My Life as an Atheist

College, I’m sure many would agree- is a very liberating and exciting time. Never in my life have I met so much diversity in thought and culture. It helped that I decided to live in a dorm called “International House” which housed 400+ residents at a time from more than 30 different countries.

I remember fondly having nightly debates on life and the universe with my good friends who were Buddhist, Roman Catholic, Atheist, and Islamic at the same time. We would sit with each other with ramen, milo, and someone playing an instrument and just share our experiences in a kind and open environment. Then hours later we would scream obscenities at each other in a game of Halo, Call of Duty, or worst of all: Mario Kart.

It was in college when I was introduced to the diversity of thought and philosophies which existed in this world, and when I started really wondering about my faith. While I enjoyed Buddhism, there were aspects which seem unnecessarily convoluted: the many realms of existence from Hell (Demons, Hungry Ghosts), lower life forms like Bugs and Animals, the “True Middle” existence of Humans, to Heavenly beings (Demigods, Gods, enlightened beings living beyond consciousness and unconsciousness). Even something simple like the Law of Karma has many nuances when examined in depth: does Karma never “forces” justice which is why Hitler didn’t die from a gas explosion immediately after he gassed the Jews. Karma instead uses probability to make bad things more likely to happen to bad people, and good things more likely to happen to good people- and this is over many lifetimes.

In the last few years of college and after, I started reading more about some of the negatives of Buddhism. In India, for example, many use Karma and Reincarnation to justify wealth inequality and the current Caste system. “I was born rich and deserve to continue to be because of my good deeds in my past life. You were born poor and deserve to be because of your evil deeds.”

In Burma mosques were burned and Muslims killed by Buddhist Monks. It greatly disturbed me that a religion all about peace and non-violence could be used as a justification for oppression, murder, and genocide.

This, I realized- was true of any and all religions. Islam, Christianity, and Buddhism are full of love, kindness, and tolerance. The Buddha, Jesus, and the Prophet Muhammad all preached pacifism, acceptance and non-violence, yet all 3 religions have been the cause of so much suffering and violence throughout history and even today.

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