An Excellent Reason for Believing in God

[UPDATE: 12 noon 22/10/2019: Wow, what a coincidence! Richard Dawkins was on the Joe Rogan podcast a few hours ago!]



No, I’m not trying to evangelise or convert anyone to religion. But in this post, I’d like to describe a really simple, practical reason for believing in God.

Believing in God (or a Higher Power) makes it easier to deal with life. And dealing with life is often not easy, so we should take whatever help we can get!

Bollinger, R. (2019)

When I was a teenager, I was an Evangelical Christian for a few years. There were several benefits which I experienced first-hand.

I loved the sense of community and one-ness, especially when we sang together. It’s also a lovely feeling to know that your Creator loves you and cares for you, no matter what.

But, as I grew older, I became troubled by the apparent conflicts between science and religion. There seemed to be little or no scientific evidence that God exists.

At the time, I felt that science was the ultimate arbiter of truth… if science said a certain belief was probably wrong, then it made sense to go where the science led.

So, for most of my adult life, I described myself as an atheist. But I still wished that I believed in God. Christians often seemed to have a warm glow, a sense of peace and happiness, that eluded non-believers.

According to several studies, religious people are happier, have fewer health problems and tend to live longer than the non-religious. These are not trivial benefits!


Since my Spiritual Awakening in mid-August, I’ve questioned many aspects of reality and re-assessed my belief systems.

I remember chatting with my good friend Tim Brownson about an idea I was toying with. I asked him, “Is it worth believing in something, even if objectively we suspect it might not be true?”

Tim replied that he felt in his gut that it probably was worth this self-delusion, even though this flew in the face of so much of his scientific learning.

My gut feeling agreed with Tim’s. So I decided to start testing this idea out…

What would my life look like if I started choosing to believe in ideas purely because the act of believing in them seems to confer certain benefits, even if modern science casts doubt on their ultimate truthfulness?

When you start thinking of beliefs in terms of their usefulness, they make a lot more sense…

  • I believe in God, because it helps me to feel loved and cared for.
  • When bad things happen, I tell myself it’s all part of God’s plan, because it helps to reduce the despair and suffering I’d otherwise experience.
  • I believe that Jesus died on the cross for my sins, because it means that I am worth saving. No matter how pathetic and low I might feel, God will always love me enough to sacrifice His only Son for me. When I value myself, I become more productive.

Atheists such as Richard Dawkins have scoffed at these beliefs, calling them little more than infantile “comfort blankets”.

But let’s get real for a second…

Life can be fucking hard.

Just look at the global suicide statistics (source: WHO)

  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year olds globally.
  • Close to 800,000 people die due to suicide every year, which is one person every 40 seconds.
  • There are indications that for each adult who died by suicide there may have been more than 20 others attempting suicide.

And this sobering stat about depression:

  • Depression affects 20-25% of Americans ages 18+ in a given year. (source: CDC)

It’s clear to me that many of us need as much help as possible getting through life.

“Life is suffering, tainted by malevolence.”

Dr. Jordan Peterson

Humans need hope in order to survive. We need to find meaning in our lives. We need a reason to get out of bed in the morning. We need to feel wanted and loved.

For many people, religious and spiritual beliefs give them the strength to carry on living. Their “comfort blanket” literally keeps them alive.

As someone with lifelong depression who has been close to suicide several times in his life, I’d tell Richard Dawkins to fuck off with his “comfort blanket” comment.

Even if you’ve never had depression or been suicidal, your religious or spiritual beliefs can reduce the amount of suffering you might experience. Why would you not want a reduction in anxiety, depression, stress or fear?

Look at the opioid crisis in the US. Which do we think is better: getting people addicted to powerful drugs so they can (temporarily) cope with life, or allowing people to have relatively harmless beliefs which enable them to live meaningful and productive lives?


Look, I’m not saying that there aren’t problems with religion. It’s blindingly obvious that there are problems caused by religion.

But let’s not throw the baby away with the bathwater.

What if we can pick and choose the elements of religion and spirituality which we find personally beneficial, and ignore the rest?

My argument is that we can do this, and we should.

When you’re hopeless and lying in the gutter, you don’t slap away a helping hand. You’ll take all the help you can to get back on your feet.

“Do I believe in God? Well, I act as though He exists.”

Dr. Jordan Peterson

Contrasts

I used to have nothing left to look forward to in life. I thought the only major milestones left for me were retirement and death. I was just killing time while I waited for the grave. My life was empty and meaningless. I was full of nihilism.

Now, it feels like my life has only just begun. It’s a cliche, but I’m born again. Every day is full of adventure. I don’t want to waste a single day. My life is full of meaning and purpose. (This is true most of the time… I still have occasional bad days).


I used to think drug addicts were pieces of shit, the lowest of the low.

Now, I realise that some of the best people in the world are drug addicts (at least the ones in active recovery). They’ve been to hell and back and survived. And they understand what it’s like inside my crazy head.


