If there is one thing over which my wife and I don't see eye to eye, it is without a doubt – spirituality. I am not a very spiritual person and believe life is governed by laws of nature and logic. This means a number of things, but perhaps most importantly; it means I don't believe people are rewarded for being good or honest. People ought to be good and honest, but the reward for such behaviour will not come through some all-powerful, all-knowing force. When you are an honest and pleasant person and treat others with kindness, you are likely to reduce the level of stress in your life, avoid problems with the law, and probably be healthier for it. Even when you look at it from a purely selfish standpoint, being a good person makes sense. So, why is it important for so many of us to believe in a more elaborate story than this?
It's probably because admitting we don't have complete control over our lives is such a difficult thing to do. While we were children we've been told stories about good things happening to good people and we want to believe it is so. However, bad things happen to us in all shapes and sizes and denying the fact vast majority of them have no correlation with how positive or good we are as people seems to be the preferred way of looking at life for many of us.
We desperately seek security. We want someone to guarantee us safety if we play by the rules. Life simply doesn’t work that way.
Is it possible to feel someone rolling their eyes? Because, I think I feel my wife rolling her eyes at me for being so negative. The truth is, I am not being negative at all. I think this lack of a guarantee is a good thing. Instead of believing that life will suddenly become scarier or more difficult the moment you admit you have just as much chance of being struck by lightning or dying in a plane crash as the guy who used to bully you when you were a kid, be prepared for the opposite. Knowing that nothing is guaranteed in this life makes it that much easier to enjoy fully the moments when everything is going your way.
Alternatively, if something bad happens that was out of your control, it’s nice to know it really wasn’t your fault. Universe is not punishing you for not visiting your grandparents on their 50th wedding anniversary. You might get cut out of the will, but it will not be the Universe that gets you. Being devoid of belief in the supernatural is like living with the hand brake off. Also, being a good person when you know you might not get anything in return makes you… an even better person, and it feels great.
Of course, many will argue that people who don’t believe in some sort of supreme benevolent force will have less accountability and be more prone to doing something evil or at least harmful to others. Fair point, but we have laws and regulations for such individuals. Besides, if someone is an evil person, they are likely to find an excuse for their behaviour under any paradigm. We are sadly witnessing many evil acts across the world being perpetrated by those who describe themselves as religious and peace loving. No threat of eternal damnation is stopping them, if anything, they have managed to translate religious teachings into a call for destructive behaviour.
Being non-spiritual works for me. I find it liberating and comfortable and being a good person is even more rewarding than when I was more of a believer in cosmic justice. On the other hand, if you are a good person because you believe the Universe is telling you to be one, than that’s fine with me as well. Just don’t be that person that doesn’t leave a note when you scratch someone’s car, or the one who leaves dog poo in the middle of the street. If Hell exists, it has a special circle for people like that.
Bozidar Jukic, AKA The Restless Native, is a Dubrovnik local with too many interests to name them all, with writing being at the very top of the list. He is a lover of good food, music and film, and a firm believer in the healing power of laughter. His professional orientation is towards tourism and travel so it comes as no surprise he spends most of his time alongside Mrs. Jukic running their own local tour company. Their goal is helping travellers from all over the world get a more intimate experience of Dubrovnik and what it has to offer. To find out more about their work, visit their website or Facebook page.