An Atheist’s Heaven

An Atheist’s Heaven July 3, 2016

Personally, I think that the most beautiful happiness there is in the world is in the beauty of caring about each other so deeply that it feels like caring about ourselves.

I think it’s the best shot we have for a decent world.

There is no God, no happily-ever-after. If we’re going to live in a Utopia, this is it.

Yeah, I know Utopia doesn’t really exist. But I think it’s still possible to see a glimpse of something that reminds me of the way I used to think of heaven when I care about someone else.  When I do something that doesn’t feel like it’s just for me, but feels like it’s for someone else, too.

I know what the cynics say, and I’m one of them. They say we’re selfish, there’s no such thing as altruism, and we should all just admit it.

But the other day I was thinking — why do I spend time typing on this keyboard? Is it because I want to be heard? Or is it because I want to help people?

I think that’s the way a lot of us look at our lives. We put categories on it — are we doing this because we care about ourselves, or because we care about someone else?

Are you going to your job to earn money? Or to help your clients?

Do we make friends so they can help us? Or so that we can help them?

I find the most beautiful parts of my life happen in relationships where those two sides of things blend together. Blogging feels more natural when I’m typing because I want to be heard and because I want to help people — when the two goals intertwine. It’s like — I share who I am because I hate to live alone, but when I come out of my shell, I give others the ability to come out of their shells, too.  Have you ever noticed that? When you succeed in the fight to keep from living alone, your drive to reach out helps others feel less alone, too. When you’re honest, you free other people to be honest, too.

That process feels beautiful. I don’t believe in heaven, but those times when I write something in a post like this that’s close to my heart and that I think I’m alone in feeling, and someone responds by saying thank you and telling me they feel the same way…man. Those moments feel pretty close to heaven to me.

And it’s not just here on the blog; every area of my life kinda works that way. Jobs, too — yes, I’m going to work to earn money, but I’m at my best and happiest when the money motive and the desire to help someone else blends; that strong connection can make the money feel more “earned” — like it’s representative of a real relationship. For an anology, it’s the difference between getting your check via direct deposit from a boss you hardly ever see or hear from, and getting it from a boss who signs it in front of you, shakes your hand, looks you squarely and sincerely in the eye, and says with a grateful smile, “Thank you for helping us so much this week. I’m so grateful and lucky to have you.”

It’s that mutual relationship that’s beautiful. Those places when the line between caring about yourself and caring about other people is blurred. Where helping yourself is helping the other person, and helping the other person feels like helping you.

Maybe this sounds a bit idealistic, but I look for places in the landscape in my life that are like that.

Yes, there’s a tendency to see us all as separated. And in a way there are separations. Some people are Christians, some people are Atheists, some people are Buddhists, some are rich, some are poor, some are liberal, some are conservative, etc. And we get angry with each other — sometimes for good reason.

But I find joy in those places where — even fighting through strong disagreements — you can do the hard work of getting to a place where you can look at things from the other person’s point of view. Sometimes it’s harder, it seems, than climbing Kilimanjaro. But if you ever finally get there and look around at the way they see the world, you may find, even in the most disturbing features of what you see, that your own perspective has grown larger.  The beauty you selfishly live for day in, day out now includes another person, and that other person’s perspective now includes you.

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When I get to those hard-fought moments, I feel like I’ve got a little back of the heaven I gave up when I gave up Christianity, and then some.

Partly because it’s based on something real, and partly because it’s not dictated by any God or religion. It’s between me and other people — people I can get to know face to face, as opposed to through an old book that is filled with racism and sexism and the rest. And they can get to know me. The real me, not the one hiding behind Jesus who isn’t alive.

It’s not perfect, and it would be better without all the bullshit life throws my way happening. But the times those connections happen make my life most feel worth it.

So…

Thanks for reading.

P.S. I have a Patreon, if you want to help me do more of what I’m doing.

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