An atheist prayer

Do I pray? Can an atheist pray?

Most devout atheists in denying the existence of God reject the supernatural (anything that cannot be explained by science) entirely. This means not believing in ghosts, angels, a spirit/soul, miracles, magic and even luck. I’m a bit of a black sheep among atheists in having a will to believe in these things while choosing not to believe in God. In the absence of proof, belief in the supernatural is an act of faith, or will.

And while I do not have the will to believe in God, I am open to the wonder of the universe. I don’t feel the need to understand or explain everything in human experience, I think beauty can reside in mystique. Experience itself can be intangible, mind-blowing, yet it is no less real. I simply choose to attribute the miraculous, the awe-inspiring, the heart-stopping, skin-tingling wonder that we have the privilege of experiencing to humanity and to the natural world rather than God(s).

So with a deep sense and appreciation of the beauty and power of everything in physical existence, I pray to all that is good and right and meant to be in the world. I pray with all my heart, and with every ounce of will in my soul, most sincerely and seriously for loved ones in pain, sickness, and heartache. I pray to all that is light, true and free, to all that is new, pure and full of life.

I pray that the sheer strength of our shared will to goodness, and our desire to let our own strength, resilience and belief pour out of our hearts and minds reaches those in need. I pray to the spirit of determination and optimism of mankind past, present and future. I pray to the stars, the sun and the moon that watch over us. I pray to the very core of my very own deepest heart.

I pray, and I believe in the strength of the will, in the will to survive, in the majesty of being, and living and loving. I pray. May my prayers be felt by my loved ones in need.

The case for same-sex marriage

Just because civil partnerships between same-sex couples are legal in England we tend to think that marriage has been legalised. It hasn’t. The English law states that marriage is only marriage if it is between one man and one woman. I do not see this only as an outrageous affront to same-sex couples, but as more generally sexist, and as a grave insult to the human rite of marriage. The idea that law may dictate who together enters into emotional, intellectual and physical unity pronounced and celebrated in a marriage ceremony is absurd. The only people fit to choose are those entering into this committment of love, sharing, and lifelong loyalty.

My views on marriage are humanist, that is to say that I view marriage as an expression of our humanity. I can not see marriage in a cynical way, expecting it to fail, or blame it for the church, the law, or society’s failings in its name. Marriage hasn’t had a perfect track record. Many marriages have failed. Marriage has been used as a weapon. It has been used to control and disempower. However, this history and these associations cannot taint the concept of marriage or the wholly natural impulse we have to join together under the banner of marriage.

http://www.rainbowsugarcraft.co.uk/shop/Cake_Toppers.htmI am very aware that opinion is divided on the issue, and that not all same-sex couples wish to marry – instead preferring the quite separate option to ‘wed’ in a civil partnership. My case for the term marriage to be applied to all those wishing to express their intentions to share their lives with one or more particular partners is that there is no justifiable reason not to. Objections to certain types of relationships come from societal rather than human concerns. The only concerns worth our considering are limited to the sincerity and seriousness with which the partners in question are approaching marriage and making their commitments to each other. The question is not whether marriage is good for society, but whether marriage is good for personal happiness and fulfilled lives.

Civil partnerships and marriages may differ legally but within a humanist wedding ceremony they are treated with http://www.rainbowsugarcraft.co.uk/shop/Cake_Toppers.htmexactly the same degree of respect and are looked on as having exactly the same status. What is more, I will most certainly refer to a same-sex partnership as a marriage if that is how the couple see their union. Even if the lived experience of marriage and civil partnership is the same, the symbolic distinction matters to me. Humanist wedding ceremonies are chosen for their symbolic significance, and while they can be used to mitigate the inequality of the legal situation, I would still like to see same-sex marriages given the legal status and recognition they deserve. Couples who feel unaffected by the distinction may not see this as an issue. Not everyone wants to fight to be allowed to marry, while to them marriage seems to be conforming to a repressive and outdated institution. Not everyone can see a reason for calling civil partnerships ‘marriages’, but I hope that every thinking person with a regard for human happiness can see no reason not to.

Click here to read about the British Humanist Association’s campaign for legal humanist weddings and legal same-sex marriage.

Souless Soulmates

When I was putting together my own wedding ceremony script, I wanted to convey to our guests how we felt about coming together as man and wife. Ben in particular felt strongly that you should not enter into marriage being warned that it was hard work, or that you had to take it seriously lest it fail. We both disagreed with the sentiment we often heard at weddings of our peers that marriage should be a time to remember that we are individuals and that entering wedlock should not affect our independence from each other.

Ben and I struggled through our adolescence feeling utterly alone and at odds with the world. When we found each other we found relief that we were not the only ones in the world searching for the other half of our soul. When we found each other we found validation for believing there was one perfect other for us out there, somewhere.

The belief in soulmates is ancient as can be seen in Aristophanes tale of four legged, four armed, two faced human beings being physically cleft in two by Zeus. The story resonates as we ARE our most powerful, our most content when we are joined by our partners, and we DO feel bereft when we are without them.

So how do I square my belief in soul mates with my lack of belief in a soul? Whatever we mean when we talk about the soul is undoubtedly the part of us, the essence of us, the humanity of us that aches for ‘the one’. In both cases we are referring to the complex, as yet ungraspable totality of our physical and emotional existence. We are not really suggesting there is a floating cloudlike soul that lives within us. We do not really believe in ghosts. When we die, sadly, I think we really do cease to exist in any conscious way. Where and how I am buried won’t matter to me once I am dead, but I would like to be buried nonetheless. I would like to buried next to my beloved nonetheless. I would like to be buried as close to him as possible nonetheless.