I had a weird thought recently.
I realized that I’ve become a more moral person in the last decade. The same decade in which I gave up on my pursuit of religion and came to terms and embraced the life of a non-believer.
This was a VERY weird thing for me to realize.
But it’s true. Now, a lot of that is just life. I was immature and made a lot of mistakes as a really young adult. Back when I forgot I wasn’t invincible and forgot that I do have to pay for the mistakes I make. So maybe a lot of what changed was just growing up. Becoming more aware of the ripple effects of my actions.
But a lot of it I can see as a relation to my outlook on the world around me and my understanding of how my actions affect that world. And that understanding is something I achieved as I embraced my life without religion.
As I let go of the idea of a higher power watching over me, I embraced the idea that all of my actions – even those that no one sees – have consequences. Somehow, in letting go of one being that might judge me, I opened up to the universe being my judge. It’s not something I consciously did, it’s not like I felt I needed some sort of arbitrator for my behavior. But as I embraced my humanism, I became very aware of how connected we all are, and therefore I became more aware of the effects of even the tiniest of actions on my part.
I used to be a HUGE gossiper. (Gossiper? Person who gossips? Gossiper is a weird word.) I used to love sharing the lovely bits of drama I had heard that belonged in the lives of others. I used to love hearing those juicy bits of news. I would be the first to spread any secret that someone made me promise not to spread. I even thrived on the ridicule of those “lesser” in the social strata or even inhaled trashy tabloids and junky reality television.
But somewhere in the last decade of letting go of religion, my interest in all of that faded.
I somehow became unable to hear gossip without thinking about the person on the other side and how their lives would be effected by the spreading of these stories. I couldn’t watch junky reality television without thinking of the lives of the contestants and how they would continue after this phase in their lives. I couldn’t enjoy the trash without worrying about the people on the other side. I remember being kept up at night once after a particular meltdown of a contestant on Survivor. I kept thinking about her kids at their school and how would their friends treat them and their Mom after this. I just decided I couldn’t be part of the audience that kept those shows on television.
It’s been a very weird transformation for the girl who was addicted to Temptation Island.
This may be very unique to me. Or maybe it just comes to everyone, even those with religion in their lives, with age. Maybe I needed to lose my religion to really understand the world around me because I used religion as a crutch. I didn’t think watching Temptation Island was a sin, so why would I stop doing it? But when I became more concerned with my actions and the world around me, instead of just “sins”, I found myself curbing my behavior more.
I am still not morally “perfect” by any means, but it’s been an interesting realization to see that I’m – essentially – less of a sinner now than I was when I had religion. I still “sin” daily but my general attitude to the world is one of a good person, and I don’t think I could say that before. Maybe I needed to lose my religion to be a good person. Part of that makes me sad, because some of the best people I know are Christians and it’s unfortunate it couldn’t do for me what it did for them. But the other part of me is grateful for the crisis of Faith because it force me to look through a wider scope. It was no longer important JUST the specific actions I was committing and where they fell on the “sin” spectrum, but it was important how my actions affected those around me. When I do anything now, I try to pay more attention to the ripples in the pond than worrying about whether it fell in the “sin” or the “not sin” pond to begin with.
Of course, most of the Christians I know are the type who would probably be very glad of this transformation. They’re glad I’m a better person with a more Christ-like heart, even if I became that person by letting go of God.
My kids have been learning the phrase “Spreading Joy” lately. I’ve been teaching them the idea of actively adding joy to the world. Did they do anything to spread joy today? Somedays we’re doing our best just not to spread evil, but other days we’re trying to spread joy. I’m proud of this addition to my parenting arsenal. I’m not sure it’s something I would have stumbled upon when I was on the religious path I was on before. Other paths lead to teachings like that, but I was no where near those paths.
I guess my long-winded point is that I discovered lately that – for me – losing God made me a better person. And this is more proof that I like to embrace every time I see someone online or in the media claim that all of the problems in this world relate to forsaking God and religion. I am making the world better as a non-believer than I ever did as someone with Faith.
8 thoughts on “I became a better person when I let go of God.”
I admire you for being able to identify the significant change in your life and why it happened. I would have to say I identify with the opposite. Bringing God back into my life, opened up my eyes to the significance of actions to everyone, same as your revelation. I became more cognizant of what each action I did, even the unseen ones, or the regrettable ones, and how they affected others.
I was walking a path I wasn’t proud of before. I did not feel a light in my life, or a reason to try to better myself or anyone else’s existence. I welcomed God back into the equation and my entire mindset and being shifted.
Thank you for sharing this with us. I don’t look down on anyone, regardless of their beliefs. We are walking this path the best way we can, and sometimes our guideposts are different and the terrain is off kilter, but I truly believe that being kind and bringing joy is the best thing one can do with their time on Earth.
I think that’s why it came as a surprising revelation to me because most of my friends have experienced the opposite! I like to consider this me just being a non-conformist 😉
What a thoughtful and lovely post! I need to concentrate more on spreading joy – it’s a great way to frame the idea of looking past yourself and thinking about what you can do for others.
Though I do believe in God, I willfully walked away from any kind of organized religion about 20 years ago. What I discovered for myself is that freedom FROM religion was the key to truly becoming a better person.
I was able to focus on my actions (being a good person) once I was free of the guilt and control that accompanied the religion I was raised in.
I totally get what you are saying.
I admire your personal awareness and ownership. You may really like (after the to do list) to look at the concept of/in psychology of contextual self. In a word you are becoming “mature” ;). With or without religion real maturity fits what you are discovering.
How would one know? There is no objective definition of ‘good’ in atheism, let alone ‘better.’ This is not say that an atheist cannot be a good person, but only in the way I can do a good job with a borrowed lawn mower. The atheist must borrow or assume a morality.
So, let this also be warning: the atheist is free to borrow whatever morality he/she can rationalize, which is what made way for Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and a host of others.
Thanks for the warning, but I’m quite confident that my “rationalized morality” won’t lead me down those same paths.
This is a wonderful post. I love that you are able to explore and explain these things while still remaining so respectful of beliefs that have actually caused you and your family harm.
I’m not quite so gracious.
I gave up being an Evangelical Christian for being a…whatever. Conscientious spiritualist? Is that a thing? Maybe 7 or so years ago, and I think I am an infinitely kinder and BETTER person, and also happier I was a real ass when I had religion as an excuse to be so.