This is not a rant about how “atheists have morals, too!”
This is me figuring out how this whole morality thing works. It’s always been easy to be good in life because life has been good to me. I believe I’ve helped more people than I’ve hurt, and I am quicker to love than I am to hate. If morality were as objective as we all hope it is, I would say I’m a pretty moral person.
Recently, I’ve found myself in positions where I can be selfish to the deep detriment of others. I have had to make choices that look out for myself but find consideration for others, and they’ve been difficult to navigate. I believe happiness and goodness lie somewhere in this mix of selflessness and selfishness. I don’t believe one or the other is an ultimate virtue. I believe they are best employed in tandem. The measurement is not set, and we keep adding both, tasting the concoction until it makes that perfect choicetini. I want to help as many other bodies as I can when I help my own.
I don’t want anyone to lose when I win, but I think that’s going to happen sometimes. I think you just have to make sure that the loss is not so deep as to make another person’s situation irredeemable. Don’t destroy things unless those things are destroying others.
I’ve not officially written about this yet, but it’s something I often find myself reaching in my existential reductions.
Those of us who left religion feel as though we’ve escaped a system of othering. Evangelical Christianity is very exclusive. It has rules for who is righteous and who isn’t, who goes to heaven and who goes to hell. Sometimes these rules are ambiguous and other times they aren’t. At times the way of navigating which is which seems a bit arbitrary and too heavily influenced by interpretation. No matter which way it’s cut to whichever evangelical denomination, it sets up a system of othering, which is a system that claims a higher position than others.
What’s interesting about the groups I’ve found myself involved with since deconverting is that they’re not so different when it comes to this factor of othering. Sometimes they’re more accepting and compassionate, but more often than not they feel like they have a better system of living than evangelical Christians. Because we see evangelicalism as wrong, we’re inclined to “other” it. We disparage it just as they disparage us. And in this way, we are no “better.” We are just as judgmental, and in some ways, we are just as exclusive.
Being judgmental is what cocoons us in our safety zone. The system of “othering” is what makes us feel more confident in ourselves. We find identity in setting ourselves apart in some way, and because of our natural compass toward progress, we tend to think that we are right in our core convictions, which makes anyone following an opposite conviction wrong to us, even if we’re uncomfortable saying it.
It’s natural for us to judge, and I really am okay with being a judgmental person. It’s how I operate in confidence, but I think the key is being aware of this quality and recognizing that there are more systems led by honest convictions that don’t match my own at all and sometimes defy my values. I have to live under the assumption that my core convictions are right, but I have to know that they may very well be ultimately wrong. That is a weird idea to walk with each day, and I don’t know how to hold it. It’s the main thing that keeps me feeling conflicted, but it’s also the main thing that compels me toward understanding.