Life without God is scary. I know because I made a choice to live without God many years ago. I grew up in an Evangelical Christian community amidst a pervasive belief that accepting God as your savior was a choice, and it is. However, I am compelled to share an alternative perspective: that a godless life is also viable, challenging and fulfilling decision.
I am a naturalist. I decided to write this post after my recent visit to Alaska where I viewed mountains and experienced a deep sense of awe and connection to the earth. As a child, I looked for god in nature. I'd pray to mountains, trees, and stars and ask, are you god? I wanted a physical manifestation of the spirit that my Sunday School taught, a symbol. I believe that our experience of the world is spiritual and that humans are only one component in a vast, beautiful universe that we will never fully understand. However, despite my upbringing, the Christian concept of God; of conversion, heaven, hell and forgiveness, never felt authentic to me.
This has been a point of contention in my family. It breaks my parents' hearts and I hesitate to write openly about the subject of Christianity (or lack thereof) because I have chosen instead to deeply and quietly align with the natural world, avoiding discussion or confrontation on my personal beliefs. I received the message growing up that talking to God was good and talking to plants was crazy. I still hear the remark, plants are not sentient beings, and I quietly, vehemently disagree. This, however, can be another essay.
My aim is to share my choice to live without God and describe why this choice makes sense to me. I do not want to condemn folks who have chosen a different path and I support any faith that encourages grace and stewardship.
Regardless, a life without God is not easy because it removes the filter for human experience. Without god, we are directly culpable for our actions. It's Camus' leap into the desert, it's Pema Chodron's When Things Fall Apart, it's spooky quantum entanglement, it's altruism.
Basically, I am intricately connected to my surroundings and when I act, my surroundings are directly impacted. I am. That plant over there is. We interact, or don't interact and we are both in this universe together, connected. I do not believe a heaven exists where my actions on earth are compartmentalized and I leave them behind for another, utopian plane of existence. By that dogma, I could claim that the current political climate doesn't matter, my level of consumption doesn't matter, and my general actions don't matter because I am not essentially bound to this world. But we are very much alive, connected and responsible for our existence in this realm.
That is terrifying.
Yes, God provides a cushion to a realization of ourselves as corporeal, natural organisms but the God concept also permits a level of removal from our experience, and therefore, a potential lack of appreciation for our environment. Sometimes, monotheism even prompts individuals to harm one another. Without god, we become more involved, more connected to our relationships and our own actions.
I do believe in an afterlife. When our bodies die, our energy transmutes. We return to the soil, we nourish our environment and push forth the buds of spring. Human life is beautiful, painful, wild and spiritual and I honor that. However, when I die, please do not give me a Christian burial. Return me to the earth and remember, this is where we came from and where we all are headed, with or without god. Ultimately, everyone gets to choose their beliefs, I just ask that you take mine into consideration and that we continue to share our stories with a desire for understanding.