Aniblogger Testimonies: A religion of no religion

This is the seventh in a series of Aniblogger Testimony posts, where select writers will discuss their personal faith.  Today’s piece was written by a prominent aniblogger and is posted anonymously.  The previous posts in this series were written by Lauren Orisini, R86, Nikko, AriannaEd Sizemore and Canne.

When asked what my religion is, I say that I’m “non-religious,” meaning that, while I have my own beliefs about life and the world, I don’t follow any established religion’s view about these things nor does any recognized faith play a role in my life.

I’m a believer in the idea that man created God rather than the other way around. It makes more sense to me considering human history and nature. Life is hard and full of suffering – it always has been since humans existed and it continues to be so even with all the advances of modern society today. As soon as humans evolved differently from other animals and developed the ability to ponder about themselves, they couldn’t help but think “What’s it all for?” and “Why is life so hard?” That’s where religion came in – it made sense out of a senseless world and gave people reasons for why their lives are worthwhile and their struggles will pay off. This is why religion was so much more prominent in people’s everyday lives hundreds of years ago than it is today. Back then, without all the scientific knowledge we have today to explain phenomena in the world, people had no reason to doubt whatever the religion in their society would tell them. They needed something to make sense out of the world and assure them that life is better than the suffering they see around them. And, just as environment dictated how the culture and language of people in different countries developed, religion too developed differently in different countries to complement the unique lifestyles of the people there. Thus, that’s why we have different religions like Christianity and Buddhism.

As the centuries went by, religion became less and less prominent in people’s lives because scientific discoveries were gradually making more sense to people. As people gained diverse and easy methods of obtaining information through books, TV, Internet, and other forms of media, that too presented them with a wide range of things to ponder and believe in, and not just whatever religion was around them. But…religion is still a huge part of human societies because, as I mentioned before, there’s still hardship and suffering in the world, as well as many things that science can’t fully explain. People still need something or someone to assure them that they’re loved and will be taken care of in an otherwise chaotic world. As long as there’s unreasonable suffering in life, most people will need religion.

Having grown up in the United States, specifically southern California, Western mono-theological religions like Christianity, Judaism, and Catholicism are what I’ve mainly been exposed to. So why can’t I subscribe to such faiths?

To me, the evidence that I see against them far outweighs the evidence for them. All I have to do is look at the world around me and think about human beings. If I were to list all the painful, horrible ailments that humans can become afflicted with – both in mind and in body – such a list would take pages and pages. I have to ask “What kind of ‘loving’ God would inflict his children with such an endless array of mind and body diseases?” Not only that, but they’re distributed at random, with innocent people suffering and guilty people getting let off. And as if all the multitudes of illnesses and viruses people can suffer from weren’t enough, think of all the terrible accidents and disasters that occur around the world everyday. The recent horror in Japan is a prime example. After seeing something like this, I wonder how people can believe in a kind, loving God that snuffs out a slew of lives in a minute and leaves many more broken lives for those who are left behind. Any father on Earth who did such things to his children with reasons like “it’s for their own good” would be condemned a horrid criminal. Yet when the father called God does such horrible things, he’s never condemned and is instead, ironically, prayed to and implored to help with this horror that He created!

But I know the religions offer many explanations for all the unjust suffering:

“You’re being punished because you must have sinned”

- But who created the sin in the first place? It’s like God creating a kleptomaniac and then blaming him for stealing even though God made him that way. God could have made all his children happy and content without any need to sin, yet he never made a single one like that. He created them with urges and desires that would make them sin, and then blames them for it instead of himself, the one who created it all. But even so, the suffering is distributed fairly evenly among the sinners and sinless, so it doesn’t make sense to say that you’ll necessarily be punished because you sinned.

“You’ll be rewarded in the afterlife”

- What’s the point of enduring so much suffering because you might be rewarded in an afterlife that no one has ever proven exists? Should I compromise my life because some faith created ages ago before people understood anything about the world said I would be rewarded by following their example of a good life? The only life that there’s evidence for is the one right now.

