Tag Archives: humanism

The Winds Have Shifted

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Hullo My Good People….

For all my lofty intentions, I’ve not gotten very far on this blog.  Internetting via Android was novel for awhile, but sadly fails to meet my needs for a true web addiction.  I’m not feeling eloquent, wise or inspired these days, but thought I’d check in with ya’s. 

So remember this https://vaweber.wordpress.com/2012/10/06/won-the-lottery-should-i-share/ ? The post conveying my eagerness for others to join the ranks of atheism?  Yeah, well….mmm, not so much anymore.  I’m actually surprised myself, having figured that my zeal for logic, reason & empirical data would keep me amped up on my atheism kick.  I still very much appreciate those things.  But here’s what’s happened: 

1) Beginning in May of this year, I had some interactions or observations that reminded me of our fragility as human beings.  I found that my desire to help the people I care about superseded any desire to have them think as I do.  

Here’s my thing: when I was a Christian, I made up my own god.  And really, most of us do.  Granted, most of us do so within the framework of an established faith tradition, but from there we decide how literally or figuratively we’re going to take the words offered to us; we decide if we’re going to accept religious authority in making moral & ethical decisions, or if we’re going to use our hearts & heads.  In a congregation of 200, there are 200 gods, at least, each with its particular nuanced personality assigned by its creator.  

The god I created changed according to my changing spirituality….and got better every time.  And while I don’t believe in literal deities, when a friend was in spiritual distress in May, I used God to help him.  I took the god that I created and used Him to offer my friend peace & comfort.  I wasn’t being deceitful–my friend knows I’m not a believer.  I simply worked from his particular world view in order to best help him.  I dunno, maybe it’s the UU in me.  But I would do it again and again and again…to help the people I care about.  I will introduce them to my God.  

2) And here’s what else:  I still adore some religious stuff.  I enjoy certain music, mythology, symbolism & rituals.  I can say with almost complete certainty that I’ll never give up the mystical musings of Rumi & Hafiz.  I gladly chant with Krishna Das the songs to Hindu deities.  I cry when Amazing Grace is played on the bagpipes.  I miss some of my old favorite Christian pop music.   And a couple months ago I almost suddenly became comfortable with this side of myself again.  I’m OK with allowing these things to feed my spiritual self without my having to subscribe to their respective belief systems.  I don’t even care if people think I’m Christian, Muslim, Jewish or  whatever.  I know what I enjoy, I know what I believe, and I’d rather be concerned about whether people think I’m compassionate, honest, ethical, intelligent, encouraging, hard-working, kind, inspiring…who cares if they get my belief system wrong?  

 

I know, I know, my atheist readers are rolling their eyes.  Don’t worry.   I still love science & reason.  I still loathe religious abuses.  I don’t believe in gods, demons, angels, ghosts and the like.  But I’ve given myself permission to entertain them for the sake of human compassion and connection.  

~V.  

For J, A, N, J, C, & S ~ thinking of you as I write this; it’s my tenderness for you that causes me to write this.  xoxo

Eeeeeeeek!

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I killed a spider. 

Squashed it. 

It was smaller than the foremost segment of my pinky. 

I know, I know, you’re probably rolling your eyes wondering what the big deal is.  I don’t want to kill things, especially if they haven’t done anything wrong.  If it were outside, I would have spent a minute looking at it before wishing it well and continuing on. 

But this one was in my apartment.  And if I’d taken the time to find something to capture it with, it’d be long gone before I returned.  The cats would find it later and that could be disastrous.  Or it might crawl into bed with me.  Or find its way into a fold of my clothes.  Or jump at me while I was in the shower.  There’s no telling what might happen.  I grabbed a nearby sock, hoping she’d crawl onto it and give me enough time to get to the door (I wear knee-highs; it could happen!).  My plan was foiled when she started to scramble towards my hand, and I freaked. 

So, as quickly as I could (because I hate to cause pain and suffering), I killed it. 

And then I was sad.  I’m even a little sad as I write about it.  She and I were probably equally frightened of each other, but because I’m a bajillion times bigger, my fear got its own way.  And the last thing that little spider felt before she died was fear.  (Which is not to say that I think spiders have feelings like we do, but her physiology was geared to the fear-response.)

