May 7, 2012

Over on Ask Metafilter, there’s a question about hope in a godless universe. Here’s a response I just posted (the original poster’s text is in italics):

Like where I could tell myself to turn it over to God or let things go and he will guide me and/or keep me from harm. This is so comforting to me

Suppose you “turned things over to God” or “let go and let God” in the past and things worked out. You now grasp there is no God, or at least, no God that makes any difference (gods that are identified with the good that is, in a very real sense, within us all; or with the universe; or any other gods which don’t cause you to anticipate the world being any different are gods which make no difference in this sense). But this didn’t become true at the moment you realised it, it has always been true! God did not in fact guide you or keep you from harm in the past, and you survived anyway.

What is true is already so.

Owning up to it doesn’t make it worse.

Not being open about it doesn’t make it go away.

And because it’s true, it is what is there to be interacted with.

Anything untrue isn’t there to be lived.

People can stand what is true,

for they are already enduring it.

Eugene Gendlin

Can this feeling ever be replicated? What can I do to help guide myself through difficult times? I’ve tried to “act as if” there is a God (since I am in the camp that thinks we can never really know) but it seems empty and fraudulent.

When I was a child, I thought that my parents could make it all right and that nothing could truly harm me. It seems like your concept of God was a bit like that. Other people have suggested you can come to a kind of acceptance of the world as it is, a thread which seems common to the Buddhism and existentialism that people have been mentioning. In the real world, what hope there is must be tentative rather than sure, but I don’t see why that means there must be no hope.

There are plenty of de-conversion stories on the web where people similar feelings to yours: depending on how much you’d invested in your beliefs, it can be very unsettling to lose them. Maybe reading some of those stories would help.

But, as Gendlin says, the world is as it as always been, and you survived it before. At the end of my de-conversion story, there’s a longer quote along similar lines: there is no abyss.