How will you mark this upcoming season of renewed dedication, to living your own best life? How about never mind the customary concentration on “no” this time of year — ask not what you can stop, or quit, or give up; ask what you can give and give more of, what you can do and do more of.
So here’s a gift for all good people looking to give and do and affirm, to celebrate values we do believe in, to be the change we mean to make in the world.
Today, January 1, 2010, marks the grand opening of a highly evolved human network that in life-changing concept means as much to me now, as the National Home Education Network did in its nascence, way back last century. 😀
It is the Foundation Beyond Belief:
Our Mission: To demonstrate humanism at its best by supporting efforts to improve this world and this life; to challenge humanists to embody the highest principles of humanism, including mutual care and responsibility; and to help and encourage humanist parents to raise confident children with open minds and compassionate hearts.
On the educational side, the Foundation will help create and fund local groups for the education and social support of humanist/atheist parents.
I was cornered in the kitchen of a Christmas party by a well-lubricated older someone, who I’d not expected ever to pressure me about declaring Christian beliefs.
Despite his conservative political beliefs and fealty to FOX News, he’s only a church-goer in that culturally conformist, mostly secular way, if you know what I mean. I may have been a bit lubricated myself, too free of tongue in sharing my own real convictions about what is real and important right here on earth, and what gets in the way between people of good will.
So before I knew what was happening, he was staring into my eyes and declaring that I wasn’t the person he knew and admired, if I didn’t believe in his god and follow that particular god’s politics. Or else perhaps I was muddled and foolish and didn’t know my own mind; perhaps I was a good saved person who just didn’t understand how the almighty was indulging my silly disbelief, and I could come to my senses if he took a firm stand for my soul.
Well, what the hell do you say to THAT?! Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
You’ve got damned-deer-in-the-headlights stories too, I know you do, from the holidays each year and sports teams and parent involvement, public service, community projects and neighborly encounters, from the best and worst of times. Favorite Daughter the religion major does much better than I do at managing the belief-fraught social undertow that nearly drowns me on occasion (maybe because she’s still too young to drink at parties??) but she’s looking forward to this new community for good people free of religious tension, too.
We all have a lot to learn and contribute. Think of it as hmmm, a free water safety course? 😉
The original inspiration of Dale McGowan:
There were also surely atheists and humanists among the emergency responders and doctors and nurses and counselors who fought valiantly to stitch together shattered bodies, minds and hearts . . .
The atheists weren’t absent. They were invisible.
Their bodies and skills were easy enough to see, of course. But their convictions — that this is our one and only life, that its loss is something to fight hard against, that we have no one but each other to rely on when bad things happen — those convictions went unnoticed. Prayers and songs and religious rituals announce themselves. Quiet conviction goes unseen.
I began to think about the problem of atheist and humanist invisibility that month, the same month Parenting Beyond Belief was released. Many of the most tireless volunteers and most generous charitable givers I know are atheists and humanists. But unlike my religious friends, their efforts didn’t visibly express and reflect their worldview and their values.
Two years later, I filed the incorporation papers for Foundation Beyond Belief. And here we are.
This Foundation exists “to focus, encourage, and demonstrate” the compassion and generosity of humanists and atheists in part because of Mapantsula’s eloquent response to Dinesh D’Souza’s thoughtless screed. So I’ll take this opportunity to thank Dinesh D’Souza for making his ignorance known. He didn’t inspire atheists to do good in the world — let’s be quite clear about that — but his blindness to what was already there made me realize that others were surely just as blind to it.
It’s time to make visible our values and our efforts to improve our one and only life.