I mean, I can understand the need to belong to something bigger than yourself, and I think that’s an honourable and fundamental human need, but I don’t get why that ‘thing’ needs to be a set of beliefs that some guy came up with yonks ago that you’re supposed to just accept as truth.
Your brain is hardwired to make sense of the world around you; without that facility you’d simply go nuts.
But while this need to derive meaning and belief from the data around us is central to being human, the content of those beliefs – whether you believe in goblins, a political leader or a higher power – is entirely up to us.
“This remark outrages the sensibilities of those who have deep religious convictions and attachments and they regard it as insulting,” says Prof AC Grayling from the University of London. ”But the truth is that everyone takes this attitude about all but one (or a very few) of the gods that have ever been claimed to exist.”
“No reasonably orthodox Christian believes in Aphrodite or the rest of the Olympian deities, or in Ganesh the Elephant God or the rest of the Hindu pantheon, or in the Japanese emperor, and so endlessly on.”
This makes complete sense to me, but what doesn’t make so much sense is taking someone else’s belief system and adopting it as your own. It’s like doing a Sean Connery impression and expecting to be allowed into MI6.
Another professor, Professor Bruce Hood, is the author of a fascinating book called “Supersense” and a very clever man. He agrees with me,
“I would say that our brains are programmed to try and understand what causes things to happen in the world and coming up with a supreme being seems to be the most sensible and easy solution…. and it is one of the reasons religions have been so successful” he says.
We’re all looking for answers. We’re all searching for a path that feels right to us, a path we’re eager to follow because it just might give us those answers. The easy way is to follow a path that’s already carved out and marked, and in that way I think religion is often the easy way out – a way of dodging self-actualisation in order to find an already carved out self-concept and world-view.
I’ve come across individuals who place their faith in a God above their faith in themselves, and I gotta say, I have a problem with that.
The impact of believing in a God more than you believe in yourself is vast. That belief in a higher power may give you strength at times, it may give you comfort and it may give you hope. But how much more amazing would it be if you came to see that those qualities come from your own self, rather than looking to be granted those qualities by a supernatural being?
Believing in God more than yourself means that you externally seek to be granted the values and qualities that you are capable of manifesting internally.
It means you get to miss out on the threads of gold that YOU have. It means you don’t fully feel the true scope and scale of what your head and heart are capable.
To my mind, what’s altogether more powerful, more life affirming, more graceful and more freeing, is knowing and exploring your own belief system based on the things that matter to you, personally.
What’s more self-actualising is the evolution of your own beliefs and your own values, rather than having that work done for you and grappling with them to try to make them fit.
I know I’m likely to get into trouble with this post because it’s an emotive and deeply personal subject. Yes, I fully accept that religion does make you ask questions and it does make you think, but at the end of the day it ends up in faith – the catch-all argument to end all arguments.
It’s that unquestioning belief that I take issue with, because, for me at least, the magic of life is in exploring the world and your own heart and mind in a spirit of openness, curiosity and grace.