Here's one big change that churchlessness has produced in me: I no longer believe that this world -- where all of us are living now -- somehow is less real than an unseen theoretical heaven or higher realm of the cosmos.
In fact, it's hard for me to accept that I ever believed this, because it doesn't make any sense.
What would make someone turn away from what is right in front of them and try to embrace something imaginary that has no demonstrable evidence of its existence? Short answer: religion.
Or, some sort of mental illness.
In either case, the nature-denier lacks the capacity to say "Yes!" to what is genuinely present in the world, preferring for one reason or another to view the here-and-now as illusion, maya, devil's trickery, samsara, or whatever other word captures their feeling of "This isn't real."
Today I came across a piece that makes this point nicely, "Giving credit where credit is due."
It talks about how strange it is that religious types aren't able to see the marvelousness of nature, which is not only all around them, but is them, while claiming to know all about a distant God who is only an abstract concept.
...If I have never seen a god and don’t know what a god is or how it functions and operates and what actual impact it has on anything—how do I employ it and use it to produce explanatory function for anything in nature? How is what cannot be observed, examined or understood, useful or helpful in understanding anything? If I don’t understand natural process Y, and I say it’s the result of undefined function X—what have I learned? What have I explained or added to our knowledge? How does that help at all? And why would I put such a baseless thing forward as useful or real?
And highly germane to a book that briefly attracted my attention at a bookstore recently, "Fingerprints of God: The Search for the Science of Spirituality." The title was intriguing, but it didn't take much thumbing through it to realize that the author was imagining the fingerprints.
Not surprisingly, this also was the conclusion of science blogger PZ Myers, who wrote about the book here. After I read the review of "Fingerprints of God" he mentions, I was thankful that I didn't waste my money on buying the book.
I liked one of the comments on the review.