That's me in the corner,
That's me in the spot-light -
Losing my Religion ...
Losing My Religion
Wed Nov 5 00:32:58 CST 1997
I was a volunteer at the Native American Student Organization pow-wow on Saturday. I got work off tomorrow evening to go to a musical performance by a Native American group identified by one of it's members named "Thunderchief" (English approximation of his Ho-Chunk name.) and I just now got out of a discussion held over in the south rec room of Allen Hall by the same Thunderchief, about contemporary Native American issues.
The only point I really wish to make here is that I had a small inkling of why I value my Atheist ethic that I'm not sure if I've really tried to explain. Thunderchief spoke of "walking with respect" as a value - with regards to respect for the environment, and respect for women. He mentioned that each of us has only a small amount of time in which we walk upon the Earth, or something nice and poetic like that, and that we each had to do whatever part we could, whatever.
People have sometimes confronted me - what does an Atheist have to live for? Why get up in the morning? It is difficult, even for a Rhetoric major like me, to try to explain that if you just take some time to appreciate it, it's really nice just to be alive and all, and then if you can try to return the favor, by trying to promote happiness, and by trying to promote those things which are important - justice, equality, respect for those things which give us life, like the Earth, and our Elders, well then it makes your life more justifiable.
While it is not necessary, it is wholly enjoyable anyways to try and justify your own existence. No need to get whole bogged down in to the question of what the point to existence is. It doesn't take a genius to see that even from a Darwinian perspective of things that being alive is something us organisms tend to try to enjoy doing. Of course, we also have evolved such that for the greater good, we would prefer to enjoy ourselves by doing things which will promote further enjoyment of life by others. Even if we might enjoy murder (never tried it myself, but I've seen the idea proposed by some elements of our popular culture ...) most of us would rather prefer to try our best to avoid practicing it because it generally doesn't do anyone a whole lot of good. Murder does not promote the enjoyment of others - most notably whoever it is getting murdered.
Same sort of thing with all sorts of activities. We enjoy material gain, making money and all, but if we stop to think a moment, most of us would agree that material gain at the expense of the environment - our home for now and the future, and the place which gives us nice things like food and sunshine and beaches and all, should not endure any great sacrifice for our material gain - no matter how great that might be?
And what is material gain? It's enjoying life, in whatever manner floats your boat - reading, writing, surfing, sky-diving, fast cars, music, sex, whatever ...
... and so what's wrong with enjoying sex and fast cars, or whatever? Nothing, as long as you're not raining on other's parade or something. Fast cars are fine until they start making the air hard to breathe. Sex is fine until you think of it as an over-riding ambition that you would manipulate and hurt other people emotionally in obtaining it, or get so wrapped up in doing it that you don't take that time needed to maybe do other good things. (Good things have to be done. Yeah, they just happen, but bad things happen too, and a lot of people do bad things even without really willing their badness. We pay taxes, tithes, or volunteer work with the idea that we want to make a very markable difference towards that which is good for all. Well, at least I do. That and charity gives me warm fuzzies.)
To me, Atheism is just another form of purity - another renunciation that people will sometimes make in their lives because they acknowledge the power of some habit to induce them not to consider the larger picture of people's happiness. I think I can enjoy sex without getting lost in it. I think I can enjoy my big gas-guzzler van without being a total asshole to the environment. (You know, drive friends around and whatnot.) I'm not sure though, given my personality, that even if I were to come to believe in some religion or another, an event which I view as unlikely, that I would be able to maintain the distance required from it that I could not let it consume me, and keep an eye on that larger picture.
This, because one of my overriding motivations seems to be to know the truth so that I can apply that which I know to be true as much as possible. I'm an Atheist in the first place because I am unsatisfied with what organized religion offers as "truth" - it seems flawed and stuff to me, and even if I were to accept it, I could not subscribe to it as truth, because truth is something you live by, not an assertion you accept but then ignore. What value is their in calling yourself a Catholic and practicing birth control? A lot, I would argue, but I would find the paradox of recognizing Catholicism as truth and practicing something contrary to religious truth to be unacceptable. At heart I'm an idealist - which is really just a fundamentalist with minimal fundamentals.
My feelings can get the best of me, especially when I feel so passionately that something is right in a religious sense. I used to be an Amiga fanatic, thought those computers would be really swell if we all just got over our prejudices and used them. Now I am fully aware of my fanatical feelings for other causes - like the chief, and I try to do my mature best to keep them in check and from overriding me that I can serve all my interests as best as possible - friends, Native Americans, social justice, the University - whatever eh? If I was a total anti-chief monkey - well, I just wouldn't be as cool.
Not that I will refuse the very deep-rooted feelings that I hold, particularly for changing my school's mascot, and for Native Americans in general .. I can experience these feelings separately from my actions ... the feelings motivate, but the actions they ultimately cause are run first through a filter of thinking twice. Well, on my better days I think twice, but thinking twice does require a lot of overhead, and many of us just aren't up to doing that all the time. Even my crazy-assed brain gets tired from time to time. :)
So, I have renounced religion on order to maintain my own better intentions. To many that would be a paradox, and that's not even the point I wished to make here, the actual point being along the lines of that since we only live once, one short life, as far as most of us can honestly tell, that we really do owe it to ourselves, our ancestors, and our children, to do the best we can, whatever little it is that we can, that will honor our children, and give them cause to celebrate us in the way that we in this life celebrate those that came before us.
A budding theology here which for the sake of my non-theistic state would serve me well to really get in to and describe, but at some other time than at 0100h.
H O M E