10 Years Without God

I attended Clairmont Christian School for grades two through seven, I guess my parents thought that Catholic Mass wasn’t enough. The doctrine at CCS was some form of protestantism I don’t remember which. I do remember some of the wacky lectures we received from guest speakers- “Scientists have found Heaven in the Andromeda Galaxy”, “Man Does Not Live by Bread Alone, here’s what happens if you try”, and the standard “Heavy Metal-Satan’s Music”

Of course there was also an “Idolatry in the Catholic Church” lecture at some point. Meanwhile at Mass they were giving a more subdued counter attack. The Protestants said the Catholics had it wrong and the Catholics said the Protestants had it wrong. I decided that they were both right and I remained an unaffiliated Christian for the next ten years. A believer in the Bible if not the church.

That ended when I heard that some Biblical scholars had developed a new version of the Gospels. It was the King James version but the words attributed to Jesus were colored black if the scholars thought Jesus definitely said, gray if it was something he probably said, pink if it was something he probably didn’t say and red if it was something he definitely didn’t say. My head was spinning for days as the idea that the Bible, even just some part of the Bible, was wrong worked it’s way into my head. Bouncing back and forth from Catholic to protestant I knew that interpretations of the Bible could be wrong but it had never occurred to me that the book itself was flawed. From Christian I shifted uncomfortably to deist.

But I wanted so badly to believe; in an external purpose, in a cosmic justice, in an objective right and wrong, in rules, that the good were rewarded and the bad were punished. Being a Christian was so easy, all I just had to parrot back what I was taught as a child, occasionally reinforcing it with a rationalization.

I stood on this shaky ground until I took Comparative World Religions for an English credit. After I looked at the world’s seven major religions side by side one stood out for it’s simplicity, modesty and relative lack of atrocities, Buddhism.

While I haven’t been a very good Buddhist I have finally found a belief system that isn’t threatened when contemplated. The Four Noble Truths are philosophically sound and unthreatened by scientific understanding or other people’s beliefs.

But most importantly, Buddhism allowed me to be happy.

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  1. And that’s what I like to see.

    Comment by mollymillions — April 21, 2008 @ 3:52 pm

  2. My atheism came on with a whimper, one that I barely remember. I was a nondenominational Protestant as a child and believed because my authority figures told me this was true. In Junior High, I believed superficially: I liked going to church, but that was God’s impact on my life. My baptism was a step, not an experience. I didn’t question faith when my Grandmother died from cancer (the only major death in my family so far)…and she was my Sunday school teacher. I didn’t question, but I also just didn’t think about it.

    In high school, I joined the debate team and began questioning everything. At first, I still didn’t question my faith. Really, I never did. I just slowly realized that I was not a Christian. I decided I must be a deist, then began to call myself an agnostic, then a humanist. Before I even went to college, I had realized that I didn’t actually even believe in any supernatural force, only the physical universe. I appreciate the philosophies of many religions (Buddhism being one of my favorites – from my years living in Japan) but I cannot believe in the basic premise of any. I am, however, pleased with anyone’s belief system that allows them to be happy while not hurting others. I wish everyone could do that.

    Comment by melampous — April 22, 2008 @ 9:36 am

  3. My Comparative World Religions class helped me find my first real belief system: Philosophical Taoism. The balance of ying and yang match the natural world AND the digital world. It honors both men and women while showing we don’t have to ape each other. No kitchen gods for me, but the Tao De Ching sets out a solid universal framework.

    But now, as I wallow in middle-age and obscurity, I’ve become an anti-Taoist. I embrace extremes and turn my back on The Way of Balance.

    Look out, world!

    Comment by sewyrn — April 23, 2008 @ 3:38 pm

  4. I still use Hinduism, when appropriate.
    I think belief systems are tools. Most of the time it’s useful to be a secular humanist, but there are times when it’s handy to be a Buddhist, Confucianist or a Hindu and if I’m ever stuck in a foxhole, a Christian.

    Taoism is really strong too and it has a lot in common with Buddhism. But it seemed like Taoisms had a lot of folk magic trick into the doctrine, like Tibetan Buddhism did. And it was easier to peal all that away from Buddhism.

    Comment by tone_milazzo — April 23, 2008 @ 3:46 pm

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