“People must know struggle, so they feel they have earned and learned what matters.” Richard Carrier – Why I am an Atheist
Much of my happiness and success is due to luck. The circumstances of my birth. Being born to moral, hard-working, privileged parents in a privileged time and place. Not having birth defects or major illnesses. Having good health and good health care. I have always had a strong sense of duty and ethics. I have toed the line, obeyed authority, kept a low profile, and done my best to fit in and to conform to expectations. I was brought up to believe we live in a just world and that being good and working hard will lead to success. I now know that is an illusion — one that leads to bias against people who haven’t done well. But I’m happy and I’m not scared anymore. I haven’t always felt that way.
My problems once seemed overwhelming. I used to suffer greatly from depression and anxiety. Some if it was of my own making, but I was not always to blame; my sheltered conservative upbringing, though it gave me good values and a strong moral code, left me nearly defenseless against the wider, urban world I found myself in. I didn’t have the support of a mentor in this strange new world. I had a husband, but that’s a story for another day.
I was a christian, but I felt there was something missing in my life; something I should be striving for — that I was wasting time until I found it. I thought if only I had more faith I’d find what I was seeking. But I always had doubts. I wondered if it was just me. There was no one to ask.
For decades I wondered if I would ever know happiness. I wasn’t even sure what it was or if I had ever experienced it. That’s how depressed I was.
I feel I have come through a long, dark tunnel. Becoming an atheist has been the most meaningful thing I have done. My main joy has always been in meeting and overcoming challenges, small and large. I have been lucky in that they have been mostly small. I have always loved to learn, and now that I truly understand the value of curiosity for curiosity’s sake, that is, science, I perceive a world of knowledge to explore. Sampling is all I have time for, but what joy!
Now that I have thrown off the shackles of religious belief, I feel truly alive. I don’t even regret the lost time. Whatever is left to me is sufficient. The thing I find most surprising is that it doesn’t bother me in the least to know that I don’t have a purpose, that the only meaning is what I make, and that when I die I will no longer exist. I no longer feel that sense of urgency, that nagging, vague feeling of guilt and longing. I am a freethinker. I am free.
March 27, 2014