This is the story of how I went hiking with God, lost him in the woods, and was rescued by a Physicist.
Faith has always been an adventure for me: My Catholic grandparents tried to force my mother into Catholicism at a young age, which to their dismay, ended up making her avoid it all together. My father on the other hand, he believed in beer (and still does). Because of the way she was introduced to religion, my mother never wanted it in her life at all. She had no intention of trying to give it to my sister and I, so we too, had no religion growing up.
When I was old enough to read, a friend of my mother’s, who was also a Jehovah’s Witness, used to come by the house with her daughter. For months, every Saturday, we would all get together— my mother with her friend, and me with her daughter (who was a few years older than myself). As children, we did what we were told, which was to study. She would read the passages to me and help me learn about the stories there within, and I would ask questions.
I remember this specifically. I remember this, because it was when I first found a belief in God. I was always the boy who needed to know. I needed to understand everything. That youthful lust for knowledge and overpowering exuberance drives me down a long and wild pursuit of the truth. I needed an explanation for why I was here— why we were all here. I needed to know what the purpose of each day, each person, each second was. I just needed to know. God explained it for me. If it doesn’t make sense, God probably made it happen.
I tried to justify the existence and purpose of every creature and every creature’s action. I tried to make sense of our place in time and space, and our reasons for our existences, and our rights to do what we have done. As I grew, I tried to make sense of my parent’s alcoholism and abuse. “God loves me.” I’d remind myself when I’d come home to a piss drunk mother swearing and slamming doors and throwing whatever was in reach at my head. “God lives in me.” As my father lifted me off the ground by my throat and held me there. “God has a plan for me.” As I sat emotionless, the belt in my mother’s hand rapping over and over again across my legs because I’m too stubborn to turn around so she doesn’t have to see my face. “God will protect me.” As I lose my first love to distance, and my first dream to criticism, and my first passion to bullying, and my college career to financial deficiency, and my car to a fire, and my cousin to suicide.
God didn’t betray me or leave me. He didn’t send these things to test me and make me question myself and find inner strength to overcome it all and rise up to the highest version of myself. He didn’t. He didn’t do it because, the universe did. I remember the day I lost belief in God. It was after finishing “Hyperspace” by Michio Kaku, a brilliant theoretical physics work that helped to finish opening my eyes. I had already questioned this garbage God of Gaps theory that I was force-fed. “If it doesn’t make sense— God.” Which, I understand, to an extent. I understand how this was relevant once, when we were infinitely less intelligent and didn’t know the reasons for most of what happens around us. Here we are, having lived for centuries, the patterns of our lives having been so similar for so long that we recognize them and devote our lives to studying them and yet still we question the truth of how and why in existence.
“When people ask me if a god created the universe, I tell them that the question itself makes no sense. Time didn’t exist before the big bang, so there is no time for god to make the universe in. It’s like asking directions to the edge of the earth; The Earth is a sphere; it doesn’t have an edge; so looking for it is a futile exercise. We are each free to believe what we want, and it’s my view that the simplest explanation is; there is no god. No one created our universe,and no one directs our fate. This leads me to a profound realization; There is probably no heaven, and no afterlife either. We have this one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe, and for that I am extremely grateful.” – Stephen Hawking
Losing my belief in God allowed me the freedom of thought to reach a final understanding about religion and science and belief: nothingness was never existent. Something has always had to be there, if only infinitesimally small— which, if you consider the immeasurable mass of the collective universe and imagine the power gravity must have had as it all collapsed in on itself from the last time the universe expanded, one would surmise that the spec of dust held in creation for that brief calm before the last big bang would be so immeasurably small, that perhaps we could not have measured it at all. So small and infinitely powerful, that it would be completely un-locatable and immeasurable. It would then take on Heisenberg’s principle of uncertainty.
Science— or should I say, our understanding of the universe, has come a long way. We have begun to grasp at facts that we otherwise have never known, and it’s all from asking questions; the right ones leading us to answers, and the wrong questions leading us to some of the greatest discoveries of our time. Science is religion in the same way that religion is a group of stories set to teach us a lesson. I’ve come to understand that every religion is based on fact. Real people. Real places. Real events. Warped by time and human perception. Forged in the fires of good intention with all the manipulation of the human condition. We have always been story tellers. We have always had great imaginations. The universe speaks to us. We see through time and space and understand both everything at nothing all at once… Okay. I’m getting confusing, let me wrangle this in.
Religion is our interpretation of the events of the natural world portrayed in a way we can obtain ultimate understanding or enlightenment. Most religions aim for the same goal— truth and peace. This is why our pursuit of war is foolish. It is foolish the same way killing each other is foolish. If the ultimate goal is life and peace— if it is advancement and good will and exploration, then it’s not rocket science that we need to work together to create a system that allows that. We are not incorruptible, but why must we live in a world where corruption is so dangerous? I digress.
So where did God go? I wondered for a long time. I felt the universe within me, but there was no God. There was no more guiding voice, imagined or otherwise. I searched and I yearned for a superhuman caretaker that was out there somewhere, but none ever came. I went from being a man of God, to a Godless fool, to what I am now: which is— free.
Last Sunday, my girlfriend invited me to join her at her new church, a Unitarian Universalist Church in a small town near her home. I was apprehensive for obvious reasons; but, I knew deep down, that church was and always will be just the way people try and understand life. They use the community and support of those who believe as they do to help keep them going.
I was forever changed by the experience of church that day. I learned several amazing things from our openly homosexual reverend, who chose to give a sermon about the recent shooting in San Bernardino and took his time to really address the illness of the human condition and not dwell on the petty and inconsequential racial and ethical differences between us. He spoke of hate and violence and how much we cannot afford to foster these negative values. He spoke like a man of the universe would speak.
“The violence that permeates our world doesn’t demand that we come up with a quick, foolproof, easy policy or legislative solution. Instead, it begs us to respond in whatever way we can (be it by petition, vigils, protest, letter to the editor, social media, church and other advocacy, or just plain conversation with others), by lifting up an alternative vision rooted in the enduring principles and values of our faith. For however we choose to respond and whatever contributions we might make toward potential solutions, it is by sharing and living from our values and principles that we inspire and keep alive that vision of a different world. May this then be our life’s end resolution: to strengthen the bright thread of hope each and everyday assured nothing is settled, everything matters.” – By Rev. Craig M. Nowak
The most important things in life are love, peace, and progress. We work together to find the best way possible to live happy lives. We help our neighbors to do the same thing and spread good will to all. We should be the protectors united, not the defectors divided. We have a long way to go, but there is no religion or race or social difference that should separate us. We should work to each reach our enlightenment. We should seek to find the individual strength the universe has provided us with and use that to better our lives and the lives of those around us.