Most of religion had become nonsense to me by July of 2013.
Except for one thing. To care about others because God said so. I liked the religious command to reach out of oneself to help other people, the injunction to be compassionate toward other people.
Despite being an Atheist, the command “Love thy neighbor” was still appealing to me. I even wondered if this meant there was a “god shaped hole in my heart.”
After losing God, I felt I was losing my reminder to be empathetic toward other people and this concerned me. I did not want to lose my empathy and didn’t know yet whether Atheism offered an alternative positive suggestion by itself. Because of my upbringing, this demand to care about others seemed tied to Christianity somehow.
“Love thy neighbor”
Religion is structured in such a way that god acts as an excuse to be compassionate toward others – to pray for others. It is a simple belief that one is helping someone by praying for them. Too bad prayer is so statistically ineffective.
But this command to care was the remaining bit about religion which kept me slightly unsure about calling myself an Atheist. I always liked praying for other people when I was Christian.
Prayer gave me a method to do something – regardless of its lack of influence – it seemed to improve me as a person.
Then, in an interview I heard a well-known Atheist point out, “All of religion is secular, it is all manmade; from God to the dogma.”
This was an amazingly important and timely insight. And it was all I needed.
The morality inherent in a secular life is no different than the highest ideals claimed by religion. In other words, It is all secular! Even God. And that includes prayer; the act of wishing someone well.
Religion doesn’t own something separate from that which the Atheist can own. Because God and all the constructions around religious belief is just a construction of men. I am therefore free to accept my natural inclination toward empathy and compassion as a beautiful and fully secular activity. I do not need to pray to a god (who is not there) or to ask for permission to wish someone well. I can just do it.
I’ll clarify a bit:
If there are particular things I happen to like about religion, I am free to keep them as I wish. Religion is a subset of secularism. The wisdom of empathy is its own reward and needs no divine command.
It took me 6 months of Atheism to get to this point.
That is a sign of the powerful grip religion had on my mind.
Religious indoctrination is incredibly hard to shake off. Up to now I had separated religion from secularism. That was wrong.
God is secular!
By July 16, 2013, I finally felt free of religion.