I understand the desire to believe in a higher power. I understand the need to know that there is an ever compassionate, wise and powerful being out there looking over me. The desire to know that once I have moved on from this existence I will be greeted in another more perfect one, surrounded by people I know and love. In this new world there is no pain, no conflict, no hunger – just pure love and peace.
I take no issue with the reason people wish to believe this because it sounds beautiful; however, as an atheist I believe no such things. This is because not only do I see no evidence of an afterlife but also no purpose behind this thought other than wishful thinking and false hope. I think it is, as Carl Sagan said, “better by far to embrace the hard truth than a reassuring fable.”
Often times, because of my lack of belief in the divine, people don’t quite understand how I continue to have an optimistic outlook on life or how I can even see beauty in a world wrought with violence and suffering. From their point of view, faith in God helps them to get through tough times and they cannot comprehend how I possibly continue to be happy.
Happiness is not an objective thing to be handed down – it is determined solely by the individual. The same can be said for seeing the good in the world. Though I do not see the supposed beauty given by the hand of God, I see something much more beautiful, more wondrous. I see the glimmer in the eyes of a man, wrought with a life of suffering, when he receives the smallest of kindnesses. I see the magnificence of childbirth and the majesty of old age. I see the perfection of love, as well as the imperfection. I feel pure awe when I imagine the sheer inconceivable size and power of supernovae as they blast into space, bursting forth the stardust from which all life stems.
I recognize the connectivity of life and have the understanding that, in some sense, I am one and the same with everything in existence. I see complexity in simplicity and simplicity in complexity; the wonder of leaves blowing in the wind and the evaporation of water droplets into the warm air. I have experienced one minute turning into hours, all in a single moment; and in these moments, I do not see the face of the divine, but much more. This is how I continue to be optimistic and happy, because I do not need God to tell me about beauty – about love, kindness, and wonderment – I witness these things for myself, and there’s something special and more satisfying about this, rather than receiving it from a text written thousands of years ago.
I think things are more beautiful when you take it all in and realize that this is all there is for you, that you are just a tiny speck that will exist as a quick flash in the timeline of the universe. This puts things into perspective for me. It makes me think about the important things in life and it reminds me that love and happiness are all that matter, because all I have is this short existence and I want to fill it with shimmering light and wonder. Focus only on the here and now. Live fully. Love fully.
On the Heath, King Lear asked Gloucester, who was blind, “How do you see the world?” And he simply replied, “I see it feelingly.”