I'm hesitant to write about religion mainly because I piss people off. I like being liked, and I don't think anything is gained just by offending people. When I state plainly and without judgement that there is most likely no God, soul, or any supernatural realm we travel to after death it's not my intention to provoke anger or be confrontational, but when someone asks my opinion on theology I give my honest answer. I call myself a naturalist, someone skeptical of all supernatural phenomenon. I don't call myself an atheist nor an agnostic because both miss the mark. I tend to trust credible evidence and explanations grounded in research. This leaves plenty of room for the unknown. I try my best not to make a religion out of skepticism. I can't say for certain that there isn't a consciousness we might call God. So far, such evidence is unconvincing to me, but I'm open to the idea. We're quite unaware of what exactly consciousness is, but my idea of what that might be is light years away from what most people call God.
I believed because I wanted to. I still love those stories. Arguably I love those stories even more now that I'm not motivated to find ways that they are in some vague way true. I have had genuine religious experiences. I've felt the power of the Holy Sprit. I have prayed and felt God's presence and guidance when I asked for it. I know what religious faith feels like and it is no less a piece of evidence to support my worldview as it is now. The only difference is that my experiences fit into a new context of honesty with myself and others. I experienced unbelievable things through drugs and sleep deprivation in much the same way I experienced the divine. It doesn't make those religious experiences invalid, but it made me have to take a step back and rethink the supremacy of my perspective. It's not a contradiction to experience God and it not be real. My perspective isn't the only thing that matters. Just because I feel it doesn't make it real.
I was a happy Christian up until I wasn't convinced it was literally true. I didn't consider it a spiritual awakening at the time, more like a crisis of faith, but now I see that it was. I was starting to think critically about reality in a way I had never done before. It led me to many discoveries about myself and the world, and made my character stronger. I no longer did or believed things based on an appeal to authority. I started seeing what the world was like and stopped obsessing about why it is the way it is. Accuracy matters to me. Whenever I have a discussion about spirituality I like to get into specifics, but rarely is that even possible. And when I do get some specifics they are often ridiculous and unsubstantiated. Still, there's no judgement coming from me. I'd rather you be happy than right and and it's just something I believe, not a prescription for any one else's belief system.
In my experience, the reason so many people struggle with religion is because on some level they aren't buying into their own beliefs. Some of the contradictions religious faith brings up are so apparent that they have long established names. One such conundrum is known as the problem of pain. Why would an all powerful all loving God allow so much pain in the world? The solution is usually prayer, free will, and "God works in mysterious ways" which is basically a non answer. Free will doesn't explain evil the way that some people think it does simply because free will isn't an either or proposition. We can lose control of our will and do things we don't want to do, and some people can be so tightly wound that their choices are almost automatic. It's pretty easy to imagine God creating creatures with free will that aren't evil. The people who don't see these contradictions explicitly probably still feel them intuitively. I expect that people won't see it the same way I do, but I like people who are able to discuss their beliefs openly and rationally. I find it is a rare and beautiful thing for one to be internally consistent in their spiritual beliefs even when they differ from my own.
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