One of the best explanations I’ve heard from another: “Death is the final stage. Nothing, neither good nor bad, comes after that final moment.” – Roy Speckhardt
Or, as I like to say it: From nothing we formed into being, in to nothing we eventually return. From the dust we were formed, to the dust we return. The dead do not suffer, this is reserved only for the living. There is nothing to fear in dying. We were lucky to be alive for a brief period in the first place.
I was raised to be a conformist. To be what is socially and doctrinally correct. To be outwardly a social model of idealism, regardless what struggles this creates inwardly for me. In essence, I was raised to be socially inept. Afraid of my inherent self, and what it represents in opposition to the doctrine of belief instilled within me. I was raised to be idealistically conflicted with my natured self, and to live a life of struggling over this. And I have paid a dear price for my indoctrinated belief in this, for way too much of my life.
Imagine if I had been raised instead to believe in myself. To believe in my inherent potential and worth as a human being in this world. Just as I am in my uniqueness and difference among all the similarities with others I share. Imagine if I had been raised to believe in my inherent social worth as an individual, an individual with a unique view on life. Imagine how many years I would not have wasted on inner struggles with myself, fighting between nature and dogma. Fighting between me, the real me, and what I was taught to believe is the inherent but unacceptable nature of me – a nature that is incompatible in any way with what is right and correct thinking and living. Imagine how I would not have found a need to engage in self-destructive addictions, to escape this conflicted struggle within me. Embracing acts of escape is a natural human response to feeling isolated and alone in this social world of humans.
Imagine if I had been taught through youth that I have individual and social worth, with or without a parent’s shared doctrinal beliefs. Imagine if I had been taught that, as I am, I contribute to the good of all around me, that I was born a blessing in all my humanness. Imagine if I was taught that we are inherently good, with or without a god presence, and encouraged always to place my uniquenesses into the service of others – helping to bless others’ lives just as I am. What would I have become as an adult? What would I have achieved for the good of others and, by default, for myself in this proactive outward look on life?
I wonder what my life would have been like thus far, if I had not struggled so much with myself. I wonder how different it would have been, and how many lives I would have positively touched not being so withdrawn from life in struggle. Sure, now reaching a point in life where I have wrestled the demons of indoctrination down to where I can see this, I can justify my life experiences as preparation for making an omelette out of cracked eggs. But, is this even necessary, I wonder, to look upon my life this way? Life is what it is and, so long as we have breath, we live it at the point of self-awareness that we have so far achieved. We have no other choice about this.
So, I can look at my past … and cringe over all the mistakes and extremisms that I see. Be in pain and suffering over all the opportunities missed by poor choices, all the socially inept and stupid things I’ve done over the years, and having shame for the examples of what not to do that I have lived by the way I responded to my social raising in youth. I can keep struggling to remind myself and retain memory of when I have indeed gotten it right and blessed others. Or, I can look at this day and “who” I am today, and realize that the only reality the past holds on me is what of it I am carrying within me in the present.
I can choose this day to build a life worthy of remembering from here, even if it seems there is not enough time now for me to achieve a social impact with what I now express and do to get noticed and be remembered. I can choose to not base my present successes on the test of comparison to how much of my past still exists out there somehow in the minds and databases of others. I can choose to get beyond myself and my individual failings, and focus in on blessing the paths of others’ lives with the thoughtful wisdom of what I now see, and with what I now attempt to do in this life. This doesn’t mean I won’t have my continued moments of personal struggle, for in some way I will always be informed by my youth. But, I can choose to be forward thinking as this happens, and it be a reminder of just how far I have grown from this.
And, who knows, maybe I’ll get lucky and, to my amazement, be remember well for all the good I have done in this world, with the rest being just the awkward way in which I achieved this. Wouldn’t this be something? It’s not so much what our life turned out to be, as it is about what we are choosing to do about it – here and now in the present. I’ll go ahead and make that omelette now and, hopefully, my addition of spices – the inherent uniqueness of me – will make it a delight for others. Along with this I will teach: Be it known that we are – every single one of us – inherently good with or without god. It is our genetically encoded nature to be empathetic social creatures – at least, for most of us – seeking to do good and right by others, and in turn have our own inherent needs met and blessed by others in the process.
When we don’t understand this, we live a life of isolation and suffering. Denial of one’s self and uniquenesses for the sake of an ideal is a self-destructive path. So is not giving heartfelt love towards others, especially if we know what it is like and what could happen when we don’t receive needed love from others. By love, I’m not referring to unconditional love, which is no more than a self-denying masochistic ideal. But, rather, I speak of the evolutionary devised love that we as human species experience, the love which we all recognize and appreciate. For all love, except for masochistic love, is reciprocal based and conditional. I am talking about understanding love, that seeks to find strengths in each other and common ground between us, for the sake of mutual welfare. Real love, the kind of love that edifies our worth as human beings on this planet. The kind of love I am learning to raise my children in, by being an example of it towards them. I hope they one day tell me that I’ve succeeded. Because we need more of this in this world, and less of what I thought was love as a child.
I was taught to see the world through the narrow lens of absolutes and idealisms. I am so thankful that I can now see much further beyond this.
A theist suggested that those with a naturalistic perspective on life (an atheistic or one with strictly humanistic perspective) cannot possibly know or explain love, beauty, family, marriage within the framework of his non-theistic naturalistic awareness of life. The theist suggested that the only way to explain uniquely human characteristics such as this is by turning to and relying on theistic supernatural explanations. To borrow it, as he put it, from his theistic perspective. I can assure you, as a devout atheist, that science easily explains how we humans can possess the capabilities of expressing love, experiencing beauty, and of seeking families and marriages over simple promiscuity – and do this even without religion and a belief in things unseen. It’s called Evolution.
It was to our evolutionary advantage as a species to develop the ability to feel love and affection for those around us (after we had learned of hate – love started with our children, then to a mate, then to a community around us). It was to our evolutionary advantage as a species to recognize patterns of beauty (after we had learn what is repugnant and, thus, dangerous), and this became passed on to a degree from generation to generation. It was to our evolutionary advantage, now that we had learned love and hate, desire and jealousy, to learn to live together under ideals – such as family units and the concepts of marriage. Over time we have evolved these awareness, in similar manner to the way we have evolved over time as a species. All of these have increased our survival as a species on this planet and, more importantly, has led to our being the dominant animal upon the land, in the sky, and under the water. (And, now, even in space!)
Eventually, back when we were still figuring this out as a species, we learned to take our civil and idealistic notions and tendencies and ascribed them to the mouths of imaginary gods and goddesses. Thus, giving them an imaginary power of absoluteness and authority over social living that nature itself never provides us, ever (beyond that of the certainty of death). Over time the many gods and goddesses (family and national gods of the pantheons) became simply one assumed real god, who is now known by many different names. Just because we believe these things we dreamed up and wrote down, this doesn’t mean, though, that our naturally inherent nature and capabilities of a species requires supernatural introduction or intervention upon our animal nature. We have it all already, naturally within us. We just choose to ascribe it elsewhere, and justify our beliefs objectively by this. But, regardless what perspective we take on this, theistic or non-theistic, we all know how to culture it ourselves, within ourselves and within others, with or without a belief in a god.