Welcome to Alternative Ideas...

Providing a platform for new and different voices...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A place for nothing...

What is it that the world is made up of, what got us here, and what keeps us going?  Some would say it is God, others Allah, multiple deities, the quest for enlightenment, immortality, internal spiritual understanding, or to some perhaps even nothing.  Much of history has shown that humanity is always searching for an answer to this question.  But in recent history much attention has been paid to the last thought - nothing.  For the most part, loosely termed Atheism by most people.  A believe that there is no God, there is no supernatural.  But what does this belief system entail?  Is it even a "belief system?"  Many would argue it is not, that these people are soulless and without any guiding light.

I have long considered myself an atheist, yet as you read these pages, would you say I have no belief system?  Would you say I have no soul, no deep rooted inner purpose or feeling?  I wouldn't think so.  I would say I am probably far more guided by a moralistic belief than most people.  This intrinsic feeling and motivation actually consumes me and encompasses every breath I take.  You can see post after post of respect for all living things, equality, opportunity, individual and collective, etc.  My heart weeps compassion and caring.

Where does this belief come from?  Does it come from a spiritual entity that drives me, that creates and moves me?  Or does it just come from within?

Life as an atheist is not an easy path in America.  It is a constant defense.  People here believe in a God, and people here are very set in their ways.  It is why "religion and politics" are not polite conversation.  People are also quite judgmental and (for the most part) pretty misinformed about a lot of things in general.  Religious understanding of this nature does not always take such a different path.  Most people believe that without the merits of a religious experience there is little to get out of life, and no purpose during or obviously after it.  This is a position espoused and promoted by political, cultural, and especially media - "the establishment", headed mostly by religious (and christian) men and a few women.  "Godless" people are seen as infearior, as missing something, or simply to just not have figured "it" out or to have seen the light just "yet".  Religious institutions (not the religious people themselves) are perpotrating a dislike and condesending view of Atheists in even the educated.

But what is an atheist and why are they so "bad".  I saw a video in a sociology class that quoted a preacher saying - "I'd rather have an Atheist that behaves like a Christian, than a Christian that behaves like an Atheist."  I used to take strength and solace in this quote.  You see!!  I can be a good person!!  But then I realized that it was really a bit of a slap in the face.  I realized that this whole line of 'defense' was an effort to prove people wrong.  It was an effort to battle against the general notion that atheists are bad people.  I mean, how does an atheist "behave"?  This man was making the assumption that Christians were good and Atheists bad, and that they behaved as such.  It assumes that automatically, because of a lack of belief in a god, that atheists are devoid of moral characters.  That these people can only be redeemable if they behave like a christian. 

People have been invoking the name of Christ for 2000 years.  Some for the greatest and most passionately kind things ever, others for some of the most horrible atrocities ever committed.  So what does a Christian behave like then?  It would seem they behave like a lot of things.  So what then does an atheist behave like?  Who knows... but, I know what I behave like, and I'm an atheist.

For me, I think that humanity is wholly complex and amazingly different.  I believe that every person finds their own path to happiness, or in the quest of happiness.  I tried so hard when I was younger to "find the lord".  I wanted to.  Do you know how much easier life would have been?  Ridicule, contempt, arguments, fights, a father's love and respect.  But I just couldn't find it within my heart, I couldn't find the faith.  Instead, over time I found within me a belief system that was wholly human and did not seem to require any external influence.  I look at another person and I don't see a man, woman, or child, I see the soul of a living breathing being that is simply trying to find their way through life.  They want the same things I want, to be loved, to be happy, to be secure, whatever.  When I see a living thing in pain or fear, I want to help.  Not because of a commitment to a god or a divine being, but to myself, to that other person, to that deep seeded emotionally charged response to the suffering of another.  I believe it comes from within me and from the lessons I've learned in life.

