I made the decision to forgo religion several years ago….having been ‘raised in church’ my journey from christian to heretic consisted of rigorous study, much contemplation, and no small amount of courage to break free from the manacles of fear. But there was something else to my decision to leave religion and I didn’t realize it until recently….somewhere along the line I completely lost faith.
The subject of faith came up during a recent conversation I had with a family member about it and occurred to me that announcing one’s lack of faith to a religious person is akin to admitting a loss of innocence or purity somehow. Or virginity. I’ll never forget the look of total wonderment when she posed the question “Where is your faith?” It struck me that a lack of faith would indeed seem illogical to the religious because it is paramount to any religious belief. Without faith we are unable to make the mental leap needed to ignore reality and believe in fantasy.
It takes faith to believe, like many of our ancestors did, that an invisible god by the name of Helios drove the sun across the sky in his chariot. It takes faith, as demonstrated by many Native Americans, to believe that a turtle arising out of the sea with earth on her back was the beginning of mankind. It takes faith to believe that Thor killed all the Ice Giants, and it takes faith to believe that a talking snake can entice a couple of people down a road full of suffering for an entire planet’s worth of offspring.
In the face of scientific fact and reality, faith dies a quick and painless death (so quick and painless – it turns out – that I never even noticed it was gone until years after I proclaimed myself a non-theist). We know that the sun rises and sets because of the way our solar system is designed. For me to hail Helios as the mover of our star means that I absolutely must put out of my head what I know to be true and can be seen with my own eye as I ponder photos sent back from the Hubble Telescope and the Mars Rover. That same telescope has allowed us the privilege of divining the beginnings of our vast and mysterious universe, thereby giving us the reality of our existence: we are all made of stardust, we are literally and only a speck in space, we can deduce how suns came together and have good understanding of the dynamics involved in planet formation. These are all solid, visible attributes of our existence. In order for me to ‘have faith’ again, I would absolutely need to ignore the truth and the evidence to support it and then take the additional step of willingly choosing to believe in a very human entity that is very much like all other entities that we humans have created. Not only that, but I must declare one particular faith, because all other faiths have it wrong (according to religion). So a talking snake and/or dictation from a wayward angel must necessarily become part of my schematics. These inexplicable, acutely isolated occurrences have to blend with the fabric of my thoughts so that they are embedded there, making up the premise of my worldview, all in order that I have faith in them.
I simply cannot do it. The logistics of our knowledge resolutely anchors me to reality. But what of innocence? What of that esoteric spiritual purity, the virginity of believing in something fantastical and otherworldly? I can say in a most robust reply that I would a thousand times over choose the loss of innocence for the tenfold wonder that the truth unleashes.
And there is plenty of wonder that goes on when contemplating the odds against which we have been given a shot, a one time shot, to do something with this brief moment we have.