I’ve never been to church. And although I like Hozier’s song, please don’t take me.
My salad days consisted of museum wandering, art festivals and urban expeditions–not pews and bible studies. This is because my parents decided to give me freedom in finding my religious identity.
For years, I experimented with Buddhist proverbs and showed up at Young Life meetings, always a bit dumbfounded that a set of written rules and morals governed the lives of almost everyone.
Soon enough, my difference crept up on me. I didn’t know why I had to acknowledge our nation as “under God” every morning, why other girls felt compelled to be “decent and modest” and why my most religious peers were the most rebellious.
The Catholic ideology suggests that, to be a devout follower, one has to follow a moral compass otherwise known as God’s Ten Commandments. If one fails to do so, they will have a miserable afterlife. In other words, Catholicism, like many religions, is rooted in guilt and fear.
Scientifically, it is quite impossible that our bodies do anything after death except rot. This is discomforting for many, but our comfort–religion–is manmade, which I find equally discomforting. We are quite literally a species of people subsiding with other beings on a rock floating through a tiny corner of a ceaselessly expanding universe. To think that we are anything but a cosmic oddity is almost comical.
In this sense, I like to think that any combination of atoms that happens to be alive is precious in the face of the universe. But beyond that, we owe our aliveness to the planet we live on.
I told my parents I didn’t believe in any God after I went vegan. I knew the two were interchangeable after watching a Carl Sagan video titled, “You Are Here,” in which he says “Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena.” This has two implications–that we are temporary cosmic oddity and that because our existence is so improbably, we should put forth every effort to preserve our planet and our wellbeing.
The first implication accounts for my atheism. By knowing the sheer enormity of just the observable universe, it is infinity clear that Earth and all to ever exist or occur on earth is nothing more than a winning lottery ticket. It is naive to think we were carefully crafter by some almighty force. It is artless to think we must live our lives to please someone or something greater.
The second implication accounts for my veganism. Because our planet is the only one known to “harbor life,” as Sagan put it, we, the alive, have a responsibility to not exploit. We have a responsibility to maintain. By living a vegan lifestyle, I am consuming only what the Earth is offering me instead of assuming that I am superior and anything I see is mine for the taking.
Although it’s a peculiar opinion, both veganism and atheism share a fundamental sameness: they breed an unselfish outlook on our simultaneously mundane and magnificent existence and encourage the alive to protect the source of their aliveness.