We could have both won.  I could have let her stay.  I could’ve redirected her to a quiet little corner and we may never have seen each other again.  Or I might’ve had the courage to scoop her up and take her outside, where she’d be much happier.  I could’ve found out what type of spider she was, and whether she could do any actual harm.

I think of how in some way or another, we often kill when we’re afraid.  Not only in wars and bug-squashings, but in ways we don’t always think of.  We kill people’s egos & hopes; we kill relationships;  we kill kindness and overall goodwill;  we kill community and cooperative efforts.

What’s probably happening is that we’re not recognizing fear for what it is; it’s disguised as another emotion.  Many years ago someone said to me, “When you’re angry, ask yourself, ‘what am I afraid of?’.”  I’ve found it to be a helpful exercise, but it does require some digging, and you can’t be afraid to become vulnerable enough to answer truthfully. 

For instance, I get angry when I get interrupted during a hectic workday.  What am I afraid of?  “Nothing, dammit!  I just wanna’ be left alone to do my job!”  Dig deeper: What am I afraid of?  “I’m afraid of not being able to finish on time; afraid of getting in trouble for not finishing; afraid of someone going another day without help because of me.” I picked an easy one but you get the idea.

I’m no psychologist (nor do I wish to be one), but I’m sure our fear is disguised by things other than anger.  And if we’re not mindful, we could be going around killing where peaceful solutions might be found.  It would be helpful all around if we recognized our triggers and answered, What am I afraid of? Sometimes when we break it down and reason it out solutions come to mind or the issue doesn’t seem as frightening as it once did.

~Valerie

“Val…do you pray?”

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 That question was posed by a coworker who’d picked me up while I was walking to work.  I wouldn’t normally hesitate in replying, but I did. I’m not close to this person, she’s a coworker, and her motive was unclear. After a pause, I said, No ma’am, I don’t.  I saw no need to continue beyond what was directly asked.  My coworker paused as well. She then said, The reason I asked is because I need prayers real bad.  I expressed my condolences for whatever was going on in her life, told her I’d keep her in my thoughts.  I meant it, and I did.

My coworker wanted intercession on her behalf.  I’m stumped reflecting on my theist days.  Did I think that God would change his mind and act in my favor if more people prayed for me?  I don’t recall having that mindset.  I don’t know my coworker’s beliefs, but my experience shows that not everyone asking for prayer actually believes it’ll change God’s mind.  Perhaps she simply draws comfort from knowing that others are praying for her?  The request for prayer is, in its most basic form, a reaching out. It’s saying,  I need help.  Or support, or guidance, what have you–the key word here is need

 In a funny scenario this past February, I found myself out to dinner with friends I hadn’t seen since before becoming an atheist.  Last they knew, I was a believer.  My friend had lost his voice and said before we ate, Well why don’t you pray tonight, Val?  I stuttered and sputtered and looked at my plate.  I hemmed and hawed.  Finally I looked at my friend and said, Um…ah…I don’t think I can!  I’m sure he attributed it to a fear of public speaking.  I didn’t see this short meal as a proper time to announce my atheism.  Graciously, and with gusto, my friend said, Well we’ll just be thankful and eat then!

My friend is accustomed to praying before meals.  To him, ‘saying grace’ or however one phrases it, is a form of giving credit where credit is due.  He’s acknowledging that this meal didn’t come from his own efforts.  There’s something, someone, behind it all, and by golly, he owes that someone his gratitude. 

 Both of these people were hoping for something that I wasn’t able to give–not on their terms, anyway.  I don’t talk to deities, not out of insolence, but because I simply don’t think they’re real.  (I don’t talk to Winnie-the-Pooh, either…at least, I don’t expect him to actually hear and respond.)  But that doesn’t mean I have nothing to offer.  Nor does it mean that I lack human qualities such as sympathy and gratitude.  Quite the contrary. 

So if you don’t pray, what do you do? 

