How Becoming Atheist Taught Me To Love

James Winter, Acadia National Park, Maine 2021

It’s not that I couldn’t love before becoming an Atheist, nor that I couldn’t experience the awe of an open heart; it’s that I was clouded by pretense and dogma. My eyes and heart were behind a veil of supposition and superstition. Religion was keeping me from having a uniquely and unequivocally human experience.

You see, when I was religious, I was basing my ideas of love on that of the Bible and later the teachings of the Buddha. When I was religious I wasn’t allowing the moments I shared with my partner to penetrate me because we were always working towards the next place. We were going to paradise after this life. Then I could be free to really love. My recognition of the fallacy of religion tore down that wall and conceded to me the ability to truly feel my lover’s beating heart in the moment. That moment was ours — just us. There wasn’t a god or gods there to spoil it.

It was as though I was feeling her touch for the first time. I was experiencing her breath, her voice all over again. I went from mono sound to high fidelity, 240p to 4k. I lost myself in awe of her existence. But it’s not just romantic love I’m experiencing anew at a higher level. The resolution that I experience life at has improved in its entirety. This is what I always envisioned Buddhist enlightenment would feel like. Now I’m not claiming to have become enlightened, but my life is altered now. This is a change to the fundamental core of my existence.

This afternoon my dog asked to sit in my lap, and I invited him up. He shows love by pressing his head into you, principally your forehead, if he can. As he was showing me affection, I felt his actuality. I felt his fur under my fingers and heard the light noises he makes when he forces hard into you in his way of showing love. I felt like I was much more than just an owner of a dog, but the keeper of a sacred life.

I’ve found each moment sacred since my deconversion. Sacredness, I’ve discovered, is not a thing reserved for the divine. Sacredness is in every moment we truly live. The time we waste living for other times, that’s not sacred. We cannot find solace in the past just as much as we can’t live in the thought of a future we imagine. Just so, we cannot love in any dimension but the present. This is when our hearts are.

Death is the Road to Awe

You see, it feels like every moment matters more now. Every ounce of love has twice the mass. Life is no longer eternal. Mortality is all we have. The weight of mortality on life is the pressure of an ocean miles deep, making every movement, every moment mean so much more than it ever did before. Even the insignificant things before are opportunities for awe, such as the texture of a peach or the sound of wind coming through a car window.

God is no longer a buffer for my life and, while that presents an obstacle of newfound loneliness, I can’t wait to experience the rest of my life on my terms.

We live in a world where ‘God’ denotes everything. It’s the supposed foundation for everything, and as each of us places the concept of divinity like a crown upon this God’s head, we take away from the beauty of life. We’re saying that this moment isn’t enough, that we’re not enough. We’re creating a fallacy to keep us from fear. We say it helps us through the hard times, but I can’t help but wonder why we, ourselves, are not enough. Why are we incapable of making it through hard times without an imagined crutch? Why must we steal the sacredness of life and give it to an invented God?

Removing the filter of God from my life has made me realize the filter was never doing my life any good. It was simply a distraction from the beauty that is life. But I’m not here to talk shit about God. That’s a waste of time, like arguing with clouds. As I write these words, my heart beats. It won’t always be that way. So long that it does, I will love harder than I have ever loved because I know that this me is purely biological, and when my heart stops, so will existence. I won’t experience anything after death, so I love while I can and appreciate the opportunity to do so.

So many cells and atoms had to align for me to be here. The miracle of life is not some divine intervention but a proven pathway through evolution. My life was a shot in the dark because of human reproduction. Because of the biological course that led to me, I can breathe into my own lungs, and I cherish that ability. I see an even more extraordinary beauty in life now, leaving me in awe of everything, but equally, I fear that which threatens it is more potent. Our species is causing the Earth to bleed. We take advantage of and murder one another; we use other humans to gain wealth for ourselves. We do all of this with no thought to the repercussions. My Atheism is a realization that what we have is finite, time especially. That has generated compassion I could never cultivate when I was Buddhist, a love I could never feel when I was Christian.

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Trying to find my footing on sacred ground. Minimalism, Finance, Lifestyle, and Spirituality.

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James Winter

James Winter

Trying to find my footing on sacred ground. Minimalism, Finance, Lifestyle, and Spirituality.

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