I am going to start my own religion, one that will deify people who are kind and do good works and vilify assholes. This idea started as a way for me (anyone who might choose to follow me) to discriminate against assholes and be protected by current “religious” freedom laws. However, it has morphed into something more whimsical and more profound. This is the beginning of a conversation I had in my head about what kind of world I would like to live in, what kind of world I would like my daughter to grow up in.
Here are the basic tenet of the new religion:
- Do good in the world
- Actions are stronger than words
- Listen to people.
- Don’t be an asshole.
- You can be forgiven for being an asshole, but there is no guarantee.
You are responsible for yourself. The impetus is on personal responsibility. It is up to you to not be an asshole, no matter what is happening. It is up to you to be a kind person, who does good works.
The world needs people to do good. If we all looked at our behaviors in terms of doing good versus being an asshole, the world would be a better place. Sometimes that is complicated. Sometimes what is good for you means you are being an asshole to someone else. Within the tenant of this religion it is a personal responsibility. On balance the more good you do, the better everything will be.
Good comes primarily through action. Talking about poverty to raise awareness sounds good. Giving someone who is hungry a sandwich is good. Screaming at the top of your lungs that something is bad does not constitute a good deed, it makes you an asshole.
Good works are do not have to be selfless acts, they can be, but it is not required. If you can do good works and get paid for it, congratulations, sleep well.
It is ok to ask for help. If you do not know if you are doing good or being an asshole, ask someone. If there response is to cringe and frown, you are probably being an asshole. But often talking things through or even thinking them through can help you, the followers of the faith, do good. It is OK to admit that you are not an expert. The world is full of people with different expertise. If you need answers, ask someone who is an expert or knowledgeable. It is OK that you do not understand something, but it is not OK to deny its existence, and rail against it, because you do not understand it (that makes you an asshole). This goes for science, religion, politics, everything. Listen to people. You do not have believe the same things as everyone else, but within our faith, you must listen, be kind, be respectful.
At the same time we do not condone bullshit. It is perfectly acceptable to call out those who would feed us lies or misinformation in furtherance of their nefarious plans. They make the world a worse place. Since Jon Stewart has gone away as our principle beacon, shining light on that which hucksters would have us believe, it is up to us as individuals to identify and call out bullshit. Just try not to be an asshole while you do it.
The great majority of the world and its goings on are neutral, and that is perfectly OK. Cancer is a terrible thing, but it is neither good nor bad. Someone who dedicates their life to curing or treating people with cancer could be lauded for their good works, but not just because of cancer. The same could be said of someone working to cure genital herpes or plantar fasciitis. It is the motivation of the person, the thoughts behind those works that move things from neutral to good.
Self-promotion and self-aggrandizing negate the goodness of an act. It can move a good work to neutral and a neutral work into the realm of the asshole.
There is no evangelizing of our faith. It is not fight club (we can talk about it), but we are not trying bring in converts or make people believe our way of thinking. There are no churches, no tithes, no schools, no televangelists. If you want to work alone, that is fine. If you want to work as part of a group that is also great. If you want to work as part of another organization or even religion to manifest good, that is also fine. My new religion is non-exclusive, and allows for a plurality of faiths. If you want to belong, you belong. But you can still go to mass on Sunday if that makes you feel good, or worship trees on fall Thursday, or follow the Budda’s teaching, or kneel in prayer toward Mecca. One God, many Gods, god, Goddesses, or none at all. Here is the caveat… You can’t be an asshole about it. Think your god is truer better than someone elses? You are an asshole. Think your god demands that you deny the rights of others? You are an asshole.
We are all assholes some times. We will freely admit that we are all assholes from time to time. It is up to us, as the faithful, to recognize this in ourselves and correct it. Had a bad day and yelled at your dog for no reason; perform an act of contrition: give a few buck to the no kill shelter or better yet volunteer to walk shelter dogs or pet shelter cats. Yell at some poor clerk because something went wrong; stop, take a deep breath, realize that is the behavior of an asshole, and apologize, even if you have to return at a later time.
We are free to seek forgiveness for being an asshole. We are not required to seek forgiveness, but doing so makes the world better. Apologize in a way that the offended person or group finds true. Perform an act of contrition that rebalances the scales.
Forgiveness for being an asshole is not guaranteed. If you are an unrepentant asshole, no one has to forgive you. Sometimes you are such an asshole that you cannot be forgiven. These can be major (e.g., murder, abuse) or minor (e.g., being a republican shitty tipper) transgressions, but it is not incumbent on the offended party to reciprocate or even accept your apology or act of contrition. Apologies and good deeds as acts of contrition are for you, making you a better person moving forward. They do not absolve you for your past.
We must all own our actions, wear them like scars or badges, because they make us who we are as people. We know we will be assholes, we will try to do good. We strive to tip the scales on the side of kindness and good deeds. But, this religion is not about Karma balance (good returns good, bad returns bad). Doing good does not guarantee that good will return. Bad things happen to good people, while asshole thrive. The hope of our religion is that doing good makes it better.
The world is a shitty unfair place, let us not make it worse.
These are my thoughts.
*An asshole refers only to a person committing the act or behavior, never the physiological manifestation of sphincter at the end of the digestive system. It is a current placeholder until a new work can be coined which encompasses all behaviors, activities, and predilections, which we collectively currently call assholes. Other words were considered (e.g., dick, douche, trump) but were often too gendered or fraught with multiple meaning to accurately encompass the thoughts behind these idea. Everyone knows an asshole when they see it. If you do not recognize assholeic behavior then chances are you are in fact the asshole.