Letting Go of the Guilt and Fear

A recent poll by the Pew Research Center has shown a significant drop in the number of Americans who call themselves Christians, and a large increase in those who say they are ‘unaffiliated’. Count me among them.

I was raised Presbyterian by very decent parents and went to church every Sunday as a kid. But as the years passed I found it ever harder to make sense of religion, including my own. Significant hypocrisies between the teachings and many followers’ actions were (and still are) commonplace, the ‘business’ of the church overshadowed the real meaning, and I realized a person’s faith was not what made them good and decent – those who were would still be that way if they weren’t religious, maybe even more so since they would be less likely to judge others who didn’t believe similarly. I also realized there are hundreds, if not thousands, of religions in the world whose followers all believe theirs is the correct one. Since that is not possible it is most likely they all have it wrong.

Over the years it took to rid myself of the guilt and fear that I might be a non-believer, I’ve come to see religion as just one more reason for people to be at odds with one another, simply because they don’t believe the same. Yes, there are many people with open minds who do not fit this mold, but those seem to be the exceptions and are strongly overshadowed by the actions of their faith’s extremists. History speaks for itself on that one.

I now believe that most, if not all, religions began as a way to explain things that weren’t yet understood – to ease the fear of the unknown, primarily death.  Many faiths were subsequently (if not initially) hijacked by some overzealous ego who wanted to control the masses; using guilt, fear, and the promise of a beautiful afterlife to increase their following.

Today we still don’t truly understand where we came from, how it all began, or where we are going, and maybe we never will. But the universe continues to unfold, and our tiny corner of it here on this small blue planet includes some unbelievably beautiful nature we get to enjoy during our time, so long as we take care of it.  And I no longer fear death.  Every living thing eventually passes on.  When asked by someone what I think it will be like after I die, I simply ask if they remember what it was like before they were born.  I believe it will be just like that.