This is the seventh in a series of Aniblogger Testimony posts, where select writers will discuss their personal faith. Today’s piece was written by a prominent aniblogger and is posted anonymously. The previous posts in this series were written by Lauren Orisini, R86, Nikko, Arianna, Ed Sizemore and Canne.
When asked what my religion is, I say that I’m “non-religious,” meaning that, while I have my own beliefs about life and the world, I don’t follow any established religion’s view about these things nor does any recognized faith play a role in my life.
I’m a believer in the idea that man created God rather than the other way around. It makes more sense to me considering human history and nature. Life is hard and full of suffering – it always has been since humans existed and it continues to be so even with all the advances of modern society today. As soon as humans evolved differently from other animals and developed the ability to ponder about themselves, they couldn’t help but think “What’s it all for?” and “Why is life so hard?” That’s where religion came in – it made sense out of a senseless world and gave people reasons for why their lives are worthwhile and their struggles will pay off. This is why religion was so much more prominent in people’s everyday lives hundreds of years ago than it is today. Back then, without all the scientific knowledge we have today to explain phenomena in the world, people had no reason to doubt whatever the religion in their society would tell them. They needed something to make sense out of the world and assure them that life is better than the suffering they see around them. And, just as environment dictated how the culture and language of people in different countries developed, religion too developed differently in different countries to complement the unique lifestyles of the people there. Thus, that’s why we have different religions like Christianity and Buddhism.
As the centuries went by, religion became less and less prominent in people’s lives because scientific discoveries were gradually making more sense to people. As people gained diverse and easy methods of obtaining information through books, TV, Internet, and other forms of media, that too presented them with a wide range of things to ponder and believe in, and not just whatever religion was around them. But…religion is still a huge part of human societies because, as I mentioned before, there’s still hardship and suffering in the world, as well as many things that science can’t fully explain. People still need something or someone to assure them that they’re loved and will be taken care of in an otherwise chaotic world. As long as there’s unreasonable suffering in life, most people will need religion.
Having grown up in the United States, specifically southern California, Western mono-theological religions like Christianity, Judaism, and Catholicism are what I’ve mainly been exposed to. So why can’t I subscribe to such faiths?
To me, the evidence that I see against them far outweighs the evidence for them. All I have to do is look at the world around me and think about human beings. If I were to list all the painful, horrible ailments that humans can become afflicted with – both in mind and in body – such a list would take pages and pages. I have to ask “What kind of ‘loving’ God would inflict his children with such an endless array of mind and body diseases?” Not only that, but they’re distributed at random, with innocent people suffering and guilty people getting let off. And as if all the multitudes of illnesses and viruses people can suffer from weren’t enough, think of all the terrible accidents and disasters that occur around the world everyday. The recent horror in Japan is a prime example. After seeing something like this, I wonder how people can believe in a kind, loving God that snuffs out a slew of lives in a minute and leaves many more broken lives for those who are left behind. Any father on Earth who did such things to his children with reasons like “it’s for their own good” would be condemned a horrid criminal. Yet when the father called God does such horrible things, he’s never condemned and is instead, ironically, prayed to and implored to help with this horror that He created!
But I know the religions offer many explanations for all the unjust suffering:
“You’re being punished because you must have sinned”
– But who created the sin in the first place? It’s like God creating a kleptomaniac and then blaming him for stealing even though God made him that way. God could have made all his children happy and content without any need to sin, yet he never made a single one like that. He created them with urges and desires that would make them sin, and then blames them for it instead of himself, the one who created it all. But even so, the suffering is distributed fairly evenly among the sinners and sinless, so it doesn’t make sense to say that you’ll necessarily be punished because you sinned.
“You’ll be rewarded in the afterlife”
– What’s the point of enduring so much suffering because you might be rewarded in an afterlife that no one has ever proven exists? Should I compromise my life because some faith created ages ago before people understood anything about the world said I would be rewarded by following their example of a good life? The only life that there’s evidence for is the one right now.
“God is watching us and testing us for our own good”
– Suffering and evil happen whether he watches us or not, so what’s the point of him watching us if he’s the one who created the suffering in the first place. He watches sin after sin being committed by bad people on innocent people, sometimes the bad people get punished, most of the time they don’t, so what’s the point of imploring him for help if he’ll sometimes listen and sometimes won’t, whether you worship him or not? And if some otherwise decent person is slowly dying from a painful disease, or has to endure misery everyday of their life, what’s the point of saying he’s “testing” us when he won’t tell us why and just leaves us to ponder our own misery. Again, it’s a convenient way for people to tolerate their miserable lives by believing it’s for their own good without the need for further examination.
“God works in mysterious ways”
– This is the phrase that can toss any form or reason or debate out the window. Whatever illogical or cruel thing happens, saying that “God will take care of it” or “It’s part of God’s mysterious plan,” and then calmly accepting it as such, is just so convenient and leaves no room for further thinking. If a nice man with a loving family is suddenly killed in a car accident, while a cold-blooded murderer gets away with a mild sentence, that’s not “mysterious” – it’s terrible and unjust! We know nothing of the ways of God and why he creates such despicable things, but whenever it happens we’re just supposed to smile and accept it. “God works in mysterious ways” and similar ideas make excuses for all the horror God creates. We pray to him daily for good fortune, and no matter how much misfortune we get (while others who don’t pray get good fortune) we’re still supposed to believe that we’re an important part of his plan and our prayers are worth something to him? We don’t know what his plans are but apparently he has such plans so that any amount of suffering he inflicts on the innocent is fine (but when we do likewise, we’re considered horrible sinners!)
So now that I’ve established why the concept of a loving God in Western religion makes no sense to me, what do I believe in? I do believe there is some omnipotent power out there that we humans cannot touch. Call it “Nature,” a kind of god if you will, but not the kind that humans created. Humans are not the special darlings of the universe but are a part of Nature and this planet just like every other creature. Nature and the universe must move along their course, and unfortunately a lot of suffering for living beings results, as Nature is neutral to individual lives. Even though the planet has to go through many changes that could have catastrophic results, Nature manages to sustain life in this world despite the terrible deeds that humans inflict on themselves, other creatures, and the planet in general. Because I’m non-religious, religion has nothing to do with my love of anime (unless you want to call anime my religion!) and thus, how it’s depicted in anime, or if it is at all, doesn’t have an effect on my enjoyment of the anime.
So what’s there to do when the suffering is distributed at random and there’s no sure way of us humans knowing what the meaning of it all is. I believe we were given our own individual eyes, hearts, and minds to create our own truth and not follow a truth we get second-hand from teachings that were created ages ago before people knew what they know today. The one truth we do know is that we all want to feel well and live as happily as we can. So I believe we should be kind and understanding to each other and have dignity and respect for ourselves. I don’t have to believe in a God or follow any complicated theology to understand that.
Note: My beliefs were inspired by Mark Twain. If you’re interested in reading more, check out some of his writing.