Given how easily religious believers can accept the existence of a god they've never directly experienced, I always find it surprising when they can't accept a much more believable hypothesis:
Giving up religiosity brings more happiness and contentment, not less.
This is what's happened to me, though I readily admit that comparing states of happiness at various times of one's life is very difficult to do. After all, it isn't as if we can lay them side by side and measure how much contentment they contain.
I was happy as an atheist. I was happy as a religious believer. I'm happy now as an atheist again.
Yet people have left comments on my blog posts claiming that I'm bitter about the thirty-plus years I spent as a devotee of an Indian guru.
Which leaves me thinking, "What the heck are you talking about?"
First, they aren't me, so they have no way of really knowing how I felt then, or now. Second, I was very much content with my religious practice for most of those thirty-plus years, just as I was very much content with my first marriage (which lasted eighteen years) for most of the time before it ended in a divorce.
Psychological research has found that about half of happiness is genetically determined. After that, a large share of happiness depends on "environmental" circumstances: health, relationships, job, hobbies, and such.
Religious affiliation plays a role in all this, but I suspect the belief aspect of religiosity has a relatively minor role. More important is feeling a sense of belonging to a larger group/cause, and the friendships that come along with being part of a religious congregation.
Now that I've given this up -- both the believing and the belonging -- I've found other ways of meeting those needs. I believe other things. I belong to other groups.
While it's difficult to describe the difference between my life as a religious person, and my current life as a non-religious (in my view, "normal") person, here's my best shot at an overall description.
I feel more in touch with the world and other people now, since I no longer feel special, chosen, unique, destined to know truths about the cosmos off-limits to most of humanity.
This is a good feeling.
In fact, a very good feeling. Before, I felt a sense of pressure to live up to standards my religion had set for me. Now, I'm considerably more relaxed. I don't feel like the fate of my eternal soul is up for grabs if I do this or that.
Because I no longer believe I have one, or am one.
In my experience, feeling like a normal, average, run-of-the-mill human being is more pleasant than feeling like you've been chosen by God (or a guru) to fulfill some divine purpose.
I've talked about this in a couple of other blog posts.
"Deconversion is as natural as conversion."
"I'm scolded for changing religions. But change happens."
I like this quote from a book by Jay Michaelson that I included in the first post.
Spiritual practice is about letting go, and that includes forgoing justification, specialness, pleasure, power, particularism, ego. At some point, it might be better to just admit that we are doing what we want to do, because any holding on to a sense of purpose is going to be counter-productive.
...Admit it all, and say so what. Let Being simply be what it is, whatever it is, without label or ascription, without looking for God, labeling an experience as God, or in any way claiming something is or isn't God.
And then, what might you notice? Perhaps a tone of relaxation, a quieting in the mind. The sound of the breeze, the feel of the air, ordinary sights of trees and sky. In other words -- whether God is delusion or not, your experience would be the same.