Many people, especially those who believe strongly in their own religion, think that free-thinkers are people who are ego-centric, who belittle the human experience, who don’t think about the fundamental questions about life – where we come from, what is the meaning of life, where do we go from here. I beg to differ. As a free thinker, I have always been interested in the teachings of different religions and cultures, I attended a Christian primary school and went to a church service earlier this week, I read up on Islam and I frequent temples and am familiar with Buddhist and Taoist philosophies. Even after learning about what the various religions offer, I choose to stay as a free-thinker. Why?
The main reason why religion doesn’t make sense to me is that it lacks coexistence. I haven’t come across any religion teaching that directly acknowledges other religions and asks its people to embrace and respect other religions. Religious teaching tends to be rather absolute, glorifying itself in the process. Growing up in a multi-religion country, I used to imagine that when we die and reach the heavens, we will reach a cross-road with the different religions written on the signs and the signs pointing in different directions. That was pretty naive of me to think so but I have always been concerned about the possible coexistence of the different religions. When I got older and learn more science, I see that in spite of the different colour, gender and physique, people are mostly physically and emotionally similar. In fact, human life is such a marvel: how a single cell embryo up-regulates the right genes and eventually form the different parts of the human body. I wonder if every human being in this world started out the same way, why will we end up at different places after death because of our beliefs? It doesn’t make sense. How is it possible that a conscious choice which you made in your life determined your salvation after life? How about those children who die before they have a chance to subscribe to a belief? The way I see it is that regardless of belief system, if we started the same way, we would end in the same way.
The lack of coexistence manifests itself in the form of horrific killings. Historically and even today, too many innocent people have died because of wars on religion. See Christians vs Muslims in Granada, Protestants vs Catholics in Ireland, Bosnian War, Sunni vs Shia in the Middle East today, the persecution of Jews in many places in the last few centuries, the persecution of stateless Muslim Rohingyas in Myanmar today etc. If I were to subscribe to any religion, I find it very difficult to not to think about how the same believers are killing other people because of our religion in other parts of the world. How is it possible for people to justify their brutal and barbaric killings in the name of their God?
Many people say that you find your way back to God at your lowest. I was at my lowest in the first year of my undergraduate studies. I had some major family problems and on top of that, I struggled with my writing and critical thinking module. Furthermore, I was in a fairly new environment so I have not formed a support network. I was perpetually stressed and depressed and life seemed void of meaning at that point. I remember I didn’t smile for almost 3 months. I didn’t find my way back to God at that point. Instead, I saw a tree and the tree spoke to me. I remember one day after school, I was sitting at a bus-stop and waiting for the bus to come. The tree has always been there and I knew that but I just never bothered to notice it. But for some reason that day, I looked at that big, equatorial tree with its leaves swaying with the wind. I felt as though the tree was laughing at me, I felt as though the tree was saying to me, “Why are you so troubled? I have weathered so many more storms than you and I never complain.” At that moment, I was awakened and I realized my life is really just a drop of water in this ocean of life and so there is no need to glorify my life and make it sound more than what it is. The issues that I faced at that time were enormous relative to my life but were close to nothing in the bigger ocean of life. So I smiled to myself that day and found the courage and strength in myself to make it through the rain.
People with religion tend to feel that their God put them where they are and give them what they have for a purpose and this empowers them. For me, I derive motivation from the fact that I mean nothing in this universe because I am just a drop of water in this ocean so I can do what I like, follow my heart and walk that path untaken by others. To put it bluntly, I feel that it is okay to screw up because I am just a drop of water but if I really succeed, then I leave a legacy and become two drops of water for Mankind. In a sense, I have nothing to lose either way so I want to give my best shot everyday.