by Justin Eisenstadt
[Note: the opinions here do not necessarily represent those of CastWave Studios.]
It is of no concern to me whether you believe me or agree with me. The fact is, I have a compulsion to share my ideas because doing so liberates me from the burden of my own thoughts; if I do not share them, then they take up space in my head and weigh me down. Respect my opinions as I respect yours.
I set out to write a fantasy novel about rock and roll and have discovered that I am instead writing a novel about faith and religion. In a previous essay, "On Failure and Safety Nets," I explained why I do not believe in God. I have concluded that my religious beliefs can be summarized as such: I am an atheist who has faith.
Faith is believing in something without proof that it exists. Madness is believing in something in spite of proof that it does not exist. Many people seem to struggle with the distinction between proof and the absence of proof, so I will say this: the absence of proof proves nothing.
We can all (hopefully) agree that extremists are dangerous regardless of what side they are on. Extremism is not limited merely to those of the religious persuasion. Believing that there is a rational explanation for everything is, simply, irrational. I believe that there are, and always will be, things we cannot explain: the purpose of existence, the nature of consciousness, and what happens when we die, just to name a few. That is what I have faith in. I have faith in the unknown. Therefore, there is nothing irrational about believing in God because, ultimately, it doesn't even matter.
What matters in this world are actions, not beliefs. Being a (insert religion here) does not automatically make you a good person. That seems fairly obvious, right? I'm not saying anything that everyone does not already know here. If your faith causes you to do good and righteous things, then you are a good and righteous, then you are a good and righteous person. If your faith causes you to do hateful things, then you are a hateful person. Nothing written in any book can make you otherwise.
And to those who would argue for moral relativism, allow me to state tenet number two of my personal faith: every sane person has an inherent ability to distinguish right from wrong. Unless you are a sociopath or suffer from some kind of mental illness, you know, deep down, whether your actions are just or unjust (relative, of course, to the values and mores of the culture in which you live). Social, institutional, and cultural implications inside, what allows us to distinguish right from wrong comes not from any explicit code of ethics but from that innate human phenomenon known as empathy (not that other animals don't possess empathy as well). Empathy allows us to detect when another living thing is experiencing pain, and whether or not we are the cause of that pain. Don't look to God to tell you right from wrong. Look inside. Trust your instincts; you know them to be true.
God is simply an idea, but ideas have incredible power - the power to make and unmake the universe, in fact. So when you say you believe in God, you are really saying you believe in the idea of God - and that is equally valid. Of course, ideas are like assholes; everyone has them and most of them stink. Still, one of the greatest things about being human is having ideas and getting to defend them. Just remember that actions speak louder than words.
[There will most likely be a part two to this, to be posted sometime in the not too distant future.]