“God is watching us and testing us for our own good”

- Suffering and evil happen whether he watches us or not, so what’s the point of him watching us if he’s the one who created the suffering in the first place. He watches sin after sin being committed by bad people on innocent people, sometimes the bad people get punished, most of the time they don’t, so what’s the point of imploring him for help if he’ll sometimes listen and sometimes won’t, whether you worship him or not? And if some otherwise decent person is slowly dying from a painful disease, or has to endure misery everyday of their life, what’s the point of saying he’s “testing” us when he won’t tell us why and just leaves us to ponder our own misery. Again, it’s a convenient way for people to tolerate their miserable lives by believing it’s for their own good without the need for further examination.

“God works in mysterious ways”

- This is the phrase that can toss any form or reason or debate out the window. Whatever illogical or cruel thing happens, saying that “God will take care of it” or “It’s part of God’s mysterious plan,” and then calmly accepting it as such, is just so convenient and leaves no room for further thinking. If a nice man with a loving family is suddenly killed in a car accident, while a cold-blooded murderer gets away with a mild sentence, that’s not “mysterious” – it’s terrible and unjust! We know nothing of the ways of God and why he creates such despicable things, but whenever it happens we’re just supposed to smile and accept it. “God works in mysterious ways” and similar ideas make excuses for all the horror God creates. We pray to him daily for good fortune, and no matter how much misfortune we get (while others who don’t pray get good fortune) we’re still supposed to believe that we’re an important part of his plan and our prayers are worth something to him? We don’t know what his plans are but apparently he has such plans so that any amount of suffering he inflicts on the innocent is fine (but when we do likewise, we’re considered horrible sinners!)

So now that I’ve established why the concept of a loving God in Western religion makes no sense to me, what do I believe in? I do believe there is some omnipotent power out there that we humans cannot touch. Call it “Nature,” a kind of god if you will, but not the kind that humans created. Humans are not the special darlings of the universe but are a part of Nature and this planet just like every other creature. Nature and the universe must move along their course, and unfortunately a lot of suffering for living beings results, as Nature is neutral to individual lives. Even though the planet has to go through many changes that could have catastrophic results, Nature manages to sustain life in this world despite the terrible deeds that humans inflict on themselves, other creatures, and the planet in general. Because I’m non-religious, religion has nothing to do with my love of anime (unless you want to call anime my religion!) and thus, how it’s depicted in anime, or if it is at all, doesn’t have an effect on my enjoyment of the anime.

So what’s there to do when the suffering is distributed at random and there’s no sure way of us humans knowing what the meaning of it all is. I believe we were given our own individual eyes, hearts, and minds to create our own truth and not follow a truth we get second-hand from teachings that were created ages ago before people knew what they know today. The one truth we do know is that we all want to feel well and live as happily as we can. So I believe we should be kind and understanding to each other and have dignity and respect for ourselves. I don’t have to believe in a God or follow any complicated theology to understand that.

Note: My beliefs were inspired by Mark Twain. If you’re interested in reading more, check out some of his writing.

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About TWWK

TWWK, known to outlaws and lawmen alike as Charles, lives deep in the heart of Texas, where he drives cattle and boot scoots (not really - though he does sport a pair of rattlesnake boots). Somehow in this frontier, he also finds time for his wife, children, and church. Oh, and anime, too.

Posted on 05.05.2011, in Aniblogger Testimony, Religion. Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. First, let me refute the notions you have about Christianity.

    “You’re being punished because you must have sinned”

    Christianity doesn’t teach this. The whole of the book of Job is basically refuting this idea.

    “You’ll be rewarded in the afterlife”

    This is a standalone point not directly connected to the role of suffering. You are rewarded for deeds not necessarily for having been through hard times.

    “God is watching us and testing us for our own good”

    The Bible says (James 1:13): “When under trial, let no one say: “I am being tried by God.” For with evil things God cannot be tried nor does he himself try anyone. ” So that’s not in the bible either.

    “God works in mysterious ways”

    I can’t stand people who say this too. Has no meaning other than, I can’t explain this.

    So what DOES the Bible say about the role of suffering? I could go into a huge preach but I’ll make it shortish.
    Humanity through Adam and Eve chose to eat the fruit hence symbolising that they wanted to make decisions for themselves and didn’t need God. Original Sin, sin is inherited by all descendants. Hence, sickness and death. Jesus dies in order to pay equivalent exchange for Adam’s sin, all who choose it can take advantage of it. Man however still is now faced with the choice of enjoying life now, (however they want to) or following the Bible’s guidance and being reunited with God. Bible talks of new Heavens and new Earth that only the good will see where we will live out an eternal life. Till then, still have sin, still get sick and die.

