Living a fulfilled life without God
Tomorrow’s a big day as my third son, Ian, will be welcomed into this world. I find myself more and more reflective as the hours go by. I find myself full of wonder and in awe of life. It still seems a little surreal that less than 24 hours from now I’ll be holding my new son who has been living in my wife’s abdomen for the last several months. Regardless of things I’ve learned about the evolution of species or the origins of the universe, I can’t escape the awe and wonder that a new child brings a person.
This is my first child to have as an atheist. The attribution of words like awe, wonder, joy, and love are very different from what they were a few years ago. For the first time, these feelings aren’t attributed to the doctrines of religion. For me, this makes them have much deeper meaning as I let feelings like “awe” and “wonder” run their course without claiming to know more about things than I do. Science is usually quick to admit the shortcomings of knowledge. It boasts of the things we’ve discovered but always has to remain humble in the things still unknown. There are still many mysteries around our existence, consciousness, etc. A lot of people are uncomfortable with this unknown element and wish to fill it with religious belief.
I’ve heard questions like, “How can you not see the miracle of childbirth and not believe in God?” or “How can you not look around you and see God in the creation?” Many people can’t relate to experiencing wonder without attributing it to God. Sam Harris recently talked about voids such as this by saying, “Atheism as mere disbelief in God doesn’t have much to offer. It’s a corrective to a whole raft of bad ideas, but it doesn’t put anything in place of bad ideas. It’s a necessary corrective, but what fills the void is science, and art, and philosophy. Atheism is just a way of clearing the space for better conversations.” While subscribing to doctrines on faith may emotionally appeal to some people, for myself it seems like a lazy way to approach the wonder that life can bring. It’s a claim to know things that are truly unknown and unverifiable. I’m offered no consolation in believing things on insufficient evidence. As Carl Sagan says, “It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.”
So for me, the feelings of awe, wonder, love, and joy are sufficient in and of themselves and I cherish these overwhelming feelings as I prepare to see my new child tomorrow. I cherish the tears of joy that I know I’ll cry when I get to see my two older sons (6 and 4) see their new brother for the first time. I can already see the look on my beautiful wife’s face as she combines heartfelt tears of joy with a smile when she sees him for the first time. I can’t wait to share these moments with my family.