When I was a Christian, I thought that I would not have value if God didn’t exist. The only way that I would have value is if a God who exalted me above the rest of existence came into my life and declared I was valuable.
I think a lot of Christians have that mentality. When I say that I don’t believe in God, they wonder how I get on without deep depression when I don’t have any God-given worth or value. To be honest, when I first left Christianity, I wondered that myself. I had lost my status as a Child of God, so what made me valuable? What made me special? What made my life “mean” anything?
I mean, I was basically atoms and molecules that gave rise to consciousness; I wasn’t set apart or superior to the universe. I’d be lying if I said that this wasn’t depressing at first. Going from being someone that God deeply valued to just being another infinitesimal part of the universe was a bit traumatic.
But as that realization became my New Normal, something else began to happen. The fact that I wasn’t consecrated and separated from the rest of the universe made me feel more part of it. It gave me a sense belonging — one that wasn’t rooted in trying to please God, but rather in the raw fact that I existed, inherently harmonious with everything else.
That sense of belonging enabled me to appreciate the universe in a different way. When I was a Christian, I would look at it all with an air of God-given superiority, as if it was all there for me to be impressed by God’s glory. Now, as an atheist, I look at the rest of existence as if I am part of it. I don’t look at the stars in the night sky or the wonder of a waterfall as if it is purely outside of me; I look at it as if it is part of the same universe I am part of, as if we are fundamentally made of the same stuff, just in a different form. It’s a less lonely world in that way. It’s peaceful to me.
I also know, though, that in this reality we can consciously choose to prize some people and things over and above others. Before, I would say that something or someone was valuable because God said so, because God had supposed veto power over things that people valued in this world; you could say something was valuable, but it wasn’t really valuable unless God put His rubber stamp on it. To be honest, there was a kind of comfort in this, at the time. I could say things that I really wanted to be valuable, like love, were valuable not because I, one person out of billions, said so, but because God said so.When I left Christianity, at first it was deeply humbling to admit that the things I valued were just that — the things I valued. And many people did not care about the things I valued. I couldn’t invoke God to support the things I valued. It was just me.
But as I continued being an atheist, I found that other people valued many of the same things I valued, and together we could create an enclave, a section of the universe that could actually care about other parts of the universe.
It’s beautiful, to me, that I have the ability to love other people, and that those people have the ability to love me. I may not matter more than the rest of the universe, if we take human judgment out of the equation, but it’s a beautiful thing to me that I matter more to you.
To you. To someone I can touch, talk to, see, etc. It’s different. No, you’re not great in the way I thought God was when I believed He existed, but you’re accessible. You’re There. And so am I.
I’m not sure if I would say this point of view is better than the Christian viewpoint. For some people it may be, but the fact that something is true does not mean that it is pleasant.
But it is a shift that has caused me to live with a sense of security and peace as an atheist, so maybe it’ll help you, too.
Thank you for reading.
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