Get Busy Living Or Get Busy Dying

The “Shawshank Redemptionis a 1994 film based on a book by Stephen King called “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.” This is one of my all time favorite movies. I have watched it more times than I can remember. If you haven’t seen it, it is the story of a man named Andy Dufresne who was wrongly imprisoned for the murder of his wife and the man who his wife was having an affair with. He was sentenced to life. Shortly after arriving at the prison, he started digging a tunnel in the wall of his cell. After several years went by, he finally made his escape. Prior to leaving, he had one last conversation with his friend Red:

I thought of what Andy Dufresne said today when I was home with my kids. For some reason, this quote from the movie popped into my head. I looked at my kids and thought of what life is going to be like as they get older. I thought of all of the good times yet to come. I can connect with Andy when he said, “Get busy living or get busy dying.” I spent so much of my life as a Christian and living my life based on that belief. I lived my life as if it was temporary. I lived my life like it was just a glimpse of what lay ahead for me when I pass from this life into the next. I stopped worrying about the trivial things in this world because this world was destined to fall anyway. I was waiting on the next one to come. I lived that way because I was taught to believe that those things were true. So much has changed in my life in the past few years, most noticeably in just the last year alone. I no longer believe in Yahweh, Jesus or anything in the Bible. I don’t hang my hat on the hopes of an eternity. I have new eyes for this life and what I see is not what people once told me I was looking at. I realized that I was not truly living. I was actually dying by allowing religion to take my focus away from what was right in front of me.

Andy Dufresne was imprisoned for something he didn’t do. He was innocent, yet forced to serve a life sentence while the real criminal walked free. I can relate, as I imagine so many others can who were trapped in religion and managed to break free. I was serving a life sentence in the religious penitentiary for just following what I was taught. I was innocent. The true criminals were those who created religion to fool the masses and take control. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time when I was taught to have faith. I had no choice and I ended up paying the price for someone else’s crime. I was locked in a cell of lies, false hope and empty promises. I was stripped of my ability to deal with reality and cope with life’s tragedies.

However, just like how Andy found a weak spot in his cell, I found a weak spot in my faith; doubt. Doubt caused me to chip away at the prison wall. And like the escape from Shawshank Prison, it took me years to tunnel out. I had to break apart religion piece by piece and discard the rubble outside the walls. I lived in this prison for far too long, but my eyes were now fixed on the outside. I saw what this prison was all about and I realized that I didn’t belong there. So for me, just like Andy, it came down to a simple choice:

“Get busy living or get busy dying.”

34 thoughts on “Get Busy Living Or Get Busy Dying

  1. Ben,

    If you don’t mind me asking, when does your wife come into your many posts about your previous Christian life, home schooling your kids, etc, but I’ve never been able to discern their mother or your current wife now and how the whole previous family-Christian dynamic fits in with your present life. Can you help me with this? Hahahaha. ðŸĪŠ Or is my question/malfunction and confusion too personal? 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    1. OH! Btw, that is indeed a fantastic movie and a profoundly true compass for all human beings. Sorry, I intended to include that too in my comment, but I also I have a dysfunctional malfunction of my “Enter Key” finger — it always wants to…

      Enter. 😈

      Liked by 2 people

    2. I can try to answer this, but it was a bit confusing. I’ll do my best.

      First, “their mother” IS my current wife. She is my only wife. That part was a bit confusing unless you were just referring to her “old self.” My wife and I met when we were in high school. When we first got together, I was much more religious than she was, though she was raised Catholic as a young child. She can correct me if I am wrong, but in the beginning of our relationship, I’m not sure she had much of a belief in God at all. It was kind of “my thing” and she let me run with it. When we started going to church together she got more of a belief and as the years went on, we were kind of on the same page as far as faith was concerned.

      My wife very much let me take the lead and be the “spiritual leader” of the house. I would do all of the reading and research and she trusted my judgement. We made the joint decision to homeschool our oldest son from 1st grade through 6th. We wanted him to have a good Christian education. My wife and I (my son as well) were experiencing the same issues of not feeling like we belonged at our church at that time and were in agreement to leave it. Our son was becoming increasingly lonely at home having been removed from both church and public school. Finding local homeschool groups or arranging playdates was hard. But, we were always very open an honest with him about the religion aspect of our lives. We shared everything with him. He was still rather young and what I have come to learn now is that he basically just agreed with whatever I had to tell him If I told him God was real and that God loved him, he was like, “Okay. That makes sense.” When I told him I was losing my faith because of the lack of evidence and lack of response from God to any of my prayers and that I couldn’t justify believing anymore, he was like, “Yeah, that makes sense. I don’t see any evidence either.” It was a classic example of how easily manipulated kids can be and how trusting they are. He’s been in public school for two year now.

