I do not believe there is any higher consciousness. I do not believe in God, Jesus, heaven, hell, Divine Intervention, Immaculate Conception, the tooth fairy, Santa Claus, the Easter bunny, Allah, Yahweh, or the boogeyman. Or Xenu. Because these things are all the same. I shouldn't imagine that any adult truly believes in the existence of the tooth fairy, the Easter bunny, or Santa Claus now, but did as children for the same reason people believe in God - because somewhere along the line you were told by someone you trust to tell you the truth that this is, in fact, true. Don't really question why, just because I said so. And like most children, you take that trusted person's word and that's just that. Once you find out the truth about the tooth fairy, the Easter bunny, and Santa you don't really apply the same logic that you've been lied to by someone you trusted to the existence of God, but why not? If they'll lie about those things, what won't they lie about? That was how I processed it, and that is initially where my skepticism began. My parents are both religious people, as are all of my 6 siblings and their children. My entire family is devout and I accept my position as the lone heathen. My mother has never really discussed with me that I'm an Atheist, it would only cause her grief and worry and she doesn't need that. My father knows I put a lot of thought into my decision and that I read a great deal to conclude my position on God. Though he doesn't like it, he accepts it. My siblings don't understand but I maintain active relationships with some of them and they don't view me any differently as a result - though that has not always been the case.
As a child, my home was teeming with religion and a very severe awareness of Jesus and the saints. I knew the Commandments and the Act Of Contrition. I knew how to pray and how to behave in church, which we attended weekly. I was told on a daily basis reasons for why I was to do and believe certain things, but it was never reasoned to me in such a way that I could understand why this was to be so. I had to distill everything that was told to me and internalized that Jesus loved me, but he would let me burn in hell forever if I didn't do exactly this or exactly that. Some things I could agree with, some I was skeptical of. Jesus loved me and I would be rewarded with his love forever if I just believed. No one explained to me at this point that I would have to die in order to get the prize of his eternal love and protection. There were no dead people available for me to consult and find out if this were true, I had to accept it at face value and just believe blindly like everything else.
I was never scared of the boogeyman as a child until the day I reasoned this fear was substantial enough to make a home in me. If Jesus loved me but would let me be tortured forever in Hell by the Devil for being bad, then Jesus was the boogeyman!! We had pictures and statues and icons of Jesus and Mary all over, but no pictures of God. I had never actually seen the boogeyman, so I took from this realization (mind you, I'm like 6 years old here) that God had to be the boogeyman! After a while, I dismissed the idea of God being all good and loving if he was terrorizing me on a nightly basis. I lived in fear of the boogeyman, and heard the term 'God fearing' often - so it was a natural conclusion. I told my mother about this revelation and she made me pray with her to the baby Jesus for deliverance from my blasphemous freethought. It angered me to the point of pretending to pray out of spite and instead singing "3 Is A Magic Number" silently to myself. That is still my favorite Schoolhouse Rock song.
While walking home from first grade one day (back when it was considered safe to let your 6 year old children do such a thing) my sister told me that the man whose house we had to walk past daily, who sat on his front porch and would wave at anyone passing by, who was seemingly nice enough, THIS man was some evil ogre who murdered children and ate their flesh - or something equally lame. I didn't believe it, because he always waved at me and smiled - but kept his distance. His gesture made me feel better every day, and I thought it was ridiculous to say such disparaging things about a man who was being nice to us. I told her she was a liar and sometime later decided that I had no fear of him. I reasoned that if he was bad or mean that he would have tried to scare me. If he didn't, then he was okay by me but I wasn't going to think bad things about him just because she said he was.
Soon after I began my quest for proof of all things I was supposed to make a judgment call on. My mother told me that I was to take people on their actions, and not on their words. It was a variation on sticks and stones. I became skeptical of the Devil, especially when my mother would point out his handiwork in other people. I never could reason for myself the stories I heard from the bible. I was told so many things that I was not to question, things I felt were a blatant contradiction in terms. God loves all of the children - but he let his own son be murdered. Jesus loved me, but not unconditionally. That whole having to agree with every part of the written word does not equal unconditional. You will have eternal life if you die for it first. God murders people in mass numbers who disagree with him to do their own thing without hurting others. And miracles? I never saw one, and the ones I heard of sounded far fetched at best. What I hear being passed off as a miracle is really just an odd circumstance in my view, sometimes with really interesting coincidences. It wasn't a miracle when I died for a couple of minutes after my first lung collapse in '95 and then came 'back to life', it was a mixture of biological accident and skilled medical intervention - God had NOTHING to do with it!
As a teenager I read voraciously. I wanted to know why I was made to feel guilty about questioning things I didn't understand, and I wanted proof of these things I was "supposed" to believe on blind faith. The feelings of guilt were never a good fit on me and were really starting to piss me off. I was raised to ask questions and investigate, and this was encouraged when my parents left the church and the concept of religion was no longer discussed in our home. I read from the Talmud and the Torah. I read from the Bible and the Koran. I read on the Buddha and the Bhagavad Gita. I studied the crusades and anything I could find on Catechism without getting directly involved. I read on existentialism, nihilism, agnosticism, and assorted other philosophical writings. I read academic work on freethought and how one doesn't need religion or God to be moral and have values. I wanted proof of God. I wanted proof of his/her/its existence. I wanted to know if there was life after death. All the while I read and studied of this immaculate, perfect, wonderful love of God I never had any emotional or spiritual connection to anything I discovered. Others prayed and swooned with some kind of blissful presence, I felt nothing but a nauseating feeling that they were either faking or that it was a psychosomatic act of sorts. I kept going back to my childhood mythology and how robbed I felt to discover the lie of Santa and the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny. These feelings were one and the same. I was raised to believe in God and could find no proof he existed. I was angry because everyone I questioned gave answers that were so full of shit I was left feeling insulted, for I truly wanted to believe more than I ever really did. And now I found I was standing at the very precipice of my truth - did I jump off without the security of what I knew to be true, or did I conclude that it was all a lie?
