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This is inspired by an article I found online, and by the subsequent blog entry my friend Chris put up related to it. Read his blog. Do it. I’ll wait. The article points up something I continue to find bewildering: That moral behavior requires the presence of a personal god.

Let’s get one thing squared away right now. I do not believe in a personal deity. The god I was taught/told to worship growing up was a farcical notion to me from early on, but was too scared of parental disapproval to voice. I found other ways of explaining this non-belief without actually explaining it, but finally I am too tired to be polite. I don’t, and you’re a fool if you do. For this reason I am an atheist. But if I must have a title for my beliefs (as opposed to my non-beliefs), you can feel free to use Humanist. Buddhist comes close, but it too has the trappings of supernatural religion even though, as I was reminded some years ago by a Christian woman, Buddha is dead (my response? “And he’d be the first one to agree with you on that.”)

I was raised a Catholic. That this was an accident of birth I also realized fairly early on. The mass was something I recited from memory (sometimes in my sleep, but don’t tell Mom & Dad circa 1983 or I’ll be in trouble!) As time went on and I learned about cosmology, quantum mechanics, different religions, my own personal strengths and weaknesses as well as those of others, and merged it all with the events and collected lessons of the last twenty years of my life, I came to some conclusions.

1. No religion has the inside track to personal salvation.

2. Personal salvation presumes you were a piece of shit to start with.

3. You are a piece of shit (or perhaps merely misguided or self-hating) if you presume that a newborn baby needs any sort of personal salvation.

4. There is no such thing as pure good or evil. The Taoists had it right: when one leaves the Tao and get wrapped in personal delusion, you might call that evil, or selfish. But one person’s evil is another’s deeply held belief (religious or otherwise), or personal pathology. Same thing.

Except perhaps Michelle Bachmann and Glenn Beck. And Joel Osteen. Actually they’re not evil, they’re respectively batshit crazy, cynically manipulative and an opportunistic asshole. But I digress.

5. Infinity is a mathematical concept. There is no analogue in the real empirical world. Except perhaps waiting in line at the DMV. Heaven and Hell are equally conceptual. They do not describe real actual places you can find on a map. They do not exist, and frankly never did. That’s because…

6. Heaven and Hell describe states of being. We can all come up with moments of pure heaven, and not all of them involve Bree Olsen. Holding my niece was a pretty wonderful moment and for her parents was a front runner to pure heaven I am sure if not actual heaven itself. Same for when I first met my nephew (though as I recall he wasn’t too happy himself at the time, poor fellow). I have had experiences myself that were pure hell. In one case it wasn’t merely a bad night, but so awful an experience that I’d detect the presence of Satan there if I were soft in the head. Again, I refer you to number four, above.

7. Related to all this, the supernatural writings of the ancients were all metaphoric in nature. In the particular case of Christianity the writings are so muddled and mutilated by past agendas and misnomers that even Thomas Jefferson took a blade to the gospels to make sense of it. A valiant effort, but what I took away from reading The Jefferson Bible was that Jesus, if he existed at all, said things that were more fully articulated by Greek and Roman philosophers at that time, and by the Buddhists hundreds of years before.

8. Any belief you have must be open to scrutiny and debate. If you hold a certain belief, you must be able to reason *why.* If you cannot, do not expect people to take that belief of yours seriously. And “because the bible says so” is not a reason. That’s just stupid.

9. Just because I know about the diffraction of visible electromagnetic radiation through water vapor and air and about the way the brain and eyes work does not mean I cannot smile and be taken aback by a rainbow. Or a sunset.

10. Because I’ve had some time to think about the nature of our so-called selves and how we relate to the world, and how that so-called self is created in the brain, I firmly believe there is no soul. The word makes great shorthand for this amazing process of the brain known as consciousness, but this process cannot exist without the brain. what you think of as you can either be put down to various cognitive processes and amazing information storage. There is nothing of “you” that will survive death. Which makes the next point all the more important:

11. You have no past except what you carry in your memory and choose to beat yourself up with in the present. You have no future except wishes and dreams that you may strive for in the present. But all you have is the present. NOW. The people you love, the places you love, the things you love to do, love them NOW while you can because that’s all you have, and you may never have it again. Ever in the history of the universe.

12. Related to that, you are unique in the history of the universe. No one has, is or will ever be exactly like you. No one has your peculiar blend of talents and personality and when you are gone that uniqueness will be gone too. So appreciate yourself and others as the rare opportunities that we all are.

13. On the flip side, you aren’t special, none of us are except to ourselves and to someone else (hopefully!). “Special” denotes a certain privilege that really isn’t there, like those once given to certain shades of flesh color and is to be avoided. We are all unique, none of us are special.

I have more. I could go on all day because I have a weakness for expounding on ideas. Especially my own. I’m working on this.

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