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Dori Hartley

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The Day I Lost God

Posted: 12/21/11 11:58 AM ET

One day, while I was watching a news report on TV, something happened to me: I lost God.

It only took a second, but it was real. It was as real as were all the many years I'd spent trying to find him/her/it.

I'd already given up on religion. That decision came naturally as well. For most of my life, I pored over the great religious texts, both Eastern and Western. I practiced austerities, fasted, tithed; I chanted, meditated, praised and entreated the deities, gods, goddesses, devas, lords, masters and supreme beings.

Religion was cool enough; it came with lots of mysterious metaphor and in many cases, incredibly gorgeous artwork. The poetry, mathematics and art of religion enchanted me, and because I was willing to enlist the power of my imagination, I felt that, with enough faith in the path, I could actually unlock some of the mysteries that nagged at the human conscience. Mystical writings, rituals, congregation, contemplation -- all very illuminating. I loved it.

Until of course, I saw how destructive it's followers could be. Religion had turned out to be so much more than a path to God -- it had become a competition, and the game was called, "Mine Is Better Than Yours," which trickled down into "I'm Better Than You," and ended up as, "You Suck So I'm Gonna Kill You".

So, I left religion and figured, well, I can still have God, right? I don't need religion to feel the spirit, and besides, wasn't that what I was searching for in my attempts at devotion?

I became "the non-religious person." My God didn't have a headshot or a publicist, so there was no flag for me to wave. There was just a need to believe, and an invisible something to focus it all on. I believed that he/she/it was the same invisible something that everyone prayed to, begged of and sacrificed for -- no matter what their religion was or wasn't.

And it went like that for many years. But on this one particular day, while watching the evening news, I saw something that was unintentionally broadcast, a flaw in the message, an undercover revelation. I witnessed a crack in the invisible something.

It was a program that depicted the terrible damages that had occurred after the earthquake hit the already fragile country of Haiti. Truly, the devastation was horrific, unthinkable. The cameras rolled and the world saw one gut-wrenching scene after the next.

They showed an entire family, hopelessly overwhelmed by the death of their three young children, all crushed beneath the rubble of buildings ruined. They clutched their crosses and wailed -- the mother, inconsolable; the father, a man whose eyes would forever be haunted with grief. The whole of the country, crying, genuflecting -- in shock. No words. Only weeping, praying and irreparable damage.

The cameras jumped to depict a new scene: A woman lying in a hospital bed, rescued.

"I was saved!" she cried. "I knew if there was one man who could get me out of there, it was Jesus Christ! He chose me and saved me!" Flash, flash, close-up, zoom in on the cross pendant...

In this case, the avatar of choice was Jesus. So, did that mean that Jesus, who was apparently very well worshipped and prayed to by most of Haiti -- including the parents of the three children who were crushed to death -- did this mean he favored the woman in the hospital bed over the three children whose devout parents were now left to mourn their loss for the rest of their lives?

And I started thinking, if God could spare lives, couldn't he spare all the lives? All those prayers, all that fear -- wouldn't you think that an all powerful being like God might want to lighten the load of all those who believed so intensely in him? I mean, just a tad? No?

How does one interpret one woman's faith as that which saved her life, while others of the same strong faith get to experience the worst of all tragedies -- the death of their children?

I found the woman's faith audacious. Her Lord saved her intentionally? Picked her over the others? This she believed? How could God do that? And how then, could she believe in a God that would choose her over the lives of three children?

Within minutes, the crack in the invisible something started splintering into infinite fractures and before I knew it, I was standing in my living room, watching the pieces of everything I'd ever sought to believe in -- fall apart.

The news report, the children. Haiti -- poor, poor Haiti. All those people. All those lives...

And the words came out of my mouth. Words I'd never thought I'd say.

"There is no God."

As I said it, I knew it to be the truth -- my truth. Not a truth I expected anyone else to believe in. But it was mine and it was permanent.

On the day I lost God, I discovered something else: nothing changed. No lightning bolt, no bad luck, no change whatsoever. Life still went on, it didn't need my opinion, nor did it care that I had one. It wasn't helped or harmed by my personal truth. It just was. Atheists didn't warm up to me, nor did dogs snarl at me on the street.

I no longer had God, but I still had love. I was still a happy, creative person. I still had nature and music. I still adored animals, the ocean and a good movie. Everything was the same, and it has been this way for me, since the day the earthquake hit Haiti.

When the shattered pieces of the invisible something finally blew away like smoke, I saw the world very clearly.

We created God so that we would have something to believe in, because believing in something makes us feel less alone. We created God so that we could believe in leverage. We created God because we couldn't take the weight and responsibility of free will.

But I mostly think we created God because we desperately needed to believe that someone could forgive us for being so arrogant as to think we are better suited for reward than another because of what we believe in.

 
 
 

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