    Hope I’ve educated you a bit on Christianity, though I’m not sure if it was any help. You have to try to disassociate what the “Christian community” says and what is actually in the Bible. Jesus wasn’t born Dec 25, Easter eggs have nothing to do with Jesus, many various different words were taken and thrown under the term “Hell” etc.

    “The one truth we do know is that we all want to feel well and live as happily as we can.”

    For me this is the crux of the matter. Everyone wants to be happy, yet people do such horrible things to each other for their own happiness. My belief allows me to understand and bring meaning to it all, perhaps it is a self-deception, after all I cannot summon God to show to you, but I do believe in the hope that the Bible brings. I do believe that if people read it they wouldn’t just see it as an old book with no application to life now. This was fun :)

    • Thanks for sharing. There are misconceptions about what Christianity is all about – even many “believers” totally misconstrue even the most significant tenants of scripture, while others don’t even try to lead the life the profess to lead.

      Thanks for the comments in regards to the author’s points. I think there’s a schism in how believers and unbelievers see suffering in relation to a Christian God – Christians see suffering as the result of humanity’s sin (for the most part – trials will certainly come), while many non-Christians believe suffering to be God’s fault. I think the author’s post and your response perfectly reflects this divide.

      • So the idea is that all the billions of human beings have to suffer unjustly because of something Adam and Eve did? If they were the first humans, how could they have even known what sin was or how their choice would ruin the lives of so many of their “decedents”? Even if this is so, if God is all powerful and loving, he should know that his world would be a better place if humans didn’t have to unfairly inherit this misery because of events long ago that they had no control over. Wouldn’t it at least be more “fatherly” to make happiness the majority in the world instead of suffering? Having such horror and pain in the world just because of something the Bible claims two humans did seems really unjust. All this just so we compromise our lives to follow God and supposedly “be reunited with him” and see these “new Heavens and Earth,” which again no one can prove exists.

        • The points you bring up are very important ones to address. They’re among the key ones for those who believe the Christian God COULD exist, but are weary about who He is.

          Without going into detail, I think one important matter to keep in mind is this. Besides original sin, the Bible stresses that we are all sinners. We all commit sin – and so, we all choose to turn away from God. Thus, it’s not just Adam and Eve – sin is perpetuated by us all. The Father, according to the parable of the prodigal son, acts like a father I think most of us would have – he gives us freedom to make our own choices, even if they are mistakes – and when we realize we are wrong, he runs to us, celebrating and loving with open arms.

          • I’m not talking about sin so much as suffering that people are unable to do anything about. For example, people with painful, debilitating diseases or the victims of horrific natural disasters. There’s no “freedom to make our own choices” with this. Nobody “chooses” to have cancer, or to be born in poverty, or to have their home destroyed in a fire. Again, I ask what father would commit such a multitude of terrible deeds, seemingly at random, to all his billions of children, regardless of anything they’ve done.

            • I totally understand what you’re saying – and this is an extremely important question to pose. The reason I was discussing sin is because I believe that the reason these conditions exist is because of sin – not because of God. The world was a perfect creation – sin led to imperfection and the world as we now know it. We all sin and contribute to this mess. As I mentioned above, it’s God who gives us a way out.

              Anyway, this is what I believe as a follower of Christ.

              • Even if we talk in terms of sins, I find it terribly masochistic to live with such beliefs. And it’s kind of …illogical to burden yourself with sth non -existent and then seek sth other non-existent to save you. Why someone who hasn’t done anything in his/her life, hence a baby, is considered to bare a sin? Why should taking the apple of knowledge is considered a sin? I’d say to Eve, she’s done well. Perhaps knowledge comes with a price, but I prefer constantly learning and not being in the dark and ignorant I think Bible contradicts itself many times, since it’s a compilation of many people’s beliefs and of many eras. And well, since a Bible is a text, it can be read in many ways. Anyone can be selective of the parts he likes and approves.

                I’ll agree with the writer, since such beliefs, even if not mentioned in the Bible, have become part of the faith due to the clerks’ lectures and the tradition and are reasoned back to God.

