Even though I’m an atheist, and will probably be one for the rest of my life, I’ve realized recently that I still have a soft spot for Jesus and the whole Christian ideology. But of course, there’s more to it than that.
Recently, I remembered that the first song I ever learned the lyrics to was Shout to the Lord. My memory was a little fuzzy, but I did my best to recall the words by playing it over and over in my head. Then, I recalled what it was like to sing that song, and others, during church. The peace I felt, and the unity with my church family. It was a real spiritual experience. Like the holy spirit was actually there. There’s almost nothing like it.
So, why did worship services feel so good back then? Why does part of me crave to be in gatherings like that again? Why would any of this have an impact on me to this very day?
I’ve admitted and stated many times, with no shame, that I wish I could have my Christian faith back. My greatest idol, Christopher Hitchens, once said that he doesn’t understand why anyone ever says this. But I’ll happily explain why I say it.
The reason that religion has always fascinated me, and always will, is because it explains so much about how humans think. It seems obvious to me that religion is to our brain what sex is to our genitalia, and what food is to our stomachs. Not to mention, I think the gods we worship, the gods we say we love, including and especially God from the Bible, are the equivalent of having a “dream girl” or “dream man”. My point is, we make gods in our image. We make them what we want them to be, in our minds, and religious people become convinced those beings are real. Because who wouldn’t want their idea of a perfect being to truly exist?
As a Christian, I thought of Jesus as all-powerful, all-knowing, and most importantly, all-good. But I could only believe those things when I didn’t know any better, when I was a child. When I could make Jesus into the exact image I wanted him to be (which didn’t fully align with what the Bible described him, or God, as). But how could a being in control of everything allow such suffering like genocide, poverty, disease, inequality, bigotry, etc.?
The Jesus I loved, and still love in a way, never existed in the first place, even if I believed he existed. Whether he’s really out there or not, my image of him, as I want him to be, certainly doesn’t. That’s what I was in love with. And this kind of thinking and delusion happens all the time in life, with real people and real situations. Humans are quite skilled at deluding themselves and being in denial of the truth. But although religious people seem deluded to me, I admit I envy their ability to keep believing in this thing that gives them such inner peace and happiness that I used to know.
This is Michael, writing for PhilosophyMedia.org. Thanks for reading. Subscribe to this blog for Your Daily Philosophy.