An atheist’s Easter

I’ve mentioned before that I’m an atheist, but I probably didn’t mention that I only became one when I was about seventeen. Until then, I was a Catholic.

I ‘came out’ as an atheist during my matriculation year at school. Back then, matric was year twelve, and your matriculation scores determined which university, and course,  you would be offered. I matriculated at an all-girl, Catholic convent school.

The headmistress of the school was an amazing woman called Sister Philomena. She was not a cuddly nun. She was an academic in a wimple, and once she [and the local priest and representatives from the arch diocese] accepted that my claim was genuine, she did two amazing things. First, she allowed me to stay at school and finish my matric. Second, she allowed me to skip religion classes. This amounted to approximately half an hour of free time every day. I spent that time practising the piano in one of the music rooms. I’ve often wondered whether I would have passed matric piano without all that extra practice time.

The reason I’m boring you all with this ancient history is so you’ll understand that I’m still a committed atheist, but my ethics have their roots in the Catholic concepts of sacrifice, charity, compassion and doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Those are the concepts I consciously retained after much questioning. I retained them because they gelled with who I was as a person. I still believe in them, especially the ‘do unto others’ bit.

In my not so humble opinion, compassion and empathy are the two greatest human traits. They are the only traits that make us worthwhile as a species. They are the only traits that balance out the greed and selfishness and outright hatred that always lead us to war.

Yet when I look at the world on this Good Friday, 2019, I see nothing but greed and selfishness and outright hatred in the West. The US, the UK, parts of Europe and Australia are all in the grip of a frenzy of ‘us against them’, and I can’t see a way out because each side is convinced they are right.

To be honest, I don’t see how I, personally, can compromise on the issues I believe in when the ‘other side’ is doing such awful things. I won’t name them, not today, but I will ask people on both the Left and the Right to stop for a moment and ask – is this how compassionate people behave? Is this how people who believe in a Christian god treat their fellow man?

I’ve never forgotten the parables I learned in school, and here is the one that I live by:

The Good Samaritan

‘”Love your neighbor as yourself” was part of the Old Testament law (Leviticus 19:18). But the Jewish teachers had often interpreted “neighbor” to include only people of their own nationality and religion. The expert in the law was looking to Jesus for justification for that interpretation, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” In response, Jesus told His famous Parable of the Good Samaritan.’

https://www.christianbiblereference.org/jparable.htm

To the Jews, Samaritans were ‘the Other’. The lesson here was, and is, that we are all neighbours, and we all deserve to be helped. It is also a plea for compassion. Sadly compassion is in very short supply at this moment in time. Hypocrisy, however, is everywhere.

Part of the reason I became an atheist was because my youthful self rebelled against the hypocrisy I saw all around me. So called ‘good’ Catholics who went to church every Sunday, said their prayers and left a donation for the ‘poor’ and then went away convinced they had done their bit. Worse, they were convinced that they were so good, they were justified in lying and cheating all week.

Those people did not live their beliefs, they only paid lip service to them. They were also the first to speak out against any ‘other’ who was different. They did not do unto others as they would have wanted to be treated themselves.

Why? Because they were the righteous. They were the saved. They were entitled….

Now, fifty years on, I see the same sense of entitlement in many who consider themselves to be ‘good’ Christians.

This is not a post against religion. It is a post for the principles that religions are meant to be based on.

This Easter, we all need to ask ourselves if we are doing unto others as we would have them do unto us. If the answer is no, let’s do better.

Meeks

 

 

About acflory

I am the kind of person who always has to know why things are the way they are so my interests range from genetics and biology to politics and what makes people tick. For fun I play online mmorpgs, read, listen to a music, dance when I get the chance and landscape my rather large block. Work is writing. When a story I am working on is going well I'm on cloud nine. On bad days I go out and dig big holes... View all posts by acflory

39 responses to “An atheist’s Easter

  • Dr Bob Rich

    Meeks, I love this post. It is exactly spot on. I am a Buddhist not atheist (though the two are compatible), and my background is Jewish not Catholic, but we have arrived in the same place. There is a Shintoist saying, “There are many mountains to God, and many paths up each mountain.
    I’ll give you a hug when we reach the top.
    🙂
    Bob

    Like

  • Esme upon the Cloud

    Cracking post, I too was brought up in Catholic schools and I too once I hit my teens (13) became an atheist, and this rang so very true a chord with me –

    ‘The reason I’m boring you all with this ancient history is so you’ll understand that I’m still a committed atheist, but my ethics have their roots in the Catholic concepts of sacrifice, charity, compassion and doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.

    Those are the concepts I consciously retained after much questioning. I retained them because they gelled with who I was as a person. I still believe in them, especially the ‘do unto others’ bit.’

    I feel this very strongly and agree with the rest of your post entirely. I admire that nun enormously for allowing you to grow as you wished to. The religious clearly have no stronger morals nor kindess within them than atheists, there are horrors on both sides though ‘In the name of’ is truly the most heinous and in my opinion cowardly of all, and the most compassionate of are often those who don’t believe in any Gods at all.

