People

Bacchus: Belief without Religion

By May 27, 2019 May 29th, 2019 No Comments

I remember cycling with a friend of my parents through a typical Dutch countryside a few months after my grandfather passed away. We were talking about how I was coping with his passing. Because my grandfather was religious and his funeral was held at a church, she asked me if I believed in God. I told her I didn’t believe in God, but I did believe in ‘something’. I believed that what comes around goes around. My grandfather always did good, so I believed that was why he had a good life. That was why so many people attended his funeral and offered their condolences. He was surrounded by good because ‘something’ acknowledged that he did good. 

Somewhere between my grandfather’s death in 2014 and now, however, there was a turning point. Maybe it was due to me entering an academic setting, but believing there is ‘something’ started to feel really irrational to me. I think it is contradictory to deny that God exists, but to acknowledge that there is ‘something’ higher than us controlling our lives.

One of my best friends does believe in ‘something’. She believes in destiny, that what is meant to be will be and that everything happens for a reason. This always leads to very interesting conversations between us. Whenever I need advice or I’m feeling sad, she tells me that everything will be alright in the end. When something doesn’t work out the way I want it to, she tells me that I shouldn’t worry too much, because what is meant to be, will be. To her this means that if something didn’t work out the way I wanted it to, it wasn’t meant to work out that way.  

I usually respond to her with my, from certain perspectives, pessimistic view of life. The view in which there is no place for destiny, everything is totally random and things that happen to you are just coincidental and don’t mean anything. There is one main thing that always keeps me from agreeing with her: if you believe that what is meant to be will be, I feel like you won’t have to work for what you want anymore. I agree with Blair Waldorf from Gossip Girl on this one when she famously quotes: ‘Destiny is for losers. It’s just a stupid excuse to wait for things to happen instead of making them happen.’ 

At times I do still find myself trying to attach meaning to things that happen to me. There are some things that I feel are just too coincidental to happen without a reason. Those times it feels like there must be ‘something’ controlling my life, pushing me to use the opportunity it gave me. Although I rationally believe in coincidences, I do still catch myself thinking a lot about what those coincidental things all mean. I guess deep down I want to be really rational, but on the surface, we all believe in ‘something’.

Perhaps the most important thing is what things mean to you, not what they rationally mean. Attaching meaning to things is how you can find order in life’s chaos. Besides, what is life without meaning? Meaning is what brings color to life. And regarding my grandfather, although I no longer believe that he was surrounded by good because ‘something’ noticed that he did good, I do still believe that good attracts good. The difference here is that now I think he had a good life because he made sure that it was good. It’s up to you whether you have a good life, and you shouldn’t wait for your destiny to turn things around.

Illustration by Jannetje Jeanine Verloop

I remember cycling with a friend of my parents through a typical Dutch countryside a few months after my grandfather passed away. We were talking about how I was coping with his passing. Because my grandfather was religious and his funeral was held at a church, she asked me if I believed in God. I told her I didn’t believe in God, but I did believe in ‘something’. I believed that what comes around goes around. My grandfather always did good, so I believed that was why he had a good life. That was why so many people attended his funeral and offered their condolences. He was surrounded by good because ‘something’ acknowledged that he did good. 

Somewhere between my grandfather’s death in 2014 and now, however, there was a turning point. Maybe it was due to me entering an academic setting, but believing there is ‘something’ started to feel really irrational to me. I think it is contradictory to deny that God exists, but to acknowledge that there is ‘something’ higher than us controlling our lives.

One of my best friends does believe in ‘something’. She believes in destiny, that what is meant to be will be and that everything happens for a reason. This always leads to very interesting conversations between us. Whenever I need advice or I’m feeling sad, she tells me that everything will be alright in the end. When something doesn’t work out the way I want it to, she tells me that I shouldn’t worry too much, because what is meant to be, will be. To her this means that if something didn’t work out the way I wanted it to, it wasn’t meant to work out that way.  

I usually respond to her with my, from certain perspectives, pessimistic view of life. The view in which there is no place for destiny, everything is totally random and things that happen to you are just coincidental and don’t mean anything. There is one main thing that always keeps me from agreeing with her: if you believe that what is meant to be will be, I feel like you won’t have to work for what you want anymore. I agree with Blair Waldorf from Gossip Girl on this one when she famously quotes: ‘Destiny is for losers. It’s just a stupid excuse to wait for things to happen instead of making them happen.’ 

At times I do still find myself trying to attach meaning to things that happen to me. There are some things that I feel are just too coincidental to happen without a reason. Those times it feels like there must be ‘something’ controlling my life, pushing me to use the opportunity it gave me. Although I rationally believe in coincidences, I do still catch myself thinking a lot about what those coincidental things all mean. I guess deep down I want to be really rational, but on the surface, we all believe in ‘something’.

Perhaps the most important thing is what things mean to you, not what they rationally mean. Attaching meaning to things is how you can find order in life’s chaos. Besides, what is life without meaning? Meaning is what brings color to life. And regarding my grandfather, although I no longer believe that he was surrounded by good because ‘something’ noticed that he did good, I do still believe that good attracts good. The difference here is that now I think he had a good life because he made sure that it was good. It’s up to you whether you have a good life, and you shouldn’t wait for your destiny to turn things around.

Illustration by Jannetje Jeanine Verloop

Lisanne van der Velden

Author Lisanne van der Velden

Lisanne van der Velden (1999) studies Psychological Methods and is interested in the interaction between psychology and society.

More posts by Lisanne van der Velden