Friday, 26 June 2015

The Anxious Atheist Part 1 – Why I am not Religious.

I was walking down the streets of Cambridge the other day enjoying the sunshine, when I passed by a group of people handing out free Christian literature bearing the slogan: ‘What does the bible do for you?’

I ignored them but the slogan triggered something in my head which I was certainly not expecting. For the best part of my life I have been a non believer. I don’t actually think I can recall ever truly claiming to believe in God because even as a 4 year old at a Christian school, I could tell the bible stories told to us were just fairy tales with a Christian twist.

But the slogan of what the bible has taught me, gave me what has to be the real reason I’ve never believed in a god nor an afterlife and it’s quite simple: religion does not work for someone with anxiety.
All Saints Church, Bishop's Stortford - where I was forced to go at school.

As I’ve mentioned on here several times before, I suffer from Asperger’s Syndrome, an area of the autism spectrum, and one of the symptoms of this is anxiety. In my day to day life I face attacks of worry and scares usually triggered by the actions of others or because I don’t know how things I do will turn out.

And in religion, particularly the Christianity that was bestowed upon me by my schooling, you have to be aware of all your actions and decisions and anything moral or doable because if you do something that might offend the holy father, you’re going to end up in hell for all eternity.

Now for somebody who is made anxious by something that may appear trivial to another, having to think long and hard about everything you do and having to turn to a 2,000 year old text which contradicts itself a horrendous number of times, then religious faith really isn’t the way to live your life.

I have thought about why I don’t believe in an afterlife and I’ve come to the conclusion that death being the end of everything is quite satisfying for me. Knowing that we’re all heading for the same ending is very pleasing and has a sense of equality to it. I’ve been striving for equality all my life, and I have noticed, that regardless of how equal society is becoming day by day, only true equality exists in the graveyard.
Bishop's Stortford Cemetery - where I usually go.
Anyone in your cemetery could have been a billionaire or a flea-ridden peasant in their life but they lie side by side in peace and harmony. Everyone has their own story and we live in a world where we are constantly told to compete against one another to feel successful, be it financially or educationally.

Religion holds such an attitude as well. Regardless of how much people say ‘let the lord have mercy upon your soul’, all religions function around the principles where its followers can compete against others to be ‘the good guy’. Now being religious DOES NOT make you a good person, nor does doing more things deemed good than others, such as giving more to charity than your next door neighbour, etc.

This is essentially every reason why I have never felt the need to worship someone or something or have faith. If I were to break faith down, I’ll tell you that faith is something you HOPE to be true, because you can easily lose it or withdraw yourself from it. I’ll add too that science is different from faith because it is evidence based and can weigh up the pros and cons in a manner that faith cannot. Being told to be faithful and having to watch every move you make or every thought or feeling that enters your head is not something good for a person with anxiety on so many levels.

If you are anxious about life and are seeking a way forward, then turning to a set of ideas where you must have the burden of your god upon you at all times, then that for me does not aid a problem like anxiety, it actually makes the problem worse. I have been prone to panic attacks and severe stomach aches in my lifetime which have all been brought on by worries, particularly of other people. Because I feel the need to be cautious around lots of people, can you imagine just how much pain I would feel if I were thinking and worrying long and hard every day about what the holy father might say to me on judgement day?

And the idea of the apocalypse and judgement day is also something I cannot recommend to someone who worries a great deal and finds it very hard to control themselves.

Now I’ll just round up with a statement of neutrality and say that I am not against people being religious and if you disagree with everything I’ve said here, that’s absolutely fine. This is a statement explaining why I don’t need to worship someone or something and why I feel much better knowing there is an end to the road that is life. I also will say that science is an ideal explanation to many of the curiosities I hold because I can apply it to humanity. I cannot apply such deep and contradicted things like the love of god nor the symbolism of the son of man to people’s lives and understand how it can work. Yes science can be dehumanising, but ethics comes into science more than religion in my opinion. I have many memories of being told to stop questioning religion ethically from a very young age.

This is why I don’t do Jesus. I don’t do Allah. I don’t do Vishnu nor the many other gods/goddesses or whatnot that people follow. But if you do, then that’s fine because we all have the freedom to believe and not to believe.

I am going to be making this the first in a series of posts that explain my stance on religion and on atheism, secularism, humanism and how I think society should treat faith.

I’ll see you again next time when I explain why faith schools should not exist and religion should stay out of politics.

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