The Happiness Creed

the-happiness-creed

The arguments on my friend’s Facebook page descend into name-calling. It is to be expected, of course. She’s been talking about religion.

I sit and witness the back and forth comments of theists and atheists alike, each with their own rock solid convictions. God is not real, the atheists say, he’s as imaginary as the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus. But I’ve had a personal experience with the divine, the theists claim, you can’t dismiss how I feel.

I don’t really care if someone believes in God or not — it’s entirely a personal choice. What interests me is how such a belief enriches a person’s life, right here and right now. How does being a Christian make things better?

My experience is that believing in God makes life less enjoyable, less loving, less compassionate.

These are the things I must relinquish in order to love, worship and follow the God of the Bible:

Sexual Freedom

I cannot be sexually intimate with someone unless I’m married to them. And I must stay married to them for the span of my entire life. Masturbation and pornography are off limits. As for same-sex relationships, the verdict is still unclear — some say yes and some say no. Monogamous, heterosexual, vanilla sex are my only options.

Reproductive Freedom

Although I might be lucky enough to get away with contraception these days, I cannot have an abortion. My own physical needs are secondary to the needs of my developing fetus. I am expected to remain celibate before marriage, so I remain ignorant of contraceptive methods and good sexual health practices.

Gender Equality

The Bible states that as a woman I am subservient to my husband. In some churches I must cover my head and keep my mouth closed. As a woman, my highest function is to produce children. If I don’t have a husband or children, I am next to useless. I am also responsible for the way men respond to my physical presence. I cannot wear clothing that could be interpreted as provocative, for fear I will cause a man to stumble into the sin of lust.

Compassion and Tolerance

Those who have not accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour will suffer eternal damnation when they die. Not only that, unbelievers are the tools of the Devil sent to tempt and torment the righteous. I must make a judgement as to the holiness or worldliness of those around me and act accordingly. Even trying to understand someone else’s beliefs is dangerous, and can drag a Christian down into the depths of sin.

Faith in the Goodness of Humanity

All humans are born in original sin, and without spiritual intervention, will instinctively be selfish, dishonest and driven by lust. All the evil in the world is a result of our debase nature, and all the good things an expression of God’s benevolence. I am constantly wracked with guilt over my inability to be sinless and blameless, and must seek divine forgiveness for simply making mistakes.

•••

There are two things that I am told are the reasons for devoting one’s life to God. The first is that he pays special attention to his children, answers their prayers and eases the suffering of their mortal life. The second is the promise of heaven — eternal life without suffering, pain or loss.

If God does answer prayers, I don’t see much evidence of it. Good people get sick and die, get raped and murdered, get bullied and abused. If God intervenes, he doesn’t do it often enough to make a difference.

And if heaven does exist, I guess I won’t be invited because I didn’t follow the rules. But if the fear of hell is the only reason to believe, then that’s not enough for me.

I want my life to be filled with intimacy, I want to enjoy and celebrate my body, to feel empowered, to love and accept my fellow man, and to see the indescribable beauty in the souls of all humans. Christianity takes all that away from me and replaces it with unfulfilled promises here and now, and unprovable promises for the future.

I choose not to believe, because belief takes away the lightness in my life. The road is difficult enough without carrying the weight of fear and guilt on my back.

katie paul • happiness creed

What are your thoughts? Am I missing something? Is God more than an insurance policy for the afterlife?

Article: The Happiness Creed written by Katie Paul, first appeared on head-heart-health.com.

 

About KatieP

Embracing my midlife sexy while exploring modern love & relationships • Devoted to all things beautiful • Master of Arts in creative writing & non-fiction writing • Join the hottest group on FB → Sassy Ageless Women

30 thoughts on “The Happiness Creed

  1. I am with you on most of this. I have struggled with these issues most of my life. I can’t buy into the dogma that seems to accompany most religions and churches. I consider myself spiritual. I have faith in God. But my god does not condemn people for believing other things. He doesn’t expect exaltation. He(she, whatever) simply expects us to try our best to be good caring people. I can’t buy into the idea that the bible is “the word.” I don’t go to church and occasionally I pray. Mostly to express gratitude and sometimes out of fear. I have never understood the notion that you must believe “or else.” That sounds more like the mafia to me than a loving enterprise. But I am hopeful and optimistic that there is something bigger out there, that there is more than earthly existence. My beliefs would not fit in with any religion that I know of so I just do my own thing. (not easy living in the Bible belt in the Southern U.S.!) (oh, and the notions of precious virginity and chastity and serving your husband… ugh.)

    1. Thanks for your great comment Gretchen, you exemplify the kind of spiritual person who makes humanity better and not worse.
      Why don’t you move to Australia — we’re much more liberal here xx

  2. First, a Hi to Gretchen from a fellow resident of the bible belt. I feel your pain.

    Katie, having been deeply involved in the referenced Facebook discussion it’s not my intent to bring it to these pages. However, I’m not sure I agree with your statement that you ‘choose not to believe’. Is it really possible to choose one’s beliefs? From my perspective personal belief comes from a synthesis of an individual’s experiences and understanding built up over one’s life. We can certainly assert belief to others in something we do not actually believe, but are we capable of internal arbitrary choice that goes against our experience and understanding? Maybe I am reading too much into a turn of phrase. Thoughts?