I chose reason. I chose logic. I chose science. I chose to be responsible for my life's actions because it was my choice to be a decent human and make good decisions and judgments. I chose to be responsible for my actions and own my mistakes and wrongdoings without blaming them on a Devil. I chose to do right by people because I loved them and not because I had the incentive of a mythical place I would go after I died as reward for being a good man.
I rejected the idea of a way of life that would prevent me from enjoying what I felt were harmless things. I rejected the assertion that Jesus loved me but didn't love my sins. I rejected the notion that I lead a good life, yet I was a sinner. If there is no God, there is no such thing as sin and by that logic I decided that I had never sinned a day in my life. I rejected people who claimed to be Christians who didn't live every moment of their lives according to the Bible's teachings. You either accept the Bible as a whole and live by every standard in it or you are not a Christian - there is no editing out the bits you don't agree with. You follow all the teachings of Catholicism and attend regular mass & confession (if that is still what it is called) or you're not a Catholic. You follow the teachings of Allah and Mohamed and say your 5 prayers a day and live my the Islamic faith as depicted in the Koran or you're not a Muslim. You take it all or you cannot claim the label. You're a hypocrite or you're not.
I truly believe that I'm happier without the idea of God in my life. I never feel guilty or shameful, because I never do things I'll later feel guilty for or ashamed of. I feel more enlightened without the choke-hold religion and blind faith put on me as a child. I was born an Atheist just like every other living person - and now I've come full circle. I feel completely liberated. I never feel the imposition of judgment for things I cannot control. I believe this life is all that there is and that makes each day special and meaningful. I have come to appreciate life in a much more complete sense now that I live each day as fully as possible. I make moments count while I have them instead of waiting for a payoff at the end of my life. I don't live in fear of the consequences of thinking for myself.
I have a responsible life full of friends and family. I have a home to be responsible for and children to help raise. I have a community I try to be active in so that it will be a better place for these children to call home when they no longer need me. I try to help them be individuals and think for themselves to make better decisions in their own best interests, and not let others do the work for them.
I'm a better man without God than I would have ever been with God. I know that some would think this is crazy - but then again, that's their prerogative and I'm fine with that. At the end of most every day, I am satisfied in knowing that I actively did something to help someone else less fortunate than I, even if that was just to smile at them and wish them well, instead of wasting my time trying to ascribe to some higher spiritual purpose.
I'm a good man because I choose to be. I don't hurt anyone on purpose. I try to make life better for my own family and don't concern myself with other's morality issues as it is none of my business how others choose to live so long as they're not hurting me or my family. I have a great sense of humor, because there is no humor in being righteous. I'd rather have fun than worry about some sky fairy who's looking at me from a cloud with a shameful eye plotting my imminent roasting in Hell.
All of this having been said, I do leave a fraction of room for error that I could be wrong. I believe completely that God is a made up thing. Assuming I'm wrong and there really were a God, I would still feel the same way and would reject him on sight - for a million reasons - the first of which is his crimes against humanity and allowing the painful suffering of those he claims to love so much yet forsakes every day. This is unacceptable to me, so in the highly unlikely event that there really was a God I would want to be the first one to spit in his face for crimes against humanity alone and tell him to burn in his own hell. Why you ask? Because I'd say the same thing to anyone who held my life in his hands and claimed to love me but would consign me to a painful death if I didn't do his bidding. Because that's not love. True love has no conditions. And if I died for taking that stand, then I lived according to what I thought was right and that's a noble way to go. And I'm more than fine with that.
As to the issue of my sexuality, all I can add here is that in all my life of having religious people never fully accept that my homosexuality was just as normal, natural, acceptable, and equal as their heterosexuality is to them, it has never once occurred to me that there was anything 'wrong' with me being gay. It has never occurred to me to be anyone but who I am to that end, and therefore I have no shame attached to it. I think it is really sad and unfortunate that because of reasons that point squarely back to religion alone many others do. People even kill themselves and get rejected by their families and friends because of this, and that is one of the most astoundingly horrifying things about it to me.
So for all I've read on the subject of religion and God (particularly Christianity), this is why I think it is all completely insane. In order to have faith, you have to believe what amounts to this: The universe was created by an all-powerful all-knowing being who came down to us in the form of a cosmic Jewish Zombie who was his own father who can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree. I don't believe in fairytale, supernatural, mythical beings of any kind, regardless of the form they allegedly take. This one is no exception simply because most people throughout the world do in some form or another.
I don't need anyone to agree with me. I don't require others to walk a similar path to mine in order to be part of my life, just to understand my point of view and respect my choice to live as I see fit. That's the way we SHOULD be with one another. If this resonated with you, good - you're not alone. If you got to the end of this and feel sad for me because you're convinced I'm wrong about all of this and you know a truth I'm rejecting, do yourself a favor and take a little time to consider what would happen if I actually COULD prove that I'm right in everything I've said so far and YOU are the one who's had it all wrong your entire life. What then? You may not like it, but that might actually be the case - and all the faith in the world wouldn't change that. So before you try to convince, convert, or chastise me - be me for one day - and know that you're wasting your time, because I'm a happy man just as I am and wouldn't have it any other way.
Thanks for taking the time if you've gotten this far!