Religion is a source of wealth for millions of individuals across the world. It is the manna that feeds their souls, the daily bread that leaves all those who are hungry, spiritually satisfied.
But, let’s face it, religion isn’t for everyone and at this time in my life, it isn’t for me. And if you are like me, you may have asked yourself this question: where do I go from here?
For some, this question is pointless; all human endeavors are futile. But for others, there still exists a longing to pursue a life of meaning and purpose.
I possess that desire.
Raised in a Christian household, I was a bible-toting anxious kid, concerned with being more than what I was. I wanted to learn and grow and become a good, worthy person. An example unto others. And naturally, emerging from a Christian background, I was convicted by religious thought. I convinced myself on several occasions that the Spirit moved within me, but I was plagued by guilt. Awful guilt. I wasn’t good enough or holy enough or secure enough in my faith. I was an unworthy human specimen.
My affliction was caused by an insatiable doubt that infected my thoughts. I felt I lacked a significant spiritual connection. I knew God had never moved in me. Even when I carried my bible to school and helped create the only student-led Bible study.
Still, the doubt persisted and I knew that I could not call myself a Christian any longer. My appetite for truth and knowledge had somehow already convinced me that Christianity was not the true path. It was a hard pill to swallow. The pain of disillusionment and the fear of the unknown troubled me deeply. If God could not give my life meaning, what other meaning could there be? Would I be doomed to walk the earth as a hated blasphemer, afraid to tell anyone that I wasn’t religious?
And the question I feel it is necessary to answer–how does one live a life as a good, productive, caring, moral individual without the use of an instruction manual like religion?
I flitted from idea to idea and religion to religion, finding myself curious about Buddhism, Hinduism, Paganism, and many other philosophies. Eventually, I determined that my greatest instruction manual exists in the experiences of all human kind.
History, I feel, is our best and most true guide. I know that the fault with religion does not free me from personal and social responsibilities. My Christian background will always influence me, as will any further knowledge that I have of the world. But as it is still my goal to be a good, moral, productive human being, I must act consciously to hold myself accountable for my behavior and my potential future.
And, to prevent misunderstandings, religion is not all together bad. It has good qualities. It unites families and individuals. It, ideally, holds one accountable for the choices he or she makes. It, ideally, inspires goodness(whatever that may be–our definitions of what is “good” does vary, after all). So without religion, I must find a way to carry on these qualities.
I want to feel kinship with other human beings and hold myself accountable to some kind of “good” standard. If I have a family, I want it to be united and caring. These things cannot happen spontaneously or without effort and thought. The most effective method for maintaining whatever standards of good I assign to my life, is to examine history–human history–and use it as a guide, as the instruction manual.
Religion does not have to be THE answer, but I believe one must have something to help them continue on in a world that seems futile without some “guiding force” or “ultimate truth.”