 Ah, good question, and I think I have a good answer.  I care.  I give.  I hold people close in thought, mentally embrace them.  I offer a listening ear, a hug, advice, a distraction, humor, a beautiful (and relevant) quotation, ideas, a helping hand…whatever the other person needs that I’m able to provide, I do.  Read that last bit again, with emphasis on the final word, whatever the other person needs that I’m able to provide, I do

 Remember the question, if you don’t pray, what do you do?  The question implies that prayer does something…and maybe it does, to the individual praying, but surely not to the person being prayed for (unless they know you’re praying and that knowledge comforts them).  All of you, believer and nonbeliever alike, know this.  How many of you religious folk reading this hear of someone’s hardship and pray, and stop there?  My guess is that very few of you think your prayer is all that a person needs, and if you do think so, shame on you.  Most people, religious included, understand that real acts of help are what’s needed. 

Copyright ApostateXP

Copyright ApostateXP. This FaceBook image prompted me to write this post.

What about gratitude?  Who do you thank if you don’t thank God?

Oh, but I’m a very thankful person, and hope to become more so.  Chiefly you should know that when atheists are thankful, we are thankful for things and thankful to people.  No deity required.  ‘Giving credit where credit is due’ is rendered to real people who do real things every day (as many atheists rightly point out, I wouldn’t thank God but thank my surgeon for her skill, hard work and determination after a successful surgery).  Now I don’t have a person to thank for, say, honeybees, but that doesn’t detract from the wonderful feeling I have when appreciating them.  Being thankful in itself spreads joy to others, and you can be certain that while the sweet little bees have no idea of my gratitude, I’m certainly going to be kind to them.   

Where mealtime is concerned, I like to consider everything it took for my meal to reach me.  Try doing that for a simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich and you’ll see how mind-boggling it is, especially if you’re packing it for lunch and have to figure in how the little flip-top plastic baggies are made and distributed.  There are hundreds of people and processes to be thankful for just for one little sandwich.  The same applies to everything around us.  Not one of us gets by without reliance on the contributions of others, and somewhat unnerving is the little detail reminding us that this includes people to whom we are diametrically opposed.  Shall we be thankful for them?  At least to some degree, yes.  Oh look, there’s more gratitude to make the world a better place!

But back to prayer.  Most simply stated, isn’t it a longing, a desire for something to change, or stay the same?  And isn’t a prayer of thanks a way to channel our gratitude?  If I’m right, then anyone can be said to ‘pray.’  I know my atheist readers will balk at that, but we’re humans before we are anything else, and these basic instincts are inherent in us all.  The answer is, no, I don’t ‘pray.’  But I recognize and share with those who do pray the instinct that causes people to do so. 

Annnd…..I’m open to a little creative interpretation of the word; poetic license, if you will.  So I pray this little blogpost was helpful to you in some form or fashion.   ;O]

~Valerie

“Bienvenido!” and About this Blog

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Welcome, and welcome, and welcome again to my blog.  Siddown wit’ a cuppa’ joe, read, reflect, relax… 

About the blog’s title:  In a former life as a Christian, I was fond of the biblical verse from Micah 6:8, “…what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”  My religious views have changed considerably since that time, but my desire to walk humbly, kindly, and justly remains. I think that on a purely human level, it’s something all well-meaning individuals struggle with at least now & again.  We want to do the right thing, treat others well, and at the end of the day feel as though the world is better because we’re in it.

I started this blog to record my observations and reflections as I strive to maintain this ideal, not because a god ‘requires’ it, but because it’s the kind of person I want to be.  I’m sure woven into this I’ll be touching on what spirituality means to me as I develop my own from an atheistic point-of-view. Many religious people are under the impression that belief in and submission to a supreme being is required in order for a person to be ‘good.’  And many atheists perceive spirituality as belonging to the wacky world of “woo-woo.”   I disagree with both of these views, but I’m not here to rant on a soapbox.  Chiefly, this blog will be more remniscient of a journal, in that I’ll be using it more to aid in my personal growth.

Courteous comments are welcome and encouraged–please no shouting, name-calling, etc.  Only disrespectful comments will be deleted, as I want people of diverse opinion to feel comfortable posting here.

So, my good people, the path is before us.  Go heat up that coffee, and journey with me, if you will….

~Valerie