My Road Back to God: A 24-Year Journey
What is “God”?
Can a belief in God exist without Religion?
Is Religion a God-made construct meant to uplift humanity, or a man-made construct meant to oppress humanity?
Who the fuck asks such ridiculously difficult questions and expects answers?
My history with the “God” question
These days, I’m grappling with the “God” question a lot. It’s important to me, because I’m coming to believe that God may be showing up in my life for the very first time. This could make sense, because it’s the first time I’m pursuing a relationship with God at all.
Here’s a timeline of my beliefs on God/Religion in a nutshell:
Age 0: Indoctrinated into Christianity at birth before I could think.
Age 5: Learned Santa isn’t real, began to question everything
Age 7: Experienced trauma; God didn’t help in the way I thought he should; I concluded he didn’t exist; in retrospect, I feared that he hated me. But I did start to believe that God was real insofar as people acted like he was real. God has Godlike influence over the world even if he doesn’t physically exist, because people manifest what they imagine to be his will.
Age 13: Experienced more trauma; stopped believing in God entirely and became a staunch atheist. Belief in religion was laughable to me. All religions were tools of guilt-ridden arbitrary enslavement.
Age 17: Became well-versed in logic to prove the non-existence of God, and learned a few of the most commonly cited hypocrisies in Christianity. Started psychotherapy with a focus on Internal Family Systems therapy, and began a very long process of undoing the damage done by childhood trauma.
Age 18: Attended an Ayahuasca retreat in Iquitos, Peru. I had no phone or contact with my family; I was completely alone. Experienced remarkable synchronicity and psychological phenomena I can’t rationally explain. That experience fundamentally changed the course of my life, and gave me reason to question my spiritual beliefs.
Age 18-21: Still an atheist, though increasingly sympathetic towards agnosticism. I focused mainly on career and self-development, continuing therapy on and off over the years. Noticed that the right people and experiences seem to come into my life at the right time.
Age 21: Started dating a wholesome Christian woman with good values. I learned what Grace is through her example. Had no clue what Grace was previously. Couldn’t fathom how loving kindness could ever be given to someone who is unworthy. Had my unworthiness complex challenged by healthy love in a safe relationship. Grew more and more fond, though could not logically accept, the idea of a loving personal God. Continued to notice that the right people and experiences always seem to come into my life at the right time.
Age 23: Despite career success, felt stagnant and unsatisfied at work. Wasn’t excited about life like I used to be. The relationship ended on good terms after a bumpy patch. Started attending a fellowship of men and women who reclaimed their lives through service to others and belief in a “higher power” without the context of religion on top. Started a daily practice of prayer. My friendships, the fellowship, and my daily prayer practice help me get through the worst period of depression and suffering of my life.
Age 24-Present: Life turned around rapidly. My daily prayer turned into a morning routine to include prayer, affirmations, silence, exercise, reading, and writing. Began to see more and more occurrences of synchronicity in my life. Lost 15 pounds. Gained new friends. Changed the course of my career to work remote and focus on helping my family. Came to believe that a power greater than myself is worth seeking, if only to better understand, and hopefully enter into relationship with. Came to realize that synchronicity might be empirical evidence of that higher power. Realized that I believed in God again.
What is God? An Agnostic’s Journey to Deism
Level 1 (the most comfortable definition) is where I started:
God is the origin of the universe. God is the origin of the physical laws which dictate the way the universe works. There may be a “higher intelligence” behind such laws which is fundamentally unknowable to humans.
Level 2 (a little less comfortable, but more useful and descriptive):
God is the origin of that which is Good in the universe. God is the origin of the physical and moral laws which dictate the way the universe works.
Order is Good; Chaos is Evil.
God is the source of order which combats chaos and entropy within the universe. There is likely a “higher intelligence” behind the universe.
Level 3 (the least comfortable definition I’m willing to accept):
God is the origin of that which is Good in the universe. God is the origin of the physical and moral laws which dictate the way the universe works – and rational creatures can interact with Him.
Love and Order are Good; Chaos is Evil.
God is the source of love and order which combats chaos and entropy within the universe.
He is a personal God, with sufficient intelligence to interact with all intelligence. Human beings have natural pathways to experience God directly. God seems to interact more often with those who seek God out. Something funky’s happening, and God’s the best explanation for now.