                I can understand that Bible or any other religious book might include and might be interpreted in really philosophic and loving ways, but I’ll stick to my conscious instead of feeling that I’m bossed by someone I don’t know. Because there can be some very ugly parts, too…Julia Sweeney, who you can find either on Ted talks or Youtube, with some humour has tackled the issue very well quoting the more ‘suspicious’ articles. I also understand that’s your belief and I won’t change your point of view as you won’t change mine. But anyways, we must thank you for letting other beliefs in the spotlight, too.

  2. But if God is all knowing, powerful, loving, etc., he should be able to get rid of sin, or at least distribute the horror that it causes mankind more fairly. What sin has a newborn baby or young child committed that makes it acceptable for them to suffer painful birth defects or hunger from the moment they’re born? They don’t even know what a sin is or how to commit one, yet their punishment is much worse than lots of truly wicked people who sin all the time yet are able to live comfortable lives. God should at least have the power to do something about this kind of terrible injustice in the world, yet more evidence than not shows that he doesn’t.

    • You’ve got excellent points. I think that your point of view is both typical and more than reasonable. Christians do look at things from an “eternal perspective,” though. Any child dying or suffering is tragic (I certainly would feel a hole right in my heart if my son or daughter was in such a situation), but a Christian has hope in the infinite time of Heaven, rather than our finite time on earth. That said, it’s hard to focus on an invisible future when what we have is here and now – and we shouldn’t ignore our time here for looking toward Heaven.

      The problem of pain is universal. The entire book of Job, which is the oldest book of the Bible, is precisely about pain – Job wonders why he’s lost everything – family, money, health – even though he’s faithful to God and a good man, while the evil get richer. This is a question that has been asked of God from the beginning of time. I think it’s crucial to have an understanding of suffering, sin, and holiness (in a Christian perspective) to accept God as loving.

      With that said, I invite you or anyone else to continue this conversation of pain via email. I want to end on this invitation in case anyone now or in the future wants to discuss – I only ask that you are open to the possibility of God. If so, I think our discussion can be fruitful.

      • oops just saw your last lines. you can delete my comments, if you like.

        • Ayame, thanks for the thoughtful comments. And thanks for mentioning Julia Sweeney – I am familiar with her work.

          I understand much of what you’re saying. I do think, though, we must make a distinction between an individual’s analysis of text and “truth.” The Bible, in a sense, is the same as any work, event, or piece of media – it can be interpreted in a variety of ways. For instance, I read and listen to conservative voters talk about how great Rick Perry is, but they’re basing their opinion, I believe, on incomplete ideas and wrong analysis. The “truth” is a different picture. Unfortunately, most of us are more willing to follow secondary sources than to go closer to the primary source, and thus errors beget errors.

          I think this is important to point out because I think that perhaps you have an inaccurate image of the God presented in the Bible. I’ve read the entirety of the Bible over a half-dozen times and the NT twice that many and I’ve been attending church since I was a wee lad, but still, my knowledge of the text and of the faith feels immature, so it’s not surprising that you or I or anyone can point out certain passages without understanding all the depth that goes into the text – connotation, original meaning of words, historical context, literary intent, interpretation, placement of the event within a larger story, et al. For instance, we all know the story of Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden – Christian or not. But what we’re told isn’t the whole story; there’s so much to be analyzed within the text. Did God want to keep man ignorant? Umm…I don’t think so – in fact, Adam was very “modern” and knowledgeable – a gardener, lover of all animals, and a spiritual man. The knowledge was of evil – to know evil isn’t to comprehend it; it’s to be intimate with it.

          And I’m glad you brought up that example, because I think it does reveal what I believe God to be – not a bossy man in the clouds, but a loving father. I’m a dad and I understand this point of view – I try every day to keep my children from harm and to teach them what’s right, but sometimes, they disobey. I punish them so that they won’t do wrong again, for their own good – after all, they can’t possibly know as much as me – they are simply to young and immature and inexperience and underdeveloped. But in the end, all I do is (hopefully) out of love, to embrace my children. And even if they do something I find to be really awful, after punishment, I still embrace and kiss them and tell them I love them and that all is forgiven, but it’s their job to try to do better. And I see in their eyes and hear in their words that they want to do better and though I know they’ll fail time and time again, I’ll be there to pick them up and say it’s okay, because I know they’re not perfect. My standard is perfection, but I know they’ll fall short, and when they do I’ll run to them. Such is the Christian God.

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