For me, the logic that has led to atheism also leads to the maxim that our lives and our lifestyles are up to us -- within legal and moral boundaries, of course. Our health, fitness, and well-being do not come by the grace of God but by our own daily behavior. They come by our own efforts.
Surely, sometimes our efforts are not good enough at a particular moment. Surprises, chance occurrences, and mistakes crop up and force us to adjust our behavior temporarily or permanently.
We are in charge of our lives, if not always (or ever!) in control. The religious like to say that God is in control or the universe is in control. I disagree with this, but the practical result is the same: each of us lives by choice and subject to chance.
I'm back to lifting as well as running, although I have been running with my 7-year-old daughter, so we tend to do more jogging than actual running. But don't get me wrong: I'll take jogging with my daughter every time over running by myself. When she and I are out on the road together, I tell her that this is the only today we get, so we might as well push ourselves to do better than ever. And then we run hard to the finish.
Adam Savage, of Mythbusters fame, captures this same idea eloquently in a talk he gave to the Harvard Humanist Society:
Here are a few things I've learned.Yes, life is cool. Living is cooler. Run hard while we can...but better to stay together.
Prayer doesn't work because someone out there is listening, it works because someone in here is listening. I've paid attention. I've pictured what I want to happen in my life. I've meditated extensively on my family, my future, my past actions and what did and didn't work for me about them. I've looked hard at problems and thought hard about their solutions.
See, I order my life by the same mechanism that I use to build things. I cannot proceed to move tools around in the real world until my brain has a clear picture in it of what I'm building. The same goes for my life. I've tried to pay attention. I've tried to picture the way I want things to be, and I've noticed that when I had a clear picture, things often turned out the way I wanted them to.
I've concluded by this that someone is paying attention—I've concluded that it's me. I've noticed that if I'm paying attention to those around me, to myself, to my surroundings, then that is the very definition of empathy. I've noticed that when I pay attention, I'm less selfish, I'm happier—and that the inverse holds true as well.
I think one of the defining moments of adulthood is the realization that nobody's going to take care of you. That you have to do the heavy lifting while you're here. And when you don't, well, you suffer the consequences. At least I have. (And in the empirical study I'm performing about interacting with the universe, I am unfortunately the only test subject I have complete access to, so my data is, as they say, self-selected.) While nobody's going to take care of us, it's incumbent upon us to take care of those around us. That's community.