Christmas came and went, so let’s conclude our Atheist Advent 2023. Today we will talk about values and about the misguided argument that you can’t have strong values if you are an Atheist.
Humans tend to capture their core values in writing, and religious books are an example of this, which leads some to the conclusion I mentioned above; the thing is: religious texts are just one of many ways humans record their thoughts.
Both in the West and in the East, organised religions have assimilated philosophies and traditions that preceded them.
Two examples are the way that Greek philosopy served as the foundation for Christian Theology, and the Chinese theory of the Three Teachings, which considers Confucianist and Taoist philosophies, together with the Buddhist religion, as a harmonious aggregate.
My mother is a retired Classical Literature teacher, so growing up I got to hear many Greek tales before sleep, such as the Aesop fables, and, despite what Christian Epistles claim about pagan texts, they all have a very strong moral message.
Later on, as an adult, I’ve read Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations which became one of my favourite books. It contains moral and philosophical thoughts that you can act upon to better yourself. This is not a text written by some self-professed self-help guru who is trying to sell you a course. Its main purpose was recording Marcus’ thoughts; that’s what makes it so powerful in my opinion.
But, it’s not perfect and it’s not the best book for everyone. That’s my main criticism of organised religion: the fact that it tries to impose shared values in a fragmented world, which inevitably leads to dogmatic thinking (especially monotheist religions are guilty of that) and half-hearted beliefs.
Your own guide values, are only going to be strong if they are rooted in your own life. Not in some book that someone else wrote. There are specific parts of my life that gave me wisdom, those will always resonate with me in a way no book ever will.
I just want to conclude this Atheist Advent with one more thought: I might disagree with your book, but I don’t hate anyone, never ever. I genuinely love to hear other people’s perspectives about life. I hope you can say the same about yourself!