I live in a Christian household. That is to say, I have three wonderful roommates who are all devout Christians and had wanted another Christian roommate.
They got me instead. Having spent most of my college weekends going to church, retreats, worship practice and Bible study, I have stepped into a church perhaps twice in the past year or two. While humbly respecting their faith, I openly profess my doubt in a benevolent God, though I do not question the existence of a superior force that set life into motion. I do wonder sometimes, whether there had been prayers made to determine whether a heathen such as I would be a good fit for the house prior to my moving in, but it’s been a fun journey so far.
As most of my friends know, I’ve spent much time pondering about God, reading books, listening to sermons, having sometimes heated discussions. I do feel that life is rather empty for those who do not believe in anything, those with no principles that they hold dear and live by. I had, at one point, turned to the Bible for these principles, and at another point, Buddhist scriptures. What I found were valuable teachings, however, I had trouble with the idea I have to take every word to be the absolute truth. I will not fall into silly arguments about specific commandments God made in Leviticus, Deuteronomy or Exodus (actually I’m personally not a fan of the Old Testament in general), as I’m sure most people will agree that killing people who work on Sundays is ill-advised. I won’t even put into question whether Jesus really rose from the dead. I have long lost interest in historical facts and figures, and the only question that remains for me is: why do you believe God to be personal and benevolent?
The older I get, the more I realize how insignificant I am to this universe. How little I know of this world, of what came before I came into existence and what happens after my life on earth ceases. What is the meaning of life then? To glorify God and be reborn into Heaven, the Bible says. Why? Because our dear ancestors chose evil over good and were banished from Eden, so here’s our second chance, to be given free will and to choose once again, so that we may find everlasting life. Everlasting life. Some might say why would you want to live forever? Life’s preciousness lies in the fact that its only certainty is death. Life is cruel, bitter, happiness is fleeting and the only thing that never fails to disappoint is disappointment itself. But that is the life that we know, and not the life that we’ve been promised. A better life, He said, reunited with God, who is all things good. Will God have more mercy for those who believe in him yet did not follow his ways, or those who doubted his existence but walked in his footsteps without being taught? I wonder about this often, especially in an age where those who call themselves devout commit the most heinous of crimes and do so with impunity because they believe it is God’s will. It is his will when it happens to serve a purpose which benefits them, or if it justifies something they want to happen. They are hypocrites and extremists, I am told. Yet are we not all trespassers in the same manner? We pray for God’s guidance in our daily lives, sometimes in desperation, for we know that we have no control. When we receive something good, we say glory to God, and when things don’t turn out exactly the way we want, we are humbled by his test and try to persevere through it. But funny, everyone’s life sometimes goes up, and sometimes goes down, whether they have faith or not.
I can still clearly remember the last time I really prayed to God to ask for something. My friend’s mom was dying of cancer. The family never lost faith, and there were hundreds of people praying for her to get better. I remember mustering all the faith that a skeptic like me had in my heart, and asking God, if it’s true that you care, then please make her well, and I will truly believe that you care. At the funeral, as I listened to one heartfelt testimony after another, I once again thought how unfair and unreasonable this world is. Some time later I had a discussion with my friend, and she told me, it would have been too easy, if God gave her back to us. It would have been such a clear example of God’s work, and that’s not what he wants. The point of free will, is to choose to believe based on faith and not miracles.
Faith to the believers often sound like rationalization to the skeptic. It does make the hard days easier, when you believe that it’s only a test, and there’s something waiting for you at the end of this life that makes everything perfect as you’ve never experienced. It does make the guilt fly away, knowing someone else died for the sins that we should be punished for. It does make the world seem a bit more fair, for although we know good and evil, we see the good suffer and the evil escape justice with their spoils. We are powerless to right the wrongs, but we still believe that good will triumph over evil. That’s why the superhero always wins in the end, and that’s why the ultimate judgment comes at the moment of death, as we pass into the great unknown. We believe in goodness, and fairness, and we attribute these as qualities of God.
Which is why I refuse to believe in a God who chooses a small group of people to love, to guide, and forsake others merely because they have not heard the message, or have trouble believing in miracles. I’d rather believe God loves us all, and gave us a set of guidance called conscience, and left us to our own journey. When I come to a crossroad in life, I will not ask God which road I shall take, but I will use the intellect he’s given me to make the best decision. When I face pain and despair, I will not pray for him to take it away, but I will trust in the fairness of time, which takes away both the pain and the joy. When I love God, it is not because he will love me more for it, but because he’s given life to this universe, this earth, and as insignificant as it may have been as part of his work, to me.
I just finished watching the Battlestar Gallactica series. I found the Cylons quite lovable creatures despite their killing off (almost) the whole human race. They were simply struggling to survive and find meaning in their lives, just like the rest of us. Life is the sum of all our choices, and no one can claim they’ve made all the right ones. No one can say they’ve never sinned, never judged, never doubted. As I choose to continue my doubt, I also choose to be good. To follow the lessons taught by Jesus, Buddha, and Professor Dumbledore: to serve others, to judge not, to forgive, and most importantly, love conquers all.