“Don’t worry when I die, I will watch over you” is not really a comforting thing for me to hear. Assuming this is possible, most of my life has been spent giving my mother an edited PG version of my life and thoughts. With occasional blooper highlights passing by the censor. Though unless there was a way for me to detect this 24/7 paranormal goings on, I imagine the experience would be a lot worse for her. Even if all she can do from beyond the grave is witness life without being able to participate, that sounds a lot like being damned in much the way Scrooge was warned.
At work my boss learned about my activities with the Richard Dawkins Foundation and he wanted to know what comfort an atheist could have when someone died. For me, recognising that this could really be the only life I will ever know about meant time was a precious commodity – one which I wanted to give to loved ones and kin. If there were unresolved issues, I would try and be receptive to solutions that may work, and be ready for any opportunity now. What I would not do is hope for a blissful reunion in another life to do the heavy lifting for me.
Regret is something useless to have; resolve a much better thing to kick in when you ever have that desire to wallow in the self pity of “If only”. I want to bring my life into sharper focus and live a life without regret. My consciousness, my “soul” cannot survive because I feel it or will it. The evidence around me, childhood friends dying, relatives passing on, suggest otherwise. There is no palpable ghost behind my eyes while I type this, ready to move on when the fingers cease to quiver.
I take comfort in the here and now, providing back up for those tough times ahead and realism about things as they are rather than I want them to be. An acceptance that pain and sorrow are part of the human experience, not to be tempered, but felt as best you can. When I grieve, it is heartfelt and sincere for the one that passed away. I may never see them again, but I looked into their eyes and basked in the light of their life. Then I was privileged in that all too brief moment, a spec in the history of the universe, to have spent and shared our time together.
Perhaps for some the thought of gods intervening after death is a comfort. I have no idea why they know for sure this god will provide a good intervention, let alone a better place. Much cruelty seems to follow when told, without any basis, the rituals and ways to appease such entities. For those that feel I am knocking this comfort, rather than my attempt at explaining a life affirming reaction to the thought of death as the end, I will let Bill Maher have the final word:
People say to me, ‘Why do you have to criticize religion? It gives people comfort, It doesn’t hurt anything.’ Well, other than it’s caused most wars, the Crusades, the Inquisition, 9/11, arranged marriages to minors, the suppression of women and homosexuals, ethnic cleansing, honor rape, human sacrifice, burning witches, suicide bombings, condoning slavery, and the systematic fucking of children…there’s a few little things that I have a problem with.
Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog
Follow Up blog: Brad Pitt on comfort and faith
Does the supernatural give life meaning? From James Randi Educational Foundation