These days I find myself less and less willing to identify myself as an atheist. On my personal journey of discovery, I have developed my own opinions and beliefs that don’t fit any more into atheism than they do into any of the mainstream religions.
Central to those beliefs is my own personal outlook on life, and the understanding that a person has a right to draw to their own conclusions, no matter how crazy or radical they may appear to other people. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not for one moment advocating extremism or any form of brainwashing – far from it. What I am advocating is that behind every person’s beliefs there is a thought pattern and a process that got them there. This process is called life.
Though I cast judgement on people as much as the next person, I constantly find myself wishing I didn’t. My own prejudices often find me silently questioning people’s intelligence when they tell me of their religious beliefs, but given my knowledge of psychological development, I realise that this is a fault on my part.
I started this blog in order to put down my findings and experiences as I searched for meaning in my life, and in no way do I want to use this blog to evangelically preach to you or tell you what you should or shouldn’t be doing. Everyone is on their own journey and will reach various destinations at different times. However, what I would like to do is tell you where I am right now and how I got there.
Good or bad, the things that make you you are there for a reason. You may not realise the reasons, but they are there and you can find them if you look hard enough. Recently I found peace within myself, and this is a large part of the reason why. In my case I started receiving counselling, and this has significantly helped me to understand myself. I’ve always considered myself to be a relatively “normal” person – nothing particularly bad has ever happened to me; I’ve never experienced anything particularly traumatic; I’ve never been seriously ill or hurt; I’ve never lost anyone that I’ve truly loved. Despite that, something wasn’t right. I initially realised this when I went on a course to learn basic counselling skills, so I was fortunate in being able to identify the type of counselling that I needed.
Now whether or not you “believe” in counselling or not, the point is that this has worked for me. Recently a friend of mine suggested that she removed a black cloud through a specific strand of Buddhism, and of course many people suggest that they have found inner peace by committing their lives to God.
Regardless of anyone’s opinion on these paths, they are valid for the individual concerned. Indeed, who are we to say that ANY path is not valid? Humans instinctively know the difference between right and wrong, so if a person can find their own peace in their own way and it does not infringe on another’s basic human rights, surely that is a good thing? Casting judgement on one’s inner peace (something of which I am often guilty) is arrogant at best, ignorant at worst.
This is something of which atheists are often guilty. A few months ago I contacted someone who was putting together a band/stage show based around atheistic beliefs.The plan was to offend every religion in existence – “I won’t be happy unless we’ve offended everyone in the room” he said. Now initially I thought this could be good fun and I suggested that we target atheists too, in order to not prejudice anyone. He agreed. However, recently I realised that; 1. I have no desire to be in a band any more (that’s another story); and 2. I don’t like offending people. Now anyone who knows me will know that this isn’t some namby-pamby politically-correct stance. My reason for this is simply that I’m starting to understand how people develop their thought patterns, and challenging their beliefs in an unstructured, insecure environment is actually very irresponsible and potentially damaging.
So I have decided to reject the label of “atheist”, though I will no doubt use it from time to time in conversation as the closest term to describe my beliefs. I have actually decided to reject all labels – atheist, agnostic, pantheist, humanist, individualist – to describe my religious beliefs. To me, use of these labels – somewhat ironically in the instance of the latter – actually belittles any suggestion that you have developed your beliefs individually.