Life Without God?
So I stole this post from a recent commenter on my site, but her post inspired me to make one in a similar vein. How is my life post-deconversion different than it was prior to it? Now, those of you who have read the rest of my story already know that the actual moment when I said to myself, and to a god whom I no longer believed existed, “I don’t believe in god anymore,” wasn’t really the point where I stopped believing. In fact, it would be nearly impossible for me to pin down an exact moment that I no longer believed in god. Let’s just examine the year and a half or so since I officially deconverted.
Before that point, I was probably your average liberal Christian. I drank, though not usually to excess, I told the occasional small lie, I thought about sex. I had frequent doubts as to the existence of god and often questioned whether what I believed was true, or whether another religious path might be true (or even *gasp* no religion). I enjoyed reading science fiction written by atheist authors and I enjoyed watching TV and films with violence, nudity, sex and all those things in them. I would never have killed anyone, never rob anyone, never purposefully inflict harm on another person. I didn’t cheat on taxes or tests, I didn’t tell any major lies.
There are Christians who would see that kind of life as sinful. There are also Christians who live exactly like I did. There are doubtless some who live worse lives than I. I’m not really interested in examining my life compared to a Christian who is more conservative than I, for the things they believe I have either never believed or haven’t believed in a decade or a decade and a half.
What has changed in the past year and a half? I haven’t murdered or raped anyone, I haven’t even had sex (because I know you care to know that). I haven’t sacrificed any goats or eaten any babies. I haven’t robbed a bank, cheated on my taxes or done anything majorly dishonest.
I still have sexual thoughts quite often (keeping a pure “thought life” was always a favorite subject in the churches I was attending, I was never successful at that), but I no longer feel the heavy guilt that I once did. I still drink occasionally, still watch the same films and television, still read the same science fiction.
I’ve lied, especially about my beliefs, to particular people. I haven’t actually told any of these people that I believe something that I don’t, but I know they assume I do and I don’t correct them. I’ve even said public prayers. The difference now is that I’m lying to a few less people, especially myself. So I’m actually lying less than I was pre-deconversion.
I can say, “I am an atheist,” and not feel a deep sense of dread, I can embrace it and not feel guilty for doubting god’s existence. I’ve begun to (somewhat) openly read books and blogs written by atheists and have learned a lot in the past few months. (I did read a couple of atheist bloggers pre-deconversion, but I felt somewhat guilty for it.) I’ve begun attending meetings of a group of free-thinkers (free-thinkers, humanists, atheists, agnostics and the like) and have seen that I am, indeed, not alone.
I’ve come to realize that the career I studied so long for, spent so much money on, isn’t really for me anymore. With a master’s degree in music I can teach elementary or high school. I’d have to get certified, costing me more money and time, and that is option which has never been appealing to me. Also, I can lead music at a church, though they tend to not want to hire folks who don’t believe in god (and not even just god, but their particular variety of god).
So how am I any different that I was before? I am being honest with myself, I no longer beat myself up with guilt for thinking things I really can’t help, and I am free to enjoy life and live it as I see fit. I am able have a philosophy that coincides with the things I see to be true around me, no longer living that dual-minded life I had for so long. I can believe in scientific facts without worrying that they don’t fit with biblical Christianity, I can support the rights of people without worrying that some of the things they want the right to do are sinful, I can accept who I am without worrying that I no longer believe in a god.
I am not a worse person or a better person because I don’t believe in god. I am just a person. A person who is being slightly more honest with himself and who tries to live his life as best he can, a person who tries to avoid causing the suffering of others. I even hope that I can alleviate just a little bit of suffering in the world, somehow, though I know I don’t have much power to change most of it. (That is a deep philosophical and moral discussion that I am not at all ready to tackle.)