Synchronicity is why I believe in God.
I believe in God, because I have empirical evidence collected by my senses, processed by my capacity to reason, such that the Occam’s Razor explanation to synchronicity in my life is caused by God.
Synchronicity is my evidence. I can’t refute it.
If new evidence came about that physically explained the increased frequency of synchronicity in my life that just so happened to correlate with inviting God into my life every single day, I’d stop believing until I had good reason and evidence to believe again. The link above is an example from my personal life of synchronicity.
Are people who believe in God (and act accordingly) happier?
This seems to be the case. I know a man who evaluates every action he takes with one question:
“Will this bring me closer to God, or further away?”
He’s not religious. He sought his own understanding, and studied every major religion’s text, Eastern spiritual teachers of past and present, used plant medicines, attended meditation retreats, and more. He put effort into growing and maintaining a spiritual life. As a result, he has fundamentally transformed as a human being from “a walking dumpster fire of a human being” (his words, not mine) into a virtuous, loving, courageous man.
A Christian who goes to church every Sunday – and beats his kids, is alcoholic, and gambles away his wife’s paycheck online at home all day is not closer to God than my friend.
He is living a wreckless, hedonistic, worthless life that inflicts nothing but suffering on himself and those unfortunate enough to be near him.
He claims belief in God, but in practice, is as Godless as they come.
Belief in God requires self-work and service to others to back it up.
The more work I put into the spiritual area of my life, the more I see its effects in other areas. It’s like I can see everything coming together perfectly, exactly as it should, in a way that I couldn’t have imagined for myself if I had tried for 10 years.
The difficult problem no religion can tackle.
Human beings are equipped with precisely one faculty to discern truth: Reason. Our capacity for reason is fueled and made effective by processing evidence.
We have 5 senses and a mind to compute the data those senses provide. And what marvelous tools they are! With them, we’ve evolved from fashioning rocks to sticks and hurling spears at mammoths to creating self-replicating injectable nano-robots. We have uncovered countless thousands of secrets of the Universe previously undiscovered. Thousands of years of philosophers, explorers, inventors, scientists, and industrialists paved the way to the miraculous world we live in today.
Despite our scientific achievement, nobody has ever come even remotely close to definitively proving the existence of God.
Belief requires evidence, or else we call it faith – and faith is precisely what the world’s religions demand of their followers: belief without evidence.
But human beings are only equipped to discern truth from falsehood by means of reason and empirical evidence. And so a problem arises: how does one actually believe in God without evidence? I have no idea. Somehow, billions of people do. I wonder why. It’s baffling to me. I can’t will myself to believe something without any proof whatsoever. Maybe they all can, who knows.
Religions require belief in the absence of evidence.
Thus, they operate as a means of relaying truth that directly combats and subverts mankind’s only means of discerning truth: reason and evidence.
Call me crazy, but I see that as a problem.
Certain religions do some people a lot of good. They give people much-needed structure and community. They encourage virtues and prohibit evil behavior. They serve as a moral glue binding society to virtuous principles.
Spirituality without Religion: A Modern Solution
I don’t have reason to believe any of the world’s religions are true.
However, I don’t think any of the world’s religions would survive more than 100 years if they were foundationally based in falsehood. Each religion espouses valuable, universal truths in different ways. But every successful religion also requires the suspension of disbelief of the falsehoods they do espouse.
The solution is to pursue a direct relationship with God, and cut out the ancient funny hat-wearing Latin-speaking middlemen who send you to hell for eating shellfish and being gay.
If we have no reason to believe that any major religion in the world today is true, then we need not fear hell. If God exists, and loves humanity, and can be interacted with, and is interacted with by millions every day, why not just pursue a relationship with God?
Pursuing a relationship with God is fundamentally changing my life for the better. I am more happy, more connected, more service-oriented, more compassionate, more curious, and more alive than ever before.
People and opportunities are flooding into my life at an unprecedented rate. My eyes are wider and my mind is sharper. I’m exercising every day. Shit’s all coming together better than what seemed possible 4 months ago.
3 months ago I started praying.
I don’t think I’ll ever stop.