      The Christian lifestyle we lived was a fairly private one. We didn’t stay in a church as a family for too long, but still prayed and studied at home or with some close friends. We don’t spend nearly as much time with our church friends as we used to. They say it isn’t us, but I think maybe it is because they know we’ve lost our faith. I think it makes them uncomfortable. I talk with my oldest son (who’s almost 14 now) about religion from time to time and keep him informed of where I am now on my journey. My three younger children don’t know one single thing about God or religion. My wife, myself and my oldest son are the only ones who went through it. The hardest part of the transition was probably not praying at mealtimes and that was only because it became a habit, not because we missed conversing with God.

      I think that if I am being honest, even when we were all believing, it was mostly just me who lost sleep over religion. I was the one always trying to get things just right. I do think that there was a lot of “going through the motions” with all of us, though I was a bit more convinced of things for the longest. I don’t think we were much different than a lot of Christian families. We thought one thing, often did another and asked for forgiveness through prayer. We tried to give up a lot of secular things, but always fell back into old habits. We were a family whose beliefs were much stronger than our actions. Even when we “failed”, we still believed in God. There isn’t a huge difference in my family life now compared to then. We don’t go to church, but we had already stopped that anyway. We don’t say thanks to God for our food, though we do thank whoever prepared it. My son is thriving in public school, though he doesn’t overly enjoy going. He is going through sex-ed right now which is a bit uncomfortable for us, but something that would have been much worse had we still been homeschooling him now.

      What I write about most is my personal feelings. My wife doesn’t write much or talk about it much. I know she still has some strong feelings about our past “religious life.” I know that we have always agreed on most things and we left religion together as a joint effort. I think I held onto it longer than her. I think she eased into secular life with little disruption, but I had so much inner turmoil. She was only Catholic until maybe age 10 or so. Then it was basically no religion until she met me. I was raised Christian from the moment I was born and stayed until age 39. I think I had more invested in it. I think I took it more personally. I think maybe I am also a bit more sensitive than she is also.

      I’m not sure if I even came close to answering any of your questions, but I tried. My wife and I talk about religion all the time. Everything I write about is something we have discussed. Every hurt I have felt or question I have had, I have shared with her. I am more vocal about it, but she’s been along for the ride. Allowing me to take the lead in our house meant that she trusted much of what I had to say about things, but I was wrong on so many occasions. We now are doing our best to be decent people who raise decent kids because it is the right thing to do. That’s about. it. Hope that helped a bit.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Great answer Sir! Thank you. âĪ And there's so much in that story/answer that I can totally relate to. Thank you so much for being quite open about it. I don't mind being "very vocal" about thoughts/feelings so I'd encourage you always to don't change it or dilute it! LOL Sure we make irrational emotional remarks or decisions in the heat of the moment, BUT…

        if those dearest and closest to us have solid, consistent patience and forgiveness to give, then WOAH-NELLIE… we have hit the Motha-LOAD of home runs, huh!? 😛 Sounds as if your wife is a 10-time All-American and Hall of Famer for your antics and mouthy shenanigans. Hehehe ðŸĪ­

        Liked by 2 people

      2. My wife and I have been together for 23 years now. I think we are both good at putting up with a lot of “stuff.” We’ve been through so many highs and lows and have gotten through it all together. Though there are billions of others on this Earth, there’s no one else I’d rather go through life with…and there’s probably no one else who’d go through it with me. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

      3. HAH! Ben, just don’t ask me about my marriage track-record please! Apparently I have some sort of dysfunctioning malfunctions spreading throughout my gorgeous body and brilliant mind. I have NO CLUE what they are talking about! 🙁ðŸĪ” hehehe

        Liked by 2 people

      4. Your marriage track record I assume wasn’t a one person race to the finish line, but more of a relay race, passing the baton from one person to the next, no?

        That was a poor attempt at track and field humor. I apologize.


        Liked by 2 people

      5. He was exactly that way when I found him. He knows that I made him the incredible guy he is.

        Yeah right… he’s always been awesome and he straightened me out. 😉

        Liked by 2 people

      6. This — We were a family whose beliefs were much stronger than our actions. — isn’t limited to just your family. One can look around and see it in nearly every religious family … as well as individuals.

        If people were truly honest with themselves, they would admit they experience doubts. How can they not? But I think you will agree — indoctrination keeps them “faithful.”

