Be a Good Person
I’ve never been religious. My parents, due to their devout upbringings, never forced anything on us. If we wanted to go to a church, they would take us, not attempting to sway us in any direction. The first time I went to church was chasing a girl. I was 13. Her father was the preacher. He scared the shit out of me, not just as a father, but also because it was my first view of hellfire and damnation as a public speaking style.
In high-school, I had friends in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). They would always invite me on trips, and once I even accepted. They paid for a Jackson Hole lift ticket, and all I had to do was travel with them and participate in the weekends activities. I was 17, and this was the first time I remember religion making me uncomfortable. I liked the people. Hell, I even liked many of the messages they espoused. But the reasoning felt forced and disingenuous.
“Be a good person.”
“But you are incapable of being a good person without God. So you need God”
I understand religion as a weapon with which to fight the fear of death. The idea of not BEING is terrifying, and my atheism doesn’t have an answer to that. Believing that your consciousness will continue infinitely must be comforting. But the idea that this reward is somehow the only anchor to moral behavior has always grated on me.
Maybe I’ve been lucky. Maybe I grew up in a house that valued treatment of people over everything else. But I don’t feel like I need the reward of an eternally euphoric afterlife to not be an asshole. Hell, I don’t even need a cookie. For me the reward of good behavior is good behavior in others. Treat others as they want to be treated, and generally, they will treat you as you want to be treated.
Sure, every once in a while someone will be an asshole. Every once in a while I will be an asshole. It’s hard to react perfectly to every situation. And yes, there ARE people out there that are broken and just want to watch the world burn. But I’ve seen enough to believe that the vast majority of us are inherently good, and have good intentions.
So go out and be nice to a stranger today. Don’t do it because you fear eternal damnation. Don’t do it because you want the big man in the sky to think you’re cool enough to put on his list. Do it because life isn’t always easy and that stranger is sharing your struggle. Do it because your kindness might make their day/week/month. But mostly, do it because that power is YOURS and no one else’s.