No matter how far one subsumes themselves in modern pleasures or goal-oriented pursuits, an all-enduring truth remains.
That is, there exists no substitute for faith, and the more we neglect this actuality through constantly seeking to “live in the moment”, the starker it grows.
Before proceeding, I’ll clearly preface this post with the following: I don’t profess to be altogether free from sin, or have substantive expertise in religion (perhaps aside from my earlier learnings as an anti-Islam blogger). If I were to fully undertake a religious conversion, significant personal life changes would need to take place–a process not for the faint hearted. Thus, this post (despite my Christian sympathies), is not written from any ivory tower–these are thoughts on an important field that all people should consider.
Now, more on the indispensable role of religiosity. Or more specifically, where faith’s absence is most keenly felt, as I’ve come to intuitively understand in the last few years.
If one was asked to reflect on what drives modern life, many things or words might come to mind. But as an Australian born in 1995, with my own personal influences to draw upon, one phrase particularly stands out–self improvement.
Through our mainstream culture and service-based economy, we are continually dispensed an overriding message of self improvement: “how to lose weight fast,” “how to build up your stock portfolio,” “how to be a stronger man,” “how to find a suitable partner,” etc. Now in of themselves, these are largely benign messages to sell; and decent enough objectives for individuals to pursue.
But if our society is to be directed towards ends that secure ostensibly better material outcomes for individuals, then what are these same individuals to do, when better material outcomes are no longer possible?
What are people to do when personal loss, illness, injury, poor health and ultimately death prevents one from improving any further? Similarly, what are people to do when said ruthless forces trigger a regress from earlier achievements, and cause one to relinquish their very existence; developments which may occur at any moment?
Truth be told, without a sincere belief in religion–that after all of life’s suffering, there will be rewards for the virtuous and devout–in the second half of most people’s lives, a steady trajectory of decline will befall them. These people wane in their intellect, fitness, health; lose many of their closest family and friends; before they themselves face up to death. In many cases, the ailing do this in pain and while hopelessly clinging onto the physical world.
Undoubtedly, the religious too suffer in our world, and some would contend they live more restricted lives. Nevertheless for an atheist, there can be no soothing answer to this existential crisis which haunts the living. There is no escape: death is eventually coming for us all, whether we like it or not. When this climax occurs, whatever act of self-improvement undertaken in life will cease to hold relevancy. Even worse than this, all people (besides a very exceptional few in history), will ultimately live and work towards certain ends, before they die, and their deeds are later forgotten by the living on Earth.
In this context, there can be no alternative to faith and the reassuring answer it provides regarding our existence–a central question infinitely more meaningful than the subsequently contingent pursuits of money, women and masculinity.
Controlling death is not in our hands, at least for now. But religious conviction is (largely) in our hands; and when absent, there is no substitute to explain life’s biggest questions, nor ease anxieties over suffering and death.