It’s ok to be afraid.
I have spent most of my life thinking about the meaning of life, the universe and everything (thank you Douglas Adams!). I have constantly questioned what I have been taught, what I have read and especially what I have thought.
Through it all, I’ve always clung to the belief in a personal God who listened to me and watched over me. But, there was always a nagging thought in the back of my mind that I was clinging to this belief out of fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of death, fear of being alone. Still, I refused to let myself go there, to go all the way and actually question my relationship with God, and even question the idea of God at all.
I think it was a way of staving off the fear of the unknown, death being the greatest unknown of them all. We want to believe that the world isn’t as random and as harsh as we know it really is. We want someone to make us feel safe.
As children, we looked to our parents or other care givers to provide that safety and reassurance. As adults, we know we can’t turn to others because they are in the same boat as we are, so we create a deity or deities to turn to for comfort.
Is there a God? I don’t know, but I like to think there is. If there is a God, is he a part of his creation and is he active in it and in our lives, I don’t think so. This puts me squarely in the Deist category of belief systems.
For those of you who don’t know, which is probably most of you, here is a definition of Deism from Wikipedia:
Deism is a religious and philosophical belief that a supreme being created the universe, and that this (and religious truth in general) can be determined using reason and observation of the natural world alone, without the need for either faith or organized religion. Deists tend to, but do not necessarily, reject the notion that God intervenes in human affairs, for example through miracles and revelations. These views contrast with the dependence on revelations, miracles, and faith found in many Jewish, Christian, Islamic and other theistic teachings.
Deists typically reject most supernatural events (prophecy, miracles) and tend to assert that God (or "The Supreme Architect") has a plan for the universe that is not altered either by God intervening in the affairs of human life or by suspending the natural laws of the universe. What organized religions see as divine revelation and holy books, most deists see as interpretations made by other humans, rather than as authoritative sources.
I’ve already covered a lot of this in my previous entry, I Am What I Say I Am. But I’m bringing it up again because I want to explain what it means to me and how it makes me feel.
I think the greatest sense of freedom I’ve ever felt was when I shed those kinds of beliefs and embraced the beauty and wonder of the unknown universe. Now, instead of fear of the unknown, I find excitement and joy in trying to understand it and learn all I can about it.
I take great comfort in being able to stand on my own two feet and face the unknown without fear. I’ve endured many hardships in my life, and I realize that I’ve endured them and grown stronger and smarter because of them, and I’ve done it on my own, by myself. And if a creator does want anything from us, I think it is to be able to find the strength within ourselves to withstand and endure hardships and to learn and grow from them.
The universe is so vast, so magnificent, so beautiful, that it is awe inspiring and humbling. Maybe this is why we assume that there is a higher power, because the universe is truly awesome, in the classical sense of the word. Webster’s Dictionary defines “awe” as:
1 : an emotion variously combining dread, veneration, and wonder that is inspired by authority or by the sacred or sublime <stood in awe of the king> <regard nature’s wonders with awe>
I think it is that emotion of wonder, veneration and dread that we feel when we look at the universe that makes us feel the need to ascribe it to a higher power, when in fact, it is simply the vastness and beauty of it that inspires that emotion.
So, did I just shoot down my own reason for believing in a Supreme Being? I don’t think so because the reason for my belief is more of a philosophical one. Since it is impossible to prove that a Supreme Being doesn’t exist (because you can’t prove a negative), then we can never rule out the possibility that he/she/it doesn’t exist.
This puts me in the agnostic camp (once again, see the above referenced entry for more on agnosticism).
Deist, agnostic. Both are philosophical constructs that describe a set of beliefs. But, what AM I? I am not what I believe, although what I believe deeply influences who I am. I am what I do. It is the things that I do and say that define who I am.
I try to do good by my fellow human beings, and by other living things. I try to make people happy, to help them and support them. I do this by trying to be the best father, husband, friend, co-worker, citizen, and neighbor that I can be. It is the act of “doing”, not believing, that is important and that defines us.
So, I guess that makes me a humanist, which Wikipedia defines as:
Humanism is a worldview and a moral philosophy that considers humans to be of primary importance. It is a perspective common to a wide range of ethical stances that attaches importance to human dignity, concerns, and capabilities, particularly rationality.
And Webster’s defines as:
3: a doctrine, attitude, or way of life centered on human interests or values
But, why label myself at all? I’ve said before that I don’t like to label others so what do it to myself? Because people are going to label me, whether I like it or not, so I better let it be known what I would chose to be labeled, if I must be.