Divali/Eid/Christmas From An Atheist Perspective

DiwaliPeople are wishing each other a Happy Divali today, just as others wish others a Merry Christmas or a Happy Eid on other days. There are other religions I have missed, and I apologize, but I’m no expert on any of these things..

All of these religious observations are focused on being the best self you can be. Underneath all of these religious observations are fundamentals of good triumphing over evil, and that would be pretty subjective if it weren’t how people implement them through religion.

Being nice to other people is generally a good idea – but how we’re nice to people varies. On days like this, people open their doors to friends, family and even strangers and share their food, space and even gifts.  Some people use it as a time to demonstrate how successful they are, as you find in any religion, and still others try to out-devout everyone else – again, just as you find in any religion.

It’s the rare person with pure intent. It’s the rare person who is that light in the darkness, even on the most brightly lit of deepest darkness.

We are all selfish, flawed creatures – some say we’re all sinners, and though the nomenclature is different the philosophical meaning is the same. We get caught up in our lives, doing the best we can within the confines of the prisons of our lives, and even with the best of intentions we’re imperfect.

There’s a part of me that wonders why people don’t strive to be the best that they can every day, and questions the need for such religious observations. There is another part of me that understands the need to pause and have some introspection on such things, which I believe the religious observations are truly supposed to be about.

So, to those going through their introspection on your religious observation, considering how to be better versions of yourself, refilling your cup with that which you think is good – I sincerely and without reservation, wish you the best, be it Divali, be it whatever your observation is.

For the rest of you – enjoy your day off. Try not to be too loud or make too much of a mess.

On Being Challenged On Faith

ANTHRO136SP11_GG_Cam20_23_16_003I make it no secret that I’m an atheist, but I don’t wear it on my sleeve. Still, there are those that wish to press on things because they, with good intention, want me to be like them.

I’ll let you in on a secret. If you’re religious, I’m not like you – and why I’m not religious can’t be found in religion. That is… sort of the point, really. But unlike the more vocal atheists, who are usually anti-theists, I have no real issues with religion or those who practice it. Just as they are astounded that I am not, I am astounded that others are – but it is not for me to judge, just as it is not for them to judge.

This is why, out of all the religious philosophy out there, I appreciate Buddhism. Not the Buddhism which is apparently popular, but the core Buddhism that comes from the writings of the monks 100 years after Gautama Buddha went beyond. Were the words that of the Buddha? As much so as other words of other people were their own, I suppose.

At the core of Gautama Buddha’s life was a search for understanding within his own context.  And, while not his most known quote, my favorite is the essence of my own personal philosophy:

Work out your own salvation. Do not depend on others.

Everyone leads their own path. While a musician may want people to listen to his music, even using a loudspeaker to assure that this is so, do they appreciate the writer by reading what s/he writes? Do they appreciate what others do beyond their own context? And so it is with religion; while it is good to find your own salvation through religion, it does not mean that everyone must.

Everyone finds their own way. Or not.

There are people who could wax less than poetic about religion, or anti-theism, but really… what’s the point? Is it to tear down others to feel better about one’s self? Is it to have the hubris that others need your instruction, or the instruction that you have received? Is it that you have a true love for others and wish them to follow your path when they may have their own?

I do not know. But I know that I know my path, and that my path has been off the paths of religion – the bristly world I live in does not fit with the worldviews that the many religions I have studied have. Only the core of Buddha’s teachings seem aligned, but I am no Buddhist.

Faith I do not have in this way. I have faith in people, in both the good and bad, and see no reason to drag religion into any of it – or have someone else do so.

Unstoppable forces – meet immovable object.