Being an atheist is difficult sometimes. The death of a loved one is one of those times. In the last 6 years I’ve lost 5 people close to me. 3 grandparents, an aunt and my best friend. Losing my grandparents was hard but, except for my grandma Tellez, not entirely unexpected. Grandma Tellez was younger and her death was shocking and sudden. My Best Friend, even though I was given over a year to prepare (she died of stage 4 inflammatory breast cancer), was the hardest to deal with.
I’m fairly certain (due to lack of evidence) that we don’t have a soul and that there is no heaven/hell and while there could be a god, that wouldn’t mean/prove the existence of the other two. I wish there were evidence of the first two. I’ve said before, that I would even be happy going to hell, if it meant that I get immortality. You see, I like having thoughts. I like experiencing new things. I would like to do that forever. I would love to live forever. I don’t want to cease to exist, but I’m fairly certain that’s what happens when we die.
This is why dealing with death is so hard. My best friend is gone. Sure she lives in my memory and in my heart, etc. But she’s still gone. I will never speak to her again, text her, get drunk with her. She introduced me to Wild Turkey whiskey. She got me using social media. She inspired me to write the only complete screenplay I’ve ever done. She got me to actually try to shoot it. She made me a better person by helping me see the flaws in my personality that kept me from being a good manager and a good friend. She challenged me intellectually. She’s gone.
I sometimes wish for the comfort that religion brings. It was nice that religion was such a comfort to my family when my grandparents died. The idea that “they’re in a better place” or “we’ll see them again” is nice. But to me, that’s just a nice fiction we tell ourselves. I will never see my best friend again, and I hate that.
I should explain that I came by my atheism intellectually not as a reaction to anything. I was raised Catholic and enjoyed church, I was even part of the choir (we had a band and I played sax). I loved the sermons from one of the priests, though I can’t remember if it was Father Greg or Father Steve. I lost my religion because I started asking questions and got unsatisfactory answers. For instance, if god is Omni-benevolent, Omni-present, Omniscient, and Omnipotent, then how can he judge humans so harshly. If I committed a crime my father would love me no matter what (all fathers/mothers do), so wouldn’t that make him more loving than God? The father of a Hindu loves his son, but God would condemn him to hell for not accepting Jesus as his lord and saviour? Again, All-Loving? If you happen to be born in an area where gang violence is prevalent and joining a gang is the only means of survival, God would judge you harshly for committing crimes, but I might forgive them? People born in areas where all they know are war and killing should burn for eternity simply by the random act of being born in that area? Omniscience in limited, I suppose? What about brain chemicals that make a person more likely to commit suicide? God doesn’t understand biology/chemistry enough to let those people into heaven? Again, the fathers/mothers of those children still love them, but God doesn’t?
From there it turned to science and psychology. What is a soul? Where is Heaven? You mean to tell me that we can find a sub-sub-atomic particle like the lepton, but the soul is invisible? We can chart the farthest reaches of space, and theorize (using mathematics not just wishful thinking) parallel universes and alternate dimensions, but Heaven is…where exactly? Brain chemistry, environment, and genetics pretty much make us “who we are”, so what is or does a soul do?
There is a reason religion doesn’t want you to learn science. Those thoughts just made me an agnostic. It was when I learned to see the world using the scientific method that I became a full fledged atheist. You see in science you need evidence to show that something might be true, not to prove something false. So to the question of, “Is there a soul that lives after we die?’ the correct position to take is “No” due to absolutely no evidence to support the hypothesis that “we do have a soul”. Out of body experiences were found to be able to be experimentally duplicated by stimulating the tempor0parietal junction. Ghosts are mostly hoaxes. Mediums are just really good at reading people. Near death experiences sound a lot alike, in much the same way alien abductions sound alike. Also, almost all near death experiences have people going to Heaven, no one ever goes to hell. You’d think that would happen more often. Further, Jesus is always white, even though he would have been at least Arab looking, if not outright black.
I’ll never be able to go back to religion. It would be like going back to Plato’s shadows on the wall after seeing the real world. And, while I miss the comfort of “someday I’ll be in a better place”, I’m making due. I enjoy life a lot more since I know it’s not a dress rehearsal. If this is all there is, you better make the most of it. If only money wasn’t a necessity.
For my first official post on this blog it’s a little morbid and morose to talk about death, but it was something I was thinking about again. My father’s getting older, and my uncle just had another heart attack. Another uncle is dealing with diabetes and may lose his foot. I’m getting older and death is something that I’ll have to deal with more. I just hate it.
For me I take comfort in Camus’ existential philosophy of absurdism. He spoke of living despite (or to spite) the fact that life has no “external” meaning (God’s grand plan). A sort of carpe diem mentality. Or, as Joss Whedon put it, “If nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do.”
— Joe R.