On February 17, 2023 I came out and publicly declared myself: An Atheist. This has been a fact for many decades. But this was the first time I spoke the word aloud. The sound was jarring, unfamiliar, an echo of something that had been bouncing around in my head for a very, very long time. It came up in a dialogue with a firm believer and my intention was not to convert him, but to help him. We were both in hospital facing serious conditions. I saw him silently brooding and my aim was to break the pattern of his dark thoughts and ease his apparent burden. I introduced myself and started to gently probe for an insight. The first night I bubbled with enthusiasm as I tried to explain what I saw as my “calling”, my “raison d’être”. I am a story teller. My mission? To make everyone around me a little happier, a little easier in their own skin. To that end I try to leave every place I go a little better than when I found it. Better? Cleaner, more productive, safer, brighter, dare I say, happier. That’s why I pick up the discarded garbage at any park I visit. I want everyone who enters my presence with a frown or a burden to leave with a smile and a spring in their step. The conversation danced around for a couple of days and finally came to rest on the potential outcome for both of us. I asked him, “Are you a Believer?” His reply was “Yes”. Good. Whatever gives you comfort. If that is so for you, let me explain what that is for me and you can take away anything I say that helps, in my opinion, an eternity in Heaven is no prize and neither is an eternity in Hell. Heaven might be a place inhabited by a very large number of unsavoury characters, (including relatives), who slipped in via a deathbed conversion, or perhaps even by Republicans. I do not deny anyone the reassuring comfort of a faith that will carry them over the rough patches. Life can be hard and how we approach it determines what we get out of it. The thought of it extending beyond this mortal coil for all eternity is abhorrent to me. Even a few centuries would prompt my gag reflex. Now, I believe in a human spirit. It lives within us from the moment of that first spark of consciousness and exists until our final breath. It is ours to treasure and to nurture. We must cherish it and pass it on (children). But without the certainty that it will end, the present moment has no meaning and risks being wasted. I do not deny anyone the reassuring comfort of a faith that will carry them over the rough patches. Life can be hard and how we approach it determines what we get out of it. But the thought of it extending beyond this mortal coil for all eternity is abhorrent to me. Even a few centuries would prompt my gag reflex.
So, call me a Humanist.