    You will not be surprised that I agree with you on everything else with the exception of not caring if others believe in gods. I should clarify that a say that I do care when a belief in gods has a negative impact on mine or others lives. Keep god beliefs out of the public sphere and I am in total accord with you.

    1. Hi Mike – thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment on my post.

      You make a good point about my choice of words ‘choose to believe’. When I think about it, it probably comes from my exposure to NLP where the way we look at things and our values are a choice, especially where things are not always black and white. But I’m not convinced this is the reason, so I’m just as happy to say ‘I believe’ 😀

      As for people believing what they want, for me it doesn’t matter as long as it doesn’t have a negative impact on mine or others lives. If people start telling me or others what to think or do, then I get cranky.

    1. Thanks Peggy — for me it was quite confusing and confronting to reject what my parents taught me. But now I can confidently say that my values/conscience makes religion unpalatable.

  3. I’m not sure what I believe anymore. Although I didn’t grow up going to church it was expected that I live life the way the bible says but to me it is a judgemental book that is pretty close minded. I know this isn’t the popular view, but I have never cared for being popular. It all just sounds like a fairy tale to me.

    1. Hey Rena
      It is so interesting to me that you were expected to follow the instructions of the bible even though you didn’t go to church. It highlights how insidious this belief system is. Good on you for making your own decisions. ♥

      1. Hi Katie I thought I would explain. Before I was bornuntil I was about 4 my father was a preacher. He became very disillusioned not by God but by the “supposed” Chritians who worried more about how big and nice the church looked instead of helping people who really needed the help. He quit the church and never set foot in one again until 9 days before his death for my brothers wedding (different church). He believed in God just not necessarily the people who worsgipped in church.

          1. Are you aware of the clergy project http://www.clergyproject.org/ ? It’s an anonymous support group for preachers who no longer believe in the reality of gods, but whose livelihood and society is dependent on their standing in their church. Some of these folks go through awful separation trouble when they ‘come out’; losing their job, their income, their friends, their colleagues, and much of their family. It’s a tough road to hoe, and I’m glad there is a support group for them.

  4. Hi Katie, Another fantastic post!

    Being raised in a fundamentalist home, one of the greatest struggles for me was making a choice. I knew I didn’t fit, but oh how hard it has been. How can you not feel like you’re “bad” or “evil” when you choose against a Biblical teaching & interpretation you’ve been taught is the only “truth”.

    So, as I raised my son I emphasized choice and no judgement. His father remained fundamentalist while I did not. At 25, he makes his own choices, angst free. It is possible!

  5. I grew up with zero formal religion and at times I wonder if that’s what more people need to not feel their lives and afterlives have been taken hostage.

    “My” God came along when I needed my God, and has since inspired my humanity, kindness, compassion, forgiveness countless times. Maybe it’s my soul that’s responsible for that, but I’ve already formed a picture in my mind of my God, I already talk to my God, my God doesn’t hold grudges, and my God is pretty responsive so I’m good.

    I have faith, I have a God and I feel blessed. But I’m not sure I would if the influence in my life and treatment of others was framed by fear or punishment or reward or anything else described in that God-of-the-bible you referred to.

    I do want you to know your piece made me think hard about the shoes other people are in. Thank you.

    1. Thank you Susan for offering your perspective. I wonder how you feel about those of us who don’t share your faith in God. Are we missing something that you have?

      I am not trying to be argumentative, I’m just genuinely interested in how faith improves your day to day experience. Maybe I should ask it the other way — what would you miss if you stopped believing?

      1. I honestly can’t say I feel up or down about any who don’t share my faith, since I can barely articulate it myself. My point was that faith is an individual discovery. The last thing I would do is criticize anyone for how their belief aligns with mine or doesn’t.

        As for what faith does to improve my day to day, or what I would miss if I stopped believing…I just imagine I would feel alone, without some belief that I will find peace within my circumstances, whether spiritually or emotionally or physically.

        Faith is something I feel strongly, but don’t describe too often and I’m not sure I’ve done it justice here. I appreciate your asking.

        1. A great reply which I totally get. I, too, feel less alone when I connect with the “oneness” of the Universe, which I see as the great collective of all things. Perhaps we just have different words for the same experience. Thank you so much for your insightful thoughts x

  6. Thanks for the good and brave post. I’m a Buddhist, or more like Buddhist wanna be. I don’t like the “godhead” thing. I don’t feel like I need one big, all encompassing God, male or female. It seems like when religions have that one God, that’s when the world suffers, because my God, of course, is better than your God.

    Anita

    1. Hi Anita.

      I love it that you’re a Buddhist ‘wanna be’. There are many wonderful Buddhist philosophies but I struggle with the ideas of reincarnation and that all life is suffering. Of course, I’ve only read one book, so I’ve probably got it all wrong 😀

      At lease we are agreed that religion is a destructive and divisive force.

