There is no god. Well, not for me at least. I don't even have a slight tinge in my bones that one exists. I'm all science. I believe we came from dust and will end as dust in a long scientific cycle whose purpose and complete details we don't posses the brain capibility to fully understand. I believe in no Heaven, no Hell and no afterlife. In my book, this is what we get.
That's not to say my life doesn't have purpose, which seems to be the common misconception religious people have about atheists. Though I feel as strongly about my views as they do theirs, I believe we all have the same goals, purpose and ideals in our lives.
I could probably blame my lack of faith on the Unitarians, as that was the first church I attended. From what I understand, it's a universal, all-religion type of situation. As a kid it's throwing potato pancake batter at each other, hippy Saturday fairs and getting chased by handfuls of skunk cabbage on an "extended family" weekend retreat. It was pretty much anything but religion, which they either never told us about or I tuned out completely, distracted by rope swings and spin art.
At 13 my parents decided to normal-up a bit, as the 80s were in full swing, and so we went Methodist. I'm just now remembering it was the Methodist's fault. When we joined the church they were just about to put on a presentation of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat -- which the Unitarians would have done a much better (read: freakier) job with, by the way -- and the kids of the church were all Noah's animals.
As my sister tells the story, for reasons of resentment with a touch of punk rock, she volunteered us as skunks. I remember thinking if I ever made it off that stage with a face full of itchy skunk-paint, two things were going to happen: I'd never go to church voluntarily and that was the last time face-paint would go anywhere near my face. The world may have lost a famous mime that day, who knows.
Luckily for me, the church excitement faded for the family and, as time marched on, church was left behind. That's not to say I feel like I don't completely understand religion, a lesson recently learned at a late-night taco truck. As I was waiting for my burrito vegeteriano con queso I noticed a hopelessly wasted man lacking the mechanical skills to properly lift a lengua (beef tongue!) taco into his drunk and hungry mouth. He looked tough, and smashed, and quite honestly someone I would just avoid all interaction with in that state.
But that didn't stop a good-looking guy with a Bible from walking right up to him, calling him brother and asking if he wanted to pray together. Drunk guy sheepishly agreed and within a minute tears were streaming down his praying face. It was quite beautiful honestly, to see religion used as a tool to communicate between two strangers. A common ground, as if Jesus was this rad and mutual best friend, softening the absurdity of the two of them feeling connection.
But I'm OK without Jesus in my life and have found ways to also connect without him, as I don't think this is the only way. I also don't fear a god's wrath, especially one whose wrath is on the table to fear. I recenlty came across a Marcus Aurelius quote that sums up my feelings perfectly:
Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.
Personally, I see nothing wrong -- if not completely admire -- the idea that this one life is it. My heaven is my legacy, not in a narcisstic way, but the idea that with each life you touch and each idea you leave, an energy is passed through the generations. My friend once said, "If you think you're going to change the world, you're kidding yourself. The best you can do is pass on knowledge and ideas to your kids and others and hope they continue in a positive direction."
The most frustrating idea is that I truly believe we all feel the same thing and are only arguing the words to describe it. I connect with strangers through common experiences and a humble approach. My God is science, my heaven is inspiring others and my Jesus is my conscience. My church are my friends and family, and my prayer is love.
I respect any religion that truly seeks to unite and embrace all people, no matter what their qualities, and in return would appreciate the same respect. Because no matter how much we argue over how to say it, at the end of the day all good people are looking to live a good life spilling over with inspiration and love.