Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Atheism and morality

I was an active atheist for most of my life. I realized that the only thing I would leave behind would be my works and my effect on people. I had no hope of being absolved of my trespasses. I could not treat someone ill and blame it on a myth or parable. I had to take completely responsibility for my every action. I based my life on chaos theory. Contrary to common thought, chaos theory does not say that small things are causal; it says that small things may contribute to larger things. Small things can change things in unexpected ways.

I used to tell this parable: What if there had been a kindly old Jewish couple who lived in Austria in the late 1800's and made soup and cookies for the three boys next door, who befriended the Hitler family? Could the world be different today simply due to a kindness; soup and cookies?

I am not saying this is how every atheist feels. I am saying that there is room on both extremes for people to do good, and room in the big fat middle for people to exercise their most horrible extremes. If you've ever watched parents in the animal kingdom with their young and with their partners you know that compassion is a common trait in all mammals, regardless of their ability to worship or acknowledge a deity.

The only Zen you can find on the tops of mountains is the Zen you bring up there. - Robert M. Pirsig

Evil is simply; evil. There will be those who blame it on the ready availability of guns, pornography, alcohol, drugs, tootsie rolls, etc., but it's still just evil. The emperor threw Christians to the lions. Christians burned women at the stake. Who gets to have the last 'horror'? 

Atheists are no better and no worse at keeping 'morals', for acting in kindness and compassion, than are Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, Quakers, Italians, Jews, or even people from Oklahoma   We all make a choice at some point in our lives either to throw caterpillars into the bed of ants and giggle as they squirm, or to watch the caterpillar in awe, marveling at the face of God. 

Blaming evil on words in a book is cowardly at best. Witness the massive and bewildering variety of Christian denominations. You can giggle madly and praise God when a person dies of aids, proclaiming that to be the will of God, and find a denomination that will revere your insanity. You can fatten up your stock portfolio and drive a hundred thousand dollar car and find a denomination that will praise your success and hold you up as an example of God's promise of success, praising you for spending a hundred dollars on a 'Christmas angel'. Or, you can find a denomination that accepts all, loves all, and denounces wealth and anger. Religion itself is broad enough to cover Mother Theresa and Teresa of Avila while burning Copernicus at the stake. 

Pull up your big girl panties; it is your choice to be either good or evil. Don't blame your evil on God, and don't be so pious as to not take credit for being a good person. We aren't little flesh and blood puppets, dangling by strings, driven by His every word. He tried that for forty years in the desert. It didn't work out.

Virtually every religion has at its core compassion. Non-Hebrew philosophers long before the birth of a man named Jesus waxed poetic about fairness and equality. 

Perhaps I am a heretic... no; I am a heretic... I believe that the capability for good or evil resides in all of us. Our connection to deity (spirituality) does not create this; it can only heighten and sharpen what is there. I have known people that are truly good. I have known those who are truly evil. I neither blame nor give credit to either condition on deity, on God, or on Christianity. To do otherwise would be to demean the Buddha.

The Buddha, the Godhead, resides quite as comfortably in the circuits of a digital computer or the gears of a cycle transmission as he does at the top of the mountain, or in the petals of a flower. To think otherwise is to demean the Buddha - which is to demean oneself. - Robert M. Pirsig

Elisheba Ruth
Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws. - Plato

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Please remember that I am posting my story solely for the purpose of helping others clarify their own. I will appreciate your supportive, kind, or constructive comments.