Did I tell you I’m an atheist now?
I wish I weren’t. People who believe in a Supreme Being or a Higher Power live longer than those who don’t, and they report greater levels of happiness. If I could, I’d fake it for those reasons alone.
Graduate school in the sciences kicks the piss right out of you, and when it comes to closely held, unproven beliefs, God is usually the first to go. I clung longer to religion than most because Dad said holding contradictory beliefs was a sign of wisdom. He said two things can both be right in different cultural contexts—truly, deeply right, and not just in the way where one person pats the other person on the head kindly and thinks, “I’ll let you go ahead and believe what you believe even though I know it’s fifty kinds of wrong.”
But I just can’t do God anymore. As a culture, we know too much. The idea that there’s a guy out there somewhere—or a girl or a whale or an amoeba or some entity we can’t visualize—that designed us or continues to guide us or care about us somehow? It’s become apparent this is not the case.
I don’t imagine this revelation upsets you the way it would, say, a Baptist minister. In Buddhism, I’m pretty sure it’s okay to believe in God and it’s okay not to. I appreciate that you and your followers are cool with science.
I just hope I can retain my cool with religion.
Jill Riddell is a writer in Chicago. She teaches at the School of the Art Institute and has a weakness for nature, magic, and pennies abandoned in sidewalk cracks.