Religion and Spirituality

Rachel's Challenge and Why a Christian Martyr's Message Matters to Atheists

Today a certain movie came out in theaters that involves an certain vacuous and self-loathing young woman from a fictional novle, whom I’ve written extensively about in the past, attempting suicide because her high school boyfriend breaks up with her. The movie and the milksop shall go unnamed.

I expect most of you won’t be watching this milksop jump off a cliff, so I shall first applaud you. Next I will tell you about the exciting thing that happened at my school today.

My high school’s new principal in a daring move screwed around with our schedule so that he could fit a time for every student in our school to see a man named Craig Scott speak about his sister, Rachel Joy Scott, who was killed in the Columbine High School shootings.

Following her death her brother became devoted to spreading her life philosophy. Today he goes around to schools across the country just talking about how a little bit of kindness to other people in your life can go a long way (and although he is a devout Christian his talks are on the most part secular).

When she was alive Rachel reached out to the kids at her high school who were alone or bullied and made their lives better. She even saved the lives of those who wanted to take their lives, but didn’t because she had taken the time to defend them or just show a bit of kindness. Even though it feels cool when you’re the bully, Rachel knew who she was so she didn’t give in to their ploys.

Just a few days before she died Rachel wrote an essay where she said she believed that if one person does a small act of kindness it will start a chain reaction of kindness. Her brother and her father took up that message and Rachel’s Challenge was born to encourage people to try to use a little more compassion towards others in their lives.

Why is her message so poignant? Perhaps it’s because Columbine finally woke people up to the fact that it could happen to any one of us, even in high school. That something could happen out of the blue and cut our lives short. You can go to the website, watch the videos, but what I think it boils down to is this:

If you were to die tomorrow, would you have done more good in the world than bad? Would all your loved ones know they loved you? Would you regret the unkind words that slipped from your tongue? How would you be remembered?

The message that we should be kind and compassionate because we only have a short time to do good should just speak for itself.

And one more reason to justify tying this in with Teen Skepchick…

If you’ve read the book, Rachel’s Tears, or heard of her, you may know that they were both devout Christians but that doesn’t matter. Prior to seeing the lecture I pretty much shared her philosophy that superficial things like popularity don’t matter as much as most people think, and in the end what matters is if you know yourself and if you touched people’s lives. And, well, I’m an Atheist.

I’ve been having a bit of an argument lately with a friend at school about whether we need religion for people to feel motivated to do good. If a bunch of heathens take up Rachel’s Challenge, do some kind things and just pass on kindness to other people, wouldn’t that just make the general population accept us better?

So go learn about Rachel’s Challenge and doooo eeeettt nao plz kthnx.

Oh, and also because it would totally help to counteract the message that certain film and book series has about trying to kill yourself if your high school boyfriend breaks up with you.

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  1. November 22, 2009 at 4:21 pm —

    Good post.

    Now if someone fixes the “novle” in the first paragraph it’ll be even better. 🙂

  2. November 23, 2009 at 1:18 pm —

    What happens if I name it? Will I be exiled and cursed for the rest of my life? 😉

  3. November 23, 2009 at 10:37 pm —

    @Bjornar *ponders*

    I would fix that, but I may just leave it there to see if it annoys you. 😛

    @IBY no, you actually win a prize!

  4. November 24, 2009 at 3:25 pm —

    I’m not in the habit of re-reading blog-entries. So I think I’ll be fine.

    It also helps that I genuinely believe it’s a typo and not a symptom of willful ignorance.

  5. exarch
    November 25, 2009 at 10:52 am —

    Even though I sometimes feel really selfish for doing things just for me, apparently, the general image I send to people is that I’m a really nice guy who does a lot for everyone.

    I suppose many things I just take for granted as being the sort of thing you just do because it’s not that much of an effort anyway (giving someone a ride to a place you’re going yourself anyway, helping somebody move to a new place, etc…) are seen by others as exceptionally kind. Perhaps so much so that if someone else gives me a ride, I just take that as something that didn’t cost them anything extra. So I don’t go out of my way to thank them for doing so.

    My biggest regret if I were to die tomorrow is that if I actually changed somebody’s life in a significant way, I never found out about it. There’s also no “Juliet” who’ll be heartbroken to see me go (although perhaps that’s not a bad thing either for said Juliet).

    My regret is mediocrity …

  6. Cassie
    November 25, 2009 at 11:54 am —

    Is the novel you are talking about New Moon?

  7. exarch
    November 25, 2009 at 12:46 pm —

    Thanks Cassie, now the fangirls with google alert know where to find us 😛

  8. Lyra Lynx
    November 26, 2009 at 3:31 am —

    I’m meeting more and more people that are opposed to the Twilight series. At first I liked it but now I’m seeing the other side.
    I’m an atheist too and I agree that basic morality should stand on it’s own. I think that if one needs the ever present treat of eternal damnation as motivation then that person isn’t really moral.
    Great post btw.

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