I’m not sure when I became an Atheist. I just know that sometime during grade 2 and 3 of primary school, the adults in my life lost their ability to satisfactorily answer the questions I had about what I was being taught in Sunday School and Church.
When I first learned the term Atheist, I felt as though some light had come on in my mind and I finally had a belief system that worked for me and satisfied my spiritual needs. And for many years it did. Until the fateful day that I met the woman who would become my wife.
You see, I’m the dork that as an Atheist fell in love with a Preachers daughter. That was a massive challenge for me, however I’m one of those people that believe couples should share common activities that are important to each other. So she started lifting weights and I started going to church semi-regularly. Something I had not done since I was 16.
I had two things that made this easier for me. Firstly, I was raised in a Methodist family as was my wife and so attending a Uniting Church service was pretty easy for me as I knew what to expect. And secondly, my wife’s church had an attendance based on cultural grounds rather than religious beliefs.
That everyone shared a common cultural background was not new to me but the fact that everyone followed different religious ideologies was enormously helpful. My wifes church is attended by Methodists, Catholics, Seven Day Adventists and I have a sneaky suspicion that I’m not the only spouse that thinks it’s all just a bunch of pretty stories to help the kids sleep at night.
And so I get to support my beautiful wife in something that is important to her while also questioning my own beliefs. And it was during one of those times in my life that I got thrown a curve ball that quite literally knocked me sideways.
My wife and I had attended a 3 day personal development seminar called The Mental Toolbox. In one of the sessions, Paul Blackburn of Beyond Success effectively told attendees that they had chosen their parents and therefore their childhoods. This one cut to the core.
I sat broodily and have no idea what was said for the entire rest of the day. I just know that it took all my effort to resist beating this man with a chair. I wasn’t just angry, I was apoplectic. For most of my adult life I had nicely created a little story in my head that my parents were responsible for my life because of what I’d been through in my childhood and here now was this man, telling me, I chose it all.
So fast forward a couple of years and I have been on a journey I haven’t always understood but today finds me far more willing to listen to the ideas and feelings of others, far more willing to consider that our species will have a far grander future when we stop thinking that only we know the truth of our past and of our future.
And so, I no longer need to affix a label to my belief system thereby labeling one right while another by definition must be wrong. It’s not religion or science that’s minimising our effective capabilities. It’s our dogmatic adherence to the belief that if we are right, then I must stay on this particular path for the rest of my life in order to show that I have faith.
I no longer care that you describe yourself as religious or secular or that you find direction in your past lives or even that you ponder how you will return in your reincarnation. I care only that every now and again you question your own beliefs and ask “Are my beliefs my own?” “Do they still serve me or is it time to find a new direction in my journey?”
I now only have one question for myself “Does any of it, actually matter?”