        Liked by 3 people

      7. I do agree. Very much so. You just need to ask yourself what is more important, the truth or your lifestyle? If you are the type of person who wants to do what is comfortable and safe, then maybe the truth is not so important. If you are honest, truly honest, then you will settle for nothing less than the truth and your lifestyle will change to accommodate that. You need to want to know and you need to be unafraid of being proven wrong.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. He directed one of my other favorite movies (another one based on a Stephen King book) “The Green Mile.” I might have to watch that again too. He also directed “The Mist” (Stephen King again) which I also own, but the ending always bothered me. I only watched that one once as the end of the movie was very disturbing on an emotional level. Still a good movie though. It’s been at least a decade since I’ve seen it. I’m sure I’d be okay watching it again. Maybe I’ll have a Frank Darabont movie marathon today. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. And he’s the guy who got Walking Dead off to its great start on AMC. I wish he was still involved with it. There’s a B and W version of The Mist I own that I really like. It looks better in B and W. Half the cast of Walking Dead is in that movie. Darabont likes working with the same people. Hope he does another movie soon. He’s brilliant.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Christians and most religious believers are always on the “busy to die” end of that phrase, aren’t they. They are death cults, basically, because their focus isn’t on living right now or in the future, but on what happens after they die. What happens in this world isn’t important, what happens after you die is. You follow the rules, no matter how unjust, prejudiced or terrible they are, no matter how badly they may harm you and others while you’re alive, because it’s death and what happens after that’s important. So work yourself to death so you can pay your tithe to the church, so you can obey the god appointed aristocracy. So what if that means you have to live in abject poverty, your kids are sick, or you are literally working yourself to death while the aristocrats and priests are living lives of luxury. God ordained this. You can’t change it. Just be a good little christian or whatever, suffer in silence, and you’ll get your reward when you’re dead. Suffering is good for you.

    That’s not the philosophy of a religion devoted to a loving god, that’s the philosophy of a sadistic dictatorship that was designed specifically to try to keep people under control no matter how badly they’re treated.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Agreed. It amazes me how so many people can be convinced that there is more than one life when there is no evidence that backs up that claim. We believe what we want to believe and are willing to ignore all the facts in order to keep on believing. If God was real and wanted us to have knowledge of an afterlife, the evidence available to us would show that…but it doesn’t.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Ben, Thanks for your post. There are so many things to straighten out when it comes to figuring out “belief”. It all centers around life and living a life. The realization that this is all there is leaves no option but to do the best with what we have. There is but one life, not two. Good luck with your kids! GROG

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Grog. It took me so long to realize that this life is the only one guaranteed. My oldest son is still young enough to move past his religious upbringing and the other three will only live religious lives if they choose to as adults. That’s unlikely but you never know the influences they’ll encounter as they grow up. I am open and honest with all my kids. My oldest and I are very close so I know he’ll do fine without the church, the Bible or any of the religious stories I taught him when I believed them. He’s a smart kid.

      Living this one life to the fullest is what I want to do and what I want to teach my kids to do. I hope they embrace it and leave it with no regrets.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Damn you have some good analogies. Great post as usual Ben!
    “I realized that I was not truly living. I was actually dying by allowing religion to take my focus away from what was right in front of me.”

    Yep, that’s it. Christianity encourages self-sacrifice for some future ‘pie in the sky’. You’re essentially giving up everything in this life for some non-existent afterlife. What a waste.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. Religion does us a huge disservice by having us ignore a lot of life’s precious moments by telling us they don’t matter. We end up missing out on some great experiences and we remain ignorant of the truth of our existence. Scientific discovery is exciting and there’s more to learn all the time. I feel like my eyes have been closed tight for forty years and now they’re not. I’m enjoying the details of life more now than I ever did before.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes you can certainly appreciate life much more now, but then there’s the flipside too. There are problems in this world which we can’t ignore, since we can’t rely on hope and make believe to solve them. But that’s a good thing.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Every time I read things you write about your “past life” and your present life, I think of the individuals who visit our blogs (and have their own) and how they believe we’re missing out on soooo much. In truth, it’s the other way around. But they either can’t … or won’t … allow themselves to see it.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. So true Nan. One needs to be open to the possibility of being wrong. If you are not, then nothing will convince you. Not evidence, not the changed lives of those who have deconverted and certainly not looking at our blog posts where we share our “testimonies.” If you keep burying your doubts, you can convince yourself of anything. You can even convince yourself that your life is richer for having “known” God while the rest of us are miserable. We just don’t know it yet because we’re getting too much “temporary” enjoyment out of life, not knowing the torment of our afterlife is coming. What miserable souls we are. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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