Recently, I have been reflecting on my own journey from initially, being totally indoctrinated in the Roman Catholic religion to gradually doubting these doctrines, to becoming a sceptic, an agnostic and now more of an atheist than I would like to admit. It sometimes amazes me that I was able to make this journey without anyone’s help. What caused me to abandon my initial beliefs? Why is it only me and my elder brother who rejected these imbedded beliefs while all the rest of my family remain so firmly bound to their religion?
Recently I had an interesting discourse on my Facebook page about something the Pope said and one thing led to another. Eventually I was reminded that when I die, I should not expect a church burial because it would go against my beliefs. This comment hit me like a bolt of lightning as I finally understood the reason why I was able to walk away from these superstitious beliefs. It was because, gradually over the years, I had come to grips with the fact that one day I would die and that would be the end of me. It became clear to me that one doesn’t go from being a believer one day to become an atheist the next. it’s a process that could take years as you shed one layer after the other to leave yourself naked, before you can really be free of the indoctrination that you received in your early years. I finally understood why it was so difficult for educated and reasonably smart people to hold so steadfastly to bible stories and church doctrines that fly in the face of common sense and logic. The answer was “FEAR” and in particular, the fear of death.; the fear of the unknown; the uncertainty of what would become of us when we die!
To abandon one’s belief in god is therefore the last step, as such a belief is inextricably tied to the belief that one’s spirit will continue to live forever after the body dies, and this everlasting life makes absolutely no sense unless there is a heaven, presided over by an almighty one with whom you will be able to live forever. Attempting to convince a believer that his god does not exist without their first accepting that life ceases at death is therefore an exercise in futility.
Ever noticed how often discussions on belief/ disbelief in the supernatural gets around to “what’s going to happen to you when you die?” Evidence from the tombs of ancient civilizations suggest that this belief in the afterlife is deep seated; that the soul of the deceased will somehow continue to live on, in perpetuity. This desire to live forever only makes sense if you believe you will be going to a better place; somewhere where all “good people” would be found. It therefore reinforces the belief that the supreme creator lives there and would be welcoming all those who lived a good life and believed in this eternal paradise.
So how did I convince myself that my soul will not survive my death? Even that was a slow process in which my gradual acceptance of the theory of evolution certainly played a major part. The more I read about it; the more science shows I watched and books I read, the more I realized that we were so insignificant in this vast universe and that we were no more that highly evolved life forms. nothing more, nothing less.
As part of the life cycle of all living creatures, we were created from the living cells of our parents, we ourselves give birth to new life forms and would eventually die as new beings come into existence. To Believe that every single human who ever lived in this world from the beginning of time is somehow still “alive” in some supernatural hemisphere, spending their time praising and glorifying their creator therefore made no sense to me at all, and I was finally able to accept the finality of my mortality. From there it wasn’t too difficult to start questioning everything else I had been thought, eventually accepting the fallacy of religion itself.
So why did I think it necessary to post this diatribe on my own journey from spirituality to non belief? It’s because in some small way, it may help someone who is still traveling on this road to know that it will take a while; that there are small pit stops along the way; that you have to shed the smaller things before you can deal with the bigger issues and that most of all, you have to be able to rid yourself of the fears that have been instilled in you from infancy. Once you have shed it all you experience the “freedom from mental slavery” that Bob Marley sang about and realize that it’s great to be alive and you will be able to enjoy every minute of it without this dreaded fear of “What will become of me when I die”.