    I hope your Easter weekend was as sunny and beautiful as mine was upon the Cloud dear Meeka. ❤

    – Esme Cloud hugging Meeka upon the Cloud

    Like

    • acflory

      -hugs Esme back-

      I know I shouldn’t be surprised, but this post has shown me that most of the people I love and respect the most, because of what I call their ‘goodness’, share a very similar history.
      I’ve thought so much about this and I truly believe that it’s the questioning process that’s key. When we question what we’ve taken on faith, we inevitably end up with something that is true for /us/. Because it’s such an integral part of who we are, we then live whatever beliefs we end up with. I believe that applies to atheists, agnostics and those who do believe in a god.
      Imho, any god worth her salt would value a genuine belief over lip service any day. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  • dvberkom

    Whenever I feel discouraged about humanity (and believe me, living in the US, this tends to happen hourly), I focus on people and organizations who are getting good things done. Because there are a lot of us out there who care and are working toward a compassionate, more just world. I try to surround myself with pragmatic, genuine, compassionate people, and shine on the rest. And then I kill people off in my books.

    Happy Eostre 🙂

    Like

  • The Story Reading Ape

    Like you, Meeks, I saw a lot of ‘Church Going / God Fearing’ people who were ‘Good Living, For a Living’ – so when I was considered an adult (aged 18), I left religion behind – but, like you, the morals of the old Sunday School teachings stuck with me. ❤

    Like

  • DawnGillDesigns

    Andrea – I never expected to say this, but I find Instagram to be full of people practising a spot of kindness.
    When it all feels a bit bleak and I’m tempted to keep my focus strictly within the boundary of our tiny social circle; IG (and a few of the lovely Twits) give me hope for humanity.
    Of course, I still think the planet is doomed, despite our personal best efforts at not reproducing; buying and making everything as organically as possible, trying to keep my footprint down and not consuming a whole heap of stuff – but at least I feel that I’m not the only one doing this, and, as with many things; perhaps the point isn’t the winning, but the taking part.
    Well. That’s what’s keeping me from joining my chum on the ward anyway.
    Sending you hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • acflory

      I’ve never tried Instagram but I have found some nice people on Twitter. Of course, I’ve also found some…of the other sort. Twas an eye opener as WordPress has been such a nice community for me. A bubble of nice, I guess. -sigh- the real world is not so nice. I still really want to believe that most people are decent, you know?

      Like

    • Widdershins

      I don’t believe the planet is ‘doomed’ … She’s far too old and canny a survivor for the human race to be anything much more than a flea bite on an elephant’s bum … however, we are well on our way to making Her uninhabitable for the great majority of our out-of-control species … and quite a few of our sister species too.
      What gives me hope is that there are enough of us who are aware that this extinction event is well underway, and are, in our own individual and small-scale-collective ways, ensuring that there will be survivors.
      There have been five mass extinction events that we know of, and through each and every one, life, to quote Ian Malcolm from the first Jurassic Park movie, finds a way. Just not the life we’ve known.

      Liked by 1 person

      • acflory

        -grin- I kind of agree re the planet, and yes, Jurassic Park [1] is one of my favourite movies because of the bits of genuine philosophy they snuck in!
        I guess my sense of dismay has more to do with the Offspring’s generation, and the ones coming after. The Warrior Woman in me wants to get out there with a pitchfork to knock some sense into the short-sighted, ahem, individuals that currently run all our countries. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  • daleleelife101.blog

    I love your atheist story, and that Sister Philomena supported you. I didn’t become athiest but I accumulated my own belief system over the years and which doesn’t rely on buidlings or people telling me what to think & do. I believe we can all do better and any day is a good day for it. Just as for Christmas I like some of the Easter traditions… no meat on Good Friday, holidays, get togethers but completely optional, non-religious, and things really we can do any day. Practically, I think Easter weather is kinder, and there’s slightly less hype and related stress attached to the event. I enjoy chocolate any day but think there’s a tendency to over do it in the name of the Easter Bunny. More focus on doing meaningful stuff rather than buying stuff is my thing.

    Like

    • acflory

      I love that ‘any day is a good day for it’. Like you, I have my own belief system about why I need to be the best person I can be. It’s all about not wasting the one and only life I’m given.
      I have to tell you, we’ve had absolutely no chocolate so far. Part of it is that I don’t like the chocolate in most easter eggs, but the other part is that we made a HUGE batch of gomboc [plum dumplings] so it’ll be leftovers tomorrow.
      Have a good one. 🙂

      Like

  • MELewis

    Your story is quite similar to my own — although I never like to put labels on things and so avoid calling myself either an atheist or a humanist, both of which I suppose I am. At 16 I refused to go to church on Sundays anymore with my staunch Catholic mother who had dragged us all to mass every week since I could remember. Primarily as you say because of the hypocrisy evident on so many levels. Since then I have disliked all organized religion and dogma on any subject. I still hold on to the same principles you mention, Meeka, and increasingly see the truth in Christ’s teachings. ‘Love thy neighbour’ and ‘do unto others’ are all we really need to live happily. Too bad after all these years we still can’t seem to manage that as a society. Thanks for this compassionate cry from the heart!

