Being atheist doesn’t come without difficulty. It’s like the choice to not have children, or to not get married – or anything that goes against any norm in society. I often get asked things like, “So what do you believe in?” or, “Surely you must believe in something greater?” Contrary to what it may seem, atheism is not the absence of belief; rather it is a rejection of theology as we know it. It’s basically the belief that humans do not need the structures of religion to instil goodness.
Atheism is often mistaken to be a belief in science over God. But science is not a belief system; rather it is a method of investigation which questions things that may never be answered, such as the creation of the universe. Atheists tend to choose this over dogmatic ideas in religion that sometimes gives answers that may never be questioned.
Faith, however, is where the difficulty lies. Atheists do believe in something – it’s just that the nature of skepticism tends toward blind faith being the mother of all fuck-ups. And recently, I discovered faith – the kind of faith you don’t need to go to church for.
Faith is generally taken as complete trust or conviction in something without physical proof. It’s this kind of trust that led me to two unlikely friendships – ones that will hopefully stay with me to the end of my days. Both friends are Christian – firm believers in the Good Book. They are very different, but both have shown me what faith truly means.
They showed me what it means to truly put your heart into someone else’s hands and let go of ego, pretence, and the self-preservation that we all, at some point, feel the need to maintain. Love is the ultimate leap of faith. When you truly love someone, it’s not just putting your heart in their hands knowing that they can crush it, it’s about trusting them enough – sometimes without any evidence – to know that they won’t.
I have been suffering with mental illness since I was young – depression, bipolar, and later epilepsy. I learnt to deal with all three on my own, and not to rely on anybody for support. But recently, it’s been taking its toll on my body and mind. As much as I never wanted to give in to asking for help, I’ve discovered that there is no weakness in asking. Enter said friends, and asking for help was the easiest thing I have ever done. Not only with messages of support, or just dropping by for tea when I was at my lowest, but actively trying to pull me out of the hole that depression digs beneath anyone that suffers with it.
And I wouldn’t be the nerd I am if Indiana Jones didn’t come to mind in reflecting on this. It’s when father and son reach Alexandretta in search of the Holy Grail that Jones has to face three challenges. The third is The Path of God: “Only in the leap from the lion’s head will he prove his worth”. These two friends, in their constant help through this difficult time, showed me that their belief in God isn’t just about comfort for themselves – it’s about giving comfort to others.
And that’s what faith truly is.