“The fabric of society is very complex, George.”

Mom and me

It is a freeing thing to realize that almost every thing you know, do, and think (whether good, bad, or neutral) is taught to you.  You have manners because your parents taught you from a very early age to say “please” and “thank you” to others.  Racism and stereotypes are all perpetuated through the indoctrination of people.  Most women care deeply about having diamonds, planning an elaborate wedding, and celebrating Valentine’s Day because of years and years of seeing advertisements as well as having mothers, sisters, or friends tell them that these things are important.  

It is freeing when you learn this because you finally understand that all of culture and society is inherently meaningless.  How incredible is that!  We’ve learned all of this information that keeps chaos at bay, that seems crucial to our identity and none of it holds any kind of significance independent of the society we belong to.  I don’t mean this to sound like I think life is meaningless (because I don’t think it is), or that manners or culture should be done away with (as if that were possible, anyway).  At some point, we must see beyond petty things to live a life that is meaningful.  What we are taught growing up are the building blocks for our own (true) identities so that eventually, we can focus on things that are more important.

I find religion to be one of the petty things.  Except for its ability to build (sometimes quite exclusive) communities and create structure, I do not think religion is meaningful in itself nor in the doctrines that it teaches.  When I decided there probably was no god and that I did not want to belong to any religion, I did not suddenly become a terrible person who was cruel and deceitful.  My life didn’t take a turn for the worse and I wasn’t filled with guilt or remorse.  I felt free because all of the things that make me a good person belong to me.  I am happy in my life because of me.  I find it rewarding to be directed by my own will than some non-existent entity or false promise of salvation.  I believe that the things that hurt people (mentally, emotionally, or physically) are bad, the things that help people are good, and most other things are shades of gray.  Life is beautiful the way it is and there is no emptiness, no sorrow in me.  My belief in a god did not die with my mother.  My mother’s death helped me to see what was real and true on the earth and what is real and true is being a full-fledged human.  Not some guilty, self-deprecating, fearful servant but a life-embracing, self-loving, people-loving, fully aware human experiencing life.  That is what is the most meaningful and that is why I can say I am happy.

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