this way, but I really do keep running up against this with the atheist community. It seems I’m not atheist enough. 🙂