Being an out atheist is hard, especially since so few people admit to sharing my world view. Whenever the subject of life and religion come up in my social circle, I often feel that I’ve been put on the defensive. In these discussions I confess to spending a lot of time talking about why religion, and more specifically Christianity, is a lousy choice as a moral code. As the result of one of these conversations, I was challenged by a friend to stop talking about what I don’t believe in, and to define what I do.
Here is my attempt at a Life Manifesto. It is written as if I am speaking to my two daughters. It consists of 13 statements. I don’t want to call them Beliefs per say, as that implies an absence of evidence. They are not absolute and are in no particular order. They are subject to change dependent on life, experience and time.
I am going to present them as subjects for my posts over the next several days.
I VALUE HARD WORK Give every endeavor your very best effort. Become aware of the slight discomfort that comes from exerting yourself beyond your perceived limits and know that you will be rewarded for your extra push with a rush of endorphins. Master that feeling and apply it to your entire life. Realize true contentment comes not just from what you do, but from the satisfaction of knowing you did the very best you possibly could. Fight the urge to be lazy. View sloth as a disease that can be held at bay with a steady diet of sweat.
I UNDERSTAND FAMILY IS AN EFFORT, NOT A BLOODLINE It takes more than just love and DNA to bond a group of people. Family bonds require commitment, time and effort. Communication is the adhesive that sticks people together, but it must be reapplied frequently. The most important decision you may make will be whether or not to raise children. Be fully aware of the gravity of this choice. Understand that children may cause you to derail your goals, to sacrifice every bit of personal time and space, and to ache with profound pain. Understand, too, that the love you will feel will be the most sublime experience of your life.
I LIVE WITH A SENSE OF GRATITUDE Remember to express thankfulness daily. Realize your place in this world is of privilege. Even when you are sick, broke and unhappy, you have far more than 99.999% of the humans who went before you. Understand you exist in a special time and in a place of wealth and you did absolutely nothing to deserve it. It is a fortunate accident that you were born now, and born who you are. Appreciate it. Appreciate all the people who worked to create this wonderful world you live in: the scientists, patriots, soldiers, doctors, artists, the mothers and the fathers, the explorers and the inventors, the teachers and the laborers.