The Responsibility of the Atheist

I’ll admit it.  Sometimes I envy Christians.  To believe in something so strongly, to have such complete trust in someone else, to be able to relinquish control of your life to another being and truly believe that they will take good care of it must be extremely freeing.  As an atheist I have no such luxury.  Granted, when I really think about it, it’s not a luxury that I truly desire.  But in all honesty there are times it sound very nice.

As an atheist, I’ve made the decision to take complete control of my life, and complete responsibility for my life.  In my decision making there is no one to consult besides my husband.  There is no lifting it up and waiting for divine inspiration.  There is no being lead in a certain direction.  There is only me, and my heart, and my knowledge.  And the responsibility for my choices and my actions lies solely with me.  There is no, “thy will be done and not my own.”  There is no, “all things work together for the good of those that are called according to his purpose.”  There is no, “I can do all things through Christ who give me strength.”

 When I face a dilemma, or wrestle with a decision, it is with the weight of the knowledge that the decision is mine to make, and the consequences are my responsibility alone.  I have to weigh what I want against what I believe to be right and best for all people involved.  When Christians say, “this is what I’m feeling God leading me to do,” I hear, “this is what I really want.”  When they say, “it’s in God’s hands now,” I hear, “I refuse to take responsibility for the outcome of this decision.”  There are many times when I have felt it would be easier to just follow my heart and say, “God lead me in this direction.”  I’m not saying that I don’t follow my heart.  I often do.  When a decision is particularly hard, or the pros and cons seem even on both sides of the equation, I usually do follow my heart, or my gut instinct.  But it is with the knowledge that I am possibly making a selfish decision, and I am prepared to deal with any consequences that come of that.

Another challenge that is unique to the atheist situation is that I have the same social responsibility to raise ethically sound children to be contributing members of society.  But I have to teach that what is right is right because it is right, and cannot fall back on, “because the bible says so.”  We rely a lot on the golden rule here when teaching behavior.  We teach that life is valued because it is amazing, not divine.  We teach stewardship of the earth to preserve it for future generations, not because it is a gift from God.  Religion is not necessary for raising kind, caring, empathetic children, but it would provide a nice short cut.

As tempting as it sometimes is to turn responsibility over to someone else, in the end it is just not something I can do.  Aside from the fact that I do not believe in God, I feel maintaining responsibility makes me a better person.  It makes me a more careful decision maker.  It prompts me to do research more fully on topics that I don’t understand.  It keeps me from following my heart when my head knows there is a more appropriate course of action.  It makes me live consciously.  Deliberately.  With purpose, and direction, and drive.  And really, it is incredibly liberating.  The world is mine oyster, which I with sword will open.

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Secular Easter

Raising secular kids in a predominantly religious society presents it’s fair share of problems. How to celebrate holidays not being the least of them. As an atheist family we certainly find plenty of cause for celebration through the turning of the seasons. And we don’t want our children to miss out on the joy and merriment that their friends participate in. But how to partake in the fun without the religion, and without focusing on the purely consumer aspects of the holiday?

Lucky for us, many Christian holidays were taken from pagan roots. And those pagans loved their earth. I can really get behind celebrating the turn of the season and all that the earth gives her children. In the summer we celebrate the sun shine and the many beautiful growing things. In the fall we celebrate the harvest. All the good foods that will sustain us through the cold winter. In the winter we celebrate the solstice, the time when the sun begins to return and the days start getting longer. And in the spring we celebrate new life. The trees waking up, the baby animals being born, time to plant, and to hope.

So with these ideas in mind, we participate in the holidays and try to steer clear of the rampant consumerism that tends to take over. For Easter I like to decorate eggs, although we didn’t get around to it this year. We do the Easter Bunny, but mostly as a fun game. I don’t go out of my way to make sure the kids believe, but I don’t dash their hopes as long as they choose to believe. The evidence that I’m the Easter Bunny is readily available to any child who wishes to think about it for a moment. This year I put together baskets with bunny ears, Easter egg sidewalk chalk, and a small chocolate bunny. I hid plastic eggs around the living room and the kids had a fun hunt. I’m letting them go kinda hog wild on the candy today, in hopes that it will just be gone and I won’t have to deal with it any more.

And we talk. We talk about why we celebrate spring. We talk about the importance of taking care of our earth. We talk about the meaning of family, and togetherness, and stewardship. And I think that is the most important part of any holiday. The time we spend together talking. The segue into some of these big issues that don’t come up in conversation on a daily basis. A chance to slow down and really focus on the things that are important to us.

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It’s hard to believe that it’s been over a year since I’ve blogged. You can catch up on previous years at Blogger is acting up, and I forgot that I had a wordpress account, so here I am now. I got caught up in living my life, and writing about it fell by the wayside. I’d love to promise regular updates with spectacular content from here on out, but I think it’s safe to say that’s probably not going to happen. I love blogging, but I love living my life too. If I have to choose, living definitely wins out. Who knew that three kids could keep you so busy? That said, I really do love blogging and as my life is taking a turn for the bloggable in the near future I hope to get back into writing more frequently.

So we’re moving soon. In like a month or two. CRAZY! My husband is going back to school for his masters in Physician Assistance, and we will be moving to Yellow Springs, a really cute, really small, liberal hippie town between Columbus and Dayton. And even crazier? I just put an offer on a house. We had no intention of buying for the next several years, but there really isn’t a whole lot to rent in such a small town, and my hunting turned up that we could buy a house the size we were looking for and our mortgage would be about the same or less then renting. So I applied for a loan and got approved, and started house hunting. And I found this:

It’s small, to be sure. But it’s bigger then where we are now, and the kitchen is to die for. The inside is nicely remodeled with tile and laminate flooring, the space is well used, the garage is huge, the basement is finished, and did I mention the kitchen? I pee my pants a little thinking about cooking in this kitchen. It’s not huge, but it’s very well laid out and about a thousand times bigger then my current “kitchen” (if it can even be called that – ugh).

In addition to the kitchen being divine, the yard is superb. The lot is almost ½ an acre. And the house is situated right in the center, so there is ample front and back yard, and a nice huge driveway with a turn around. I hate backing into a busy road. Nothing is for sure yet, we have to get our offer accepted and then the inspection process and the loan underwriting. Part of me is terrified that my pre-approval was a fluke and once they take a good look at our finances they will end up denying the loan, but we’ll have to cross that bridge when we come to it. I’m already planting apple trees in my front yard in my mind. A medicinal and culinary herb garden will go by the kitchen. There is tons of space for a vegetable garden in the back, and the owners used to keep goats, so there is a great little fenced inclosure that I would probably stick chickens in for now. Yay for fresh eggs!

So this is a huge step in the direction of a working homestead. A kitchen to actually cook in. Room for a real garden. Chickens! And possibly even goats eventually. It will be my goal to document my process here as my homestead moves from my heart to reality. This should be an adventure. But if life gets in the way and you don’t hear from me for a while, rest assured that I am living my homestead, even if I’m not writing about it.

UPDATE: The offer was accepted!! No need to dicker and negotiate, I made a fair offer and they took it. There is still a lot that could go wrong as we have the house inspected and the loan finalized, but we are well on our way to owning a home!