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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...

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