Happy New Year to all lovers and haters of the Atheist blogosphere. How nice it will be to dive into a new year of defining what it means to be a non-believer. I have been out of the game for a few, I know. In addition to a small myriad of academic pursuits, I’ve been nursing a sore knee:
Ignore the juicy red, tiger-stripped pillow, they were on sale down the street; and it’s darn comfy. Nevertheless, at least I have an opportunity to reflect, and my what things do I have to reflect on. Certainly brings on a good question: Can an Atheist know what it means to “reflect”?
The notion of reflecting has a very sentimental ring, and with sentimentalism, the specter of the supernatural is never very far away. When people reflect on matters of life the scientific takes a back seat, where all things fundamentally human come into the forefront. In this reflection, the good and the bad seems to appear in placid clear form, making us think, in turn, about who we are, what we’re capable of, and the things we wish we could have done better. This kind of thinking forces us to ponder the larger picture, whether or not life has any meaning, and if there are forces that can help us continue in those things that are good, and to banish those things that hurt us.
This kind of reflection affects some people more than others, primarily with consideration for life and its troubles, something I know about well enough. This past holiday season could have been better for me, and I realize this; and for others who might be in the same situation, they might draw on notions of hope for a better future. I certainly hope for a better life. But hope is a tedious concept that, unfortunately, can get entangled with the concept of a higher power. Some people “hope” things will get better; some people “hope to God” things will get better. Which begs the question, if I am hoping for things to get better, does my hope have to be directed towards an outer agency apart from myself?
When I encounter this question, I find I turn to acceptance before allowing my mind to veer off into the need for higher powers to give me a hand in life. I accept my situation for what it is and I assert myself in the face of the challenges which lie in store for me. When I start thinking that something isn’t going to go my way, I feel that old-style hope bubbling up inside, but I tend to think on how I will be able to adjust, instead of allowing the mind to believe that a supernatural force is in control of an outcome. This is reality.
This is what being an Atheist means: relying on the ingenuity, creativity and resourcefulness that comes with being a living creature of the world. Of course, hope will not go away; this, too, is a fundamental part of being human that, I believe, separates us from other animal species. Recognizing the psychological nature of hope is important, however, so that the perpetuation of a delusion does not produce unintended results.
I can hope for a good year in 2014, but I can also be proactive and take charge, so that the integrity of that hope can be grounded in the spirit of self-reliance; so that I can make a clear distinction between hoping for what I can do, and knowing what I can do — supernatural services not required.
Cheers to 2014!