I would consider myself an atheist. I'm not adamantly against the existence of gods, I just don't believe in them. I need either evidence or experience from which I can extrapolate, and I haven't really seen any 'proof' of God or Allah or Zeus that I think could not possibly be explained by science. But everyone's heard this argument before. It's extremely true, and (at least now) one of my main reasons for not being religious. I will probably come back to that in some future post when I've been reading about how some religious ideology has resulted in a lot of people being hurt, as seems to happen quite often. But for now, I want to talk about something slightly different, a very short experience I had with being religious.
First, my upbringing. I'm Indian, my parents are both Hindus and scientists. They're not particularly religious, or at least they weren't during my earlier years. My father's side of the family has always emphasized prayer and rituals much more than my mother's side, and I was definitely a momma's girl. Lately, my parents seem to be getting more devout - they go to the temple more often, do poojas on the days they're supposed to, etc. I think there's a few different reasons for that, involving my being away at college and taking up less of their time, and their having many more Indian friends in the area who are also religious.
Yet when I was at home, growing up (yes, I know I'm young and so still doing this, but it's all relative here), my mom seemed to only really practice her religion when we were with my paternal grandparents. I guess doing something often enough can make you internalize (or maybe re-internalize) what you are doing. But they never really forced me to do these things. When they coaxed and cajoled, the reasons they gave tended towards praying, dressing up in Indian clothes, going to the temple, etc. for the benefit of a family member (often my grandparents), rather than for some god. So now my sense of family is strong, but my sense of god certainly is not.
I understand the pull of having a god to believe in. You don't think so? If I've never really believed, how can I understand what it's like, right? It's true. Except I did believe. For about one night and one day. I still don't understand why, but as I lay in bed one night when I was in high school, I seemed to have an epiphany. 'Of course there is a god,' my brain said. 'Whether it be Vishnu or Hanuman (my personal favorite) or Jesus or Allah or none of them or all of them, there is somebody out there watching us, who will take care of us.'
It was an amazing feeling, I'll certainly admit that. There was safety in it, security, a promise for the future, an optimism that everything would turn out okay. It wasn't any more or less than my usual optimism, simply different. My optimism has always been based on my experience of things being okay and my expectation that whatever happens, I will deal with it and make it okay. This was more of a feeling that everything was just going to be okay, regardless of what I did.
Unfortunately or fortunately, that blind faith didn't last very long. By the next morning, it was slipping, fading, and I couldn't hold on to that feeling of thinking that god would make everything okay. There were plenty of problems with it, god wasn't fixing anything, and most importantly, that feeling of belief just wasn't there any longer.
So now I'm left feeling that faith is a great thing to have, but a difficult thing to begin to have or to hold on to. It brings up another question. Is that feeling that god will make everything okay worth that blind faith? And therein lies the third part of the equation, weighed about equally, but more subtly. I am afraid of having blind faith.
It's not really a question of fearing that I will be proven wrong. With my belief in no god, I am willing to keep an open mind and agree that there is a god if I get real, convincing proof. It's not a question of fearing that god won't fix everything. I don't really believe that he needs to, I believe that we as humans hold the power to make good choices, to understand the situation and adapt to make the best lives we can for ourselves and those we care for (well, as a species, anyways…as individuals I'm less sure of us). We have morals and rules that guide our society's well-being, with or without a god.
So what is my fear? Actually, after writing this, I'm not sure anymore. I just managed to rule out all of the suspects. Well, fear or no fear, I think I'll stick to observable truths for now.