Breathe. Please. Just breathe.
Make sure you’re alone at the computer so you can sort of meditate, just you and I and r/atheism in a room with you.
Close your eyes and imagine yourself, just your physical self, sitting where you are for five seconds and then open your eyes. I want you to notice something; you’re a human being.
I want you to look at your right or left hand, whichever is dominant. You can bring it to your face so you can see better. Look at the tiny little wrinkles in your hand and in your knuckles, every little fold of skin, every tiny minute detail. Look from the hairs on your wrist to the tips of the nails on your fingers. Just observe them. Imagine all the little cells and substances that make up your hand; the components of the bones, the skin, the muscles, tendons, and ligaments, the nerves, the keratin in your nails, and the other tissues that make up your hand.
I want you to think about your hand. Then I want you to realize something; at this moment, you are thinking. You are reading what I’m writing and comprehending and analyzing what I say. You are consciously and unconsciously evaluating the information I am giving to you. Your computer can’t do what you are doing at this point in time.
Think about your parents. Don’t dwell on anything negative, just a neutral image if you have to. Just the fact that someone, another human being gave birth to you. Think about the fact that someone gave birth to her many years ago, and someone else also gave birth to the person who gave birth to her. Think about how far back this chain goes. Great-great-great-great grandmothers, back to ancestors far in the past, back to common ancestors of the great apes, back to common ancestors among mammals, and chordates, and animals, and plants, and all living creatures. Think about how throughout that long lineage, you are carrying many of the same genes that all those ancestors before you had. Perhaps not a lot, but some at the very least, or at least some derivatives of those genes. Think about the genes that make up your body and how they differ from your relatives’ genes and your friends’ genes. You are a unique individual, statistically speaking. And there’s something else you should realize.
Here is a fact: You are a product of nearly 5 billion years of biological evolution and adaptation. You are here because you are a success, and you exist because you deserve to exist. Every cell in your hand is operating under that principle, and is trying its best to make you survive, to make you into the best human being you can be. Every cell in your body knows that you have a tremendous potential to become great and do good things. Think about how incredible it is to have a brain. Imagine how strikingly powerful and capable it is in its abstract processing abilities, despite its flaws and limitations. It’s staggering, isn’t it? That’s you, and that’s your own capacity. As a human being, you can use your own brain and your own two hands to improve your own and everyone else’s life by thinking, solving problems, constructing solutions, arguing for rationality, and helping those around you. You have some tremendous goddamn potential.
We at r/atheism don’t believe in a god or gods. We don’t need to study catechisms out of fear, regret, guilt, hatred, jealousy, deference, pity, or any other reason. We don’t need to confess every transgression against our fellow men and abuse our psyches trying to reconcile imperfection with ideals. The reason: we realize that we are human beings. We are the product of five billion years of evolution out of harsh, unfriendly environments and limited resources. As a result, while we are incredibly powerful creatures, we are also very fallible. But we don’t have to be defined by these fallibilities. We make mistakes, but here’s another fact: We are designed to make mistakes because we are a product of an imperfect process. That doesn’t make us worthless or pointless. That gives us a challenge to overcome. And we will succeed no matter what because we are goddamn brilliant and our genome is brilliant and our cells are brilliant. Extensively flawed, yes, but also brilliant, and if I wasn’t already clear enough, our existence has enormous potential.
But our potential is locked inside, and there’s really only two keys that unleash it: complete luck and hard work, and you’re better off placing your bets on the second choice. Your grades are slipping, man, and its not entirely your fault. But the blame game is irrelevant here, the point is that it’s a problem that needs fixing. You need to make high grades if that’s your priority. Take another 5 seconds to close your eyes and imagine what you want to be when you grow up. If you don’t know what you want to be, then pick something cool and draw on that just for the moment, like an astrophysicist or a professional tennis player. Your grades are probably going to need to be high in order to achieve what you want, even for an athletic goal (it’s easier and more secure this way in the long run). You want something, and low grades are in the way. That’s a problem, because you’re a human being. But you also have a solution, because you’re a human being. You’ve got hands and brains, and you can employ them however you want; let’s use them for constructive ends, like bettering your grades. You just have to exert willpower to stay away from unproductive activities on the computer and make yourself put in time and energy toward studying, and there are people who can help you do that better than I can. And at the same time, we can use your resources to improve your physical health, and then your mental health and self esteem. Because we are a goddamn civilization, and we can cooperate with others to solve problems we can’t solve entirely on our own. Because the payoff will be vastly worth the input effort, even if it takes time. And the best part is that you don’t need to condemn yourself with destructive religious zeals that were forced into you to do it. You can live happily as an agnostic atheist, as much of r/atheism can demonstrate, and you will certainly be more fulfilled if you appreciate yourself for what your evolutionary success and your intrinsic capacity are worth. And if you ever doubt that you are worth anything to a society, read this again and just think about what it means to be an evolutionary success, and what it means that you are alive while literally quintillions of potential possible human beings weren’t.
Don’t waste your opportunity to live and do something great. You can never make a mistake so terrible that it warrants punishing yourself by giving up the one thing we must cherish most: our humanity. Because you’re pretty goddamn brilliant for a chimpanzee, and I think that with proper guidance and some support, you can accomplish a lot of great things, with or without a religion if you need or don’t need one; that’s your choice.
As life forms in an otherwise empty universe as far as we have seen, we need to preserve the things that we have in our advantage in order to enjoy the limited time we have in this world as much as possible, and I think r/atheism, some good, dependable friends you can rely on, and a little bit of courage and persistence will let you do just that.
-sincerely, the rational human race.