Brian Kirwan

Brian Creates is an animator, artist, musician, writer, and film maker.  His actual name is Brian Kirwan, but it's hard to spell (let alone pronounce).

Stress Free Holidays

 

Holidays are different around the world. Only a few countries have no national holidays. In the United States, most people refer to the holidays as those in and around December. Regardless of what you celebrate, you will probably get together with family and friends. You may look forward to seeing your friends, but most people do not look forward to visiting with family. You choose to be with your friends, but you are usually obligated to spend time with your family. Depending on your family, this will lead to positive or negative emotions. How you handle those emotions is completely up to you.

Most of my life, I have enjoyed the holiday season despite my atheism. I had religious parents who celebrated Christmas fully. We had a Christmas tree, decorations around our house, and my parents did not shy away from the religious side of Christmas. They focused more on Santa, giving presents, and listening to Christmas music than the religious side of the holiday. I listen to Christmas music to this day despite my atheism. I do not believe in the religious aspects of Christmas, but enjoy the fantastical elements of the holiday. Calling it the Christmas season instead of the holiday season does not matter to me. I know that it matters to others who do not celebrate Christmas so I refer to this time of year as the holiday season. Calling it the holiday season does not infringe on your beliefs about Christmas, but you could infringe on someone else’s beliefs if you call it the Christmas season.

Giving presents is a part of many, but not all, holiday celebrations. Giving presents to someone else shows that you care about him or her. Many people see giving someone a present as an obligation even if they do not care about the other person. You may not care about a person in a relationship with someone you care about. You may put no thought into what you give them. In most cases, that person will know you do not care about them from the present he or she receives. Showing you care about someone includes the other people in his or her life. Find out what the other person would appreciate receiving. Caring about someone is also about accepting who he or she cares about. You may not see what he or she appreciates about the other person, but that is fine. You are not in a relationship with that person.

Spending time with family, shopping for presents, and dealing with the crowds can be stressful, but they do not have to be. If you plan things at the last minute, you will increase the chances of a stressful holiday season. Even if you plan things well, other people’s lack of planning can force you into making last-minute changes and increasing your stress level. Regardless of the source of your stress, you still have a choice of whether to accept the stress of others. Stressful people do everything in their life with stress including celebrating the holidays. You can help that person out to relieve some of his or her stress, but you do not have to adopt the stress of that person. Avoiding stress is not about avoiding stressful situations, it is about solving problems as they come up without stressing about them. The holidays are only as stressful as you make them. Other people’s stress does not have to be your stress.

Much of the stress of the holidays comes from unresolved family issues. The easiest solution is to ignore these issues during the holidays. The issues will still be there after the holidays, but they will not ruin the holidays for the entire family. If you do not get along with your brother, avoid that brother so that your parents and other siblings can still enjoy themselves. Consider it your gift to the whole family. Avoiding subjects such as politics, sex, sports, and religion will help avoid stressful conversations. If others bring these things up, try to change the subject or remove yourself from the area. If asked why you are leaving, be honest, but stay away from mentioning specific disagreements with others. Just say you would rather not talk about those things during the holidays. The holidays are not a competition to see who can be the most stressed. Avoiding stress is mainly having a plan to handle and avoid the stress that the holidays can cause.

The Moral Atheist

The biggest misconception about being an atheist by those who see atheism as a bad thing is that atheists cannot possibly have morals because they do not have a God or higher power to guide them away from immoral deeds. Obviously, all atheists chose atheism to avoid being a moral human (and hang out in strip bars). How can you decide on how to do the right thing without guidance from a supernatural being? If your flimsy beliefs are the only thing preventing you from murdering me, you are no longer invited to my house for dinner. I pride myself in being a moral person not because I think someone or something is watching me but because I am a happier person without mistreating other people. I feel good when I do the right thing because what I do impacts others which in turn impacts me.

How do you know what morals are the right ones to follow? By the time you are an adult, your brain, your parents, and everyone else around you should have given you the skills to know right from wrong. If not, prison becomes an option. When your mom takes your hand as a child and walks you across the street, you are learning a valuable lesson about when it is proper and safe to cross the street. The bible tells you to obey thy mother and father but it is life that actually teaches you what is right or safe and whether your parents should be obeyed. If your dad drags you into the middle of the street almost getting you hit by a car, you are going to file this event down as the right thing to do (or file your dad as the wrong person to obey). Especially if your parents tell you to do what the Bible says and you see them openly ignoring their own advice, you are likely to think that morals are merely words that have nothing to do with reality.

Laws in the U.S. do more to keep people doing the right thing than the ten commandments ever did. Laws have changed throughout time because social norms have changed. To still adhere to laws from the past that most people agree do not apply to modern life is to live in the past (where people were much less attractive and the world smelled much worse). Many of the moral lessons of the Bible and other ancient religious documents are good guidelines today, but there are still lessons that are completely inappropriate in today’s world. The world has changed a great deal since these documents were written. Your morals cannot be stagnant. They need to change as the world changes. If you told people in 1937 not to be a Troll on the Internet, they would, at best, misinterpret that statement as a warning to avoid bridges.

A person must be forced to believe in a supernatural being to accept the rules of religious doctrines. These rules are drilled into children at an early age. The focus is mainly on learning these rules because they have to learn what not to do before they can start doing those immoral things. They are told what the rules are but not why they need to follow those rules. “Wait a minute!” you might say. They follow those rules because the religious doctrines tell them to do so. This is the equivalent of your mom telling you to clean your room because she said so. Your mom has no intention of going over the myriad of reasons you need to clean your room any more than religious parents have of telling their child why you do not take God’s name in vane. The difference between these two scenarios is the mom could actually list out the safety, aesthetic, and organizational reasons behind cleaning your room, but she is usually too exasperated to do so. The religious parents can only recite the same illogical religious text that the children questioned in the first place.

We have evidence all around us why someone should follow societal laws in a non-religious culture. When you see someone get hit by a car because they were walking outside a crosswalk or against the light, you see what happens when someone ignores these laws. He puts his safety at risk and he put others safety at risk to save one minute of using a crosswalk. If you look to the rules of religious doctrines, you will not be told what to do in this situation. You will not even be told to follow the rules of the government in which you live (unless the religious rules are built into your government). This creates a conflict between religion and society at large. When the government says all people are equal but your religion tells you that some people are inherently evil, you must decide which rules to follow (and a judge must decide how long to keep you in jail).

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