Let’s say I’m late for work; I forget my medications; I’m stuck in traffic; My boss is in a foul mood; All my assignments are late or need correcting; The website goes down; My body aches; I forgot about a meeting at which I’m presenting; My car’s falling apart; I lose a receipt I need to return something expensive; It’s so hot Dick Cheney water boarded himself; I’m sweating all over; My boyfriend pays more attention to his game than to me; I don’t have money for laundry and am on my last pair of underwear; The kids who live upstairs are screaming; Our air conditioner breaks; I can’t sleep because of anxiety …
We’ve all had “those days”—the ones when you used to think the universe was out to get you and would stop at nothing to ruin your measly little life—have changed perhaps more than any others in my experience since I left religion and faith behind. Or, more accurately, my response to these days has changed.
I used to think there was a message or a meaning behind every little coincidence or mishap. If I was delayed in traffic, that meant I probably missed a car accident and God was protecting me by making me late. If everything was falling apart at work, maybe God was telling me I needed to chose another profession. If I was feeling depressed or anxious, it was because I wasn’t in line with God’s plan and wasn’t intimately connected with him.
I was arrogantly obsessed with “interpreting the signs.” It’s just as “woo-woo” as it sounds. As a Christian I did it all the time, constantly, and about everything. Christianity involves a lot of guesswork that’s dressed up to look more reliable. Sensing or interpreting “God’s will” or the meaning of the doldrums of life is just part of having faith in a completely silent and unknowable supernatural being. Believers are left on their own to figure out what the fuck is going on and what they should do next. I’ve written more about the Christian life and God’s will if you fancy a read.
As an atheist, life’s journey is simply better and more reliable. As Carl Sagan said:
The universe seems neither benign nor hostile, merely indifferent.
I don’t blame my misfortunes/bad luck/coincidences on anyone or anything. Neither the universe nor a god is out to get me or to communicate to me through my circumstances. Since there is no god, I don’t need to worry about reading its mind to find out what it wants from me. A new job? A new boyfriend? Those choices are up to me, just as they should be. There is no grand “will” or “purpose” to interpret or guess. Atheism is, I’ve found, much easier and simpler than submitting to a religion. It keeps the responsibility of life on the individual and not on an imaginary force.
Oh, I guess there’s one exception: I admit to sometimes assigning motives and personalities to inanimate objects. When my computer, Miss Mary Mac (yes, I named her it), malfunctions, I either smack her it upside the monitor and tell her it to behave, or I stroke the monitor and promise it I’ll be nice if it will just work for once. I’m an abusive owner, I know. I don’t actually believe my Mac really has a plan or a bad motive against me; I just pretend it does to work out my frustrations.
Even if I have “one of those days” when everything goes wrong and I nearly fall back into the superstitious belief that there must be some sort of evil plan to thwart my success, I can now comfort myself with the knowledge of the natural world and how shit just happens once in a while. I am not being punished; No one is trying to communicate a message to me; All I have to do is my very best, and that’s what matters.