It is Easter Sunday. A significant proportion of the worlds population celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. His crucifixion is seen as the ultimate sacrifice for the benefit of others. A truly selfless act.
Long ago, I realised I did not believe the concept of a god and all that entails. Others can believe in what they want but I choose not to. In my teens I found myself sitting in church one evening listening to a service and realised I didn’t believe that a god could have any monopoly on love, kindness and doing the right thing. I walked away and told my parents that I would no longer be going to church. They were fine with this and never again expected me to believe because someone else told me to. I appreciate there are many of you who find god and establish a relationship with god. I respect your choice but it is not my choice. I am no believer in the agnostic approach. It’s rather like being a Liberal Democrat. Fences can get very painful if you sit on them for long enough.
Selflessness is present in atheists as well as those who follow a religion. Kindness, compassion, love is there in people regardless of their spiritual beliefs. One does not go with the other. Hatred, greed, selfishness are as present in some religions as in some atheists. I admire the concept of selflessness even if I can’t always pretend to be so. I am at times, selfish, greedy, angry. I am however an easy touch. I say no and capitulate. I hate conflict and the potential for conflict. Arguments eat me up. I will get involved in disagreements and I feel myself shaking with anger and frustration. I would rather anything happen than arguments. The trouble with this is that others sense this in me. They know if i’m pushed far enough, I will back down.
Strength is sometimes associated with fairness but it can also be with bullying. I have allowed myself to be bullied for most of my life. This bullying has never been physical, partly because I’m quite tall and well built. I have only ever had two fights and they were both at school. On both occasions, I won (if winning is an appropriate description). I walked away following the confrontation and felt awful. Awful for being in that situation and awful for not being strong enough to avoid it. Psychological bullying, manipulation are in my mind far more insipid. Many use guilt, play on your emotional discomfort. Some bulldoze you into giving in. My approach is to give in and then allow the unfairness to eat away within. I grumble or just walk away and say nothing. I allow myself to internalise the perceived injustice I am experiencing.
Maybe this is why I have never been a high flying success. I do have abilities but they rarely lead to achievement. Finding the strength that comes from kindness seems an elusive prize. Can you really be driven and at the same time, kind and easy going?
There must surely be victims that suffer in the wake of success. It acts as a balance.
I read a novel by Nick Hornby a few years ago called How To Be Good. It tells the story of a street in north London that opens its doors to the homeless and the disadvantaged. Very soon the social experiment begins to backfire and trouble ensues. Peoples desire for self preservation and a sense of justice brings the experiment crashing down. It was enjoyable and yet difficult reading for me. You knew almost from the beginning that it would not end well. The premise of a community and individuals in it, trying to do the right thing out of kindness was a powerful concept to read.
Maybe the message Jesus offers is that we should try to be good however hard that may be. It dispels the notion of revenge, an eye for an eye. It doesn’t presume for every good act, there must be someone who suffers. We seem to live an increasingly polarised world full of certainties. We can’t all be right and with that others all be wrong. Justice is not the preserve of the wealthy and powerful. Kindness is not owned by the devout.
I must learn to try to be kind and not allow myself to be put upon. We should all learn to be kind to others for no reward. This atheist believes in the power of people and their capacity for goodness. I don’t need a god to tell how to be good but do appreciate some of the principles.