Hello my name is Chris (I don't know why I'm starting this article like this) and I have been wandering two drastically different landscapes for the last two months and in the coming few weeks I will walk upon two more corners of this strange planet. I won't speak in riddle, I have been in Madagascar for the summer and after an unprecedented illness I tapped out and relocated to the Aegean Sea to recover and find a moment to gather my thoughts. Next week I will be traveling to my hometown of Detroit and soon after I'll be in between stars and mountains somewhere in Colorado with a few of my closest friends. Above all else I have been traveling the world for quite a few years now and I've experienced life in many different forms. I've seen the good and bad of human beings and I've experienced the perspectives of many different cultures, some which have many similarities to my home culture and some which are so drastically different that I could spend days writing about.
I used to think that my travels would somehow help to organize my thoughts and I once believed that by stepping far outside of my original perspective I would be able to gather one that is new and unique however I can sadly report that I'm just as confused as ever. I am speaking now of religion and I'm sorry to anybody who reads this that feels a strong conviction yet is made uncomfortable by what i'm about to say.
Many people in dozens of countries have asked me if I believe in God or moreover which religion I sign up for. I've hidden behind safe answers like 'I'm a Buddhist' or at times I reply that 'I don't sign up for one religion yet I'm interested in learning more". Sometimes I answer more sincerely and reply that I have yet to see any proof of God outside of the negative effects of signing up for a religion such as war or cultural taboos which further thicken the borders between countries. At this moment somewhere in time I would like to reveal what I truly believe in, if anything perhaps just to clear my thoughts and these particular thoughts came to me in beautiful moment sitting alone on the beach or perhaps somewhere deep in the forest when I realized just how alone a human being can be.
Do I believe in God? We will get to that.. As for now I can say that what I believe is not in a way that is acceptable to call myself a member of a particular religion. I have a very deep respect for Islam and I'm marveled by the true Christians I have known in my life especially those like my father who is well knowledgeable on the subject and seems to not only believe in things blindly yet with a certain conviction that backs up his beliefs with truth. I have had conversations with Hindus in both India and Nepal that have blown my mind in that I have experienced first-hand the belief system of Hinduism, something which books really only scratch the surface of. Judaism is something that I feel to be sacred to many and in some walks of the religion especially in the form of Hasidic Judaism which believes in worship through celebration and happiness, I'm very intrigued by this. I do call myself at times a practitioner of Buddhism however I do hide behind the belief that Buddhism is less a matter of theism and more a matter of practicing a conscious and humble life (this is a half-assed answer, please pardon me as I'm writing this for sake of simplicity).
I ask myself again, do I believe in God? Still no answer. I would like to gather some thoughts about the people I've experienced in different religions. I have met some truly awesome people each religion fore-mentioned however I cannot write this without adding that I have met some absolute shit heads who have shamed their convictions with prejudice and ignorance. However I am 32 years old and experienced enough to know that a bad example of a person does not equate their beliefs to be inaccurate.. it just means that I'm wasting my time talking to idiots. Personally I think that members of religious groups are afraid of each other and I have heard endless accusations on each end which are fueled by fear and lack of knowledge. Some people tell me that Allah is not God whereas Krishna could never be confused with Dios (which is simply Spanish for God). People have told me that HaShem is by no means the same God as the Catholic model and Shiva could never be mistaken for Zeus (eyes rolling.. crossing.. lost in confusion).
From this point there is a simple answer which many people hide behind that declares all religions to be different perspectives of the same thing yet I... I don't know... that gets us nowhere.
Do I believe in God? Short answer and knee-jerk reaction (perhaps ego speaking) NO you are all crazy and uneducated and need to get your information from more than one book. You are all stupid and care more about your convictions than simple human empathy and the advancement of our planet and species. Okay that was harsh and I'm not even sure if that is what I really feel. It is tempting to get angry at religious people as they clearly do dumb things all the time but their hearts are essentially in the right place and they are in pursuit of wisdom and truth as I too am searching.
So what do I believe? I ask permission to ask the following.. does it really matter? Do I have to believe in anything? No. I believe that we are bits of carbon and fiber assembled by billions upon billions of years of chaos and disorder formed and reformed after the birth and death of billions upon billions of stars. Our bodies are finite and we will one day return to the dirt from which we came. We have no souls and we do both good and shitty things to each other because we are lost and confused as every other animal however we have assembled a frontal part of our brains through many years of evolution. To those unlearned in the evolutionary process of the brain (as I surely too am outside of TED talks and Wikipedia) it can be understood that the front of the human brain was developed as a survival trait sometime around the descent of our ancestors from the trees into the dangerous world below when we must play out actions in our heads before they actually happen; i.e. we have a consciousness that lets us experience outcomes of our actions before they happen thus causing us to choose more favorable actions. This is not a soul, it is a part of our brain, sorry but it is true.
I, Christopher Matthew Ardagna, believe that we are a manifestation of a piece of the universe which is placed upon a floating blue and green rock hurling its way through space. We will die one day and our consciousness will cease to function. Life however will continue to function in other members of our species as it did long before we came. If I do believe in God then what I believe in is a god of a different name, the Universe. I will end on a quote made by a person who is much better with words than I am: