Day 71 – One Teaching – Open Hearted Atheist

“There is nothing more beautiful than an atheist with an open heart.”  Stephen Levine, A Year to Live

One day during a morning run, I was trotting along listening to A Year to Live on Audible when this quote stopped me in my in my tracks.  Literally, I had to stop and create a bookmark so I could return to it and listen to it again.  That was months ago and at least once a week I am reminded of this quote.  There are certain things you hear that just stick with you and this was one of those for me.  I’ve been hesitant to write about it because there is a lot of stigma that comes with the word atheist.  Ah, but this blog is about letting go of ego and judgment, so here goes!

First, A Year to Live was an experiment.  The author spent a year pretending that it was his last.  He took the question, “What would you do if you knew you only had a year left to live?” and then he lived out answers.  It was a good book, but it was this quote about the atheist with the open heart that I remember.

There are two parts to this quote.  The atheist and the open heart.  Starting with the latter, I interpreted the open heart to mean unbridled compassion and loving kindness.  It describes a person who is empathetic and really cares about others.  An atheist is someone who lacks belief in the existence of God.  In the context of this quote, to me this means someone who sees life as material, having a definite beginning and ending and no afterlife. 

When you put these two things together, you have a person who does not believe in an afterlife living in love and compassion.  There’s nothing more beautiful because the atheist’s love exists for the sake of love itself.  There is no bargaining for any special rewards after death, just love, right here and right now. As a baby’s laughter is a display of unadulterated happiness, so is the atheist’s open heart a display of pure love.  No judgment, no fear of consequences, just pure love.  Beautiful.

Photo by Viktor Forgacs on Unsplash

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