As an atheist, I often struggle with the way God is talked about. Hell, I struggled with that first sentence even because to me, “God” should be written in quotations. Through my personal interest in all world religions I have come to realize that everyone has a personal belief for what God is. Even those that don’t believe a deity can exist. Some might refer to it as a myth, or a story or a spiritual being, but in my opinion God is just a concept. And a fascinating one at that. We could debate on the reality of it, but what I find more important is all the ideas that this concept represents.
First, religious people might tell you that God is love. I argue though, how am I able to love my children while not believing in a God. To me, love exists because of love. I love my children, I care for them, I nurture them, I listen to them, I discipline them and I teach them. And their love is reciprocated back to me. They hold me and kiss me and tell me that they love me. I, in turn, am able to give even more love back. I teach my kids about ‘the love bucket’ they hold in their hearts. There are lots of ways we fill our love bucket. I love reading and writing and painting and cooking, I love being with people and I love being alone. When I do these things, I am filled positively and am able to give love to the people in my care. My love bucket is filled and the overflow then goes to my loved ones. So in my mind, love exists because of love. Giving love multiplies love, but where then is the ultimate source of love? I guess we could all agree to disagree. I believe the source of love exists within me. By loving myself, I can love others.
Next, once a person has given themselves true love, this is what opens a persons heart to compassion. Supposedly, God has compassion for those of us struggling here on earth. My atheistic mindset cannot really wrap my brain around that idea any more, just given the reality of the state of the world, but this is what I believed when I was religious. God supposedly looks on our suffering and has compassion so he sends blessings and miracles to help us solve our problems. Again, I don’t see this as being realistic, but what is realistic is that in loving myself through my own struggles and being the ultimate source of support and comfort to my hurt, I am now able to recognize in others when they are suffering and have compassion on them in return. I notice now what it looks like when someone is under financial or martial stress but cannot articulate it. I can offer compassion at that time by listening because they need it. I have love to give them because I am filling my own bucket and my compassion for myself stops me from giving more energy than I have to give.
Finally, the last idea birthed from the concept of God that I find to be more important than “God” himself, gratitude. A person does not need to believe in God to be grateful but who are we to thank if you are an atheist like me who doesn’t believe there is anyone out there in the great beyond. Well, I am grateful for my path and journey. I am grateful to be me. My path is solely unique and I am grateful for my experience on this planet (hopefully the next planet will be a little less terrifying). Every hard thing I have been through is a lesson and a source of inspiration for my art. I am grateful to suffer because in the end I will have lived through it. I am grateful to survive and overcome. I am grateful for my children and husband and family and friends and clients as coworkers. I am thankful for them all because I learn, I grow, and I get stronger through everything that comes my way. I don’t need a God for these things, however cultivating gratefulness is what has saved me from sinking deeply into my own self pity when things do get really hard.
In summary, we could argue about which religions concept of God is the most accurate, but I find to be much more important is the ideas that god represents. Cultivating love, compassion, and gratefulness do not rely on a deity. Whatever your personal god is, if it births in you good things like these that I have mentioned than your spirituality is working.
Thank you for thinking with me.
And thank you for thinking for yourself.