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  • Writer's picturePeter Greedy

Belief in God is not my problem: Religion is.

Updated: May 3

While doing an eye examination recently and having a good chat with my patient about

photo of a retina

various things, including faith; on showing this person a photo of their retina, they commented: “how can you not have a belief in God when you look at that?”

There wasn’t time to answer the question in detail at the time, but I have been reflecting on it since. (I did give the person my number and said I’d gladly chat more over a coffee – I wonder if they will contact me?)

I have shared about my faith journey before, but for those not familiar with it…

Peter leading worship

I was born in 1964 and raised in a vicarage by my very committed, service orientated, archetypal vicar and vicar’s wife parents. I left home after A levels and headed to London. On arrival, a friend introduced me to, and then I was recruited into, a Christian cult. There, in 1983, I met my wife, and our courtship and marriage were somewhat arranged (more so from Jess’s experience than mine, me being a man in a patriarchal organisation, I had more autonomy). We had our kids while in that cult and left it in 1998. We then joined an evangelical Anglican church where I was one of the worship leaders.

It was about 10 years after leaving the cult we realised it was a cult! While in it, we just thought we were super Christians; “better than all the rest” as the song goes. I gradually drifted away from the Christian faith and now I am an atheist – I think!

Given my history, I know a lot of Christians. Some nominal, some devout, some raving lunatics. There is a small number of these that feel it is their Christian duty to re-evangelise me. One or two have gone as far as telling me that some unfortunate events in my life, and even the life of my kids, have happened because I turned away from my faith and am no longer a Christian. (They make their version of Christianity so attractive. NOT!)

Since leaving religious faith, I have experienced more freedom in my life than ever. As far as I am aware I have not become a worse, more unruly, less law-abiding person in the process. My mental health is certainly better. I am more open; curious; a critical thinker; less judgemental; more accepting of others’ views and choose to engage in healthy discussion with those who have an opposing view to mine. I am more compassionate; aware of my privileges; and generally, a much more balanced human being.

Quote from Richard Rohr

One of the key things for me is that I have so much more peace about what I DO NOT know. The irony of faith is that uncertainty is implicit, and yet some of those with the “strongest” faith have the most certainty of being right. This is such a paradox. Faith should not be synonymous with certainty.

This inserted quote from Fr Richard Rohr articulates this well.

I am in awe of this life I have been gifted. I should not exist, and yet I do. As sentient beings we have a beautiful gift and a wretched curse. We get to perceive and feel so many incredible things, and then we want it to go on forever.

I am also in awe of this place in which we live, planet earth. How does it exist? It’s bonkers! Truly mad, crazy, and almost statistically impossible. And yet here we are.

Those that believe in a heaven, an after life, reincarnation, or anything beyond death, certainly have faith. And that is OK with me.

My current belief is that the atoms of which I am made return to this earth from which I was created. And that’s it. And I am OK with that, now. I never used to be and may struggle again at some later time and change my mind again. But for now, that’s where I’m at.

How am I ok with that? Because I am very content, as content as I have ever been. That is because I have done a lot of work: study, reading, reflecting, and listening. All with an open mind and courageous, compassionate, curiosity (some of my core values).

At the heart of it, I am exceptionally grateful for this life I have had the privilege of living. I hold no regrets because my past has brought me to this point today. I could have made a gazillion different choices that would have taken my life in very different directions, but I cannot change any of the decisions I’ve made. They are gone and assigned to history.

So, what about God?

I am ok not knowing.

I have never seen proof of God’s existence, even though I have seen things I cannot explain, and am baffled at the micro and macro opposite ends of the universe.

I choose to be ok not knowing.

As for religion? I hate it, being honest. Religion is about the most unattractive man-made thing I can think of. I have seen and heard enough horrible things about what has been done in the name of religion that it repulses me.

But do not misunderstand me. That does not mean I hate people in a religion and those with faith. Genuine faith is fine with me. Certainty is not! And trying to persuade me of you certainty is definitely not.

Whatever faith you hold, I encourage you to be courageously and compassionately curious. Be a critical thinker. Question everything. Stay open minded. Beware of certainty. It will serve you well.

If you have faith and that helps you, I will support you, as long as you do no harm.

I acknowledge that I could be wrong. Counterintuitively, knowing I could be wrong is freeing.

The only thing I know for certain is this moment now. The present.

I can remember the past.

I can think about the future.

I can only know now, this moment. And in this moment, I am grateful.

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