    Like

    • acflory

      -hugs- I truly believe that good people gravitate together, drawn by common principles and ‘heart’. I love that our stories are so very similar!
      I’m not surprised. I’ve come to know you guys quite well over the years? Just warmed to have such nice friends.

      Liked by 1 person

  • anne54

    Yes, compassion and empathy should be the cornerstones of our moral compass, part of our daily life rather than just on Sundays (or Saturdays or Fridays). Part of the problem is that we can be very blinkered to our own shortcomings. I like to believe that I am compassionate and empathetic, but maybe it is easier for others to see whether i am or not.
    I hope you are having a lovely relaxing time, on this beautiful day, and that the Easter Bunny finds you ~ cos we can all believe in Chocolate!!

    Like

    • acflory

      -hugs- We can indeed. Chocolate is the great leveller. 😀 As to being a good person, I’m pretty damn sure you are! I believe all my online friends are. We’ve known each other long enough and talked about different matters long enough to know how we all feel. You guys ‘rock’. 🙂

      Like

  • davidprosser

    In America the evangelists are having a great time as their ‘Chosen by God’ one is in power yet I’ve never met a more corrupt or divisive power in my life.And if the evangelists manage to sneak religion into politics so many people will suffer, women, immigrants and people of colour .In the UK the politics of hate seems to be more with the MP’s against the PM rather than the people who drift along waiting to hear what will happen.If someone should fall, no-one will be asking whether they’re pro or anti Brexit before helping them up. There’s still a belief in Do unto others here.The world seems to be getting far too many Dictators in charge now who make their own people suffer, Russia Turkey, Saudi Arabia and North Korea amongst them. We need to find a way to help them get free elections and turn away from the far right. Whether religious or not I like to believe there is a glimmer of kindness in each persons breast if we look for it.
    Hugs

    Liked by 1 person

    • acflory

      I agree with everything except the last bit. I believe in democracy with all my heart, but I also believe that it has to come from within. It can’t be imposed from without. All those countries you mention may become democracies one day. I very much hope they do but…it won’t be a true democracy unless it rises up as a grass roots movement. For that, we will have to wait.
      -massive hugs-

      Like

  • Candy Korman

    What a wonderful “coming out” as an atheist story!

    My mother grew up in an religious Jewish household—one with an extended family for whom leftist politics were the religion of choice—and my father grew up in a less religious and less political household. They were both atheists and brought me up to celebrate the diversity in my country and in my family. This included inviting non-Jews to our non-traditional Passover Seders and Chanukah parties. But most of all, they transmitted a humanist approach to living. Good people come from all faiths—including a faith in humanity, which puts actions over belief systems and freedom over oppression.

    So enjoy your holiday weekend with feasts, friends and family, if not with religious ferocity. I KNOW we can do better because we, as human beings, are capable of much better. The hatred and fear that uses the cover of religious devotion to demonize the OTHER is a dangerous force. One that can be overcome if we treat everyone with kindness and greet them as equals, the rest of the differences fade into nothing of importance.

    Liked by 2 people

    • acflory

      Yes! I’ve always thought of myself as a humanist as well. I don’t pray per se, but I sincerely, really, truly hope that one day, there will be no differences at all.
      Thanks for being a humanist and a friend of long standing. -hugs-

      Like

  • jilldennison

    All religion is, in my book, based on arrogance and hypocrisy. Theirs is the one and only ‘right’ belief and the rest of us are condemned to whatever ‘punishment’ they believe in. I stopped believing at a young age, when nobody could ever answer my practical questions with anything other than “just because”, or “because it says so in the Bible/Torah” (I was born into a Catholic/Jewish family — lots of fun there!), or “You have to take these things on faith”. Well, I was always a pragmatist, a realist, one who needed full, provable explanations, so eventually I figured out it was all a line of b.s. To your point … yes, today we are seeing more hatred globally than we have in our lifetimes, and nobody seems to practice the religion that they claim to believe in, but instead turn it around to justify their condemnation of “other”, be it blacks, Muslims, LGBTs, Hispanics, or … the list is endless. I don’t see a good ending to this all, at least not in my lifetime. However, people like you make it worth keeping on trying to be a positive influence in the world. Perhaps someday, somebody will listen …
    Hugs!

    Liked by 2 people

  • TD McKinnon

    Well said, Meeka. I am not an atheist or a Christian, or any of the others, but I feel you have it about right.

    Liked by 1 person

    • acflory

      Hi TD! It’s lovely to hear from you. I have a feeling that we’re all humanists. I’ve been feeling rather down about the state of the world, humans in particular. You guys prove that we /are/ still worthwhile. -hugs-

      Like

Don't be shy!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: