An Atheist Blessing
I feel blessed to be here. By 'here' I mean, this time and place, at this specific juncture of history, on this uniquely beautiful life-sustaining planet earth, the place that we call home.
I know I am not alone in feeling blessed - that all of us here today feel blessed.
Some of us believe that this blessing is conferred by Yahweh; some from Vishnu. Some feel blessed by the Buddha, some by Jehovah, some by Allah. Some will swear their blessings come from no God or gods at all, but rather from the universe itself. The Force, if you will.
We can argue over the existence of deities, but one thing is inarguable: we are, each of us, differently blessed:
Some of us are born to wealth; some to artistic talent.
Some of us are born to beauty, and grace; some to an innate ability to speak languages.
Some of us have a special empathy; some of us an ability to fight for truth and justice.
Some of us can play the violin for heads of state; some of us can hit a ball longer, throw it farther or with more accuracy than 99.9% of the population.
It is my belief that whatever our blessings are, and however we believe them to be conferred, is less important than how we choose to use those blessings. In this, I am in good company:
Ben Franklin recommended the best life would be lived by asking The Morning Question, What Good shall I do this Day? Followed by The Evening Question, What Good have I done today?
Thomas Jefferson said, "Our Saviour... has taught us to judge the tree by its fruit, and to leave motives to Him who can alone see into them."
There are many who argue about what these great men believed - the theists and the deists and the atheists alike cherry pick quotes from these men who accomplished so much, with so much wisdom, even in spite of their very human failings - they cherry pick a sentence here, a comment there, as if taking such comments out of the context of fully lived and realized lives can prove or disprove how much like themselves these great men were.
As for me, I don't care if Franklin or Jefferson or Roosevelt or Lincoln or Washington were Deists, theists, atheists, or polytheists. What matters is that they used their blessings to do good. To be good men, good workers, good thinkers, good doers of good deeds. And they attributed their ability to distinguish right from wrong not to a god or gods, but to themselves, and their personal choices.
They held themselves to the highest standard of good that there is - the standard we can set for ourselves each and every day, a standard they believed to be innate in all of us, as well as something we all should strive for.
Just as we are blessed to be here, now, so too do we bless one another with our constant striving to do good each day, and not judge one another when we fail; to give each other the chance to use the unique gifts we are blessed with to do the good and right things.
It is this, the recognition that each of us holds in ourselves the power to do good, that the ability to do so is not conferred upon us by an outside source that will reward or punish us, but rather, springs from within ourselves as natural as our sense of sight or hearing or touch, that I consider the greatest blessing of all.
May we all live lives blessed by goodness.