Note: I haven't written anything in a long, long while. I also hate editing. Spelling should be checked, but other errors are likely and I may come back and fix them later or clarify a point if I messed up badly! Just a warning!
If you're reading this, please be prepared for a long (and tangential) musing. I needed to get this down. Knowing your own mind is always a good idea, and writing can be a great way to organize thoughts in a way to see, evaluate, and even change them. I'll start with my story, and move on to my current ideas.
The first thing I'd like to muse about is the idea of gods. I haven't held a belief in any sort of deity since early childhood. My parents both have a belief in at least a generalized Christian-esque God, with my father leaning to the Catholicism we held early on. In fact, my sister and I both attended a private Catholic school for a few years before the cruelty of both staff and students drove me out, and moving from our little bedroom town pulled her along too. We attended the church in our new town a few times, nothing more.
I had been baptized. I took the communion. I ate the wafers, sipped the wine, listened to the preacher and the beautiful singing (the only part that did anything to my heart). Thinking back though, I knew very little of the Bible. It was stories to me, and at my age they kept away from the burning and stoning and genocide. Our children's bible at home was filled with pretty pictures. My parent's weren't the type to do more than pray over Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter meals. Belief was a feeling I had when the morning sunlight was rich and golden and thick, or the sudden flutter of my heart upon seeing new flowers on the California hills swaying in a sudden breeze. Sunset and sunrise were my idea of God as a child; that feeling of wonder and awe. And as I grew and learned, I began to realize that the entity described in that bible was very different from the feeling I cherished. And I thought about it more and more.
I've always loved books, especially science fiction and fantasy. My father read The Hobbit to me one chapter at a time through the first and second grades. I loved it; it caused me to began to seek out beautiful, fantastical worlds. Over the next ten years of my life I began to devour anything I could find. I read Lord of the Rings, and then the Silmarillion. My mother passed me Anne McCaffrey's Pern series and I devoured Narnia and Ender's Game. I read things about the woods and mountains and trees, and about far off planets and times. I read everything from Goosebumps to The Hitchhiker's Guide. Every book brought different ideas of gods and mythologies. Beautiful stories, filled with life and different sorts of truth though none of them were literally true.
And in school we were learning about different belief structures through history. We studied Rome and Greece and Egypt in class. I began to recognize them all as beautiful and filled with that same essence of life. I could see why and how these stories changed the lives of the people who invented them. But I also knew they weren't real. The ideas were meant to explain things beyond humanity's reach. Laws, made to protect (or defraud) certain people were made more power and taboo with gods. And while I thought that it was possible some huge, unknowable force or forces existed somewhere in the universe (we don't understand but a tiny fraction, after all), these specific gods and entities seemed very unlikely and very much a creation of humanity. And with that in my mind, looking at the religion I had been raised in had the same feeling. It didn't add up in my mind, except as one more layer of control over a resource poor and warlike people. That was how it made sense. The changes in the book came with the changes in the people; once the population was larger and stable the need for a warlike God was gone; the need for spreading the religion to a now burgeoning population was more important. Honey is more tempting than vinegar.
To this day, that is where I look at all religions from. An archaic law system given power by charismatic leaders and the very chaos of our existence. But while human law can change and grow, or be torn down and re-built, religion by it's very nature despises change. Where the boarders meet, violence is the norm with no allowance for compromise. No other gods before your god, or you risk their anger. Gods do not usually share well. And there is no fail safe for religions. Belief cannot be disproved. Holy Books do not try to work out their own contradictions in the face of new problems. Shades of gray are often denied, and many make spreading their primary goal.
Many people want safety desperately. They want order, and they want assurance that their lives are not meaningless breeding and dying. An afterlife in return for obedience to a standardized morality solves both those issues practically. These ideas allow us to trade the wild and often frightening reality of the earth right now for an idea that there is more and that as long as we are good, everything will be all right. Someday. Peace of mind in return for submission in the here and now. Decisions are made easy, life becomes a pre-set path which you are asked to bring others onto as the only way to a goal of ecstatic bliss and reward.
I aso know that the idea of more time, endless time, is very appealing to many who suffer and see no end to it, as well as to those who simply find their days boring and unfulfilled. The idea of doing nothing with your life and having that be your only chance is scary. Knowing that a huge percentage of the creatures on this planet will die before reaching maturity is depressing. Knowing you could at any moment simply end is terrifying. These are all valid feelings and fears. Every human on the planet feels them at some point. Every human takes comfort in one form of belief or another. And if you can truly believe in your gods without forcing your belief on another person or their way of life, and be respectful as well, I have no quarrel with you. But for me, the universe is too strange and glorious to be simplified to the books I have seen and the ideas I have heard.
I cannot know anything for certain. But I very much believe in science, in making your own values, and in compassion. Every person has a reason for their ideas whether they understand themselves or not, so I will not think that most believers in gods are simply stupid or make other such generalizations. But I do not believe in gods, in spirits, in anything beyond the scope of nature. I believe we have very much to discover and hope to see and aid in it myself. Science will advance, and someday some of our mysteries will be replaced by new ones as we learn. That's life. I love every second of it, however short or long. I will love even those I detest. We are are very much larger and smaller than we can see from inside ourselves.