So What Do I Do Now? – Part One

Lets start this by stating up front that I am not iconic in any way. I am not a shining example of a human being. I’ve made mistakes and probably will make mistakes all my life. Life is like that. Mistakes are one of the ways in which we learn to not make mistakes. We don’t always need to burn our hands on the stove to learn what the word hot means, but it’s a lesson learned for life.

There are lots of people with world views which tell you what you are supposed to do if you are a good person or want to be. What if you don’t feel like a good person? What if you’re not so interested in being a good person? What if your goal is not to be a good person, but to simply be happy with yourself or life? What if you just want an answer? Sometimes, all the atheists and believers in the world can’t give you anything that makes sense. Well, you’re not alone if you feel this way. Seriously, I mean that.

There are way too many world views to choose from if none of them make more than cursory sense. Often enough, if you ask not one protagonist will be able to tell you why theirs is the best way in preference to any other, they simply want to say that they are right, or so it seems. What is the best way? What is the right way? How can we know what is the right answer to any of these questions?

It is probably simply my perception, but it seems to me that lately there are more people asking why? There seems to be more people openly asking these hard questions. What does it mean? Why should I not end it? Why carry on? Nothing seems true and what does seem true has no reason, no purpose, no ultimate goal. Well, it might surprise nobody that I have some thoughts on this. I don’t think it is a subject that can be approached with 1200 words, so (and I bemoan those that tell you what they intend to do, but this got too big for one post) I will try to do so here with several posts.

Get Started Already, Damnit!

Okay, I’ve been an atheist (among other things) for some time now and I’ve asked: Okay, I’m an atheist, now what? in more than one place. There were no answers. Possible answers have been varied as exampled by:

  • Nothing – there is no explanation
  • Science is wonderful, look at the wonders of life
  • Follow the rules all your life and if you’re lucky you’ll maybe get a good afterlife
  • I don’t know

Yes, there are more, but this is just a summary. None of these are very gratifying, never mind that they give no kind of direction. None of these are satisfying to people seeking answers to ‘what should be done next’ so we continue to look, or some of us do. Some of us reject these answers straight out. They are not really answers for the question asked.

There are those that will tell you to explore humanism and other communities which are secular in nature, groups that offer community and social interactions – some of the things that were found in religious communities.

In the end I think that you will have to do a lot of work on this on your own, but there are some short cuts to be had. Ask yourself a few questions before you get started. Well, it might be a bit late for the starting point, but never too late to ‘be’. I am guessing that there are more questions, but lets start with these.

  1. Do you want someone to tell you how to live?
  2. Do you want someone to tell you how to be good?
  3. Do you want someone to tell you how to think?
  4. Do you want someone to talk to?
  5. Do you want someone to hang out with?
  6. Do you want someone to teach you? (like what is  your purpose here)
  7. Do you want someone to ask questions of? (like what is the meaning of life)

Do you want someone to tell you how to live?

In religions there are a lot of rules about what you should do and what you should not do. Even how to dress, who to date, what to eat and so on. Many religions are more than willing to dictate to you what you should do every minute of your day. When we walk away from that there can be a sense of loss of direction. When we decide that religion is wrong, what rules should we then follow? Yes, that can sound pretty odd, but some people do feel this loss. The sudden freedom to do as you see fit is also a sudden responsibility for some. Where they’ve never had a real choice in dating, now there are many. Where they had no real choice in clothing, now there are many. Yes, too many choices can be overwhelming. No, it’s not guaranteed that you will have a problem with this. Some will find that now they are out of religion and away from that community there is a loss of moral guidelines, a kind of social compass that was always there.

The answers to these are simple and complex.

Simply be yourself. Now go figure out who that is. I told you it was simple and complex. There is no right or wrong way to be you. It is one of the things that you can’t fail at in this life. You can be uncomfortable with it or be bad at it, but you can’t fail to be you. Know that you’re going to pass this one. From the time of our first breath until our last we hairless human apes study and mimic one another in any way that you can think possible: style, language, dress, food, body language and so on and on. This is one of the ways we learn to live – mimicry. Often enough we idolize famous people and desire to live like them… and they in turn will often enough want to live like us.

If you are finding that you feel a loss, look and see what you feel is lost. If the smothering guidelines of religion telling you how to live has now left a loss in your life there are other sources for us to look at and mimic. There are many sources of sayings and guidelines for the world outside of religion. I personally like Aesop’s Fables, The Greek plays, Shakespeare, and the many stories of historical heroes. These stories were, at the time, ways that humans communicated ideas, morality, and understanding. We can take lessons from them about love, tragedy, courage, and even meaning and purpose. Then there is philosophy, though that is best for those that enjoy it. If you are not acquainted with it, a trip to the Internet library for some beginning information is a good place to start. Diving straight into a complete work of Hume collection is probably not a good starting spot.

Remember that you can rent videos that tell these stories for you as well. Does that sound like work? Did you want it easier? I’m afraid that being you is a job that you have to do. Nobody else can do it for you. You will end up having to decide how you want to live. I take great inspiration from historical figures. There are wonderful story tellers who tell the tales of history. It’s not a case of interesting factoids you can win a trivia game with either. Consider that Martha Washington had epilepsy. She was at times taken with a twitch in her facial muscles. Rather than commit her to an asylum as witch or possessed by a demon George covered her face with a handkerchief when in public until the seizure passed. Stop and think for a minute. What kind of courage it would take to do this in spite of prevailing public opinion about seizures. The man who would be asked to be King of America had this courage and wisdom about him. Do you and I possess this kind of courage? What? You don’t think that is a good story? You think that 42 kids being killed by 2 she bears is better? I didn’t think so.

Have you seen King Lear? What lesson can be learned in the play? I’ll leave you to find out. For every story in the holy texts which gives us a lesson, there are dozens outside religion to teach us the same things. Try it, go on.

Here’s a start with some Aesop Fables and there are more morality tales from history and present. We do not need a bible or a church for such things. To know how to live, we make mistakes and learn from others. Perhaps you’ll think of other places where you find morality and tales of moral goodness.

I’m going to try keeping these to 1500. Till next time… be

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  1. Exceptional topic! Timely and immensely relevant. You’re American so your country is a little (a lot, perhaps) behind the rest of the advanced world in shedding religious influence (from schools/govt/etc) and have already dealt with the “good without god” issues. That’s not to say we’ve hit critical mass out here in this thing, though. Far, far from it, and that’s why this topic is important. A step away from religion is scary for many because they’re afraid there is no ‘solid’ ground beyond to step onto… no moral compass. No authority figure.

    Reminds me of the meme floating around last week: “If you can’t determine right from wrong you lack empathy, not religion.”

    Definitely take this post further. Tease it out, do case studies. Explore the question: what is the moral impetus of a rational, social, science-based society. I think it’d make a GREAT book. Seriously. I believe you’re onto something here, Sir. (or is it Madam?).

    • faintsignal
    • November 27th, 2012

    Reblogged this on Faint Signal.

    • faintsignal
    • November 27th, 2012

    An awesome read. I fully know what you mean! Maybe not in practice, but the framework. 🙂 Here’s something to think about. Some people already have the answers, but how can they be motivated to move forward with that knowledge? What if they lack the transmission for the engine to turn the wheels?

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