October 7th, 2002
Yesterday my girlfriend and I spoke at length on the subject of religion. I came to realizations about how I think and what I am about. I am not throwing any of this in any faces. This is what I feel, and what I believe for myself in how to live my life. She is coming to grips with her own religious feelings and ambitions. Ambition may sound a queer word for religious inquiry, but I think it’s wonderful that she has a vision for herself in the future, about what her faith means to her.
Likewise, I also have put to words my own feelings. I have received much feedback via this journal on the subject of God, faith, and religion.
It’s important to remind you that I have the UTMOST respect for people of faith. When I worked in the hospital I saw very well that faith can bring strength and comfort to the afflicted and to those who are experiencing loss. I do not have any disdain for faith as practiced in love. I definitely have a problem with faith that intrudes on others in a way that’s aggressive. Gentleness is a positive attribute in religion, I think. Gentleness manifests itself in compassion, in empathy, in love, in caring, in understanding people. I think I try and live my life that way.
Yesterday was very intense because I realize something about myself. I found myself profoundly moved by a web page. I was researching Leah’s faith, the faith she desires to return to, and a word I had heard my father use popped into my head. The word was “freethinker.”
I am a freethinker.
The words on this page: What is a Freethinker? ring so true to me. I must say that I don’t agree with every word on that page.
Some parts I can affirmatively agree with are these:
What do Freethinkers Believe?
Freethinkers attach much more importance to the ‘why’ of belief than to the ‘what.’ Freethinkers believe in the sort of human understanding that naturally follows from a careful and rational consideration of the relevant factual evidence. With regard to the natural world of human experience, therefore, freethinkers regard the scientific method as the proper approach and scientific knowledge as the most reliable sort of human understanding. Freethinkers also acknowledge that there is an inner, private, subjective world of human experience. But they also recognize that our feelings and emotions cannot and should not be the basis of what we believe about the reality of the world which all human beings share.
How Can Life Have Meaning for Freethinkers?
Freethinkers believe that if life is to have authentic meaning, they must create it or discover it for themselves. To live life in compliance with or in obedience to someone else’s purpose, even the unknowable purpose(s) of a god or gods, is to be an unthinking slave. Freethinkers, therefore, look for and find meaning in their daily lives: in their efforts to learn, to grow, to understand, to help others, and to try, at least, to leave the world perhaps a little better place than they found it.
How Can Freethinkers Have Hope Without A Belief In An Afterlife?
Freethinkers consider this life as the only one we can be sure of having. They regard it as shameful to trivialize this life by supposing that a better one will follow … they lament the false optimism of an afterlife with a system of future rewards and punishments that encourages complacency about suffering and death in this life. But freethinkers, like other human beings, continually hope for a better future. Their hope, while not extending beyond the grave, yet persists as long as life persists, for life is hope. (emphasis added) Freethinkers do not expect to ever see again their loved ones who have died. But, as with believers in an afterlife, their memories of their loss remain with them as a comfort and remembrance.
Their greatest attachment and commitment is to truth, and to learning to know and do what is right. They are honest with themselves, and with others. They prefer to form their opinions based on fact and evidence, but are not afraid of making mistakes, and learning from them. For they know that human beings aren’t born with their beliefs, nor can honest people truly believe in something by sheer force of will or ‘faith.’ Freethinkers submit themselves to facts and reason, following humbly wherever and to whatever they are led. They speak their minds, and are unafraid of saying, ‘I don’t know.’ And in return for all of this, freethinkers respect themselves, they have sympathy for their fellow human beings, and they lay legitimate claim to the best and noblest of what the human condition offers.
One of the things my counselor has said is that the spiritual is a part of myself I must explore. And I have been. I have tried to speak openly and honestly with my friends and family. I have been reading about spirituality in many forms and have found nothing more true for me than these words above on the nature of being a freethinker.
I will continue to seek the truth and try and understand the worlds inside and outside myself. I may yet come to other conclusions about the nature of reality and existence for myself. My heart is open and honest.
In being open and honest, it hurt yesterday, because my convictions are at odds with the convictions of the woman I am in love with. I love her even more for she has considered her options and has thought about how she looks at the world, and desires a faith. If it is so that we are at odds on this issue, then so be it. We must, each of us — “to thine own self be true”. For myself, I am pleased to be in love with someone so whole, so real and so authentic.
Who can say what tomorrow will bring?