Humans share an incredible amount of history with the other animals that have come and gone over the 4.5 billion year history of our Earth. We won the evolutionary lottery and developed minds that have allowed us to accomplish more than any other species. The same brain that brought us agriculture has also gifted us with existential dilemma. We can’t help but wonder how everything came to be, where everything came from, and where we go when we die. Are we reincarnated? Is there an afterlife of reward for the good and punishment for the evil? Do we have free will or is every action just acted out in accordance to a prewritten plan by a higher being? We have yet to find any conclusive evidence of anything happening after the lights go out.
I don’t believe in a higher being overseeing our world. When I think of God, in the traditional sense, I see a way to manipulate the fears of the populace with elaborate stories that hinge on our instinctual fear of the unknown. Taking religious texts at literal face value is irresponsible and can spawn horrendous hate filled ideologies. One look at those who wish to deny same-sex couples equal rights as hetero couples and you can see my point.
Our understanding of the world around us is ever changing. We learn new information on a daily basis and the stories written long ago as sacred text show the lack of understanding that humanity had at those points in time. If you remove the holiness from these writings and review them as philosophical musings by a younger version of humanity you can gain much more.
Ideas are fluid. What seems like a solid conclusion today may seem abhorrent tomorrow as new information and experience is gained. Holding ideas created by man as unchanging and unquestionable is dangerous. None of us are infallible.
In the last 15 years my view of this has changed greatly. I began as an uneducated anti-theist as a teen who didn’t know why he held the views he did. I began to learn of Christianity through studying the Bible and attending different church services. I then moved to more of an angry atheist/anti-theist mindset. My teen angst seemed to wrap itself around the idea that religion was the right thing to be mad at. I would have loved to see the world as a whole abolish religion as whole. As I entered my twenties I moved away from the angry atheist phase. I developed into more of a casual non-believer and didn’t try to push my views on those that weren’t interested. I’ve even refrained from writing about religion in a long form.
I don’t know if my mindset now is worth using labels at all. I guess atheist will work as I have no affiliation to any traditional religious beliefs. But that is a side note. I don’t want to spend time and energy on proving religious texts wrong and debating on whether or not someone should believe in a mythological being that hates some and loves others.
I like ideas. My goals have transformed into learning and growing as much as possible by experiencing the world. There are lessons to be learned from all walks of life and all viewpoints. Some of those lessons will be simple and common sense, from the same base ideas even. ISIS will teach you how you can interpret a book to be a violent and intolerant bag of dicks that is a plague on modern society while your average Muslim lives on principles similar to a Christian, Jew, or Hindu.
I’ve learned great lessons from Atheists, Christians, Muslims, and Hindus alike. The moral questions and lessons to be gained from ancient writings are valuable in many ways. We don’t need to believe in a higher power or mystical beings to feel connected to each other. Our sense of family is lost when we start creating these dividing lines that move us away from one another.
I’ve grown to strongly believe in the good that can be done by working together. If we choose to behave in ways that benefit others we can improve our world for all who live in it. Decisions made for personal gain (i.e. corporate greed, political greed, personal greed, etc.) stifle human growth and success. Our world economy continues to be built on the self serving philosophies of a few and has become dependent on this to survive. Debt reigns over all of our heads and is used to prevent people from progressing. Certain countries are exploited to improve a few points on a balance sheet. Human life and well being is not worth having a $1 cup of coffee at any time or a smartphone built by people who would rather kill themselves than keep working. My generation would most certainly go through with technological withdraw if we stopped using these workers and avoided the slave labor associated with mining the minerals needed to create the processors used in our devices. Prices would skyrocket if these processes were to be regulated and industry would suffer. But it would suffer under the weight of its own poor decision making. Decades of exploiting others for rapid profit growth will eventually bite us in the collective ass. It’s only a matter of time.
It’s possible to live a fulfilling life without profiting on the despair and misfortune of others. The current political and business climate exists because we have allowed it to. Don’t side with someone because you were both raised in the same religion. Or because you share the same skin color or heritage. Side with them because they have humanity’s best interests at heart. I know that the world is rarely black and white, but the grey areas become easier to navigate if you take care of the easy situations first. Instead of allocating money for a wasteful executive trip, spend that money helping the less fortunate in the community and use volunteering as a team building exercise. Use a corporate bonus to fund an orphanage. Fund organizations that build schools and hospitals in areas where they are most needed.
This is not to say that you shouldn’t take pride in your work and provide yourself with creature comforts. But trim the fat in your budget to allow for a donation or two. Whether with time or money. Don’t go into debt because you “need” a new gadget or car to impress others. Instill the values of a strong work ethic in your children and give them the tools to contribute to society so that the folks truly in need of social services aren’t burdened by those taking advantage of the system because of a loophole they found.
The task of changing ourselves to change the world is a large one. I will not sugar coat the situation and preach of how easy it will be to set everything on the right track. Hard work to modify bad habits and remove the accepted lethargy we have fallen into will pay off. We just have to try.
There is no reason to stay preoccupied with fanciful dreams of eternal bliss once we die. Focusing on what comes next detracts from what is happening currently. The most important actions to take are the ones that impact the present. By creating a healthy environment for all while we’re here will likely appease a deity (unless the deities worshipped were created by man to control the many while benefiting the interests of the few…).
How about we ignore the Gods and do good for each other.
Photo by Mike Direnzo Photography