One thing I miss about being religious is the sense I could have existed under different conditions than I actually do. For example, had it been 'my time' I could have been born in the middle ages, or in China, or as the world's youngest Taco Bell manager, managing a Taco Bell from the day I was born, and that even though I would have had different genes and parents somehow I would have still been 'me'. Despite the different physical circumstances, because my soul or essence would be within that body, it could still be considered 'me'.
As I believe now, the only conditions under which I could exist, are those within which I do. Meaning, had that particular sperm of my father's which happened to connect with my mother's egg at that particular moment not happened, then I would not exist. To say that I could have been born 500 years ago becomes a meaningless concept. Without something like a soul, in what sense could that individual born at that time be me? Even if through amazing chance he were exactly like me in every way except being a china man from way back, it would not mean anything to say that individual was 'me', anymore than saying any other individual was me.(because we are all made of the universe)
For me to have been born at some other time, my parents would have also had to have lived at that time. and their parents would have had to have lived just before them, and theirs before them and back and back to the beginning of life. Every direct ancestor conceiving their offspring at the moment they did. Had any of that, at any point happened any differently than it did, I would not be be.
I suppose it is a funny thing to miss, this feeling that I could have existed under different circumstances. It isn't that I miss not feeling as if my identity were arbitrary, because even when I was deeply religious I felt an individuals identity was arbitrary even if your particular station during this life were not (your soul happened to have certain characteristic because it happened to be created that way or by chance, or it had always existed and was always that way. Arbitrary).
One reason I think I miss it, is that I often like imagining what I would be like if I had been born in Rome during it's peak, or ancient Japan, or ancient Africa, or a variety of other things, and believing that such a thing is not even theoretically possible(aside from time travel), makes it a little less fun to imagine.
Which isn't to say I entirely do not believe in a soul or an after life. I like the idea of it. Often I pretend to myself I do believe these things because it is comforting and familiar. I frequently pray and feel it benefits me even though I don't really believe it is something more than a psychological phenomenon. There are even rare moments when I genuinely do believe, but mostly, despite how much I may want to, I do not. There are other things I miss. Some things I do not. Maybe I will make a list.
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