On a forum that I’ve been spending some time on, I made a joke about being able to tell the difference between a theist and a non-theist by their relative gaits. The idea being that Non-theists would have more “spring in their step” because they were no longer burdened by religion. It was a silly little joke, but someone took offense and asked:
“Why do you assume my theology is a burden?”
I’d like to share my answer with the few of you that still read this. 😉
I don’t presume to speak for anyone, theist or non. Whether or not you find your faith to be a burden is between you and your god.
I can only speak for myself and say that even though there has been some personal cost (lost friends, ended career, etc) I have never felt more free and un-burdened.
Until now, every decision I made, every song I listened to, every movie I watched, every conversation I joined, had to be measured up to God’s standards. I was constantly worried that some small thing I did would offend or hurt God. No matter how hard I tried, I was always a sinner and only worthwhile because God had the grace and forgiveness to not send me to hell.
Not only that, but I was not even allowed to decide the larger questions of my life for myself. It didn’t matter if I wanted to be a physicist, a magician, a teacher or a missionary. All that mattered was trying to determine what “God’s Will” for my life was. I have wasted so many years in a futile attempt to understand his plan for me. It was such a relief when I came to undrestand that those choices are mine and mine alone. Is it too late to follow some of my dreams? Maybe. But no matter what I choose now, I can rest in the comfort that no matter what I pick, no matter what I do, I am responsible to myself and my community for my own actions.
I still feel guilt and shame, but it is only when I have actually done wrong. I can apologize directly to the wronged parties and know that I am forgiven. I can fully experience the joy of a life well-examined and well-lived. I am free to think about anything, talk about anything and try anything I want to. I am free to be the person I want to be, with no thought to whether or not it pleases a 4,000 year old sky god or his modern followers.
That is why I say a burden has been lifted.