The thing that’s rattled me most since accepting and being open about my agnosticism has been the understanding that the universe is inherently unjust. There is no divine justice to be given in this life. This means that people will do terrible things, and get away with it. People will work had for their dreams but not accomplish anything. Good will happen to the evil, and evil to the good, and there’s nothing we can do about it. There’s no higher power to appeal to. Each one of us will have goals desires that we will strive for, but not get. Each of us will spend long periods of time, maybe decades or entire lives, with some kind of disadvantage or disability that stops us from fully enjoying life. Abusers and genocidal killers will get away with their evil deeds. The rich and beautiful will experience the best of life, while the poor and ugly get the worst. And that’s just how it is.
Those in poverty spend their entire lives in it because they can’t afford to get out. College women can’t feel comfortable walking their dogs after sunset. There are parts of the world you get killed simply for being gay. There’s constant talk of systemic racism and prejudice in the workplace. And that’s just how it is. I don’t think you can totally eliminate these things, injustice and unfairness are built into being.
Believing this makes me feel defensive. It makes me want to develop ways to better take care of myself because the universe is certainly not on my side, nor will there be any divine powers giving me an advantage. It also makes me tire of hearing constant complaints about how unfair things are. I know it’s unfair, damn it! Complaining about it isn’t going to change anything! Just deal with it already.
It also makes me philosophical. What’s the right way to respond with this cruel reality of life? The really dark side of me goes to suicide. And it’s not an entirely unreasonable solution. Why not end it early, avoid having to deal with this? It’s better than another option, which is to keep living and keep the nasty aspects of life forever in the forefront of your mind, thus being in perpetual depression and dismay. In a way that’s worse than being dead because now you experience the wretchedness of life with no possibility for redemption, and certainly no justice for any of it.
The third option is to accept this awful nature of reality and try to find some joy in life despite it. This is where the stuff I’ve heard from Jordan Peterson comes to mind. It means you’re continually in conflict with the very nature of reality itself. It’s massively tall order, but perhaps not insurmountable. It requires you understand what you want out of life and sincerely, whole-heartedly going after it. Because if you’re going to choose life in an unfair, harsh world, then damn it your ambitions better offset it and then some. The goal is simply to make life worth it despite the pain that comes with it.
I would say my responsibility for now is to mourn the loss of divine justice I once thought the universe had. Then to really see and accept how unjust and screwed up things are. Really internalize it, feel it viscerally, until I understand it fully. Then accept it, instead of being emotionally stuck on it. Then when I’ve accepted it, start acting in ways that help me overcome the injustice. How can I build myself up? How can I infuse more positivity in my life? How can I form relationships with others who will elevate my existence? How can I reduce the amount of injustice in the world, in what little sliver of it I can influence things? The world is a harsh place and it will bite and injure me many times, but perhaps I can make it worth it. That “perhaps” is the only kind of faith I have these days, a hesitant faith in my ability to improve my condition and the condition of others.