I’ve got a pretty good immune system, but a few weeks ago I was very sick. I had this bad cough that simply wouldn’t go away and wouldn’t let me sleep. After the third day of no sleep, I began to freak out a bit. And I realized that the last time I felt this terrible, I believed in God.
I knew I wasn’t dying, but I had the realization that being really sick when you don’t believe in God really sucks. There isn’t anyone to pray to. And there’s no hope that you’re going to live on in some afterlife. There is just the feeling that the machine containing who you are is not working properly and that if it stops working, that’s it for you. There is a comfort in religion that atheism simply does not have.
I came to atheism slowly. First I doubted God’s perfection. A common question among believers is why bad things happen to good people. The answer seemed fairly simple to me. We were made in God’s image. We are no perfect and screw things up all the time. Therefore God is not perfect. Why do bad things happen to good people? God screws up.
This worked for a while. God wasn’t letting terrible things like rape and murder happen. He just wasn’t paying enough attention to do anything about it. One can argue all they want that God gave us free will and that the choices man makes causes all of the ills of the world from a drunk driver hitting a child to global warming, but if God is all knowing and all powerful, then he’s letting that happen. So either he was letting these things happen or he just wasn’t perfect enough to catch all these things. I chose the second one until I realized that there was a third more obvious and more likely choice. Maybe God wasn’t there at all.
If God wasn’t there, then there was no mystery why bad things happened to good people. Bad things happened because bad things happened. It also solved one of the biggest problems I had with God. If God existed, why did he hide? Sure, there were people who could say they saw God in the bloom of every flower and the beauty of every sunset, but if there’s a God, why doesn’t He have a phone number? Why doesn’t he talk back out loud when you pray? Why doesn’t He definitively tell everyone what the ‘right’ religion is? Why the game of blind faith? Because that’s what happens when something doesn’t exist.
As this thought continued to echo throughout my life, certain things began to bother me. It bothered me that Presidential candidates were all but required to say how they believe in God and pray for guidance. Personally, I didn’t want a leader who, when the chips are down, is on his knees praying. I want him leading. It bothered me that intelligent people who I loved and respected spent a good amount of time talking to a big man in the sky who wasn’t really there. It bothered me that it had taken me so long to realize just how little real evidence there was that any God existed at all.
However, what bothered me more than any of this was the fact that if there was no God, my existence was going to be the next fifty to seventy years at best. And then I would never exist again in any form that could really be called me. I am here for a while and then I will be GONE. Not only that, but the same is true for everyone I’ve ever known. We are all here to go. And even the greatest among us will likely be forgotten in the next few hundred years.
To me, such a colossal waste of humanity was the greatest tragedy possible. I think and feel and remember. I may not believe in a soul but I believe in who I am and I think it’s worth saving. I tried thinking back to my earliest memories. I tried thinking to before that. I wanted to try to remember what it was like before I was. And in that infinite nothing, I realized, that was all that was waiting for me when I die. I would just not be. I don’t think there’s any way to explain what a crime I feel this is.
I am jealous of believers and I hope they’re right. I really do. I’d prefer Hell to not existing. I want to be me and I want to be me as long as possible regardless of where that happens to be. There are those who I suppose would call me agnostic, but I’m not. I don’t wonder if there’s a God. I just hope that there is.
I’ve researched life extension possibilities. Cryonics, cybernetics, and other solutions aren’t at the point where they can do me any good. Maybe in a decade or two. And then such technology is probably reserved for the very rich. The odds aren’t good when it comes to living forever if you’re an atheist. And when I was on the floor of my house coughing like crazy, I couldn’t help but say, “God, this hurts.” But I wasn’t surprised when there was no response from the heavens.