I was in fourth grade when I remember my first friend telling me I was going to Hell for not being a Christian. I was in junior high when I realized I no longer believed in God, or was at least agnostic. In High School, as I developed in my sense of identity, I was vocal about my religious beliefs with friends. And one of my friends started carrying her Bible with her with quotes about unbelievers taped to the top. I started carrying the Tao of Pooh, to which I taped:
Cottleston, Cottleston, Cottleston Pie,
A fly can’t bird, but a bird can fly.
Ask me a riddle and I reply:
“Cottleston, Cottleston, Cottleston Pie.”
Over the years, I can’t count the number of times from that time forward that I’ve heard people tell me I was damned for my views, or saying something like, “Without a belief in God and Hell, what would stop people from murdering each other? What would make people be good?” Well, ask me a riddle and I reply Cottleston, Cottleston, Cottleston Pie. The answer is nonsense, because the question is nonsense.
Over the years, in response, I developed a more elaborate answer, though, than “Cottleston Pie.” It’s a two-fold answer. The first part has to do with God. Because I believe that it’s possible there is in fact a God, but it’s not possible that there could be this oxymoronic all-powerful, all-knowing, and loving God that damns nonbelievers to Hell. Logically, it makes no sense. God knows I’m an unbeliever, God knows what it takes to convince me, God has the power to convince me, and God doesn’t, and God damns me? Nonsense. Cottleston Pie.
Quite simply, if there is a God, and if God is good, then that God is a God of unconditional love.
That God doesn’t live by some rule that requires belief in order to avoid damnation. That God doesn’t need a Jesus to die a horrible and painful death in order to save humanity. That God can save anybody and everybody, regardless of religious beliefs. All-powerful God? Then all-powerful love. It’s really that simple. How could it possibly not be? Nothing else makes the least sense to me.
If God exists, quite frankly, I am loved. And you are, too.
But if God doesn’t exist, is the world cold and cruel? Is human life meaningless? Is love absent? Is there no reason to do good?
Of course not.
We are still precious and loved.
For some of the words that mean the most to me as to why, I turn to Carl Sagan. In the book Cosmos, Carl Sagan writes, “The Cosmos may be densely populated with intelligent beings, but the Darwinian lesson is clear. There will be no humans elsewhere. Only here. Only on this small planet. We are a rare, as well as endangered species. Everyone of us is, in the cosmic perspective, precious. If a human disagrees with you, let him/her live. In a hundred billion galaxies you will not find another.” In Sagan’s Contact, the character Ellie Arroway says, “I was given something wonderful, something that changed me forever. A vision of the universe that tells us undeniably how tiny and insignificant, and how rare and precious we are. A vision that tells us that we belong to something that is greater than ourselves, that we are not… that none of us are alone. I wish I could share that. I wish that everyone, if even for one moment, could feel that awe and humanity and hope.”
So of course, life is full of meaning. And there’s a world of reason to do good. And most of all, no matter what is out there—or isn’t—you are loved.