Gloom is no part of my religion.
Abigail Adams to Mary Cranch, Philadephia, November 26, 1799; quoted in The Founders on the Founders (2008), ed. Kaminski.
There really is no necessity to be dour about living in the world that God has made, unless you are trapped in hopelessness. If you live without the capacity to appreciate the world’s beauty and with a heightened feeling of suffering in the temporality of its misery, it seems quite horrific and painful. Some people make a religion of experiencing this pain because they want to somehow make expiation. They are on a treadmill built by the Accuser because they just can’t figure out how to stop feeling guilty.
With a malicious, sadistic tormentor constantly throwing painful shocks at you and never explaining anything to you, I can see why someone would choose to deny that God exists rather than admit that God is evil. But, like many false dilemmas, this one is based on a misapprehension of what life is and what consciousness is. Life is not determined and consciousness is not the realization of one’s fate. Life overcomes circumstances and consciousness is the realization of possibility.
The plain facts of natural order, the vitality of life, and freedom of human choice constitute my bottom line when it comes to metaphysical questions. That is why I don’t really care for scientific, philosophical, religious, psychological, economic, or political ideas that deny these things; not because I think certain ideas are “bad,” but because I think they are stupid. If someone willfully ignores the truth when formulating their ideas, those ideas are self-evidently stupid.
Thus, if a form of atheism affirms those three basic principles, it is not necessarily stupid, in my view. It may be wrong in other ways and it may be bad for other reasons, but it is not stupid. Likewise, a form of Christianity which denies one or more of those principles is stupid. Maybe its practitioners are truly saved and their doctrine is somewhat biblical, but nevertheless their beliefs are stupid.
Stupid beliefs are punished with misery and failure, and because they are deliberately chosen though contrary to evident truth, they cannot be corrected through education. They require an act of will, the discarding of useless preconceptions. One of those preconceptions is the idea that God wants you to be miserable. If you are miserable, it is because you are ignoring what God wants to give to you and say to you; and it is probably because you are too focused on what other people want to say to you.
The antidote for that is a text that doesn’t rely on what other people say about it and someone who speaks for God without relying on what other people say about Him. That’s why I choose to rely on the Bible and the witness of Jesus for my understanding of God’s will.