Thursday, April 4, 2024

Christian Reflections

I was raised a Christian. At an early age I was taught biblical morality, especially that Jesus's teachings were central to living a good life. By rote, I believed he was crucified to absolve sins I inherited and those I committed during my life,big I prayed for forgiveness and believed in the Christian trinity. Further, I believed that his storied resurrection demonstrated his power over death and that believing that he was the son of the Christian god would earn me eternal life.

Then I grew up. 

At first, I discovered all the biblical miracles and creation myths obviously conflicted with reality. It was a revelation to think for myself, and I had a visceral "how could I be so gullible" reaction throughout my twenties. It felt like religion and the elders I trusted to guide me had lied to me and all of its followers.

Then I became better acquainted with biblical doctrine.  I was severely repulsed by the old testament's god-decreed violence, tolerance of slavery, killing of children and patriarchal rule. These atrocious tenets far outweighed for me any new testament nods to good samaritanism and promises of salvation. If the teachings of the bible were supposed to instill good ethics, to much of its lessons were duplicit and evil.

These contemplations opened a portal to atheism for me. But lacking belief in any of the thousand of supposed gods and goddesses was only a first step, as it simply wiped my world view clean of supernatural silliness. Now I could investigate better ethical ideas with the mind of an adult engaged, rather than of a unquestioning child mesmerized by fairy tales.

Reason led me to embrace scientific skepticism which honestly attempted to sift truth from falsehoods in the world. It led me down the mindful and kind path that ebodies secular humanism. This world view sought to build community toward doing good in the world for the simple sake of doing good without empty threats and rewards. 

As a secular humanist I developed a heartfelt compassion for all living beings. This inspired me to ratchet up my ethic by participating in selfless environmentalism, veganism, and minimalism, all while taking joy in the wonders that life offered.

In the end performing such loving acts for the world, its communities, those beings in my circle and myself taught me that an ethical life stance required continual contemplation and an openness to adjust my behavior given new information. (Thinking better to act better)

Surely, I'm imperfect at this, and my attempts to influence others to see a similar light has been rather limited. Still, if I cannot inspire others, I am joyful to be on an honest path of goodness, seeking to grow and learn at every step, and living by example.

It is hard, still I understand that people need to find their own path to attain self-actualization. Yet, sometimes people get stuck in circles on that journey because good feelings get intertwined with moral teachings, even if those lessons don't stand up to honest questioning.

And it can feel good by having faith during troubled times that a higher power is watching over us with a promise that a better life waits after death. But why not have faith in our family and communities themselves, since they are the ones there giving living support? 

I see how imagining a loving teacher like Jesus who is always there for us can be powerful. And prayers to a higher power can be a source of hope when life is a downer.

For me, it's the teaching itself which is important. "Love thy (human) neighbor" is a  good one. "Do unto others (humans) as you would have done unto yourself," has its merits too. 

Why not challenge yourself to do the most good without all the divisive and questionable baggage a hundred different religions have been spouting for millennia. You might just find that being a good person is reward in itself.

"Have compassion for all beings!"

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