There are religions which teach that you were born lost, impure, unworthy, unchosen and in need of salvation. The cure to your fatal disease is to accept and follow the set of beliefs and behaviors outlined in whichever book informed you of your inadequacy. In return for your loyalty, you’re promised that after you die you’ll be spared from a torturous eternal fate you supposedly deserve and get to spend eternity in a vaguely defined paradise.
If you accept this explanation of life, then the path before you will be simple. You just have to keep believing in what you were told and keep following the rules. You can pretty much just relax and wind down the clock on autopilot, and you’ll never have to worry about figuring out the answers to any of life’s big questions yourself. This makes religion sound appealing, but the benefits don’t actually outweigh the cost, because all of the religions humans have invented are simply human inventions. They’re all mythology.
Facing the fact that religion is mythology is terrifying for believers for several profound reasons. First, it means you’ve been lied to and used by the person you thought was your savior, which is too emotionally traumatic for many believers to even consider. Worse than that though, when you lose your religion, you lose your purpose in life and your moral compass. Life is existentially depressing and hopeless if you’re not living with purpose, and it’s confusing if you don’t have a compass. Since you still need answers to life’s questions, if you don’t have a religious book to look them up in, that means you’re responsible for figuring them all out for yourself.
We all know we’re not prophets or Einsteins. We know we don’t have the intelligence or authority to figure out the ultimate meaning of life. This means after you figure out that religion is wrong, you can’t just trade in all your wrong answers for all the right answers. You just lose you’re moral compass and spend the rest of your life lost.
A lot of theists would rather live a comfortable lie than face a lifetime of being lost, not just because it’s scary, but because they view being lost as a sign of weakness, a character flaw that needs to be stamped out. The cold, hard reality of the world we live in, is that we’re born lost, and we’re destined to wander the universe lost until we die. We’ll all face death not knowing what happens afterwards or if our actions mattered. Once you accept that, you can cope with the situation sanely. But denying the reality of the situation only cripples your ability to cope with it, and that’s the definition of insanity.
Believing in mythology is like trying to hike across America using a maritime chart of the Indian Ocean for directions. Plus, you’re stuck with a traveling companion who forces you to act the way Indian fishermen acted 2000 years ago, and he constantly tells you you’re not good enough. Accepting that you’re lost, and looking at the universe from an honest, scientific perspective, is like hiking around America with a wilderness survival guide, and your traveling companion is Sherlock Holmes.
If you’re losing faith in mythology, and you’re worried about what to do with your life after you throw away your map of the Indian Ocean, just climb to the top of a mountain, and look down at the forests and fields below you. Not one single tree, flower, or blade of grass is stressing about what to do with their life. They’re just drinking in the universe and reaching for the skies. If you were to look at yourself, standing on top of a mountain, eye-level with the clouds, you’d realize you’re already doing the exact same thing, and it’ll make you feel so alive, that the last thing on your mind will be death.
Of course, you can’t spend their whole life meditating on a mountaintop, but why would you want to when there are so many other experiences to be had, problems to be solved and wonderful people to be met? Frankly, you were going to spend your whole life chasing experiences anyway, whether you claim to believe in religion or not. You can just do it more effectively when you’re not blinded, gagged and crippled by fictional, mythological beliefs.
You can look at the mystery of life as an eternal curse, or you can look at it as an endless opportunity. The universe might not look as scary if you focused on how amazing it is. Maybe we’re not even really lost. Maybe we’re already home, or maybe this is what it’s like to leave the nest. Maybe what we’re supposed to be doing is using the tools we were given to fulfill our potential and not just sit around on our knees talking to ourselves and beating ourselves up for failing to live up to the moral standards of primitive cultures.