  7. Tons of interesting stuff here Katie. I grew up in a church-going home, and became disillusioned in my late teens, largely because of the hypocrisy I saw. I found what you wrote about what you cannot do if you believe in the bible God very interesting, because of course, what it really is just someone’s interpretation of the bible. I remember poring through it trying to find anything in the New Testament that actually said sex outside marriage was a sin. It doesn’t say that. (It may in the Old Testament, but I don’t think I checked – we had a fairly enlightened minister who explained that so wasn’t to be taken literally, partly because it was written by people long after the events. Whereas the Gospels were – well gospel!!)

    I gave up on God for a long time. Then I came across a book that explained Buddhists see God in everything, and that made sense to me. I didn’t take up Buddhism, but I do find myself frequently saying, “I’m not a Buddhist, but…” In particular I like the perspective that there is no separation between us and God – I sense that too. Deepak Chopra has a really good book on this but I can’t remember its name.

    You ask if you are missing out, and probably only you can answer that. If you feel something is missing, then yes, and if you don’t then no. I did feel something was missing when I rejected all spirituality, but you don’t do that.

    1. You’re right,Yvonne, I don’t feel like I’m missing anything.

      I am awestruck by the complexity of the universe and the workings of the human mind. If divinity is to be found anywhere, it’s in the trees and the sky and in the hearts of men and women.

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment.

  8. Hi Katie,

    I was raised in the Catholic Church by a liberal Catholic mom. I hated the Dogma of the church and was never confirmed. To this day, I do not regret my decision.

    After a long journey of trying to do everything on my own, I became a Born Again Christian. However, then and to this day, I struggle with many of the Bible’s inconsistencies and contradictions. The day before I was to be baptized, I told my pastor I didn’t believe non-Christians went to hell, and thus wasn’t sure I should be baptized. He said I shouldn’t worry about others’ beliefs, only my own. That is how I live my beliefs to this day.

    I see other Christians (generally, extremely conservative) rationalizing their hatred towards Gays while they ignore the Bible’s stance on divorce and walk down the isle a second, third or even fourth time. I was ashamed to call myself Christian when George Bush was our president because our beliefs are so different, we may as well be entirely different religions! I despise the things people do in the name of religion, whether they are Christian, Muslim, Hindu, or Harry Krishna.

    The two reasons you’ve heard for believing in God are not reasons I believe in God. I believe in God because I cannot do it on my own; because there is a small voice inside that speaks to me, but isn’t me; because I personally need AND want him in my life.

    1. Thank you for sharing your story, Lynn. The difference is I believe that the small voice inside IS me, and that I am strong enough to survive anything without needing the help of a divine being.
      I know you’re that strong too, but I get that it helps to not feel like you have to do it all on your own ♥

  9. Hi Katie,

    Excellent and very open hearted blog post. As someone who was not raised in a religious home myself, and who has never experienced any religious faith of any kind, I find it hard to appreciate how daunting the process of letting go must be. My only insight is Julia Sweeney’s monologue: Letting go of God. Very funny, and very human, which I’d highly recommend to anyone in the ‘serious doubts’ phase.

    I don’t think I can answer your question, but what I can say for myself, is that I cannot possibly imagine how my experience of life could be any fuller than it already is. I don’t know any believers who seem to enjoy it more me, or get more out of life, or wonder more than me at the beauty of the world around us. I’m an artist, a writer, a photographer and a musician, so I’m wide open to the aesthetic wonders of nature and the ineffability of the human condition.

    I care deeply for other people, and have compassion and empathy for others, despite having never believed in any god for even one second of my entire life. I make my living writing fundraising campaigns for international charities. I could earn more writing commercial advertising and marketing copy, but I choose to be part of the solution instead. Not because a religion says I should. Or to get to heaven. Or for the glory of god. I don’t believe in any of those things. I do so, I guess, because that’s just who I am . . . without god.

    So I don’t know if believing in god would make me a worse person. But I’m positive that faith has played absolutely no part whatsoever in making me the person – flaws, good points, bad habits warts and all – that I am.

    Jules

  10. I’m of a mind that all religions are essentially people’s way of explaining the unexplainable – way back to the ancients who thought Zeus threw lightning or that Poseidon’s wrath caused death at sea – and is a sort of spiritual security blanket for those who cannot mentally accept that death may really be the end. I feel bad for religious people because we now have advanced science to explain all the things we didn’t used to have the answers to, they’re like ostriches with their heads in the sand refusing to look up and see the light of day. There may have once been a good purpose for religion – forging lasting family bonds and aiding in the building of communities held together by common cause – but those purposes are now obsolete. We’ve risen above religion, and I feel like it should be left behind with other antiquated things like slavery and female circumcision. Unfortunately, it clings on as much as those other things do…

  11. There are two quotes I love. One is by Cory Booker, a Senator from New Jersey who has a quote about religion that includes “before you speak to me of your religion, show it to me in how you treat people…” and another from Neil deGrasse Tyson who speaks about how the molecules in our bodies are traceable to high mass stars that exploded. He said that “It’s not that we are better than the universe, we are part of the universe. We are in the universe and the universe is in us.” That is my belief, that we are all one and my son believes in the Viking gods…..so we’re all good.

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