One question I get asked frequently is, “How can you be satisfied with not knowing?”  That’s a funny question, isn’t it? I’m not satisfied. But it’s more complicated than that. I have a curious mind and I want to absorb as much truth as I can in the small time I’m given. I would be lying if I said that it doesn’t disappoint me to think of all the things generations after me will understand about the universe that I cannot know.

But I would also be lying if I said there wasn’t great satisfaction in being unsure. I have the freedom to wonder about the possibilities….and freedom from the answers I used to believe in. Because there was a time not too long ago when I knew so much more, and I found it anything but satisfying.

That first euphoric feeling one gets when they realize that god could be anything or nothing at all? Part of that excitement is the overwhelming feeling of relief for all the things that are no longer a known certainty. I no longer know I am a worthless sinner. I no longer know there is a hell. I no longer know that god didn’t answer my prayers. I no longer know that everything that happens is god’s will, all according to his plan. And I no longer know all the secrets of the universe.

The day I no longer knew anything at all about god, all my guilt vanished. All the rules were gone and the slate was wiped clean- for both of us. Maybe god is good. Maybe god doesn’t even know me. Maybe god is irrelevant.

A funny thing happens when you strip your concept of god down to zero. Sometimes you discover that there is nothing out there to recreate god for you. But I was happier, because I would rather know nothing than only know something that isn’t true.

Not everyone would agree with that last sentence. I am surrounded by people who would rather believe in anything rather than nothing at all; and for them, faith and truth are interchangeable words. Some people need there to be a purpose for everything and to know that someone, ANYONE, has a plan. We cannot simply live and die and that’s all there is to it. What hope lies in that? And to them I can only say that we are each wired differently. We each have different ideas about what defines meaning and hope.

Haven’t we all gazed up at the skies and tried to wrap our minds around the vastness of a universe without end? We all understand how perspective works. We know that the possibility of us being as significant as billions of microorganisms is physically realistic. Why can’t our emotions grasp what that might mean? Are we really so complex and special?

Seeing ourselves through a different lens should be compelling enough to consider how little we really understand about existence. And still, we are complex and special. We are a species that searches for more. The idea that some of us are unsatisfied with the answers handed to us and instead are looking for something unknown is an undeniable and admirable human trait.

Sure it might be bad news for us and our place as the most important beings in the universe for which all of this matters;  but it definitely makes everything else more intriguing. And we haven’t scratched the surface when it comes to defining what “everything else” might include. I consider it a gift that I can even wonder about it.

The hope is that we will survive as a species long enough to explore and figure it all out. The fact that we have the ability to think this way and move toward that goal is not only fascinating, but more satisfying than anything I ever encountered during my years of knowing how everything begins and ends.


2 thoughts on “Satisfying An Atheist Curiosity

Leave a Reply