I used to think only idiots seriously believed in spirituality or religious ideas. I was a closed-minded scientific atheist.

Now, I’m a lot more open-minded. And humble! There’s so much that we simply don’t know. Curiosity and agnosticism seem much more appropriate than blind certainty. My current belief system takes ideas from science, religion and spirituality. I even pray to God most days!


When I was off my face, wasted on drugs, and exploring other dimensions within my mind, I thought that was the high point of my life… feelings of euphoria. I used to say to myself, “If I could feel this way all of the time, my life would be worth living.”

Now, I try not to label feelings as good or bad, they are what they are. I’m learning not to chase after pleasant feelings or run away from unpleasant ones. I’m learning to accept life on life’s terms, rather than trying to escape from it.


I used to dislike responsibility. In fact, I crafted many aspects of my life to minimise my responsibility and optimise my pleasure. And ironically, pursuing this path didn’t make me happy (except in short bursts).

Now, not only do I see responsibility as necessary for myself, I’m actively leaning into it! I actually want to be a responsible adult! When I feel proud of myself, it’s so much better than temporary feelings of euphoria I got from drugs.


I was incredibly selfish. I often ignored the consequences and impacts of my behaviour on others.

Now, I’m learning to be less selfish, to focus outside of my own head and be more caring towards others.


I used to beat myself up for my perceived failures. I made myself feel awful, worthless, pathetic. At its worst, I made myself severely depressed and suicidal.

Now, I take each day one at a time. I try to make each day just a little better than the last. Some days I’ll slide backwards, but overall I’ll make progress. I’m learning to be kind to myself. I forgive myself for my mistakes, and I try to learn whatever lessons life present me.


I used to feel very alone, most of the time. I rarely left the house unless I had to.

Now I’m part of a wonderful community of people, all helping each other. I belong.


I spent huge amounts of time distracting myself with food, the Internet, videogames and (sometimes) porn.

Now I seek what’s meaningful (not just fun or easy). I have the Courage to face my dragons instead of running away from them. I embrace reality rather than chasing fantasy.


Like what you see? Join my email list and get regular updates.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list for Rock's Fabulous Journey.

Do The Right Thing

Many lifetimes ago (at least, it feels that way), I worked for a medium-sized office-based organisation.

It’s amusing to call out company culture, for example Bullshit Bingo. There are certain words and phrases which certain employees tend to overuse or use inappropriately, thinking it makes them seem more professional or cleverer.

Shock fact: it doesn’t. It just makes you look like a try-hard, a David Brent.

However, sometimes companies get it dead right. My company had an HR initiative called Do The Right Thing. I was unsure what to make of it at the time. I don’t think I understood it. Due to the simplicity of the message, I underestimated how profound its implications were.

The idea is that all of us carry around our own sets of morals and core values. These are deeply personal to us… and everyone’s different.

Rather than trying to force all employees to be carbon-copies of some theoretical ideal employee, with prescribed “company values”, the idea was that we should all use our own in-built morality system in order to do what’s best for our customers.

Nowadays, I look back on Do The Right Thing and I hugely admire it as a concept.

It’s an injunction to live ethically, to treat others how we wish to be treated ourselves.


I blogged several times recently about my search for a higher purpose. I’ve been trying to follow Jordan Peterson’s advice and focus on activities which feel meaningful to me.

Most recently, I’ve been very interested in creating a videogame based on music. But, if I’m honest, it doesn’t feel all that meaningful to me. It feels like a “nice to have”… a bit of fun.


Suicide

Earlier in my adult life, one ex-girlfriend and one of my schoolfriends have killed themselves. At least one member of my wider family has taken their own life.

In the last few weeks, it’s felt like death has been all around me. In my wider social circle, two people have killed themselves and one more has attempted suicide. Another good friend has come very close to enacting a plan to kill himself recently. I’m deeply worried he might still go through with it.

Having come close to suicide several times in my own life, these recent events have given me a heavy heart.

I understand what it’s like to feel so useless that you think everyone around you would be better off if you didn’t exist any more. I understand what it’s like to experience severe depression. Just as an added bonus, I also have first-hand experience of addiction… and the recovery that’s possible.

Mental health, depression, suicide, addiction… if ever there was a higher calling in my life, it’s to these subjects.

I used to volunteer as a listener for a suicide prevention charity – but my own escalating mental health problems eventually made that impossible.

What next?

I’m not sure. I’m going to research mental health charities and see what positions (both voluntary and paid-for) are available.

Maybe my writing skills might be useful to one of these charities.

I’m going to look at what training and education I might purchase in order to increase my knowledge and skills.

I just know that I want to do more.

Nothing can bring back the people who have already left this mortal realm. But if there’s any chance at all that I can help prevent someone else from taking their own life, then I feel morally obligated to do whatever I reasonably can.



Like what you see? Join my email list and get regular updates.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list for Rock's Fabulous Journey.