Now some people would say this is the divine working through me.  That is a theory, and it is not one that I am going to say is wrong.  I don't know, nor does it bother me that I don't.  And that is my point.  In my heart of hearts I can't find belief in the religious doctrines that have been written to describe what happens within and around us all.  I only know that I can wake up each day and find a way to make the world a better place, and not because of an external entity or reward, but because I simply find it within myself to believe that that is what humanity is about.  Compassion.  I care about others.  Yes, as I see it, this does not come from a supernatural entity.  Yet who am I to know?  Who are any of us to know what exists beyond our own selves?  I am very happy to have each person find their own path and explanation for life and their place within it - no matter whether that includes divinity or not.  People's happiness is what I care about, not necessarily the explanation used for how they found it.  

There are forces that exist in our world that we have been looking to define and explain throughout all of human history.  Personally, I chose not to try to do this.  I look within myself and I feel intrinsic forces - a soul, a spirit some may say - I see these forces, I work with and threw them, yet I do not find the same definition as others for their origins and avenues.  I just think they are part of me and the physical world we live in.  Which to me includes notions of a spirit and a soul, emotional and intrinsic instinctual responses, body and mind, etc.  Our bodies function within the world in a way that I can explain within and to myself.  I don't feel any external supernatural hand other than that of society itself.  That is enough for me.  But this does not make me a monster any more than someone of any other belief system or religion.

Atheism itself carries such a negative connotation, perhaps if I called myself a Secular Humanist people would respect it more.  But, I prefer to just be me.  As most good kindhearted religious people, I have never gone on a crusade or physically forced someone to believe as I do, and I have certainly never told someone they will suffer eternal damnation because they do not believe in life as I do.  I simply try to live up to the high standards I've set for myself.  I try to love everyone and simply allow life to be lived as it comes to me.  I hope you can respect this as I respect you.  Which I think deep inside, you already do...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Gotta say that over the last however many years and days I have been feeling like I must not be a normal person.  Society is set up a certain way and in a certain direction that I don't seem to be able to follow.  From the time we can remember we are inundated with images and conceptions of families and children, jobs and careers, houses and yards, things and things, night and day over and again, etc. This is what we see and this is what we are programmed to expect.

So why didn't it sink in to me?  Why don't I want these things?  Or more to the point, why is it that despite an interest in aspects of these things, they just are not my priorities...??  Somewhere deep inside all of this life of mine I took a wrong turn down the road that most people normally travel.  I want to change the world, I want us all to be able to live a different life, to make a difference.  So what?  There are a lot of people that say this and want this.  But the key to them is that they all just end up doing it within the system.  They look at it and say they will change it from within.  They end up, making a career out of it - academia, non-profit work, civil servant, etc - they settle into life and work, raise a family, buy a home...  What is wrong with that?  They are doing what they want to...

To them, yes.  To me, no.  I am not normal.  I don't see this as the path to change.  I don't see sitting for years and pluggin away in someone else's game for someone else's game as productive.  Forced to play by their rules, and within the confines of their parameters.  Even within this world we are told to think outside the box that contains our little board game.  We are however, not taught to think outside the room that we are sitting and playing the board game in.  Outside that room is a wide open world - blue skys, distant peaks, a night full of stars - there are no barriers outside of this room.  But outside of our proverbial box, we are still confined to our rooms.

If one truly wants to do things differently, they must do things differently.  They can't just grow up, go to school, go to the next school, and the next, and then just start working and making babies.  That is what the system wants us to do.  It wants us to tweak it, to alter it a bit.  A shade here, a dot there... but it does not want us to change its course.  We steer around the iceberg rather than turning away from the icy waters entirely!!  That is what life and education do, they put us into a life and a school building and teach us to play that board game.  The imaginative find ways to chat, flirt, tease, and tickle their compatriots sitting on the chairs outside the box and the table it rests upon.  But who is the one that skips school?  Who is the one that cuts class and ends up outside running barefoot through a field of dandelions, headed for that deep blue yonder, scaling mountains, gazing at the stars? 

These are not normal people.  They are bold people with something different inside.  They stood face to face with "normal", and "normal" blinked.  "Normal"  saw "abnormal" looking back at it as "normal".  In their own world, in their own heads, "normal" was whatever they saw inside as normal.  Normal came in a different shade of grey, but it was still grey, and it illuminated a different path before them.  A path with different scenery, different pitfalls, and different destinations.  Why can't we teach more people to find this path?  When will my normal and your normal be able to walk hand in hand?