When we talk about God — the existence if a God, the presence of God, the purposes God has for our lives — we often speak as if what we believe about the universe will alter the universe in a fundamental way.
I often hear people say things like, “if there is no God, then that means that the universe has no purpose.” Or, “if there is no God, then that means we have no ultimate reference point for morality.” People make these statements as if they are objective facts about the material world, but I often hear a deeper confession: “if I don’t believe in God, then my personal universe will have no meaning or direction. My world will be plunged into absolute darkness.”
I used to believe this. A world without a personal God was a wasteland ravaged by the winds of chaos. I had an innate assumption that what I believed about the universe would fundamentally alter the universe in some way, because I conflated objective reality with my subjective experience of the world. I had the belief that, if I had no God, then I would have no meaning. Therefore, I held onto God, out of an existential terror of purposelessness.
But slowly, my God was taken away from me. Little by little, piece by piece, the personal God I had built was dismantled. It was like watching my grandmother slowly die of cancer; it was like losing a part of myself.
In the face of this relentless, unavoidable deconstruction, I found a startling humility: the universe doesn’t care what I believe about it. Of course I use the word “care” figuratively here. What I mean is that the universe is not shaped by my beliefs, and that it is what it always has been, even before I lost faith in a personal God. The universe is still a mystery, still unfathomably complex and beautiful, regardless of whether or not I believe in God. What I believe about the universe has not, nor ever will, change the universe in any fundamental way.
I discovered that everything I believed about a godless life was nothing more than an assumption, and an unfounded one at that. Ultimate reality is still ultimate reality; mystery is still mystery; beauty is still beauty.
Now, in my non-theistic Christianity, I’ve found a new spirituality: letting the universe be what it is. I don’t need to understand it, and I don’t need to control it. I don’t need to search for a God behind it. I need only sit back and trust, and be ok with the mystery, wonder, and magnitude of the cosmos. If truth comes to me – by way of science or revelation – I let it come. But I now understand that the striving for a God, and to conform the universe to my own understanding – is a form of suffering.
The universe doesn’t care what I believe about it, and that is a beautiful thing.