To start this off I am going to be blunt, some of you that may come to read this article are not going to like it. There are those within our world whose beliefs, one way or another, are so ingrained and irrefutable to them that even the slightest opposition to what they hold dear can be twisted in their minds and potentially misconstrued into what they perceive as an attack on their very self. I am not writing this to intentionally upset anyone. I know that what you choose to believe is your choice and I will never try to convince you that you are wrong. It is not my right or place, nor anyone’s for that matter, to tell you that you are wrong.
This is simply my opinion on the matter, my humble perspective. Take it as you wish but I will not accept hateful responses to what is ultimately the result of my right to speak or write about what I believe. Everyone else has had their say it would seem; now it is my turn.
For my entire life I have been listening to the views of two distinct versions of what has become one of the greatest debates of our era – whether or not there is a God? There are those who believe wholly in the concept of God and attach themselves to a religious perspective and in most cases it will become a fundamental aspect of their lives and their beings. There are also those who have seen this side of the story and have decided it is not for them. Referring to themselves as atheists, some will choose to simply live their lives in peace and not worry about religion impacting upon their wellbeing and there are also some who are so offended by the mere mention of the possibility of God that they argue science and logic until they are blue in the face. Now I am not saying that there aren’t extreme religious views either, such as those who would preach in the streets or shout heathen if they caught even the slightest whiff of blasphemy. The age we all currently live in has shown us many examples of what happens when religious extremists go too far to exert their beliefs on others.
I myself was raised in the Catholic faith. As a child I was instructed in the ways of the church and taught about the life of Jesus and how his word, his teachings, and the gospels of God were meant to be a fundamental part of my life. During this part of my childhood I was never given the impression I had a choice in the matter. I was never given an option as to whether I thought any religious perspective would be a good idea for me. Perhaps it would be better to educate children objectively before enrolling them in something they could not possibly understand yet? As I grew older into my teenage years, I started to relax on the idea of being a Catholic. I started asking why I should believe what you are telling me. The principles of science appealed to me as offering what I felt to be a more logical outlook on the theories of how we and our world came to exist. I eventually rebelled and decided that I wanted nothing to do with being a Catholic. I would talk about my dislike of religion and remark how I wanted to hear no more of Jesus, the Holy Spirit or anything remotely Christian. I had come to the conclusion that the stories of Jesus and the concept of any God was pure folly and I would and could not be persuaded otherwise. To this day I do not consider myself to be a Catholic, a Christian or affiliated with any religion and these are decisions that I am content with. My life as a result, however, is not entirely devoid of spiritual concepts because of these decisions. It is entirely possible to find deeper meaning in the little things without resorting to religion or factual science.
Every now and then I will happen across a comment from an atheist who is once more exclaiming his unwavering belief that there is no God and will likely make a joke or a snide comment as they point out how religion does more harm than good. And I will also occasionally find myself in conversation with someone who thinks my lack of faith in what they believe in is somehow a massive detriment to not only their lives but to mine as well. Well after years of thought on the matter, knowing what it is like to experience both views quite extensively, I came to one simple conclusion in my mid-twenties and it is still something I believe to this day. I chose the third option and it is a choice that I rarely ever share with another person. I choose to not blindly believe that there is a God just because my teachers tried to instil within me their belief system as an impressionable and fairly naïve child. However, as I have aged I have also realised that it is just as ignorant to scream into the crowd that there is no God. The simple fact is that there is no irrefutable proof either way that there is or isn’t a God.
Religious fundamentalists will utilise their faith and the word of God in whatever form they believe to portray their dogma. Atheists use science and logical thinking to draw conclusions about their own belief that they consider that there is and never has been a divine creator. But why is it so hard to ponder that there is room within a person’s mind to consider the possibility that both perspectives are equally valid?
This is a question that has been asked since the spread of religion and philosophy throughout the civilised world, God or no God? But the core argument of one or the other has become so ingrained in society’s way of perceiving the world. Are people so afraid to consider for themselves another possibility for fear of being an outcast or succumbing to some sort of retribution whether it is real or a simply perceived to be real? Or are we incapable of teaching ourselves or the next generation that there is more than one side to many important topics such as politics, industry or educational values for example? When it comes to most debates in life, there always seems to be division. One way or the other, and in many people’s minds, there can only be one choice and it is this way of thinking that is so frustrating to me. There is always another choice. If you don’t agree with one side over the other, then pick both or neither. If we fail to pass on the value of objectively questioning anything we are told then it is no wonder we live in world of extremes.
Back to the original topic, I strongly believe myself that there is room in a person’s life for science and religion. Both have benefits and something to offer, even if it is purely for educational purposes. Learning the best of both and refusing to succumb to ignorance or unnecessary prejudice just because you may feel uncomfortable having your logic or your faith tested is a very limited way to think and to live in my mind.
Do you want to believe in God because it is beneficial to you and brings you some peace, purpose or serenity? Then fine, please let no one convince you otherwise. Have you found your answers in science and are firmly content to live your lives as you see fit without any religious interference? That is fine also, that is your fundamental right. Just consider though, what will you personally gain from condemning another person’s belief structure? Whether they have chosen religion or atheism? Will judging someone you believe to be doing something wrong or not doing something they should be in your eyes truly make you feel better or are your insecurities about your own beliefs or your own life affecting your perceptions and thus allowing you to negatively impact others? No good has ever, or will ever, come from trying to force others to see things the way you do. Countless events throughout history have taught me this if nothing else, both ancient and recent. The Crusades. The rise of the Nazi Party. Modern day terrorism that stems from violent groups that have segregated from an otherwise peaceful religion. But there is nothing wrong with offering your perspective in a way that offers knowledge, another viewpoint to consider or how your own beliefs have benefited you, just do not attempt to shove it down someones throat!
Basically I am personally content and secure in the knowledge that no one has the ability to prove or disprove the existence of God. I am a very logical man and I always consider subjects and topics that I am unsure of with a great deal of care and thought. But every now and then I like to think beyond logic, no one person is capable of explaining everything and there is still much we have yet to discover as a species and as a society. My life as an experience would be an emptier notion if there was no room for a little mystery – whether scientific or enigmatic in nature.
If you have read this and feel uncomfortable with what I have written, then I must once more state that this was not, and never will be, my intent to question what is dear to you. My primary point is that I have come to learn over time that I have been wrong as well as right on many occasions, and that it never hurts to consider the possibilities of other perspectives.
Philosophical rant over!
Take care of yourselves and please be respectful to others.
Forged From Reverie.
All photographs courtesy of Anthony Nicholas.