Prompt #2: What is the one aspect of your faith/belief system that troubles you the most?
In Letter 1, I asked you to introduce yourself to me and tell me about your belief system, whether religious or not. But no matter how strong you believe in something, there are always bits and pieces that cause us doubt. In Letter 2, I’d like you to tell me about the aspect of your personal belief that gives you the most trouble. This should be specific. Don’t be general. I want to hear what you struggle with, and why that struggle is so hard for you. I believe we learn as much about people by listening to what causes them to struggle as we do by listening to what causes them to celebrate.
Please remember to send your responses as both a snail mail letter (please!) and as an email. I’ll use the email to post your response on the website and cross-post them on the Faith, Fully Facebook page. The snail mail letters will be used for a physical project that’s coming later!
Yeah, ok, it’s kind of an obvious answer, but you asked for honesty, not intrigue.
I’m writing to you now from 10,000+ feet in the area, a situation that has always thoroughly terrified me. My lifelong fear of flying runs so deep that it has prevented me from experiencing much of the world. I recognize that my anxiety is irrational and that I am actually safer up here now than I was getting to the airport this morning, but that’s not good enough for my brain. Each time I step inside one of these machines, I am convinced that I will not return to Earth (or, to be more specific, I’ll return to Earth sooner than expected, and at a much higher velocity). That thought, that everything could be done in an instant, fills me with such terror that it is often too difficult to bear.
Everyone fears death. Our systems are designed to do whatever it takes to keep us alive no matter what. But what bothers me specifically is the concept of nothingness, of non-existence. Maybe it’s the ineffable finality of it, or that I can’t grasp what it will “feel” like to just slip away. Or maybe I just enjoy existing. Regardless, in the moments where I actually recognize and face the reality of what waits for me at the end of the road, I have to lie down to avoid a panic attack.
In many ways, that is what makes me skeptical of religion in the first place. I desperately want to believe that this life is not the end, and I suspect most others feel the same way. It’s not difficult to buy into an entity that offers you the ability to mitigate your greatest fear. “Believe this and you never have to die.” It is one of the defining aspects of all religions: what the afterlife will be like and who will be admitted. It just all sounds like humans seeking a way to avoid the darkness to me.
But there’s a certain beauty in the idea that all life ends here. I feel like my lack of faith helps me maintain perspective on the events of my life. I am humbled by the knowledge that I am not even a blip on the radar of existence, and as a result resolved to make the most of my little slice of time. I’m not sure I would feel the same way if I thought this was all just preparation for the afterlife. I may not even be on this plane today.
That doesn’t make dying any more palatable, however. I feel like I have to consciously ignore my mortality, or else I would be consumed by it. There are times when I even worry about what might happen to me if there is some sort of creator. I’ve never quite been able to outrun the boogeyman hell stories of my youth, warning me of the fiery eternity that awaits should I refuse to be saved. If such a place exists, that is surely what waits for me on the other side. And even though I perceive them to be machinations of humanity, nobody can say with 100% certainty that they are complete fallacies. That small ping of self-doubt is enough to send me spiraling into a world of fearful “what if”s.
Maybe as I grow older the fear will begin to have less of a hold on me. I suspect no one is ever truly ready for death despite what they might think, but maybe I can become more accepting of it. Or maybe I will be driven to renew my faith just so I can no longer be scared, though I hope I do not become that weak. I think it’s likely that the fear will just never go away. It’s part of a deal I made to see the world as it is. Life may be more fulfilling, but it is also more fleeting.
The plane just bumped and I nearly jumped out of my seat. People across the aisle are judging me. They know there’s nothing to fear.
Maybe someday I’ll get there too.