It was important to me that I formally recognize my emancipation from religious preoccupation. It was a day worth commemorating. The stultifying weight of superstition, dogma and nonsensical thoughts being lifted from my overburdened shoulders provided so much relief, quantifying its soothing effect on my emotional well-being is difficult to do.
It took as long as it did for me to begin this journey of liberation because I was virtually set upon by my religious handlers for so long, and because religious indoctrination as a child - when done with the perverse efficiency it usually is - has a way of enduring both time and challenge.
The simple act of freely expressing my thoughts here on a lonely blog has provided immeasurable comfort as well as an increasing sense of belonging as I continue to find other well-rounded, free-thinking bloggers. To my pleasant surprise, the few religious people who have seen fit to comment have been quite palatable. It is my very intention to engage people of faith to propose to them that we celebrate what it is we have in common: our humanity and, hopefully, our love of life. Sometimes it seems to work; other times I am gently pelted with reasons why it can't work.
Three basic qualities about my former life of relative religiosity come to mind when I consider how empty it had become: unappealing; uninspiring; and unenlightened.
- First, it was unappealing to me because of its innumerable and incessant self-righteous affirmations, as well as its exclusionary tendencies. Dissent of any kind as to things substantive was not tolerated and left one with feelings of impertinence. Further, people who did not openly affirm their status as god-fearing creatures were not only socially alienated, but also told directly that their destinies were irredeemable. Very unappealing.
- Second, it was uninspiring to me because for all its attestations of wonder and magnificence emanating from a so-called god, it paled in comparison to the awe-inspiring sensations I would experience when contemplating the transcendent splendor of nature itself. The process of man's discovering and understanding things previously held to be mysterious was amazing enough in and of itself. Attributing all knowledge and understanding to a higher power was taking something very precious away from us: our natural thirst to achieve for ourselves that which lends to us the very knowledge and understanding we seek.
- And finally, it was unenlightened to me because propagating its core tenets was fueling so much hatred and disharmony in the world. We've got a couple of missing office towers in New York that speak to this very issue rather poignantly. Even moderate religious views were becoming more and more distasteful to me because, in practice, they unfailingly abdicated the ultimate responsibility of securing our own stations in life, as well as our destinies, to an entity other than ourselves. This is all to say nothing of just how unenlightened it plainly is to believe that morality is necessarily derived from a supernatural source. Further, any worldview that nominates religion as its guiding structure is simply ill-equipped to handle the challenges presented by a society based on diversity and pluralism.
Yes, it took a while, but I eventually found myself crafting an outlook on life that required three very different qualities. It had to be appealing, inspiring, and enlightened.
My old life was ever so close - yet ever so far away.