It was a Saturday afternoon and I was home alone. The telephone rang, and I heard the voice of a very dear friend whom I had not seen in years. He was contacting me having learned of my apostasy, my rejection of Christianity. This would have been a huge shock to him. We used to pray together every Friday morning, and we worked together on Alpha courses where we would share the good news of Jesus in the hope of winning a few more souls. To him I was living proof that the Gospel was true, that Jesus changed lives, and in many ways he had been a mentor as well as a friend. The phone call was polite yet slightly uncomfortable; he was anxious to learn what had caused me to walk away from what he considered eternity. One question he asked still irks me because it basically asserted that I had no moral compass now I'd unsubscribed to the idea of a celestial law giver.
Amongst some believers there is indeed suspicion that without belief in a higher power there is nothing to provide us with moral guidance. Really? Somebody should really tell the Swedish, the Danes, and all those other Northern European nations that report very low religiosity. In these countries there is lower societal disfunction, lower abortion rates, and lower STD infections than in those nations that report high adherence to religious practice. Perhaps Thor is exerting his unseen hammer and keeping people in line? And what are we to make of the United States, the most pious nation in the Western world? It boasts higher crime rates, higher societal disfunction, higher abortion and STD infections. The Lord does indeed work in mysterious ways.
In essence the question I was asked is a reflection of our human need for security. It can be uncomfortable to reflect on the fact that there's probably nobody watching, no divine architect. The Universe is vast and pitiless, caring nothing for us and knowing nothing of our existence. It seems to me that we have used God as a security blanket, perhaps in the same way that a child clings to a cuddly toy? To face the cosmos honestly takes some doing, and coming to terms with mortality is more difficult still. I freely confess that I still struggle, yet what am I to do instead? I cannot accept the truth claims of religion as they appear to be demonstrably false. The best I can do is lose myself in the wonder of this life, in the beauty of the cosmos and the Earth. I cannot deceive myself into belief, so I'm left with no choice but to take a deep breath, draw back my shoulders, and face the world as it truly is.