God seems to be almost a taboo topic in today’s day in age, and I find that quite disheartening. It tends to be a topic that ostracizes people and pushes people away. Even the mention of a belief in God seems to make people think you’re some blindly faithful religious zealot incapable of independent thought. But I think in reality when it comes to living a fulfilled life, for most people a belief and reliance on a Higher Power isn’t just beneficial, but actually necessary. A rejection or absence of God leads to nihilism, and I truly believe that only a select minority, if anyone at all, is actually capable of achieving happiness and fulfilment in such a mindset. For myself I know that when I was an atheist/agnostic, the idea of a purpose to life felt unbelievable, meaningless, most all the time. I think that’s because without a belief that there is actually something divine that created me, what am I actually living for?
All that is left when I don’t have faith in God is hedonism. If I truly don’t feel as though anything created me (even better, loves me unconditionally and wants me to thrive) then I’m left feeling empty and hollow. I find it odd how infrequently God was mentioned to me by therapists and psychiatrists over the years because I do see it as a way out of existential depression and utterly crushing nihilism. There’s this view of God and people who believe in God as blind sheep, or people that are just afraid of dying so they want to cling onto the hope that there is something beyond life. And I used to see it that way as well. I actively denied the existence of God for the majority of my life. There seems to be this erroneous idea that whatever is intangible and not provable by science is false, despite so much evidence (admittedly anecdotal) to the contrary.
There’s a series of great books by a psychiatrist named Dr. Scott Peck called the Road Less Travelled, and in those three books he talks about belief in God. Beyond that, much like Carl Jung stated, he doesn’t just believe in God, he knows that God exists. In those books Dr. Peck devised four stages of spiritual development not so cleverly called Stage One, Stage Two, Stage Three, and Stage Four. And in it he actually talks about this rejection or separation from God, something that I think is extremely common among people who are raised in a faith and then seem to later on reject it, as people who are actually further along in their spiritual development than those who simply accepted whatever faith or religion they were taught, and never strayed from it. I think he’s right. The importance of faith in God seems to be increased in myself because I spent so many years without it. I never just accepted that there was a God, I fought against it and lived in the absence of it and in doing so I realized just how wrong I was and how important a belief in God truly is for me.
Much like how the importance of water is probably more apparent to the average person in sub-Saharan Africa than it is to people in the West, who have it readily available at all times, the importance in a belief in God is much more apparent to someone that lived without it for so many years than it probably is to people who never questioned it at all. I’m not saying everyone ought to believe in God, because that is not only unrealistic but antithetical to what I believe God would want. But I think people in general need to realize that a stagnant faith, whether that is full belief in God and religious dogma, or complete belief in science and atheism, is the wrong approach. The journey of spiritual development is a never-ending progression and I think if you’ve held the exact same beliefs for years upon years, you’re not actively making any progress or development. Even if you’re becoming less faithful and rejecting God more and more each day, at least you’re thinking about it. I know for myself I was doing that for many years, and eventually the total rejection and belief that God didn’t exist, forced me into a point of desperation and a realization that I was wrong, which led me back to God with a stronger belief than ever. The active separation between me and God eventually manifested itself into an adhesive bond with God, making my belief in Him far greater, and my relationship far stronger than it ever was a child, before I rejected Him.
I’m not saying you have to reject God or be a non-believer in order to have a strong connection with God eventually, I’m simply suggesting that faith is a continual process that has to be contemplated. Much like a relationship with another person has to be cultivated, assessed, and questioned, a belief in God is the same. People seem to cling onto their belief or lack of belief and defend it at all cost. But I think a change in faith can be as simple as a change in clothing. If you don’t believe in God, why not pray? Why not prove yourself right by actively praying every day to a God you don’t believe in? If nothing changes then you can rest assured you were right. If you’re truly a person that is completely rational and objective, a believer in science and a rejecter of faith, than why not submit yourself to the simple experiment of prayer? In my estimation genuine belief in anything (God, science, or both) has to be preceded by an open-mind. No progress will be made under the assumption that you’re right. To me, faith is predicated on the fact that you might be wrong, but you believe anyway.
- Jack A. Bingham
Author of Obsessive-Compulsive Dramatic: My Fight Against OCD, Borderline Personality Disorder, and Addiction